Will The Third Day Be an Experimental Success for HBO?

Jude Law and Naomie Harris star in HBO’s The Third Day, an ambitious limited series with an immersive live-theater component.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

By now you may have seen the trailer for an HBO limited series called The Third Day, starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris and directed by Dennis Kelly and Felix Barrett.

HBO, in partnership with Sky TV, remains quite secretive about the plot details of The Third Day, of course, while referring to the limited series as the “world’s first immersive TV drama with an innovative live event staged as part of the series.” But what exactly does that mean, and how would such a thing play out on television?

Barrett and Kelly have both released statements on the project. “To tell a story that spans TV and live action has been a long held ambition of mine. The Third Day will be both a TV show and a world you can enter, giving viewers the chance to live and breathe the narrative,” Barrett said.

“I wanted to make a series that was unsettling and disturbing but that also spoke to fears that ran deeper than horror. The themes of The Third Day have long been obsessions of mine—it is about loss and hope and how both of those things can distort the mind in surprising and brutal ways,” Kelly echoed.

Still, that might not answer the many questions you may have after watching the trailer, which you can see below.

What Is The Third Day About?

The Third Day weaves together two seemingly disparate stories, told in two major parts. The first part is called Summer, in which Law plays a man named Sam who arrives at a mysterious island off the coast of Britain, and discovers the island residents are preserving some disturbing traditions. The second part is called Winter, in which Harris also plays an outsider who finds herself on the island looking for answers.

What Does It Remind You Of?

This plot does sound a lot like The Wicker Man, a 1973 British horror film that was remade in 2006 with Nicolas Cage. In that movie, a man travels to the fictional, isolated island of Summerisle to investigate a missing child, only to discover the residents are deeply involved in Celtic pagan rituals. Some might also say The Third Day bears a bit of resemblance to Midsommar, Ari Aster’s folk-horror hit from last summer. Either way, there is definitely something cultish going on in The Third Day.

What Is the “Live Component” of This Series?

The first three episodes of The Third Day will premiere on HBO just like a regular television show. Viewers will watch Law’s character uncover the secrets of the island upon which he is now trapped. The remaining three episodes of the limited series will follow Harris’s character as she finds herself also trapped on the same island. One of those episodes will involve what is being called a “live component,” which is basically a live broadcast of the action that will take place in a theater. Audience members will be a part of the story in this episode, which will be put together by Barrett and Punchdrunk, the British theater company responsible for the immersive experience Sleep No More.

Hasn’t This Been Done Before?

Yes and no. In 2018, Netflix released Bandersnatch, a movie-length choose-your-own-ending episode of Black Mirror. It flopped. HBO also tried adding an interactive component to a series called Mosaic, which was led by Sharon Stone and helmed by Steven Soderbergh, in 2017. If you watched it on TV, it appeared to be a normal murder mystery, but if you watched it on an iOS app, viewers had the ability to interact with the material and research some documents presented in the series. This also flopped. Whether or not the live audience will be able to affect the outcome of the episode directed by Barrett and Punchdrunk remains to be seen, but it is entirely possible that the immersive, choose-your-own-ending aspect could bear resemblance to what went down with Mosaic.

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