This article contains spoilers for The Expanse. Check out our preview of The Expanse Season 6.
The legacy of women stranded in space (on film) is not particularly long. But it is distinguished as hell.
Ellen Ripley comes to mind in 1979's classic Alien. Ripley isn't really alone until the end of the film (and I'm not counting the cat), but you could argue she's very much on her own after that and throughout the sequels. Nobody's lived through what she's lived (and died) through. But you feel every damn second of it — certainly in the first two films, anyway, and I'd even argue for that same sense in Alien Resurrection, after she's been cloned and became a mother, all at once. (We'll skip Alien III for the obvious reasons, despite my love for Charles S. Dutton.)
Another badass is Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone in Gravity. That's more a tale of preparation and training married with dumb luck than it is about survival, but there's no denying the sense of negative pressure you feel when watching the 2013 Alfonso Caurón film.
Add another to the list: Dominique Tipper and Naomi Nagata.
It's tough for anyone to particularly stand out in the already excellent ensemble cast of The Expanse, but Tipper did so in the eighth episode of Season 5.
Leigh Monson nailed it in their review this week:
Naomi is exhausted, beaten, and bruised from having survived in the vacuum of space in her escape, so much so that simple tasks are extremely painful and require more effort than her muscles should be able to endure. She is entirely without equipment or provisions, as the Chetzemoka has been stripped bare before being shuttled off as a bomb. All she has left is a spacesuit without an oxygen supply, which she uses to enter the airless space where the communications array is in the hopes of modifying the broadcast. Tipper gives these scenes the necessary weight to feel urgent even without words, and the sheer urgency of her literally breathless actions, even when we aren’t sure what exactly she’s doing, is entirely captivating.
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It's reductive to say that Naomi's situation is yet another example of the strength and ingenuity of a woman who has everything to lose and is in a situation that seems all but fixable. But it's also not untrue. It's also another example of how space will kick the ever-living shit out of you (as much as I loathed the idea of Naomi surviving the transit in the vacuum between the Zmeya and the Chetzemoka with nothing more than a shot of what apparently is oxygenated blood), and how pretty much no one short of the breech workers on Snowpiercer have any idea what that might actually feel like. But the constant pain Naomi endures after making it safely into the Zmeya — which is now an explosive trap laid for the Roscinante — is felt in every step and in every breath, and it makes up for that plot convenience. There's nothing that doesn't hurt, and nothing that doesn't continue to hurt.
We don't really get a feel for how long Naomi at it, but we do see how many attempts it takes her to interrupt the fake distress call in a space suit without fresh oxygen, and how many more times she has to abuse her already stressed body just for the hope of causing something to happen, to give the Rosci and Holden a chance to not die trying to save her.
(Those tick marks are explained in the video below. It's the little things like that that have made this series so good over the years.)
Will she succeed? Probably. It's a series, after all. But Naomi and Dominique Tipper have made the penultimate Season 5 one hell of a ride no matter what.
(Also an honorable mention to the always awesome Cara Gee as Drummer, both of whom have held their own alongside incredible characters and actors since joining the series. They just haven't had to do it alone in space.)
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Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.