The Third Day Series Premiere Review

The one thing that becomes clear about Jude Law’s character, Sam, pretty early into the first episode of The Third Day is that he’s never seen The Wicker Man – neither the 1973 original nor the Nicolas Cage remake from 2006. Had he partaken of that horror perennial (or even last year’s Midsommar), it’s far more likely he’d make a beeline in the opposite direction upon rescuing the suicidal Epona (Jessie Ross) and being invited back to the mysterious enclave wherein she resides. All told, it makes for an intriguing – if familiar – opening act to this HBO series, though it’s greatly reliant on where things go from here.The enclave in question, Osea, is the central location in The Third Day, a six-part series airing in weekly installments on HBO. It lies just on the other side of a rather lengthy, rather narrow causeway that is swallowed by the surrounding water for most of the day, leaving our poor Sam stranded away from his London home and without cell phone reception (because of course). This is one of those towns where the people are “nice” in that air quotes way that cinema history has conditioned us to make our shorthairs stand on end.For one, there’s Mr. Martin (Paddy Considine) along with his wife (Emily Watson) both of whom run the local pub and take in Epona when Sam brings her back. While the mister happily offers Sam a room to stay in for the night, the missus would just as soon see him leave. Considine and Watson are both familiar faces with a lengthy list of appearances between them, and the comfort of their familiarity coupled with the uneasiness of their characters makes for an interesting, unsettling mix. There’s also a nice bit of mood-building throughout all this, with each morsel of exposition offered up giving context to what we assume is coming down the line.

Sam, who has some experience working with children from his past life, is concerned that Epona’s self-harm was driven by fear of her family and/or community (the angry, gun-toting dad who comes looking for her being one big red flag). Of course, all attempts by him to follow up are quickly shot down by the residents, and his exploration of the area only reveals more oddities – be they bizarre rituals or decaying animals or a mysterious boy in the distance. It’s a lot of weirdness within a short space of time.

The only slice of semi-normalcy in a town where even dispatching the “F” word too casually garners looks of disdainful judgment is Jess (Katherine Waterston), an American visitor who seems pleasant enough, but given that the story is only just now getting started, one presumes there’s a bit more going on there than meets the eye.

The premiere is heavy on portent and mood but light on exposition and insight.


What helps is that we’re pretty much right there with Sam as he’s taking it all in. What he sees of Epona and the Martins and Osea itself is all we get, and these bits of partial information only add to an encroaching, unquantifiable feeling of dread. In a sense, it’s the very familiarity of these tropes that works in The Third Day’s favor initially, given that they’ve conditioned us to expect…something. And that wait for the inevitable other shoe to hit the pavement is what carries most of this initial hour (and beyond, the producers no doubt hope).

Luckily for the production (and the audience), Law is always an engaging performer, and watching the wheels turn as he works through the mystery in front of him is something that offers its own muted pleasures. Writer David Kelly (who previously penned the 2014 Law vehicle Black Sea) does a nice job laying out the panel of peculiarities that define Osea, while director Marc Munden (Hulu’s National Treasure) neatly juxtaposes suffocating close-ups with unsettling overhead shots of that damned causeway to establish the isolation that Sam is about to be enveloped by.

Given that this is just the start of a six-part story, it’s perhaps understandable that The Third Day’s initial hourlong entry is heavy on portent and mood but light on exposition and insight. As presented, the mystery is intriguing enough to come back for the next week, but it remains to be seen if further episodes manage to turn the dial further and justify the time committed thus far.


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