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The 'Fast & Furious' franchise flies because it doesn’t always kill the antagonists
Still alive by the end of the movie? Add them to the team.
There are many things that make the Fast & Furious franchise stand out. The most prominent one is that a somewhat straightforward movie about street-racing (The Fast and the Furious) has now become a gargantuan soap opera epic starring Vin Diesel, and it recently featured characters going to space. Next stop: time travel... maybe.
Now called The Fast Saga, the series gets more insane with every entry. Street racers become spies, characters come back from the dead with amnesia, and every time you think that it can’t go any further, it does. One thing that helps the ever-increasing madness of the movies is how the stable of characters keeps increasing, and this is because they rarely kill off the antagonists.
If a villain/antagonist still has a pulse when the credits roll, then you can bet a safe full of cash that they’ll return. More often than not, that antagonist returns to join Team Toretto. They may even be invited to the barbecue.
Furious 7, now streaming on Peacock, is a fine example of this. The main antagonist of the previous movie, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) was left alive. He made it clear that he’s working for higher levels of villainy, but the family just files that information away. He almost gets the better of Toretto and company, so we know that he’s very good at what he does.
That’s when his brother, Deckard Shaw, enters the picture in Furious 7. Played by Jason Statham, Deckard is one of the most entertaining characters in the franchise.
We hate him at first, because he is retroactively connected to the death of Han (Sung Kang). He leads Team Family on a merry romp, but he’s not all bad. Furious 7 makes the smart choice to keep him around too, and this leads to riches undreamt of.
Two formidable members of the Shaw family are now in debt to Toretto, and while Deckard has a large role in The Fate of the Furious, it’s a welcome surprise when he brings his brother along for the baby-rescuing plane mission. This entire sequence is unexpected and based in lunacy, and for fans of the entire series, having Luke Evans show up to help Jason Statham is part of what makes it so satisfying.
This scene wouldn’t be possible if they’d killed off either of the Shaw brothers. In turn, the brothers lead to Team Toretto getting to know their mother, played by Dame Helen Mirren of all people, and she’s another priceless addition. Not only is the spin-off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw able to bring Deckard back, it can also introduce his sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby).
That movie is also possible because Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the main antagonist of Fast Five, has long since stopped trying to put Toretto behind bars. Hobbs has been a welcome addition to the family for several movies.
The box of action figures keeps growing, and the filmmakers can surprise audiences by bringing in characters from previous movies whenever they like. More often than not, they are characters that the family had to fight against... but now they’ve been adopted.
This is not always the case with big franchises. While comic books usually have a rogues gallery that continues to rotate, movies based on them usually kill these rogues off at the end. The Joker dies at the end of the 1989 Batman, and he never plays with Michael Keaton again. A smart move that Batman Begins made was not killing off Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy); he's able to appear in the rest of the trilogy.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe sometimes keeps the rogues alive, but now that the multiverse has been opened, even Mickey Rourke could return if they wanted him to. He’s gonna want his bird, or “borrdd," we should say.
Any character who is still alive can show up at any time in The Fast Saga, though, even a smaller-time player like Arturo Braga (John Ortiz) from Fast & Furious. He would have been an easy character to snuff out, but allowing him to breathe lets them bring him back for a scene in Fast & Furious 6. You’d think that Cipher (Charlize Theron) and her getting-worse-all-the-time hairstyle would be gone by now, but she may end up being the most persistent and personal nemesis that Dominic Toretto has.
If she ever has to join the team, you’ll know that they are truly desperate.
This is not only true of the antagonists; heroes like Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Han have returned after sitting out entire movies. You never know who is going to come back, even if (like Han) you think they are dead. We meet Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) in Furious 7 because she’s connected to the plot of the movie. Instead of leaving her behind, she’s now a welcome part of the team. Even Stasiak (Shea Whigham, first seen in Fast & Furious) keeps popping in for scenes here and there. Why? Because he can, and also because why not?
What all of this ultimately does is make the world of The Fast Saga grow with every installment. Nothing resets like in a James Bond movie, the Blofelds and Leiters just keep adding up. At this point, the roster of characters would provide a huge deck for a LEGO video game adaptation, just in case anyone wants to take Braga and Owen Shaw to space with Roman (Tyrese Gibson).
This is why these movies, as crazy as they are, actually do deserve “saga” status at this point. Like a soap opera, you never know what former villain be be called in for an assist. You never know what villain will continue to harass the family again. Who’s going to show up this time? Who knows, it could be anyone. That’s part of the fun. There are also cars.
With all of this in mind, Jakob Toretto (John Cena) was quite alive at the end of the bonkers F9: The Fast Saga. It’s only a matter of time before he’s driving with the family full-time, hopefully alongside all four members of the Shaw family.
This isn’t possible if you kill them off. If you keep them alive, not even space is the limit.
Furious 7 is currently streaming on Peacock. Go join the family.