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Is HBO’s The Third Day a True Story?

September 14, 2020
4 min read

HBO/Sky Atlantic’s mystery drama series ‘The Third Day’ is a psychedelic ride through dread and paranoia. A collaborative effort between HBO, Sky Studio, Punchdrunk theatre company, Brat Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, and writer Dennis Kelly (‘Utopia’), the series tells the story of two different individuals (Jude Law and Naomie Harris) finding their way to a mysterious island in two different times. They are drawn to its picturesque and surreal beauty as well as the primeval absolution it promises but first must deal with the locals who fanatically defend their way of life. Throughout the entire runtime of ‘The Third Day’, you feel this oppressive sense of uneasiness, and it stays with you long after you are done with the series.

The production of ‘The Third Day’ is separated into three unique but interwoven sections. The first section, ‘Summer’, revolves around Sam (Law), who has become the shell of his former self following the death of his child. After he saves a teenage girl from committing suicide, he takes her to her home on a mysterious island. At first, the land offers him an escape from all his troubles, before it reveals its cultish nature. The second section, ‘Autumn,’ is slated to be a live theatrical event featuring law. The third part, ‘Winter’, follows Helen (Harris) and her daughters as they arrive on the island for a vacation but are confronted by hostile locals who refuse to rent them rooms. If you are curious about whether the series is based on a true story, this article is for you.

Is The Third Day a True Story?

‘The Third Day’ is not based on a true story. Kelly developed the script of the series with Dean O’Loughlin and Kit de Waal. ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ are directed by Marc Munden and Philippa Lowthorpe, respectively. Barrett is set to helm the production of ‘Autumn’.

While yes, ‘The Third Day’ is not an out-and-out adaptation of some real-life incident, it has enough realistic elements to make it compelling and relatable. Sam’s overwhelming sense of grief over losing his child serves as an important part of his background, and it helps explain most of his actions in the course of the series. Helen, on the other hand, has to confront an entire community that has become antagonistic towards her. Although she erroneously recognizes the locals as racists at first, they are no less sinister and dangerous. The most realistic aspect of ‘The Third Day’, however, is the island itself.

Does Osea Island Really Exist?

Yes, it indeed does. Osea Island is located off the shores of Essex. The scenes about the island were filmed on location. The series cleverly uses the island’s history to establish a background for its plot. In 1903, philanthropist and social reformer Frederick Nicholas Charrington bought Osea to found a rehabilitation center there for people with alcohol and opiate abuse problems. In his early life, he was a brewer, but later gave up the business and developed a near-fanatical dislike for any kind of vices, including drinking and prostitution. This has led some to speculate that he was Jack the Ripper.

In an interview, actress Emily Watson, who portrays one of the locals, Mrs. Martin, in the series, stated that she found the island to be “a little bit creepy” and stated that “On a clear day with a sunny sky, it’s beautiful. There’s amazing birdlife. But it’s got all these creepy hedge tunnels and it’s just got a sense that stuff has happened there; it was a rehab place for a while.”

She also gave an elaborate description of how problematic shooting on the island was. “And filming there was infuriating because of the tide. Exactly as in the story, if you missed the tidal causeway, you then had to wait to get a boat. There were only certain times of day when you could get on and off the island. But a lot of the time we just stayed the night; there’s a whole set and all those houses and everything, there were also cottages where people were living. So, it was a bit like being at a really kind of weird boarding school as well…”

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