Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week, wherein we shine a spotlight on strong women and nonbinary folks who inspire us. These characters are prime examples of empowerment and how crucial it is for youth to have said example to follow.

DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers for The Expanse TV series.

Clarissa Mao 

Fast Facts: 

Still of Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in The Expanse

Pictured: Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in THE EXPANSE Season 3. Photo courtesy of Syfy.

Clarissa Mao, aka “Peaches” (Nadine Nicole), is the daughter of industrialist tycoon Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) and the older sister of Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). Clarissa grew up in an abundantly wealthy family, but dysfunction reigned supreme. Jules-Pierre favored Julie over Clarissa, so she spent much of her formative and adult years feeling inadequate. 

When we first meet Clarissa in Season 3, she’s working under the alias “Melba Koh” as a repair technician. Clarissa possesses an implant, injecting her with a rush of adrenaline when activated inside her mouth. She utilizes the said implant to carry out acts of violence as she climbs the ladder toward James Holden (Steven Strait), who she deems responsible for her father’s incarceration. She hopes to gain Jules-Pierre’s approval by killing Holden.

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Eventually, she encounters Pastor Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell), who later becomes instrumental in Clarissa seeking redemption. After attempting to murder Holden, the Roci crew captures her and throws her into a cell aboard the Behemoth.

Later, Clarissa exhibits a change of heart and uses her powers for good, saving everyone on the Behemoth and eventually turning herself in to the authorities. 

Clarissa Mao sits on a ship while working the controls and looking focused in The Expanse.

Pictured: Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in THE EXPANSE Season 3. Photo courtesy of Syfy.

Seasons 5 and 6

While serving a life sentence in prison, Clarissa ponders over Anna’s words and receives video calls from Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) once a month. In Season 5, Amos visits Clarissa on Earth, where we learn a machine suppresses her implants, weakening her. Marco Inaros’s (Keon Alexander) asteroid attack damages the jail facility, but thankfully, Amos and Clarissa escape the devastating wreckage. 

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Then, Clarissa and Amos seek shelter in the aftermath of the deadly attack. They avoid the UN refugee aid center, so Clarissa evades recapturing. Clarissa recuperates in a solitary cabin after saving Amos from an armed stranger. Thankfully, with the help of Amos’s childhood friend, Erich (Jacob Mundell), Clarissa and Amos flee Earth in a shuttle bound for Luna.

Amos takes Clarissa aboard the Roci, asking Holden to think of this as a favor to him. While on the ship, Clarissa struggles to form a civil working relationship with Naomi (Dominique Tipper), who’s not a fan of Holden allowing the former to join the crew. However, Clarissa does more than her share to earn her keep. For example, she saves Bobbie (Frankie Adams) during the Roci‘s mission to capture the Azure Dragon. Eventually, Clarissa confesses her crimes to Holden, who reassures her that everyone on the Roci has done things they regret. 

Erich and Clarissa Mao sit in a shuttle while talking in The Expanse Season 5.

Pictured: Jacob Mundell as Erich and Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in THE EXPANSE Season 5. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Clarissa experiences intense side effects from utilizing her implants. She notices it takes her longer to recover after using them. During the series finale, Clarissa takes a tumble while resetting the juice injectors in the Roci. She conducts a checkup on herself in the med bay, discovering she has Complex Endocrine Collapse Syndrome. Unfortunately, this disease has no cure, and the average life expectancy is five years. 

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Later, Clarissa cooks dinner for the crew before the final battle against Marco Inaros begins. Amos dubs Clarissa the ship mechanic while he fights on the front lines. At one point, Clarissa is struck by an arc of electricity as she attempts to fix the reactor. Worried about Clarissa after she fails to respond, Naomi assists her after discovering her in bad shape. However, Clarissa refuses to use her mods during the ordeal. After Marco is defeated, Clarissa gives Amos a silver devil pin, noting she has the same one on her suit. Besties forever. 

The Real Deal: 

Clarissa’s the real deal, Screaming Firehawks. Firstly, she’s an engineer, so she’s intelligent. Clarissa has passion in spades, and she fights tooth and nail for those she loves. Despite her checkered past and the unspeakable acts on her ledger, Clarissa works hard to right those wrongs and change her ways. 

She admits her faults and assumes accountability for her actions, making her a rarity among most humans. Even during her travels on Earth with Amos, Clarissa exerts considerable effort to refrain from using her implants, tries to help as many people as possible, and acts with empathy. Plus, her friendship with Amos is so heartwarming. It’s rare to see a platonic relationship between a woman and a man depicted on TV. 

Nobody’s perfect, and Clarissa’s path to redemption reminds us we can always come home no matter how far we stray.

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Why She Matters:

Still of Wes Chatham as Amos Burton and Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in The Expanse Season 5.

Pictured: Wes Chatham as Amos Burton and Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao in THE EXPANSE Season 5. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Clarissa’s a multifaceted, complex, badass engineer who kicks butt and uses her abilities for good. She shows growth throughout The Expanse, and, as humans, we must never stop evolving. Clarissa is a genuinely kind person who’s made poor decisions in the past, but who hasn’t done that? 

So, be like Clarissa. Take responsibility for your actions and grow from your mistakes. Never stop learning and working toward being the best version of yourself. Fight like hell for those you love. And, when push comes to shove, you can always join the space crew spearheaded by the dude you tried to murder.

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Melody McCune
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