It’s winter, and the bright green foliage of seasons past looks dull and chilly in the newest chapter of The Third Day. Helen (Naomi Harris) is taking her daughters Tallulah (Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell) and Ellie (Nico Parker) on a surprise holiday to Osea Island. But the surprises are many on this trip. The place no longer looks like the inviting hamlet that Sam, the protagonist for the first three episodes, wandered into in the summer months. There’s graffiti and trash everywhere. On their trip into town, they see Mr. Martin scrubbing away paint and a grief-stricken couple packing up their car. When the cottage Helen booked on Airbnb is no longer available, she decides to find new lodgings instead of leave. She stops at an inn during a tense standoff, and although she helps the keeper with his injuries, he tells her what the failed hosts told her before: leave this place. Her tenacity leads to a major twist by the end of “Monday—The Mother.”
Outside, Helen’s eldest daughter, Ellie gets out of her mother’s car to help a blonde girl who’s dropped something. It’s one of Jess’ daughters, and who else should show up but the menacingly tall Larry, who we last saw in action trying to murder Sam. Helen yells at both of them and only narrowly escapes Larry’s anger when someone else interrupts. Back in the car with her two girls, she breaks down. She wanted so badly for them to have a good holiday. It’s all gone wrong.
It’s also all gone wrong for Osea. Both Larry and Jess’ girls look dirty and worn down. The festival grounds are in ruins, and planned development for visitors has also fallen by the wayside. A brief expedition to one of these places reveals just how badly things have gone downhill for the island. It seems as if desperate times have turned neighbor against neighbor. It’s something the audience will realize before the characters. We know a little bit more than the current newcomers struggling to find a place for the night. Eventually, they end up at the Martins’ bar. As the girls cozy up next to the fireplace, Helen argues down Mr. Martin’s objections with the help of his wife, who offers the weary family a place to stay and burgers to eat. Once upstairs, there’s another discrepancy from the past: where there was once salt pooling beneath the sink of Sam’s former room, there now lies a mound of earth and crunchy dead leaves. Is this part of the division of Osea? As the three get ready for bed, Ellie takes out the fish talisman Larry gave her before her mother argued with him. Tallulah tries to play with her iPad, but Helen takes it out of her hands and places it on their bedside table. The camera closes in on the open home screen: it’s of the three of them with their dad and Helen’s husband, Sam.
Leaving on a solidly landed gut-punch and cliff-hanger, “Monday—The Mother” has a number of great moments that make it tense and intriguing. With Philippa Lowthrope taking over directing duties from Marc Munden, the director of the first half of the limited series, comes a subtle shift in tone and use of color. Until the last third of “Monday—The Mother,” there’s an upbeat feeling among the characters, a feeling that’s quickly interrupted by Osea’s strangeness, of course. There are a handful of sequences, like the one at the construction site, that are full of eerie half-truths, gross imagery and the threat of being caught—just like old times! I was curious to see if The Third Day would retread familiar territory, but the writers have pushed us back into the unknown. This is not a stranger falling into a surprise trap like Sam inadvertently did. This is an unwelcoming place that is trying to spit the outsiders out, but they stay anyway. Helen is an interesting spiritual successor to Sam, a similarly stressed-out parent trying to do the right thing. However, she also brings a totally different dynamic since our lead character has to watch out for herself and her two kids. Now comes the question of what happened to Sam and his reunited son?
Once again, color manipulation comes into play for better or worse. Now that the bright colors of the land and sea have faded into frosty winter palettes, the manipulation feels slightly less pronounced. It’s as if certain colors faded out along the edges of the screen, which incidentally, feels like a mirror to what’s happened to Osea. The pinks of the family’s outfits are some of the few items to leap off the screen, and the reds of certain graffiti scrawls look especially pronounced when everything else around it looks withered. But like in previous episodes, the color manipulation is inconsistent, sometimes jarringly so. In much of the first half of the episode, Helen’s jacket looks blue-gray or solid grey, but when she runs out to defend her daughter from Larry, it looks like a bright teal. One time when she gets back in the car with good news, everything in the scene feels warm and bright, which feels weirdly out-of-place compared to the rest of the episode. I get that the show wants to play tricks with our minds, but do we have to play games this distracting?
- Like with its earlier episodes, The Third Day telegraphs ominous signs to not enter Osea. What is it trying to say about our modern-day society that we would ignore the warnings because we’re used to getting things our way or used to settling for convenience?
- I’m really intrigued by the idea that someone on Osea would list their cottage on Airbnb. Especially, considering the state it’s in at the beginning of the episode.
- More creepy religious symbols! This time, top honors go to the weird ancient graffiti shape that looks like it’s ripping itself open to bleed out and a pregnant Mary on the cross with what looks like blood dripping from the base. Again, how many warning signs does it take to get these characters to leave a place?
- It’s not necessary, but if you want more Osea goods, there’s some connective tissue between the Summer and Winter chapters of the series—a live event called Autumn, which is available on HBO’s Facebook page in two parts for about 12 hours of extra footage.