The Fast & Furious franchise is a high-octane soap opera, and you can’t tell me otherwise. These movies have twice revealed that a character has a secret brother: First, Owen Shaw gave way to Deckard Shaw, and now, 10 films in, we’re supposed to believe Dominic Toretto has always had a brother (played by John Cena, who, for what it’s worth, looks nothing like Vin Diesel), whom he neglected to mention. The fourth, fifth, and sixth movies were retconned into prequels for Tokyo Drift. And let’s not forget when Letty was killed off in Fast & Furious only to show up again as a villain in Fast & Furious 6 with a mysterious and convenient case of AMNESIA. I relay all of this with the utmost respect; this franchise is cinema.
But it’s evident that nothing is off-limits for the Fast & Furious, so if you thought these movies would stop with one inexplicable character revival, well, think again. The dead don’t just speak; in this, they drift.
“Nice clubhouse,” Han tells his old crew at the end of Friday’s ludicrous, four-minute Fast 9 trailer, snacking as usual. We then see Han embrace Dom, but because we don’t get to hear them talk, I’ll try and fill in the gaps with what I assume they said to one another:
INT. DOM’S CLUBHOUSE
HAN: “Nice Clubhouse.”
DOM: [Strained grumble.] Han [Barely intelligible low-pitched growl.] Coronas [Mumbling continues.] … family. [Translation: Rejoice! The sheer, unfettered ebullience I feel that you did not perish on the streets of Tokyo I cannot even begin to describe, Han. Do not misconstrue our camaraderie with Deckard Shaw as a stain on your memory, we have not forgotten the injustice he brought upon all of us. We are merely humbled by his capacity for change in spite of his various misdeeds and criminal offenses. Apologies, I shouldn’t be making this about him; we are celebrating your return under, quite frankly, miraculous circumstances. Please, allow me to put down my copy of The Iliad so I may offer you some libations—art thou still fond of Coronas? It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you back to the family. Oh, the stories to tell!]
These characters have essentially become superhuman, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a fan favorite like Han, who supposedly died in Tokyo Drift, figured out the key to immortality in a world where his friends have fought off nuclear submarines, skydived in cars, and driven through giant skyscrapers. (Sure, Gal Gadot’s Gisele technically died in the sixth entry, but if her Wonder Woman schedule clears up I’m certain they can find some excuse to bring her back in Fast 10, which is presumably the one where the famiglia goes to space.)
But there’s still the matter of Fast 9 actually explaining how Han’s returned since it defies comprehension, even for the absurd standards of this franchise. How, exactly, is Han alive? Why did he wait this long to reunite with his friends? Is this the Han we know and love, or has the near-death experience changed him? Who the hell did Dom bring back from Tokyo when they buried Han’s “body” in Furious 7? I don’t expect to get answers to all these questions since, at best, we understand 25 percent of Vin Diesel’s dialogue, but there are some ways the film can maneuver around this dilemma. Depending on just how Galaxy Brain they want to get, here are seven options the Fast & Furious could use to explain Han’s shocking comeback.
Han Has an Identical Twin
If we’re to accept that the franchise operates like a soap opera, there’s still one classic soap opera twist it’s yet to deploy: the identical twin. What if Han is still dead, and the franchise’s solution to the “Justice for Han” movement is to introduce his brother? That would be one way to explain why he’s ditched the lettuce (the love of snacking is clearly hereditary). Perhaps the character’s full introduction goes something like this: “Nice clubhouse. … I’m Dan, by the way.”
Unfortunately, this solution could spell trouble for Dom and the gang: In soaps, secret twins are usually evil. If we’re to keep the brotherly theme going in Fast 9, maybe Dom and Han’s long-lost siblings are teaming up with Charlize Theron’s Cipher. Han’s twin wants revenge because he blames Dom for his brother’s death, or something. (Also, this would tie in well to the franchise’s overarching family ethos.) In fact, Cipher might be the key to unlocking the Han mystery—whether or not he has an identical twin.
Han Is a Cyborg
As much as Vin Diesel wouldn’t want to admit it, the plot of the Dwayne Johnson–led Hobbs & Shaw could have a serious impact on the rest of the franchise. That spinoff introduced Eteon, a company looking to “enhance” the human race with cybernetic improvements, which turned Idris Elba into a self-professed “Black Superman” who rode a Transformers bike he’d mind-melded with. (Do you remember when these movies were about street racing? Me neither!) We also know Eteon’s mysterious leader has a connection to Hobbs, and it’s not unreasonable to think that extends to the rest of the Fast family.
Regardless of whether Cipher is running Eteon—since she’s the tech-obsessed villain of the franchise, she would make the most sense—we know the company is capable of creating killer cyborgs out of people who were practically dead (e.g., Brixton, since Deckard Shaw says in the spinoff that he thought he’d killed him). There would be no greater knife twist than turning Han, a beloved member of Dom’s family, into one of Eteon’s loyal and nearly indestructible soldiers: a betrayal the likes of which the gang has never seen.
If this all sounds really stupid, I’ll refer you to the moment in the Fast 9 trailer where Dom uses a rope to swing a sports car off a cliff while pursuing a plane, piloted by hacker Charlize Theron, that is carrying away John Cena and his Ford Mustang with a giant magnet:
Remember which (very special) franchise we’re dealing with.
“Somehow, Han Has Returned”
If Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker can get away with “Somehow, Palpatine has returned” as the only explanation for how a washed Sith Lord who got tossed down an air shaft has been alive and plotting his revenge for decades, then surely we can give the Fast & Furious the same courtesy if it just never addresses the exploding car in the room. It will be even better if Roman is like, “But seriously, bro, how the hell did you survive?” and Han just smirks and takes another bite of his animal crackers and it never comes up again.
There’s a Drift in the Space-Time Continuum
In the Fast 9 trailer we see a Pontiac Fiero strapped to a rocket engine. An inadvisable move, but is it one that could unintentionally bring back our boy? Maybe, like a DeLorean on steroids, using this rocket-boosted Pontiac creates a rip in the space-time continuum so that Han never dies in the first place. Fast 9 could have a lot more in common with Back to the Future and Avengers: Endgame than we’d ever imagined.
One more piece of evidence to support this somewhat [Clears throat.] loose theory? Look who’s partly responsible for the Pontiac rocket:
That’s Sean, a.k.a. the milquetoast protagonist of Tokyo Drift. (If you don’t remember Sean that’s totally fine, since he was maybe the fifth-most interesting person in his own movie.) It’s possible that Sean has dedicated his life to honoring his mentor’s memory and becomes responsible for—gasp!—rupturing the space-time continuum because reviving Han was his plan with the Pontiac rocket car all along.
I swear on my life the edible wore off last night.
If we’re willing to embrace Idris Elba supersoldiers, secret brothers, and Ludacris learning how to hack top-secret servers, then I think this franchise can lean into necromancy without the fans calling too much bullshit. My pitch: When Roman discovers that the woman he swiped right on Tinder practices witchcraft, he pleads with her to revive Han in a ceremony where they create a summoning circle with a bunch of empty Corona bottles. (Roman’s witch girlfriend, played by Jenny Slate, asks for a memento of Han’s, and they give her an empty packet of Meiji Hello Panda biscuits.)
In the Fast franchise, the power of family feels roughly equivalent to that of the Force. It allows Dom to continually defy absurd odds and, per the Fast 9 trailer, catch cars with his bare hands without getting crushed to death. Could the love of family, plus a little bit of necromancy, bring Han back from the dead? Who knows, it works for the Force!
Fast 9 Han Is a Hallucination Borne Out of Dom’s Many Traumatic Head Injuries
A common refrain is that the Fast & Furious has turned into a superhero franchise, eschewing the comparatively humble “Point Break but with cars” beginnings for global action capers that include secret government organizations and high-tech gadgetry. There’s little DNA shared between The Fast and the Furious and The Fate of the Furious, but maybe that tonal whiplash is a point unto itself.
Dom hits his head a lot in these movies, enough that I wish the Fast & Furious would implement a concussion protocol. I worry, over time, that Dom is going to start feeling the effects of all these brutal hits to the cranium. It’s about time we consider the possibility that, because of all this head trauma, he’s an unreliable narrator. What if whole scenes from the franchise are just a figment of Dom’s imagination? Look at what he wore to his own “wedding.”
Unless the ceremony was sponsored by the state of New Jersey, I can’t imagine any other reason a grown-ass man would wear a white tank top to his wedding. This moment will be milked for pathos, as Dom can’t even remember his real wedding so he creates some teenage Guido fantasy in his mind and—actually, come to think of it, I can totally picture Dom doing this at his own wedding. He’s the only man who can pull it off and think it’s a totally normal thing to do.
But bear with me: Let’s say Dom is starting to hallucinate in other areas of his life. Here’s what could happen: Fast 9 is going to use Han’s “resurrection” as the final step in a twist the franchise has been building toward for several films—that large parts of these movies have been happening in Dom’s brain. This would explain why the franchise has become so over-the-top—like Dom and the gang stopping a nuclear submarine with a bunch of sports cars after getting enlisted by a government operative called “Mr. Nobody”—and continues to defy all laws of physics. In Fast 9, Dom is going to compete in the most difficult race of all: the race to save his own mind. Alright, maybe the edibles didn’t completely wear off.
Han and Gisele Faked Their Deaths
Han loses his beloved Gisele at the end of Fast & Furious 6, and upon his return to Tokyo, Deckard Shaw enacts his revenge by killing him for his part in taking down/hospitalizing his brother, Owen. But now that Han’s coming back in Fast 9, we know there’s another twist to the tale. Perhaps the reason Deckard doesn’t express a lot of remorse about Han’s death is because he knows the truth: He never murdered Han to begin with.
We’ll find out in Fast 9 that Han cut a deal with Shaw to fake his death, knowing—twist!—that Gisele also survived. Now, they want their freedom. “Wait,” you’ll think to yourself, “aren’t they already free?” No, they wanted to be free from Dom. Think about it: Dom might be a good hang, but spending time with him really increases your chances of dying spectacularly in a car-related incident. (Friends don’t let friends skydive out of an airplane in a muscle car?) Han doesn’t forgive Dom for endangering (or killing—Gisele’s resurrection could be optional in this scenario) the people closest to him and begins wondering if the head of the #Family is actually its biggest enemy.
Han will be the surprise villain of Fast 9—or the hero, if you agree with him that Dom is a danger to himself and to others. (Han might have a point!) However, as is franchise tradition, Han will learn the error of his ways and become one of the good (bad?) guys again, the same way Deckard was welcomed with open arms/Coronas—and a spinoff—one movie after he (seemingly) killed a member of the family. Whether or not you live your life a quarter mile at a time, in the Fast & Furious universe, family values always win out. Salud.