It’s the beginning of the end for the Fast & Furious saga, and for the first time in its history, things aren’t certain. But while Fast X is priming the next and, as far as we know, last sequel, it’s also depriving the series of precisely what made it special in the first place.
In a movie series so absurdly concerned with family, it’s forgotten the basics: Sometimes the strongest bonds are forged in mourning those we’ve lost. It’s a lesson that Fast & Furious used to know, and could benefit from learning again before it’s too late.
Warning: Major spoilers for Fast X ahead.
Fast X, directed by Louis Leterrier, marks the first of two movies that brings the Fast & Furious series to the finish line. It mostly deals with the stylish and sociopathic Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), who seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) after his crew stole his family fortune and killed his father in 2011’s Fast Five.
You see immediately how Dante’s motivations are quintessentially Fast & Furious, a series so razor-focused on its singular theme it now gives everyone a secret brother or daughter. But Fast X’s ending reveals the Fast Saga publicly wrestling with what was once its strongest asset.
What Happens at the End of Fast X?
For once, the series takes on a grim, ambiguous conclusion. It doesn’t end at Dom’s neighborhood barbecue, with ice cold Coronas and reggaetón out the speakers. It ends with Dom’s vintage Charger at the bottom of a river at the foot of a dam, and a chunk of the “family” presumed dead in a burning plane. The uncertainty of knowing for sure if they’ll come out okay in the end is what lends the movie a sense of dread that hasn’t been genuinely felt in these movies in a long time, if at all.
But any sense of stakes is undercut immediately by yet another “resurrection.” After Han’s laughably convoluted comeback in F9, Fast X now ends with Gisele alive, arriving to rescue Letty and Cipher from the Antarctica prison, with nary a scratch on her. (And yes, that’s Gal Gadot, in her second surprise cameo of the year.)
The return of Gisele, whose sacrifice in Fast & Furious 6 was one of the most powerful of the series, robs Fast X’s ending of any stakes or meaning in death. It similarly zaps all the air in the supposed death of John Cena’s Jakob in Fast X, a character simply too big to kill off so casually. The Fast & Furious has proved repeatedly it will find any way to cheat death, so long as it can afford its actor’s contract.
If No One Dies, What are the Stakes?
The series has made a laughing stock of suspense, consequences, and yes, death. In hindsight, the once-ingenious method of bringing Letty back (remember when she was the dead one?) after Fast Five unlocked for the series a soap opera-esque habit to give almost anyone path to resurrection.
The Fast & Furious’ theme of family has often been at odds with real life, where behind-the-scenes squabbles have often eclipsed the films. Besides the public beef between Johnson and Diesel, Fast X sits in the shadow of Justin Lin’s exit. A veteran of the series dating back to 2006’s Tokyo Drift, Lin is almost as involved with this series as Vin Diesel, and creatively shepherded these movies in its high-water marks like Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. If there’s anyone who ought to lay claim to being family with these characters, it’s Justin Lin.
It’s no coincidence that in Lin’s movies, Dom’s guiding principal of family wasn’t just cemented in stone but tested in its integrity. It’s easy to forget now, but Fast Five is actually underscored by loss and aimlessness. Picking up from the ending of 2009’s Fast & Furious, Dom, Brian (Paul Walker), and Mia (Jordana Brewster) spend most of the movie — before Dwayne Johnson shows up — on their own. All the while they spend time lamenting the people they’ve lost along the way, which is how and why it feels so rewarding for Dom to unite so many different people under the same roof. After losing their original family, they’ve started a new one. In his salute, he tells them all, “The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room.”
As always, these movies would be wise to listen to Dom. Diesel included.