Warning: This post contains spoilers for Alien: Covenant and Prometheus
Those who were expecting Noomi Rapace to play a big role in Alien: Covenant are likely to be disappointed. Her character, Elizabeth Shaw who was the star of the previous film Prometheus, only figures briefly and as a vague likeness at that. Though the end of Prometheus seemed to be setting up a buddy space trip movie between Shaw and android David (Michael Fassbender), Shaw is dead by the time the latest movie starts. The long gap between 2012's Prometheus and Covenant may be to blame.
First a quick recap: At the end of Prometheus, Shaw is the last living human crew member, and David, its android, is severely damaged but still functioning. They steal an alien ship and, instead of returning to Earth, point at the alien (a.k.a. the Engineers) home world. Her mission was always to meet the gods that created humans, and she didn't seem intent on changing that just because their handiwork killed her husband, her crew-mates and her employer.
The obvious sequel would follow Shaw and David as they encountered these very gods. That's the sequel director Ridley Scott was originally planning. "I’d love to explore where the hell [Elizabeth] goes next and what does she do when she gets there because if it is paradise, paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous," he told Movies.com. He added in another interview, "“I know where it’s going. I know that to keep [David] alive is essential and to keep [Elizabeth] alive is essential and to go where they came from, not where I came from, is essential.”
Alien: Covenant skips over the events described by Scott, however. Instead, we meet a new crew of a colonist mission who hears an echo of Shaw singing in space. They land on a mysterious planet to investigate only to find that David has killed Shaw in order to use her DNA to develop more aliens and create his own special species. He's also killed all the Engineers for unclear reasons, perhaps also in hopes of creating more aliens.
Over the course of the five years between Prometheus and Covenant, Scott either changed his mind about the plot or Rapace decided not to reprise her role.
The first hint that Rapace would be missing from the movie came when Fox released the first plot details, in which they called David the "sole" inhabitant of a mysterious planet and survivor of the failed Prometheus mission. Shaw was conspicuously absent. But Deadline reported once the film started shooting that Rapace had traveled to Australia for "week's worth" of shooting. If that's true, her scenes may have been cut since all that's left of her in the current movie is a drawing and what looks like a wax body.
Scott has said repeatedly that Covenant and the next two Alien movies offer a sort of back door into the original Alien film, answer questions about where the series' terrifying monster came from. But it's still unclear which human protagonist will take viewers there—David or perhaps Katherine Waterston reprising her role as Covenant's kickass heroine.