I have to preface this article by admitting straight away, I did not watch all 12 hours of the Third Day Autumn live stream. I honestly just don’t have the time right now. That being said, I have managed to catch bits and I am definitely still interested in watching the whole thing to truly see all the elements come together. But for now, I’m going to dissect what I’ve seen and what I’ve gotten from others who have streamed the whole thing. We’re all in this together because while you can probably get away with seeing “Winter” without “Autumn,” there are some important details that emerge and I’ll do my best to pass those along.
When the stream opens, we’re greeted with text stating that every year Osea has their “Esus and the Sea” ritual where a young girl or boy is chosen to “take the path of Esus” which is similar to the Christian trials and stations of the cross for Jesus. The festival is a mark of the children of the island passing into adulthood. However, in conflicting years when a new leader is needed, that individual is the one to undergo the trials. In this instance, this means Sam (Jude Law) is up at-bat. Though we get plenty of time before he enters the screen. A little bit too much, IMHO.
Slow burn cinema is a thing and I’m not entirely against it. The slow crawl across the causeway was, objectively speaking, gorgeous cinematography and absolutely entranced us as we slowly made our way to Osea, but not necessarily the festival. Given the events of “Summer” and since Sam is the one to go through the trials, the island decides to cancel the music festival and isolate the island for their ritual. Probably a good idea considering I’m not sure Sam is going to make it out of this. We don’t see Law enter the screen until after two hours in. By that point, we’ve seen the island working together getting ready. Sewing suits, prepping bonfires, and even dipping themselves in mud and ‘wrastling’ around all make the to-do list before Sam even appears. However, his lady friend Jess (Katherine Waterston) does make an appearance before him, helping sew outfits for the men. And here’s where I have to fill in from what others have seen. In my second “Summer” review, I speculated about Jess’s scent aversion and turned out to be correct and I believe this comes into play in “Winter.” But here’s where I’m curious about what I missed out on… According to an article in Stylist, Jess has been having a thing with Epona’s father Jason (Mark Lewis Jones) and throughout the live event, she makes calls to her husband, eventually saying if he wants her he better come get her because she’s not leaving the island.
Meanwhile, Sam eventually comes on screen and begins his different trials. As detailed by the Killing Times, the events include a Last Supper style dinner, dragging a boat behind him with the “sins of the people,” a crown of spikes, digging his own grave, and even a sea style crucifixion and resurrection. But there are two questions I can’t get my head around particularly because of different viewpoints I’ve found. First, is Sam really accepting this, or is he still just going along for the sake of his son? Because I can quite honestly see it both ways. I can see Sam saying, “This is my fate and if I want my son, this is the way it has to be.” OR “F*ck these people, I’m going along with it until they trust me enough to try escaping again.” But given also the digging of a grave, I secondly wonder if Sam is even alive any longer. If at the end of the episode, him taking his son’s hand and walking away is actually them both passing into the afterlife. I’ve seen different articles speculating that Sam is clearly dead, but I’m not so sure. Perhaps because I did not view his death on screen, I question it happening. Because what I DID see was the final few minutes where I watched Sam seemingly alive, walk away holding his son’s hand. So what’s real?
I desperately want to watch more, but honestly don’t have the time right now and that to me is the biggest problem with an endeavor like Punchdrunk’s live stream. Everything they were able to capture put you right into the mood of the island. It was beautifully immersive and you were enthralled enough by the slow burn to keep looking back to see what would happen next. Law should be considered for an Emmy purely for digging a grave on screen for an hour in English, rainy weather, let alone the rest of it. But really how many people have 12 hours to spare, just to watch a live stream TV event? I feel a tad robbed because I do feel like I missed incredibly important pieces in the slow burn, but as a working adult with school and other responsibilities, I cannot sacrifice 12 hours for television that I need to be watching and ardently paying attention to in order to catch everything. Had the time been cut in half, I think we would have gotten just as much out of it and it would have been a far more digestible chunk. That being said, you cannot deny the incredibly immersive success of this endeavor and wonder what possibilities this will open for TV and cinema in the future. But for now, “Winter” is coming.