Need a road map to navigate all 10 films and 22 years of twisty, soap operatic, Diesel-fueled lore in the "Fast & Furious" franchise?
Still sorting through the seismic surprises and colossal cameos dropped like muscle cars out of the sky in "Fast X," the penultimate entry in Universal's hit film series?
Here's the scoop on the three biggest shocks in "Fast X" and what they mean for the future of the "Fast" universe.
Warning: Spoilers for "Fast X" ahead!
"Fast X," directed by Louis Leterrier from a script by Justin Lin and Dan Mazeau, finds the gang tormented by enemy Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa). Dante is revealed to be the previously unknown son of Hernan Reyes, from 2011's "Fast Five," and is now seeking vengeance on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) for his daddy's demise five movies back.
Like Dante, "Fast X" is a tad obsessed with the past. As new Agency boss Aimes (Alan Ritchson) reminds Tess (Brie Larson) of the two decades of mayhem the Toretto fam have been party to since 2001's "The Fast and the Furious": "If it could be done in a car, they did it. If it violates the law of physics, they did it — twice."
Even wilder than all the impossible physical shenanigans are the creative leaps the "Fast" universe has taken to get here — taking liberties with its own timeline, bringing characters back from the dead, giving them amnesia and previously unknown siblings. Not to mention Dom Toretto's superpower: turning mortal enemies into Corona-clinking barbecue buddies with the heat of his alpha glare.
Do you believe in ghosts?
"Fast X's" most canon-shaking reveal arrives quietly at the cliffhanger ending: After reluctantly teaming up with “Fate of the Furious” supervillain Cipher (Charlize Theron), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Cipher are met by Gisele ("Wonder Woman's" Gal Gadot), who pops out of a nuclear submarine in Antarctica.
Why is this "Fast X's" biggest twist? Because the ex-Mossad agent and CIA operative perished tragically — and, some might argue, quite definitively — in “Furious 6" after being introduced in "Fast & Furious." She then joined the Toretto crew to take down Reyes in "Fast Five" and began a romance with teammate Han (Sung Kang), whom she sacrificed herself to save before plummeting to her doom from an airborne Range Rover tethered to a speeding plane in "Furious 6."
Gisele's fate remains one of the series' most romantic and consequential gestures: After witnessing her death, Han became so distraught he moved across the world in his existential grief, got tangled up with the Yakuza and died in his own fiery collision in 2006's "Tokyo Drift." (For the uninitiated: the fourth, fifth and sixth movies in the franchise are set before events of the third, "Tokyo Drift.")
Han's own demise, akin to Letty's before him, was rewritten many films later so he could re-join the squad in 2021's "F9." Gisele's "Fast X" resurrection echoes the game-changing surprise at the end of "Fast Five," when Letty was revealed to be alive one movie after her own presumed death.
But how many times can main characters return from the beyond before stakes lose all meaning in the already over-the-top "Fast" universe?
Cipher hints that Gisele is part of a yet-to-be-revealed master plan, teeing up another intriguing family reunion in the next film. (Also possible per soap opera rules: She has an identical twin, doppelganger or clone.) To Kang, whose own surprise return to the franchise two years ago was enthusiastically supported by fans, Gisele's reappearance is not only welcome, but "a long time coming."
"It felt appropriate to the 'Fast' world," said Kang, who watched audiences at test screenings go wild for the reveal. "It's also super-cool on a personal level to see Gal Gadot, who started her acting career in 'Fast & Furious' and then went off and became one of the biggest actresses in the world, to come back and contribute that. If she just went off and retired as an actor and never became Wonder Woman, that reaction wouldn't really mean anything."
The true meaning of "justice"
Han's got his hands full going into the 11th and allegedly final "Fast" film. Not only is he on course to reunite with the love of his life right after getting back out there on the dating apps; he's also forced to make up with the man who tried to kill him.
Stuck in London with Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) with no resources and in need of spy gear, Han goes knocking at the door of ex-MI6 agent Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the nemesis-turned-ally who blew up Han's Mazda on the streets of Tokyo while seeking revenge against Dom in the sixth and seventh films.
At the time of those films, it was clear: Shaw killed Han. After a franchise attempt to redeem Statham's character fell flat with some fans, though (see: "Justice for Han"), "F9" solved two problems in one by explaining that Han had actually never died — and therefore Shaw wasn't an uncomplicated baddie.
Despite Shaw's convenient transformation from Han-killer and main villain of 2015's "Furious 7" to friend of the Toretto clan in 2017's "The Fate of the Furious" to co-lead of his own 2019 spinoff "Hobbs & Shaw," the beef must be settled in "Fast X." So in grand "Fast & Furious" tradition, they fight it out — at least, at first.
As initially laid out in the "Fast X" script, Han and Shaw were to "rough it out" in a much shorter confrontation exchanging blows, says Kang. But the specter of true "justice" hung over the scene, in which their bitter personal brawl is interrupted by Agency operatives whom they team up to defeat.
"The beauty of working with someone like Jason Statham is that within every action sequence, with every punch, every kick for him, he asks the question, 'Why am I doing this? How does this serve the characters' ethos?'" said Kang. "That led into this conversation of, what is this word, 'justice'? We realized under all this action and this fighting, the justice is forgiveness. It's coming together. It's finally having Shaw realize [he's] not a bad guy. [He] didn't kill anyone because he was set up ... the justice is Han going, 'Hey, we don't have any problems.' And then Shaw having to earn it by actually saving Han's life."
Developed during weeks of rehearsals and fight blocking, the sequence offers a more satisfying corrective to the ending of the eighth film, in which Shaw was invited to the family cookout despite appearing to be Han's killer. "It's like, yo man, why is Shaw here? He killed family, and he's the picnic table?" laughed Kang. "But now it explains and justifies why Shaw is now part of the family... I think that's justice."
The return of "Franchise Viagra"
The "Fast" universe is no stranger to surprises. But the biggest twist in "Fast X" isn't just about what happens onscreen.
When a team of special ops soldiers raid an abandoned theater, it's revealed that the location is a trap for the next target of Dante's revenge: international lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), whom fans with long memories will recall was the person who actually put two bullets in Dante's dad at the end of the fifth film.
Introduced in "Fast Five" as a DSS agent hellbent on arresting Dom, he came to befriend the Toretto crew by "Furious 6," "7" and "8," teaming up with them on high-stakes missions as the "Fast" films grew into global box-office behemoths.
Offscreen, it was another story.
Calling out the on-set behavior of unnamed "male costars" as he wrapped filming on "Fate of the Furious" in 2016, the former WWE superstar embarked on a years-long public feud with producer-star Diesel that seemed likely to end his involvement in franchise for good.
After getting his own spin-off separate from the Diesel-led main series in "Hobbs & Shaw," the "Jungle Cruise" star told CNN there was "no chance" he would come back to the "Fast" films, despite a Diesel post publicly imploring him to return for "Fast X."
“This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly — and privately — that I would not be returning to the franchise," he said in 2021.
Surprise! Johnson not only unmasks himself in the "Fast X" tag, he matches Momoa's unhinged energy with a crowd-pleasing ferocity that brings the mood up from an otherwise glum cliffhanger in the film's final moments.
As the films hurtle toward their main series conclusion with the upcoming 11th film, they potentially set up a Marvel-esque grand showdown involving just about every living friend, relative and ally in the known "Fast" universe, in which destinies can flip on a dime with a well-timed burst of NOS, a single photograph or the arrival of a frenemy.
And every narrative twist and casting coup is designed to tap into fan obsession for every detail of "Fast & Furious"es past, says "Fast X" director Louis Leterrier, from loaded glances between characters to new ones like Rita Moreno's Abuela Toretto, seen holding court at a family barbecue early in "Fast X."
"It's all geared towards the ending," he told The Times while discussing his entry into the director's chair for the 10th and 11th films. "Anything that is a reveal or change or a little seed is for the fans — pay attention to everything."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.