The Mediapro Studio, one of Europe’s biggest super indies, is mulling the development of a third season to English-language suspense survival thriller “The Head,” its biggest hit to date in terms of production values, commercial punch and artistic ambition. 

Ran Tellem, TMS international content development head would return as show-runner and creator and Jorge Dorado, who helmed all of Season 1 and 2 and was very much involved in S2’s creative development, would serve as the third season director.

Broken to Variety by TMS CEO Laura Fernández Espeso at a Madrid junket last week for “The Head, Season 2,” news of a possible instalment comes as “The Head,” Season 2, world premieres Dec. 22 on HBO Max in the U.S. and Spain and in early 2023 on Canal+ in France. 

Its sales success underscores key dynamics reshaping a new international TV production scene. 

“It’s obvious that many global streamers have announced changes in their strategies for licensing and, above all, creation of originals, and there’s a certain concentration around big English-language projects,” said Fernández Espeso. 

In consequence, “spectacular opportunities are opening up for licensing” financed series,” she added.

Streamers still need to replenish their grids with first-run shows; established players still need series to take up the slack from titles supplied not very long ago by Hollywood’s studios.

This is a priceless opportunity for big independents which can self-finance development, such as TMS which put into production around 100 titles this year, including 20 scripted series.   

“The Head” Season 2 is a case in point. Associate produced by Hulu Japan, and with no anchor partner – neither a commissioning broadcaster nor co-producer – the follow-up to Season 1 came about “almost because the market pushed us to make a second season and realize we had a franchise on our hands,” said Fernández Espeso. The series has sold in the 90 territories licensed for Season 1, in the majority of cases to the same buyer, she said. 

Upcoming Season 2 bows also take in Latin America (HBO Max), France (Canal+), Portugal (AXN), Belgium (Streamz), Lithuania (TET), Estonia (ETV), Australia (SBS), Baltic States, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Poland (NENT), Brazil (Globoplay) and Japan (Hulu). 

The Mediapro Studio launched in March 2019. It has rapidly built a “privileged leadership” in Spain and continental Europe and is “solvent and solid” in Latin America, Fernández Espeso noted. Production growth is now very-much focused on English-language markets, she added. 

Variety best international TV series of 2022, in many ways, “The Head” has proved a game-changer. “Being able to retain IP was an important step-forward. And being able to make an English-language series with international actors has opened many doors for the projects we’re making off the back of ‘The Head,’”  Fernández Espeso said. “We’re perceived as an international producer in all senses.”

Key to full on development of “The Head,” Season 3, the support of a vast array of best-in-their-class clients around the world would slow a final decision. First Season buyers who often bought into the second outing did so after seeing how well the first instalment performed for them. So they will wait and see if Season 2 performs as well. “The Head,” Season 2 rolls out in 90 counties around the world from December 2022 to April-May 2023. 

Madrid Junket, The Head Season 2 Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

What Is ‘The Head’ Season 2 About?

A sequel was, by any measure, a tall order. Season 1 was always conceived as a limited series, Tellem noted at March’s Series Mania. “It’s no spoiler to say that very few characters survive ‘The Head.’”

“We started saying, well, maybe this show is not just a story but a genre built on four pillars: An isolated place; a survival thriller; no police and super-international, he added.

So “The Head” Season 2 is set on a hulking freighter at mid-Pacific’s Point Nemo, the most distant place on earth from nearest land.  

Now convicted of killing eight scientific team members at Antarctic  research station Polaris VI, terrified of Maggie, and his career, reputation and life over, by his own estimation, eminent and egomaniacal biologist Arthur Wilde is sprung from Portaloise Prison, Ireland, by a shadowy corporation. It flies him to a tanker, the Alexandria – many scenes being shot on a real-life freighter 144 meter long by 22 meters wide.

At its high-tech research lab, as Wilde discovers a combination of Antarctic bacteria with Pacific algae that turn air CO2 into glucose and oxygen, after only 13 minutes of S2’s first episode a senior team member’s body sans head is found in a cabin. 

The tanker’s body count mounts up as the series exposes its characters’ hidden demons – trauma, hidden fury, class hatred, rancour, regret and overweening ambition – that spell their collective demise

“Even though we’re speaking about huge issues – climate crisis, for instance –  that shape the world, ‘The Head’ Season 2 is about people and the most basic things that make a human being,” says Tellem.

“What does a father feel for his daughter? What does a person feel for the person she loves? What would a brother do to protect his brother? It’s about that. It’s very, very human and goes very, very much to the core,” he adds.

That core can be complex, multi-layered. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about human nature is that we’re all weak, miserable, frightened souls putting on a show, pretending that we deserve attention, affection, even love. We don’t,” Wilde sententiously declares in one key scene in the ship’s infirmary, as if delivering his chapter and verse. Yet he contradict himself only seconds later to say that he’d save the whole world just for his daughter.

On another level, “when things get worse and worse after different deaths, characters find themselves acting in a way they’d never expected,” says Jorge Dorado, director of “The Head,” Seasons 1 and 2.

The central relationship is “a father-daughter love story, about Arthur’s redemption, and how important it is to him to recover his daughter Rachel, a kind of family romance, idealistic and interesting,” he adds. 

The large question is whether, by the time Arthur recovered Rachel, he has already sown the seeds of an ultimate fate.

“It’s interesting, the boat is on the ocean in the middle of nowhere, and the ocean is so deep. And there’s so much hidden. I think that’s not by chance,” says John Lynch. 

The Characters

A quick drill down by some of the series’ stars, caught at the Madrid junket, on many main characters in “The Head,” Season 2:

Arthur Wilde, (John Lynch, “Angel Baby,” “In the Name of the Father” )

John Lynch Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

Starring in many of the best modern-day Irish and British films and series from 1984’s “Cal,” his breakout, through 1993’s “In the Name of the Father,” nominated for seven Oscars, to 2017-20 series “Tin Star,” Lynch anchors “The Head,” Season 2 with a performance of dazzling contrasts, ranging from a desperate craving to regain respect as one of the world’s most renown biologists and a soaring sense of his predestination as a genius to a deep need for his daughter’s love and understanding. “For a while you think: ‘Oh, this is going the way you would hope for an estranged father and daughter who have been through a lot,’” Lynch says. “But there’s something else in the way. What’s so good about the script and the project is there’s always something else.”

Rachel, (Olivia Morris, “RRR,” “Hotel Portofino”)

Olivia Morris Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

Jenny in Tollywood smash-hit blockbuster “RRR,” debuting in TV as Alice Mays-Smith in “Hotel Portofino.” In “The Head” Season 2, Arthur’s estranged daughter whom he recruits for his new scientific team. “Everything he says she’s scrutinising, watching, gauging. That scene in the infirmary is probably the most open and honest and intimate moment they have as father and daughter,” says Morris. Rachel is also the show’s moral compass.

Dr. Maggie Mitchell, (Katharine O’Donnelly, “Clique,” “Mary Queen of Scots”) 

Katharine O’Donnelly Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

In Season 1, Maggie is a character playing another character, Polaris VI’s new young doctor, a mild, shell-shocked survivor of its carnage. Or so it seems. In Season 2, she can open up. Her acts in part are to stop Wilde doing what he’s done to other women, she says. “Sometimes she’s focused on selfish motives, at others she adopts the justification that she’s also fighting for all women. It kind of fluctuates as to how true it feels to her,” O’Donnelly tells Variety. That’s rather like Wilde’s justification that whatever he does is a means to the overriding end of halting climate change, allowing him to lie to others and all the more to himself, Lynch notes. “It what I said to Mariano [Baselga]: They’re the same.” “Arthur has created her sense of who she actually is, it’s impossible for her to separate her sense of self from Arthur, which is another reason why she hates him,” O’Donnelly adds.

Alec Kurtz, (Moe Dunford, “Vikings,” “Patrick’s Day”)

Moe Dunford Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

Aethelwulf in “Vikings,” a Berlin Shooting Star and a double IFTA best actor winner for “Patrick’s Day” and “Nightride,” Dunford plays Alec, tanker’s seemingly cheery head of security.

Again there’s nuance. “From being in a unit in the army, Alec has a camaraderie with people,” says Dunford. But he’s also scarred by his tour of duty in Afghanistan. “Alec is quite traumatized from it all. So he’s given a second chance to right wrongs and do right by making this mission a success.

Jorge [Dorado] always encouraged me to bring out his care for the crew and the team. There’s an element of heart,” says Dunford. 

Charlie, (Hovik Keuchkerian, “Money Heist,” “Riot Police”)

Hovik Keuchkerian Courtesy of The Mediapro Studio

Bogotá in “Money Heist,” a best TV series actor winner for “Riot Police,” a former boxer and Spanish heavyweight champion who piled on the weight to play Charlie, part of the ship’s crew and a slow-witted lumbering giant who has heart and mind of a 9-year-old child and a pet rat. “On the ship, with his brother and the crew, he’s finally found a family, which he has been dreaming about,” says Keuchkerian. But press the wrong buttons, and Charlie can become an animal, he adds. Little need to ask whether the wrong buttons are pressed in “The Head,” Season 2.