Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we jump into the F9 ending and attempt to make sense of its mid-credits stinger and how it does and does not deliver #JusticeForHan. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
There are several reasons to be excited about F9: The Fast Saga. Director Justin Lin returns to inject his sensibilities into the Fast and Furious franchise he redefined with Tokyo Drift. The new movie jumps hurdles, off-ramps, and flashbacks in an effort to explain the familial connection between Dom (Vin Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena). And justice is finally given to Han (Sung Kang), who died and lived and died again via the saga’s complicated timeline. Or is it?
When F9 finally wraps up, and brothers-turned-enemies are turned brothers again (that’s the Fast Saga way), we’re left with a little resolution between two key figures. Han, and his killer, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
That’s not too surprising. Statham fled the main Fast and Furious movies alongside Dwayne Johnson with the spinoff Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. He’s got his own thing going on, and we can’t expect his rogue to play punches with the old team, especially if the guy he pancaked is aiming to dismantle him.
As the credits roll on F9, we’re left with an empty feeling. Sung Kang’s surprise appearance in the trailer is what sent most of us screaming to the internet. From his franchise introduction, Han stole every scene. Kang was so adored that after he died in Tokyo Drift, he was brought back for Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6, which bizarrely made movies that should have been sequels, prequels. Whatever. The filmmakers didn’t worry about it. Until they did.
The mid-credits scene in Fast & Furious 6 revealed that Han’s apparent death was not the result of the Drift King race as previously imagined in Tokyo Drift. No way. In fact, his death was a revenge killing committed by Shaw for what Dom’s crew did to his little brother (Luke Evans) in part six.
Then again…let’s take a big sigh…F9 takes another swerve regarding Han’s fiery crash. Apparently, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) saw it coming. In fact, the super-spy ringmaster needed the Tokyo Drift accident to happen so they could fake Han’s death and plunge him into the shadows.
After Gisele (Gal Gadot) died in the sixth film, Han retreated to the third film. He threw himself into girls, street racing, and snacks. We thought Sean (Lucas Black), the American teenage drifter, was what revitalized his spirit into action, but as we learn in F9, Han was already up to his old tricks under Mr. Nobody’s tutelage.
A Japanese scientist foolishly created a device that grants its user total access to every single computer on the planet. With this deadly MacGuffin, Jakob and his treacherous partners could control every nation’s nuclear armaments. And that’s just for starters.
Mr. Nobody cannot allow this to happen. He hires Han to sneak into the scientist’s house and fetch the device. While Han is cracking their safe, another group of assassins storms the premises, killing the husband and wife outside, and nearly murdering their daughter, Elle (Anna Sawai). Han rescues the child and, in the process, discovers that her DNA is the key to unlocking the device. As long as Elle is protected, no one can access the doomsday weapon.
To keep that detail secret, Mr. Nobody orchestrates Han’s death at the hands of Shaw. The British bruiser walks away proud of himself but eventually comes to regret the decision in The Fate and the Furious. The healing acts he commits in that film begin his road to redemption which lands him inside Hobbs & Shaw.
Was Han ever in that Tokyo Drift car? It’s hard to say. As (re)experienced in F9, Han is burning alive one second, and the next, he’s safely standing next to Mr. Nobody in a darkened ally. Was the car remote? Was Han a hologram? Does it matter?
What’s important is that Han did not die. The fan-favorite lives to kick ass again. Except he doesn’t get much ass to kick in F9. He’s tied to the device through Elle, but action-wise, he’s also tied to a steering wheel. As Johnson learned quickly, this is Diesel’s franchise. Even fan-favorites have to take the backseat.
Whatever justice for Han we’re seeking is found during F9‘s mid-credits stinger. Deckard Shaw makes his first appearance in the film at that moment. He has trapped some poor goon inside a duffle bag, and he’s unleashing holy hell upon him. Wham. Bam. Crack. Smack. The fists and kicks come fast. And furious.
But just as he’s about to punch some truth out of the goon, there’s a knock on his door. Shaw hates to have a serious torture session disrupted. In a huff, he greets the intruder. There stands Han. The end.
When the screen goes blank, the audience releases a collective, “Awwwww.” Confrontation denied. See ya next movie.
Why, though? Shaw may still think he killed Han, but we know he didn’t. Should Han still have beef? Shaw acted according to Mr. Nobody’s plan. He’s probably at Shaw’s place to release him from his last bit of burden. Don’t worry, bro. We can officially be BFFs now.
Over its ten films (don’t forget Hobbs & Shaw), the Fast and Furious franchise has developed into an epic narrative preaching redemption. From the very beginning, when Brian (Paul Walker) met Dom, greeting the enemy from their perspective was critical. Brian, the cop, gave Dom, the criminal, his ten-second car. The gesture was basically a get-out-of-jail-free card. Since then, similar measures of forgiveness have repeated themselves over and over again.
The F9 ending sees Dom absolve Jakob for his involvement in their father’s death. He does so as a direct reflection of that climactic key-pass in the original The Fast and The Furious. It’s a major action that extends from his working relationship with Shaw in The Fate of the Furious. And if Dom can forgive these villains, so too can Han.
But maybe it’s Han who needs forgiveness. Maybe he’s in Shaw’s doorway so he can ask absolution from him. As Mr. Nobody’s henchman, Han allowed Shaw to carry the guilt of Han’s murder. The moment that comes after the fade-out need not feature a roundhouse kick; a hug will suffice. We must await their embrace in F10, or FX, or FFTen, or anyone’s guess what it’ll be called.