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'The Third Day' Season 1 Ending Explained: Why did Sam stay back at Osea Island with Nathan?

After a rocky start to her journey to Osea, Helen finally did manage to flee the mysteriously deadly island with her two daughters, but why not Sam?
UPDATED OCT 20, 2020

Spoilers for 'The Third Day' Episode 6 'Last Day — The Dark'

HBO limited series 'The Third Day' ended with a finale that impressed viewers but also left them devastated.

After a rocky start to her journey to Osea, Helen (Naomie Harris) finally did manage to flee the mysteriously deadly island with her two daughters Ellie (Nico Parker) and Talulah (Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell) by literally swimming out. As the violent locals led by Jess (Katherine Waterston) followed them out till the causeway, Helen put her two daughters on a boat, tied it to her waist and swam out into the cold waters. Her daughters were scared they'd lose their mother to hypothermia. But a mother's will has no bounds. And even though it is evident that Helen herself is grieving the loss of her son Nathan, she has to live for her two daughters and their futures. 

Many viewers found the conclusion to be open-ended. Mostly because even as the finale episode answered a lot of questions, it still left some things to the imagination. In particular, why did Sam (Jude Law) stay back at Osea? 

Even after the truth about the island, its locals and Nathan are revealed, the father of Osea Island doesn't leave with Helen and their daughters as one would have thought he would. This left several viewers confused, leading to strife in the fandom with many theorizing the end. 

"Helen obviously gets away and the fact that Jess' mob didn't come looking tells me that Sam brought The Dark to her and retook the island, finally becoming the father he needed to be. Helen reminding him of the time he lost Nathan brought him the clarity he needed to take action," a fan said on Reddit. 

This furthers the conversation around his decision to stay back with Nathan  the boy who is clearly not his son. Fans have an explanation for this too. "Sam was unable to let go of his grief/ tread the causeway to escape and ultimately succumbed to the dark whereas Helen was able to power through her grief/ make it off of Osea and the last shot is the light shining in over her and the girls," another fan explained on Reddit. 

Think of Osea Island as a shelter for those who grieve. Remember how even Ellie felt at home here? That's because she was also dealing with second-hand grief over the death of her elder brother. Sam's choice to stay back means that he decides to stay in the bubble of delusion and irrationality that he himself created with the help of the locals. On the other hand, after giving in to his delusions, Helen had become the primary parent of the two surviving children, which turned her into "stone" (as Ellie had called her). But it is really her will to survive and rescue her children and not succumb to the grief that pulls her out of Osea and to safety. 

All episodes of 'The Third Day' are currently streaming on HBO Max.