That’s a pretty fair summary of The Third Day, which comprises three parts: the three-episode Summer, in which Law’s Sam is the central character; the 12-hour Autumn; and the three-episode Winter, in which Harris takes the lead.

The central character in all of them, though, is the location: the tiny island of Osea, in the estuary of the River Blackwater in Essex (roughly equivalent to Game of Thrones’ fictional Blackwater Bay), connected to the mainland by a causeway built by the Romans and accessible only at low tide.

In real life, it’s a high-end holiday destination with a state-of-the-art recording studio in a manor house overlooking the water, though in the past it served as a detox centre and a psychiatric facility. In The Third Day, it’s home to a brutal cult based on a weird hybrid of Christian and Celtic mythologies.

Sam stumbles onto the island after saving a teenage girl from a suicide attempt in the woods on the mainland. He takes Epona (Jessie Ross) – named for the Celtic goddess of horses – to her village in Osea, where he misses the tide and the owners of the local pub, hilariously played by Paddy Considine and Emily Watson, find him a room. Thing is, it’s already occupied by Jess (Waterston), a highly strung woman with a deep interest in Celtic mythology. One thing leads to another and, well, what happens on Osea stays on Osea. Literally.

The main game here is a contest between male and female. The island is seeking a new Father, to cement an ancient, largely Christian tradition, that was revived in the Victorian era by Frederick Charrington, the real-life teetotalling scion of a brewing family who some think was Jack the Ripper. There’s a counter-movement that seeks to restore the Celtic matriarchy, but any notion that might make for an inherently “gentler” society is quickly put to the sword.

There are inevitably echoes of The Wicker Man in all this, as well as Roman Polanski’s madcap thriller Cul de Sac, also filmed on a tiny island (Lindisfarne). It’s creepy, atmospheric and thoroughly trippy (especially when Sam and Jess rather unwisely take acid moments after escaping an attempt on their lives). I’m not sure it makes total sense, but it’s a wildly enjoyable ride – especially if you throw Autumn into the mix.

The Third Day is on Foxtel Showcase and Binge.

Email the author at kquinn@theage.com.au, or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin





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