After 2 1/2-year hiatus, HBO Max's 'The Head' dishes new mysteries

Season 2 of John Lynch's and Katharine O'Donnelly's "The Head" premieres Thursday. Photo courtesy of Mediapro Studio
1 of 4 | Season 2 of John Lynch's and Katharine O'Donnelly's "The Head" premieres Thursday. Photo courtesy of Mediapro Studio

NEW YORK, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Season 1 of the psychological thriller, The Head, ended with such a high body count that John Lynch and Katharine O'Donnelly, the stars who played the two remaining main characters, couldn't imagine it getting a follow-up.

But 2 1/2 years later, Lynch and O'Donnelly reunited to reprise their roles of Dr. Arthur Wilde and Maggie in a new mystery, premiering Thursday on HBO Max USA and HBO Spain. The Mediapro Studio is handling distribution of the show in other international territories.


"When we filmed the first series, we kind of kept going on about how it was a limited story and that was what was so satisfying about it," O'Donnelly told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"It had a conclusive finish, so when we heard it was doing really well and there started to be rumors about a second series, it was really exciting, but I don't think we had any idea what that could really look like. It slowly came together."


Lynch said he doesn't think anyone expected the high-tension drama to be as well-received by critics and viewers as it was in June 2020.

"The timing of it was pretty good," he said. "When it came out, it was right smack in the middle of the [coronavirus] pandemic and all the various lockdowns. I think it spoke to a sense of isolation that maybe people were feeling."

Both seasons were directed by Jorge Dorado and follow scientific expeditions in isolated locales.

Season 1 was set at a research facility in Antarctica where a close-knit community discovers there is a killer among its ranks.

Season 2 takes place on an enormous, ocean-crossing freighter where the man framed for the crimes is trapped, while members of his new team of scientists and the ship's crew start turning up murdered in grisly ways.

Episodes were partly shot on a real cargo freighter in The Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain.

"Fundamentally, the whole thing is about how these two characters that we play are connected and how both of them are like dogs with a bone. They can't let go of their mutual loathing of each other," Lynch said.

"Maggie, to a huge degree, succeeded in her mission to destroy this man that I play and everything that he represents. So, by the end of Season 1, Arthur Wilde is a shell. His reputation is gone," he added.


"He's ruined. He's been arrested for murders that he didn't commit. And then, [he] subsequently spends a year on remand in prison awaiting trial and, in that time, falls apart and starts to reassemble himself.

"By the time that Season 2 begins, there is a version of Arthur who comes through, who has been carrying all this that has happened to him -- and that has changed him."

The end of Season 1 revealed that "Maggie" scammed her way into the research trip and actually is a vengeful woman named Olivia.

"She's not who she says she is and from an audience perspective, they are meeting the person capable of these acts [in Season 2]," O'Donnelly said.

"In terms of her psychology, I explored and went into more detail with her history and the events of Polaris VI. I think she really holds onto her plan and her purpose and that's been a coping a mechanism for her over the past year, when we last saw her," she added.

"In the first episode [of Season 2], things begin to unravel and for the first time in a long time, she doesn't have that control. It think it heightens her hate and he self-appointed mission."


O'Donnelly said the show's nail-biting anxiety is more palpable when one watches it than works on it.

"You can't really live with that level of tension," she said. "It wouldn't feel justified. The characters don't know what's happening to them [in real time]. When you see how they edit it, it is impressive how they create that atmosphere."

The actual, physical location of where the drama unfolds -- the ship -- also is a "daunting, huge element of the whole series," O'Donnelly said.

At once enormous, the freighter also inspires feelings of claustrophobia because the passengers and crew couldn't leave for long periods of time.

"It's overwhelming how huge it is and how much space there is for these characters to run and hide," the actress said. "It's kind of amazing how many locations there were within the ship."

Lynch said the sheer vastness of the ocean also contributed to the characters' sense of cabin fever and isolation.

"Point Nemo, which is in the Pacific Ocean, is the most remote place on Earth in terms of nearest inhabitants," he said.

"It adds a symmetry to Season 1 in that sense. There are logical and credible reasons why they would be so far from everything. My character is on the run and has to be shielded and has to be hidden and has to be kept from view."


Because of the expense of the project and the limited availability of the ship, the cast and crew had to work many long days to film their story.

"I did nine straight days and I complained to someone. I said it expecting some kind of badge or my name to be run up a flagpole and they said, 'Well, Jorge has done 21.' I went, 'Oh, OK,'" Lynch recalled.

O'Donnelly said she expects the arrival of new characters -- played by Hovik Keuchkerian, Moe Dunford, Josefin Nelden and Olivia Morris -- will keep the show fresh and entertaining for viewers.

"The diversity of its cast brings in an amazingly diverse audience, and I think that is something that is quite unique," she emphasized. "One of the aspects of the show that I am most proud of is all the different nationalities. I feel like that would have helped its success."

Lynch said Arthur interacts with most of the characters in the show.

"I'm leading the research on the ship and I'm a valuable asset, so I have to have a security detail. I interact with the scientists and the ship's crew. There's tension between the scientists and the ship's crew, which is an interesting dynamic," he teased.


"I even interact with an imaginary Maggie, which is a version of Katharine's character that I carry in my mind. I'm so obsessed with her. I have conversations with her, even though she's not there."

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