The first season of Amazon's psychological thriller Absentia was about finding justice for Emily Byrne (Stana Katic). She had been kidnapped by one of Boston's most infamous serial killers and held captive for over six years before being found by authorities and returned to her family with little memory of what happened to her, or why.
By the end of the season, Emily was able to find her captor and get her revenge, but there were still a lot of looming questions about what exactly happened to her during her captivity. In Season 2, she's back on the hunt for answers, but as she digs deeper into her past, she'll find only more disturbing questions as yet another mystery surrounds her after a terrorist attack in Boston.
TV Guide spoke to Stana Katic about Emily's journey in Season 2 and how deep the rabbit hole goes in her thriller series.
You spent a lot of time developing this world and really fleshing Emily out in Season 1. What were you most excited to explore in Season 2 after setting up that foundation?
Stana Katic: [Emily] was, as a character, a bit of a necessary for the audience. Although we did dive deep with her at points, at least for the very first maybe four or five episodes, we stayed in primarily an objective perspective on this character. So the audience, although they got to know her a bit better as the episodes progressed, they hopefully were never able to fully trust their allegiance to her. And in Season 2, what's really exciting is we do dive even deeper into this character who ... has a shattered sense of identity. She's picking up the pieces from a very foggy memory and trying to resolve this horrific past in order to be able to have a future relationship with her son, which is kind of a driving factor in her life. So that was one thing that was interesting to explore. When we're talking about psychological thriller, it was interesting to explore more of the psychological.
The second bit that I think was exciting for me, as a producer, was getting to dive into some of the other characters more intimately as well. A lot of the characters, or core cast at least, all have really interesting arcs this season, and I'm proud of the work that they did. I'm excited that the audience is going to be able to get a chance to get to know those characters better, and to see what secrets come up, and just enjoy their performances.
It was kind of obvious in Season 1 that Emily would never be able to find peace until she found her captor and figured out what happened to her. And she found him at the end of Season 1, but it seems like she's still struggling to acclimate to normal life. What is her biggest challenge in Season 2, and what is she trying to find in order to heal and move on?
Katic: The biggest question for her [in] Season 2 is what actually happened during those lost years, and she had a glimpse of a possibility at the very end of Season 1. And she needs to know if there's any proof in that glimpse. And on top of that, more importantly, she needs to know that she is safe for Flynn to be around, because ultimately, the biggest drive for her is her son's safety and well-being. The relationship that she has with him, or the love that she holds for him, is the thing that made her able to survive everything during those lost years.
Speaking of Flynn, he's going to be struggling with his own demons in the second season. How does it affect Emily to see that her son is now having to deal with all of this trauma, in large part, because she has reentered his life?
Katic: That's one of those things that I think the audiences are going to have to wait and see. What's beautiful for Flynn is that he has a community of parents almost, so Alice [Cara Theobold] comes into play in that storyline, Nick [Patrick Heusinger] comes into play in that storyline, and it's a bit of a awkward dance with these three parents, plus the extended family that surrounds around Flynn. ... I think some of the resilience factor that Emily has that helped her overcome elements of the past are also going to be in the fabric of Flynn.
Emily comes to rely on Tommy Gibbs in the second season as her ally. Why is Tommy the person she turns to, rather than Nick or someone else, to help her put the pieces of those lost years together?
Katic: What we discovered in rehearsals and in elements of the writing is that Tommy's [Angel Bonanni] an outsider in so many ways. You know, he has this Columbo-esque thing about him, but he's seeing some really dark things. And there's something in Emily that he has sort of a better viewpoint on. He is capable, I guess, of seeing the goodness in her. And so I think that they're both a pair of outsiders. They find each other and relate to each other because there is this connection about even though being outsiders, and even though having seen the worst in humanity, there's still a seed of goodness in each other.
How would you describe the theme of Season 2?
Katic: For me, this show has always been a graphic novel. ...We have a story that to me is so similar to Odysseus, one of those ancient myths, except it's Emily instead of Odysseus. I feel like we explore what that means for... She may not be a soldier, but in some ways she is, and she's returning from a version of a war. Much like Odysseus, there are psychological tests and trials along the way to her coming home and having dominion over her own body, her own self, of having a say in future steps with her own being — not necessarily anyone else's, but just herself. I think that that's kind of part of the scene in this story. And then of course, there's the arcs for the other characters, which all play into this really sort of graphic novel-y world.
In that vein, is this a world that you want to continue living in and exploring for as long as possible, or do you see an finite end for Emily's story?
Katic: I don't know if there is a finite end. ... As an executive producer, I know that there are challenges to telling a psychological thriller and it's imperative for us as a group of collaborators to make sure that we keep up the tension from scene to scene, episode to episode, season to season. I believe that with that challenge, there's also just an amount of respect for audiences that you have to have after a while, and know how far you can take a story and make sure that we're respectful of the stretch that show or story should have.
How would you describe Season 1 in three words?
Katic: Legacy. Intense. High-octane.
Absentia Season 2 is available to stream on Amazon beginning Friday, June 14.