“Sunday — The Ghost” provided a stellar ending to the first half of HBO’s excellent folk-horror The Third Day, and what else is still to come is anyone’s guess.
This recap of The Third Day episode 3, “Sunday — The Ghost”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
There’s an unusual rhythm to “Sunday – The Ghost”, the third and final episode of The Third Day’s opening “Summer” arc. The whole thing has been unusual, obviously, which is entirely the point, but even by its own standards, this third episode was odd. It combined wordy exposition with stretches that were entirely wordless; some of the show’s most horrific and confounding imagery thus far with what is, on balance, quite a straightforward and simple explanation to the overarching mystery. It was a clear ending, halfway through a season.
What all this means for The Third Day going forwards is anyone’s guess, but we’ll speculate on that in due course. In the meantime, let’s go over some of the revelations from this latest hour, the first and perhaps biggest of which being that Jude Law’s Sam is connected to the island of Osea by blood, rather than coincidence – he’s the rightful heir to the island’s patriarchal leadership position.
Of course, this changes the context around a lot of what we’ve seen thus far. What seemed like coincidences were in fact the machinations of the islanders; when Sam and his family were discovered, a decision was made – by meek Mr. Martin, no less – to kidnap Sam’s son, Nathan, under the assumption that it would be easier to convince a child of his responsibility to leadership than his grown-up father. Thus, Goltan, the mentally-challenged Romanian immigrant, was used to kidnap Nathan, and a local boy – Epona’s brother, Jason’s son – was used to sell the idea that Nathan had been murdered. In reality, he had been kept in the Big House on Osea all this time.
There is a schism among the islanders, though, since some believe that Sam himself should inherit the mantle of Father, and his intervention in Epona’s suicide – self-sacrifice to stem the island’s decay, which is worsening in the absence of a true heir as their leader – brought him close enough to them to be vulnerable. “Sunday – The Ghost” alternates between giving us this information and Sam attempting to flee Osea with Jess in a series of close calls, desperate chases, stand-offs, and near-death experiences, all of which is exciting, illuminating, and horrifying in about equal measure.
But there are still revelations to come, among them the fact that Jess’s daughters have also been held on the island as hostages – they’re the little blond girls we’ve seen glimpses of throughout these episodes, mostly during Sam’s addled imagining. After a tense sequence aboard a boat, it’s Jess who ultimately returns Sam to the island, where she reunites with her children, he reunites with his, and he assumes his role as Osea’s Father while innumerable crickets darken the sky and thud into the camera.
This is a powerful ending, rich in symbology and coming on the back of a great deal of horrific imagery and developments, including Epona’s second attempt at placating the island’s gods with ritual disembowelment, like a dishonored samurai, and the public-facing father of Osea happily blowing his own head off right in front of Sam and the assembled islanders, who whoop and holler at this development.
The most compelling question to emerge from this episode, then, is where The Third Day goes from here. “Fall”, a live event, will precede “Winter”, the three-episode back half of the season, but how that story will relate to Sam, Jess, and the island of Osea is anyone’s guess. Still mysterious, too, is the exact nature of the island itself – is everything we have seen simply the doing of superstitious locals, or has there been enough coincidence and happenstance to suggest that Osea’s pagan pantheon is as real as the islanders think?
To the best of my knowledge, Jude Law will no longer be the lead in The Third Day, which seems like a shame given the exquisite performance he has delivered thus far, especially in this episode. So much of the “Summer” arc was about him and his plight, and so much of it was bundled up and ultimately resolved in the actorly contours of his handsome face, that it’s hard to imagine anyone else, even Naomie Harris, taking on the responsibility.
Whatever happens next, “Sunday – The Ghost” caps off three stellar episodes of gripping folk-horror. If we get another three of the same quality, that’ll be a bonus.
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