“Saturday — The Son” is at times wrenchingly sad and at others thrillingly weird — a great follow-up for a show that is currently impossible to predict or classify.
This recap of The Third Day episode 2, “Saturday — The Son”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s difficult to know where to stand on The Third Day, since the show itself seems unsure of what it actually is at any given moment. The opening of its second episode, “Saturday – The Son”, doesn’t make matters any clearer, since it flits from Jude Law’s Sam having a terrible nightmare full of blood and fire to him waking up in the same bed as his yank tourist roommate, Jess, having presumably spent the night together.
This scene doesn’t play for comedy at first, but once it becomes clear that neither can actually remember having sex – or, for that matter, anything at all – and that the presence of tissues on the bedroom floor is what decides the matter, it’s obviously reading straight from the sex comedy playbook. Which is weird, right, for a show that initially and indeed still is a paranoiac folk horror?
It also shouldn’t mean anything, since Sam and Jess are trapped on a pagan island a million miles away from a phone signal and their real lives – including their spouses since both are married. But as we learn throughout this hour, which swiftly abandons the opening’s surprising lightness of tone, Jess is likely to have been tailed by a spy whose job is to report on her behavior to her husband. This, according to Jess’s typically fraught and complicated backstory, is because after a trend of substance-based self-destruction she’s legally mandated to be on her best behavior at all times in order to see her children, custody of whom she lost.
This is a morbid development, but Sam has it even worse. Throughout several great conversations in The Third Day episode 2, and with the help of a fabulous monologue about grief and pain and how such things are bespoke and can’t be shared, we learn more about the son Sam lost – an innocent young boy kidnapped and murdered by a mentally challenged Romanian immigrant who subsequently turned himself in and committed suicide. Law commits several brilliant bits of acting to “Saturday – The Son”, but his description of this event is searing; the relative mundanity of the tragedy, the sheer just-because nature of the crime, is crushing to us and perplexing to him. As he explains to Jess, every day on the anniversary of his son’s death he makes a sort of pilgrimage, dropping a piece of his clothing into the river. “It’s the only way we can let go of him. One piece at a time.”
That’s a fantastic line. And it comes within a fantastically grounded scene that prefaces all manner of conspiracy and ritualistic weirdness, beginning with Sam finding a connection between his dead son and a local archivist, Mimir (Börje Lundberg), who’s the subject of unwanted, masked attention from the locals. Said locals soon chase Sam from a burned-out camper – the same one from his dream – and into the woods, attempting to pelt him with chunks of metal that sail dangerously close to his skull. (Law exasperatedly explaining this to everyone he encounters afterward is the closest the rest of the episode comes to a comedic beat.)
It’s Jason, of all people, who scares the men off with a shotgun he then threatens to splatter Sam all over the woodland with in retaliation for him having caused “his child’s” death, which both Sam and the audience take to mean that Epona, unseen for ages, is dead. This quickly turns out to be wrong, though. Mr. and Mrs. Martin wheel Epona out alive and well, and have convenient justifications for all Sam’s evidence of weirdness, including pictures of Jack the Ripper’s victims which are explained away as a touristy part of the island’s colorful history. The men in masks are just meddling kids, like a Scooby-Doo plot in Opposite Land. Nobody, least of all Sam, believes any of the cushy excuses. But can Sam himself be trusted?
This is what we’re supposed to ponder since we learn that, since his son’s death, Sam has been prone to bouts of “episodic psychosis” characterized by paranoia and hallucinations and general instability – everything, then, that we’ve seen happen to him throughout the episode. He also confirms that he does indeed harbor a deep-seated hatred for the immigrant community, which he was earlier accused of and vehemently denied. He then does what I think we’d all do if we were grappling with the idea that our perception of the world was dangerously compromised – he takes acid.
We’re to entertain, then, the possibility that Sam is an unreliable narrator. Once he’s tripping he starts hallucinating again, though much more pleasantly this time, but he’s interrupted by a warning that he’s become the target of local thugs. Soon, he’s bleeding, his stomach torn open in a kind of ritualistic carving, and he’s speaking dopily into the camera. He’s assaulted and stuffed in a sack and left alone in a field as an upside-down bonfire eerily crackles nearby, revelers dancing around it. The line between real and imagined is more blurred than his vision, and the direction from which the threats are coming from remains totally obscured.
After two episodes, not only do I not know where The Third Day is going, I’m not entirely sure what it is. What I do know, though, is that it’s impossible to turn away from.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.