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Character Deep Dive: Naomi Nagata

Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata in The Expanse Season 1
©Syfy

Portrayed by: Dominique Tipper
Show: Amazon Prime’s The Expanse

For six years, The Expanse‘s Naomi Nagata stood as a prominent example of a strong woman with a deeply vulnerable and undeniably relatable story arc. From the moment she graces our screens by exhibiting her abilities as an incredible engineer to the moment she leaves us as a woman who needs a quiet moment after a perilous fight, Naomi’s journey screams of truth, empathy, and grace.

Naomi consistently stood as the beacon of hope, ready to bring someone back home in a world with multiple wars and the shadows from her past haunting her every move. She understood the fundamental principle that people cannot fix other people, but it doesn’t mean you give up trying to help them find the right path. And more importantly, Naomi Nagata understood the importance of agency, the attribute that it’s not only her right, but something everyone in the world is deserving of.

Naomi Nagata almost exclusively exhibits vulnerability and tremendous heart in a world that demands bravery from women without allowing their layers to blaze through. She is an openly selfless character, but concurrently, one who seizes what she desires. In exercising her rights and having the platform to explore as she chooses, Naomi’s decisions were often for the advantage of everyone else in her life—the Rocinante crew, the Belt, and those who’ve needed someone to listen.

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Naomi Nagata and Priorities

Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata in The Expanse Season 4
©Prime Video

What equates to a priority worthy of admiration and one that we question as humans? A universal truth tells us that priorities that serve others are certainly more reputable than those that are self-satisfying but fail to mention that martyring oneself isn’t the way to go either. And thereby, we wander through life trying to find balance. The form of balance viewers saw through Naomi’s character growth was an acute representation of humanity at its finest—even the best of people are flawed while trying to make the world a better person.

Naomi is an engineer, and thereby doing her job is understandably a priority—a position she is both passionate about and incredibly good at, which the series continuously allowed us to see. But in short, for Naomi, it’s always about the people. It’s about those who deserve her help and those who deserve the push to become better. “I fix ships, not people” is such a fascinating quote of hers when you think about the fact that the people she helps are by virtue of the kind of mechanical engineer and woman she chooses to be. She knows when to stop and keep going, which essentially makes her an empathetic person whose priorities lie in seeing the best in people even when they don’t see it themselves.

When considering her priorities as a mother, Naomi is always with Filip, even at the end of the season where she decides that she has done everything she could to help him. (The harrowing soundless sob into Jim’s arms in the series finale when she believes Filip is now gone will surely haunt us all for a while.) But it takes us back to earlier seasons before we even knew that she was a mother as we took notice of the quiet moments where she’d take care of people. The compassion in her eyes when someone was ill, not sleeping enough, or biting off more than they could chew. Naomi quietly observed and spoke up when the moments called for her.

When considering her priorities as a mother, Naomi is always with Filip, even at the end of the season where she decides that she has done everything she could to help him. (The harrowing soundless sob into Jim’s arms when she believes Filip is now gone will surely haunt us all for a while.) But it takes us back to earlier seasons before we even knew that she was a mother as we took notice of the quiet moments where she’d take care of people. The compassion in her eyes when someone was ill, not sleeping enough, or biting off more than they could chew. Naomi quietly observed and spoke up when the moments called for her.

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There’s also the question of why a mother would leave a child in the hands of a terrible father in the first place? But throughout the series, Naomi’s actions make it clear that she leaves behind a world that she knows could do substantial damage to her, and in doing so, it’d make her less than the mother Filip would deserve. She needed to leave to create a better future for him even as he was under Marco’s wings.

In doing all this, she learns what is most important in this world and how to lead by example. And though she isn’t aware that her goodness inspires Filip to finally choose the honorable path, we can be confident that not only will she someday learn, but as the audience, we can see that it was worth it. Where some might argue that a different kind of mother would martyr themselves for a child, Naomi’s priorities being the world’s greater good instead authenticate the fact that a person, whether a mother or not, deserves their agency.

Naomi’s decision isn’t selfless or selfish, but it’s the right choice because in fighting as hard as she does to save Filip, and the decision to leave him behind once more, she stands as an example that helps end the Free Navy.

While her trauma and pain haunt her in the quiet moments throughout The Expanse’s sixth season, in “Redoubt,” she makes it clear that she chose to return to save multiple lives as opposed to one. Thus, she decides to be a mother from afar because she knows she’s done everything she possibly could, and she doesn’t shy away from that truth.

Where priorities are concerned, Naomi’s personal life isn’t always one of them, but when the time is right—she discloses what’s vital. The entire world doesn’t need to know her secrets or the crosses she carries, but if she sees that someone else could benefit from her experience, then at the point, she’ll decide to open up. This is the case with her decisions in Season 3 and also, in a sense, her decisions in Season 4.

To try is always a priority for Naomi, whether that’s to find more people who are just like her or to walk on land she knows she might not be able to handle without messing up her body.

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The Strength in Vulnerability

In this universe, so few could outsmart or even diminish Naomi Nagata’s strength, but her skills and transparency aren’t where her strength comes from, but from the vulnerability she isn’t afraid of giving in to. The women on The Expanse are the coolest by definition, but so much of that stance is strengthened by the fact that they allow themselves to feel. 

No matter a person’s position in society, Naomi Nagata can stand her ground with them, but at the same time, she doesn’t shy away from breaking down to her partner when the pain is engulfing her. When she’s angry or sad or when she desperately needs someone to see something, Naomi’s heart remains open to all possibilities. She could laugh and tease and break open her own heart to share Jim’s pain with him while at the same time coming from a near-death experience and admitting that she’s hurting because of it.

She lets herself feel and ache because she understands that it’s a part of humanity—it’s what unites Belters and Inners and all planets more than anything else. The ability to feel every element of what life throws at a person is a part of what makes them who they are. In understanding this component, Naomi allows herself chance after chance to break by continuing to open her heart even while the world demands she shut it close.

It’s this very vulnerability that allows Drummer the chance to grieve and face her heartaches in the arms of another. It’s this same vulnerability that time and time again bring Jim back from the decisions that aren’t too clever. It’s this very vulnerability that has always been a home for Amos—a person to trust, someone to feel close to. And it’s this vulnerability, cobbled with unparalleled empathy, that allows Filip to see which side is worth fighting for.

And it’s not always about right or wrong, but it’s about the people who matter and the moments that etch themselves in our hearts to make us braver. Naomi Nagata is strong because she allows herself to break. She is strong because she allows herself to feel every ounce of the emotions no matter the outcome, even if they blur the lines between potency and weakness. Because true weakness isn’t admitting defeat, it’s callousness and cruelty.

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Her Empathy

Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata in The Expanse Season 6
©Prime Video

Naomi Nagata is the kind of empath you may not spot right away because the signs aren’t as obvious, but when you look closely or get to know her at her core, you realize that she cares about people with ardent devotion.

If Marco Inaros conveyed genuine remorse while it might take some time, Naomi would eventually give him the space to be better. And we have proof of this, considering what happens with Clarissa Mao. She wants the best for people—she wants to give them the benefit of the doubt. So often, people think that empaths give freely without any hesitations, but the truth is, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t pause before letting someone who’s hurt us back into our lives. Hesitations are part of the learning process. Hesitations are, quite frankly, human.

But what makes many empaths as they are is that once the initial hesitations and frustrations are dealt with, once we allow ourselves to feel that darkness and we marinate in it for as long as need be, we then start to feel the heartaches of the other. We wonder, and we question what makes a person that way, hopefully leading us to forgiveness.

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Initially, Naomi wasn’t happy with the woman who tried to kill her partner residing in the same ship as them. Still, when she starts to see the changes in Clarissa, and when she starts to see her kindness and the fact that she’s genuinely trying to wash the blood off her hands, she then finds it in her heart to break bread with her. She was able to feel for her and care about her. That same empathy allowed her to see that no matter how different they are, Avasarala’s points aren’t always wrong, and she isn’t always in the right.

Naomi Nagata is the type of woman who could never watch another suffer without doing something to help them. When she loves, she loves profoundly, and when she trusts, she fights steadfastly.

She walks away when she needs to, and she stands her ground when it’s crucial too. But where The Expanse differentiates from science fiction series that had come before it is by continuously giving its leading lady opportunities to find herself. The series allows Naomi to grow by giving her chances to be human—to change her mind and stand inflexible in her beliefs. It gives her moments to command a room, and it gives her moments to convey pain and hardships. It allows her to be another person’s anchor, and it allows her to need someone to keep her afloat.

And for six seasons, Dominique Tipper brought some of the best performances onto our screens that will be sorely missed. As a now lifelong fan who’ll happily follow her career wherever it takes her, it’s worth mentioning that without an actress as noteworthy as Tipper, I don’t know if I would’ve loved this show as profoundly. Tipper is the one who made me cry and feel the most—it was her performances at the end of the day that makes Naomi Nagata such an unbeatable, brilliantly layered character. The Expanse has an incredible writing team—seldom have words frustrated me on this show, but without Tipper, the weight of those words, the empathy, and the heart wouldn’t be as colossally effective.

Considering this deep dive only covers the TV series (because bringing in the books would result in never-ending analysis), what we watched unfold on our screens is a paradigm of the kind of female characters I hope more TV series bring front and center. Women who feel and ache but endure. Women who don’t turn away from their heartaches but fight and cry through them. Women who can scream and be angry but still hold their hand up to those in need of rescuing. Layers and layers that make our flaws part of our growth.

Naomi Nagata is so many things. She is part of a story that’s all about questioning the decisions characters make, learning how to be better, and loving throughout it all.

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