Irena In ‘Constellation’ Explained: Who Was Valya?

Irena Lysenko, the topmost authoritative figure of Roscosmos, plays a big hand in deciding people’s fate in Apple TV’s Constellation. A former cosmonaut herself, Irena is a woman who is decisive and fearless every step of the way. Burdened with the responsibility to make sure all the crew members of the ISS are safe, Irena goes on to prove how she reached the top of the hierarchy.

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Spoilers Ahead


Is Irena The “Valya?”

The corpse Jo saw, which hit the ISS, is the same ghost that appears in Alice’s nightmares. The mystery behind the identity of Valya had Alice locked inside her cupboard for months. Jo knew that what she saw wasn’t a hallucination, but she had to refuse the claim due to the pressure surrounding her. Irena’s persistence in proving that Jo didn’t see a dead cosmonaut only proves that Irena doesn’t want to return to her own universe. Irena, of this reality, had died in a space mission, and she was replaced by the current version of her. A life of power and convenience, she wouldn’t give that up for anybody. The show had already confirmed that Irena and Henry knew that they swapped places with their alternate selves. It’s confirmed that she’s indeed Valya when she reveals her identity to Alice in the final episode. Before the fall of the USSR, Irena was known as Valya. At the time of the Space Race, Irena was one of the leading ladies in charge of upholding the Soviet Union’s spaceflight supremacy.

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How Did Jo Find Out About Irena’s Death?

Jo is locked up in what looks like a facility for mentally ill astronauts. She’s been told that she mustn’t make this worse. Knowing she has no way out, Jo starts to make sure that she’s not actually losing her mind. Jo’s fate takes a shift when Irena learns that she’s pregnant. Irena immediately stopped the lithium doses Jo was having. Irena has a change of heart, and she wants Jo to have a good life after everything she’s been through. Irena accepts that Jo isn’t a mad astronaut who’s seeing things, but it’s better to let it go. Jo finally gets that Irena was the dead cosmonaut. Irena was the second female cosmonaut to travel to space, and just like Jo, in one of the realities, she died in space. 


How Did Irena Get Cancer?

Valya, Irena’s alternative self, had been floating around in space for decades. Her body being completely exposed to the radiation of space was possibly the reason Irena got cancer. Irena’s health is directly affected by the physical state of her entangled existence in the different realities. While Valya is constantly crumbling in space, Irena is feeling the effects of it too. She has developed stage 4 lymphoma and doesn’t have much time to live.

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What Will Irena Do To Help Jo?

Irena finally acknowledges the hell astronauts go through when people like Irena deem them mad for voicing their experiences. It’s established by now that once an astronaut crosses the Kármán line, there are chances they’ll breach the lines between different universes or realities. Irena knows Jo is telling the truth, so she tries to right the wrongs. She sends a letter to all the astronauts who have crossed the Kármán line, asking them to reach out. This “madness” effect needs to be studied, and Irena takes the first step towards finding a cure for it. Space travel is a dream for little kids around the world, and that dream can’t be a suicide mission for what it’s worth. Astronauts are real people with real families, and Irena’s efforts are surely going to help a lot of families.

Irena’s discovery of Jo’s pregnancy also raises a question. Jo conceived the child with Magnus, who was from a different universe than her. It’s clear that the interference effect is at play here, as Irena sees in the USG report. Now, the child can either be a miraculous being or an absolute disaster. If the child gets born, they might turn out to be some kind of multiverse traveler. And if they’re born with bad luck like yours truly, they can suffer from lifelong psychosis and otherworldly mental health issues these therapists won’t be able to fix. 

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Did Henry Know About Irena’s Death?

Henry and Irena shared an intimate relationship in private. Henry made Irena “obscurely happy,” and they’d dance to music, and it’s a good old-fashioned romance. Now the question is: Was Henry aware of the fact that the dead cosmonaut that hit the ISS was Irena’s alternate self? In episode 3, Henry asks Irena if she heard from her sister. Irena said that she had passed away, and it was not new knowledge to him. The ‘’sister” in question is, in fact, Irena’s alternate self. Henry knew about this, and Irena knew about Bud’s existence, too. Both of them spent a lifetime dedicating themselves to their work, but they had time for a little bit of escape from it. They have had their time to love and spill secrets about each other. It’s fitting that they’d dance to “The Other Half of Me,” considering both of them never really were full and completed each other in every way. 


Will Irena Rebuild The CAL?

Constellation never really explains the interdimensional mess astronauts have been affected by. Without the CAL, there’s no known way to jump between realities. Irena had knowledge of CAL’s progress, and the fact that she could see the interference effect could be a vital factor behind this. Henry is stuck in the alternate universe, and in his place is the alcoholic failure, Bud. Without Henry’s assistance, it’d prove to be a herculean task to rebuild the CAL. Irena doesn’t have much time left in her life, and the race against time would be both exciting and sad. The second season of Constellation may answer most of the cliffhangers we are left with, and Irena will be one of the major players if we’re to solve the multiverse problem. 


Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket is a literature student pursuing his master's degree while trying to comprehend Joyce and Pound. When his head is not shoved in books, he finds solace in cinema and his heart beats for poetry, football, and Adam Sandler in times.

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