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Irisa Nolan (born Irisa Nyira) is a member of an alien species known as Irathients. She is the deputy and adopted daughter of lead character Joshua Nolan. Smart, independent and feisty, Irisa still struggles with the weight of her unusual upbringing. A drifter most of her life, she initially only stays in Defiance due to the loyalty she feels for Nolan.

Background[]

Irisa was born in 2023 somewhere outside Denver, two years before the collapse of the United States in 2025. When she was very young, her parents joined a cult known as the Idaka Church that promised them that their daughter was special, that she had a destiny to fulfill, and that they needed to prepare her for it. The cult tortured Irisa, but her parents did nothing to stop it. The cult, including a man named Thesho Zajino (also known as Daigo), killed countless Irathient children in search of the Alakta, or "Devouring Mother," a savior who they believed would bring about a Votan rapture.[1]

As an adult, Irisa accuses Daigo of being turned on by watching her scream, and in season 2, her suspicions are confirmed. When Nolan finds Daigo again, he says, "I will know the beauty of her sweet skin. The hot flush of her divine and terrible love!" Nolan then kills him.

Shortly before the end of the war, in 2031, Joshua Nolan and his unit (the Iron Demons) raided the cult and saved Irisa from her tormenters before they could finish their ultimate goal. They had tied Irisa so tightly her wrists bled, tortured her with snakes, and placed an object known as the Kelavar into her. This object is one key in a pair to accessing the Kaziri, a machine buried below Defiance. This would have lasting and confusing effects on Irisa who would not come to understand it until she was in her 20s and the Kaziri took control of her. They claimed the torture was necessary, telling her that, "you needed the serpent in your veins in order to embrace your true nature."

The cult would have long lasting effects on Irisa. She still has scars on her wrists that she hides from prying eyes, and in episode "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go", she mentions that she hates chains, and cannot stand to see anyone tied up the way Castithans are tied up in their shaming rituals.

After removing Irisa from the cult, Nolan promised her that she was safe and that the cult wouldn't hurt her again. He offered her a chocolate bar which she spit out, and when she threatened to bite Eddie Braddock, he laughed and quickly bonded with her. Nolan realized that she was headed for certain death in a refugee camp, so he deserted the military to save her and take her traveling with him. At first, Nolan did not consider her his daughter. She was simply a kid in need of help which he provided. In turn, Irisa was frightened of Nolan, a human soldier who had shown little respect for Irathients.

Irisa did not speak to Nolan at first, but Nolan tried to comfort her by singing to her and talking to her despite her silence. She was Initially terrified by knives after being tortured by the cult, but Nolan showed her how to use them, and she picked one up when a soldier held a gun to Nolan, threatening to kill him for taking Irisa and deserting the Military. She threw the knife at the soldier and saved Nolan's life. Irisa then told him he was an idiot, speaking to him for the first time, and it wasn't long before they came to consider each other family. Irisa eventually changed her name to Nolan, preferring not to carry the name of the parents who abused her, but rather the name of the man who saved her life.[2] They began to live under the Nolan family motto "live or die together," a moto Nolan shared with his sister, Rebecca Nolan.

In the early days of the war, Rebecca died after Nolan hesitated to kill, so Nolan made sure to teach Irisa how to fight and how to kill to ensure her survival. Although Irisa had picked up a knife without hesitation to kill a soldier when Nolan's life was in danger, she struggled emotionally with Nolan's more brutal life lessons. Looking back, Nolan realized he could have handled things better, but did not regret teaching her how to survive in a lawless post-apocolyptic world where too many people who could not fight or fend for themselves died.

As their relationship developed, Nolan and Irisa travelled the continent, working together as Ark Hunters. They spent years living in the badlands and searching for Arktech in hopes of funding a trip to Antarctica, rumored to be paradise after terraforming.

When meeting new people, Nolan and Irisa rarely divulge their complex relationship and her traumatic past. Nolan will sometimes refer to her as his traveling companion when talking to strangers, and when he first meets Amanda Rosewater, he simply says that Irisa is his daughter and a war orphan that he found abandoned in what was once Denver. When describing the truth of their relationship to others, Irisa often simplifies their relationship to statements like, "He's my father... When I was younger, he saved me from a bad situation. He raised me" rather than divulging the painful details.

Game (Pre-Season 1)[]

After joining Karl Von Bach’s Bay Area Expedition, Nolan and Irisa travel to San Francisco on board the EMS New Freedom, a former EMC Stratocarrier recommissioned under the E-Rep. The ship is attacked by Raiders, but they are able to eject via escape pods. Extricating themselves in short order, they appropriate a roller and attempt to obtain enough Arkfall to finance a move to Antarctica. Eventually, Nolan and Irisa are hired by Varus Soleptor to retrieve the Libera Nova Gem from the North Point Mine. The Libera Nova Gem is a crucial component in acquiring a Terrasphere. Realizing the value of the gem, they steal it for themselves. Then they leave the Bay Area to escape Varus' wrath.

Season 1[]

Fleeing Varus, Nolan and Irisa travel toward St. Louis, where they use the Gem to retrieve a Terrasphere from a recently crashed Indogene ship. This is what they have been searching so long for. It should earn them enough to pay off Varus and travel to Antarctica, but before they have time to celebrate, they are ambushed by Raiders who seek to claim their bounty for themselves. The ensuing battle leaves Irisa injured, and they are forced to take refuge in the woods, where they are attacked by Saberwolves. The two are rescued by Garret Clancy and taken to the town of Defiance.

Nolan is quickly charmed by the town and its people, but Irisa hates towns and wants to leave. She stays and becomes deptuy out of loyalty to her father.

Visions[]

Irisa often has visions in her sleep of the past, present, and future. At the beginning of "Pilot", she has a vision of Josh Nolan's world, and of the day that the Votans arrived at earth. In "The Devil in the Dark", she continues to have these visions. Nolan has always dismissed these as post-traumatic stress disorder, but they prove to be key in foiling a Hellbug attack on Defiance. According to Sukar, following a clairvoyant Irathient ritual, Irisa was touched by the gods and has "the sight." Irisa is angry at Nolan for making her believe for all of these years that these visions were a sign of post traumatic stress. Nolan, in turn, is jealous of Irisa's needing to turn to Sukar for guidance in the use of her new gifts.

In the end, it turns out neither Sukar or Nolan were right about the source of the visions. When Daigo's snake cult implanted the silver artifact within her body, it opened a weak channel of communication between Irisa and the Kaziri. This connection caused the visions that plagued Irisa. The closer Irisa got to the Kaziri, the more powerful these visions became, which is why she began to see more visions in Defiance. But Daigo was also wrong about the true nature of the Kaziri. It was a damaged machine bent on completing its mission of terraforming the Earth, not a god.

Season 2[]

After risking everything to save her father, Irisa struggles to break free of the Kaziri's control, distancing herself from him through a series of lies to cover up the deadly actions the Kaziri is making her do. In the end, she frees herself from the Kaziri's control, but not before destroying New York and killing Tommy.

Season 3[]

Traumatized by the events of season 2, Irisa struggles to come to terms with both her own actions and the inherent violence of the post-apocolyptic world she lives in. After the Kaziri forced her to kill so many people, Irisa can no longer stand to pick up a weapon. She spends most of the season trying to mentally recover from the trauma while also not letting her father and her town down as Defiance faces the threat of total destruction and needs her fighting skills more than ever.

Relationships[]

Irisa is the adopted daughter of Nolan. She comes to Defiance with him and remains loyal to him above anyone else.

She is the spiritual protege of Sukar and has a rocky but significant relationship with Rynn.

Irisa and Tommy Lasalle began a romantic relationship in "The Serpent's Egg" which continues throughout Season two. Although Irisa is reluctant to date at first, they begin to develop a more serious relationship towards the end of season 1. They bond over their shared love of classic literature. After Tommy’s death, Irisa continues to be plagued with guilt and grief over his loss.

Irisa and Berlin form a rivalry at the beginning of season 2 that lasts until late in season 3 when they finally begin to cooperate and understand each other better.

Irisa begins to become closer to Alak Tarr in season 3 after she helps rescue his son, Luke. She quickly bonds with the young child and wants to spend more time with him.

Trivia[]

  • Irisa is playfully referred to as "Little Wolf" by Sukar.[3] As Irisa embraces her heritage and abilities, the name is adopted by other Irathients, who treat it as a term of respect rather than affection.
  • Irisa's visions and Nolan and Sukar's differing reactions to them may be inspired by real-world stories of how neurological disorders such as epilepsy are treated differently in traditional societies. While modern medicine treats such disorders by correcting and suppressing them, they are often a mark of distinction in traditional societies. For example, many shamans suffer from epilepsy, and the spirits communicate with them through their seizures. Being science fiction, Irisa's visions are ultimately shown to have a technological cause.
  • Her last name, Nolan, is first used at the end of season 1. Her former last name, Nyira, is never used on screen.
  • Irisa is one of three characters to appear in every episode. The other two are Nolan and Amanda.
  • Irisa was initially conceived of as a teenage character, but several changes were made in the early stages of production on the show, and she was ultimately written to be around 23 years old in the first episode and around 25 in the finale

Quotes[]

Nolan used to say the two of us are children of the badlands... the wild, open spaces where the weak are afraid to go. It's towns that scare me, all the people jostling for space, sucking up the air till there's nothing left to breathe. - Pilot

He told my parents their daughter was special, that she had a destiny to fulfill and he needed to prepare her for it. But it was just an excuse to hurt me! And my parents stood and watched! ... Did it turn you on? Did you get off on hearing my screams? -The Serpent's Egg

Tommy: You're going. You're gonna be my date.
Irisa: I don't date.
Tommy: Why not?
Irisa: I'm from the badlands. -The Bride Wore Black

Why does everyone hurt each other? Why is our world like this? -The Beauty of Our Weapons


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