The key to Han's mysterious return to 'Fast 9' could be Owen Shaw — and we'll have to wait a year to find out

·10 min read
han return fast furious owen shaw
The Shaw brothers are in a huge debt to Han when he returns in "F9."

Universal Pictures

  • "Fast and the Furious 9," aka "F9," was supposed to be released May 22, 2020.

  • The film's first trailer teased the shocking return of Han Seoul-Oh to the franchise. 

  • The character was presumably killed by Deckard Shaw in "Tokyo Drift." 

  • We haven't seen Deckard's brother, Owen Shaw, since the end of 2017's "The Fate of the Furious."

  • In "Hobbs & Shaw," Deckard said he has to make amends to right some wrongs for his past (aka Han's death). 

  • We wouldn't be surprised if the Shaw brothers may be involved in helping to explain Han's absence or will be critical to his return in "F9."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The ninth installment of the "Fast and Furious" saga was originally supposed to be released in theaters Memorial Day Weekend. Instead, fans will need to wait until 2021 to see the sequel and get answers to some of the film's biggest questions.

How will the film explain Han surviving a car explosion in "Tokyo Drift"? (And will he get the justice he rightfully deserves?) How can Dom have a brother we've never heard about when he preaches family is his top priority? And is Deckard finally going to make those amends he discussed in "Hobbs & Shaw"?

However that's not even the biggest question that's been weighing on my mind as a long-time "Fast" fan. One that's been bugging me the most is a question that's been largely ignored since 2017.

What happened to Owen Shaw?

Owen Shaw isn't exactly the star of any of the films, but he was the villain of "Fast 6." 

The last time we saw Shaw he was asking pilots to land a plane near the end of "The Fate of the Furious." He and big brother Deckard Shaw just saved Dom's son, little Brian, and were set to bring him home. 

owen shaw fate of the furious
Owen Shaw was last seen playing the hero in "The Fate of the Furious."

Universal Pictures

For whatever reason, he didn't show up at the Toretto family get together at the film's end with Deckard to drop off baby Brian. (Deckard straight-up "killed" their friend Han and the gang welcomed him with open arms to their gathering. Who's to say what this group will forgive and forget?)

Why is this bothering me so much?

While Shaw's whereabouts may seem inconsequential, they may be key to altering the "Fast and Furious" franchise timeline again and, perhaps, will help explain Han's surprise return. (For a thorough breakdown of the correct way to watch the ever-expanding franchise, head here.)

Could 'F9' take place, at least in part, before the events of 'Hobbs & Shaw'?

Owen never shows up in 2019's "Hobbs & Shaw" spinoff. Other than a quick mention by mama Magdalene Shaw in prison, Owen almost feels removed from the Shaw family completely. 

owen hobbs and shaw
This is the only mention of Owen Shaw in "Hobbs & Shaw.

Universal Pictures

Instead, we're introduced to Deckard and Owen's little sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). She's a chip off the old block and a love interest for Hobbs.

The moment that doesn't add up is Queenie's incarceration. Why is she behind bars? When was she jailed? In "The Fate of the Furious," she wasn't behind bars. She tells Deckard there she still has four years on her sentence. 

It's likely "F9" will fill in the gaps to tell us why Queenie is in jail at the start of "Hobbs & Shaw" even if the majority of the film takes place after it. 

Will that reason have to do with Owen Shaw? Maybe not, but it feels likely. We know she'll be racing around London with Dominic Toretto in "F9" from a video Vin Diesel shared on Instagram. 

'F9' could take place in a different year to answer some of the franchise's biggest questions

"F9" was originally supposed to be released before "Hobbs & Shaw." In 2016, Vin Diesel announced that the untitled ninth "Fast and the Furious" movie was set to debut in theaters April 19, 2019. Late 2017, the movie was pushed back a year to April 2020. Now, it will be out in 2021.

Late in the 2019 film, Brixton mentions that the evil Eteon corporation tried to recruit Deckard eight years ago. When he turned them down they rebuilt Brixton after he was killed. It seems like the film suggests Deckard killed Brixton around eight years ago, in 2011. 

There's just one problem.  

A still in the official "Hobbs & Shaw" trailer cites Brixton's date of death as 2014. The moment didn't appear in the final film. 

brixton lorr hobbs and shaw
Does this moment from the "Hobbs and Shaw" trailer reveal when the movie takes place?

Universal Pictures

That would mean "Hobbs & Shaw" takes place in 2022 if the moment is considered canon.

Why would they put this all out of order?

If you've been following the "Fast" saga, you'll know some of the saga was released out of order. After Vin Diesel returned to the franchise, the third film in the series, "Tokyo Drift," now takes place in between "Fast 6" and "Furious 7."

So this really wouldn't be out of the norm for a "Fast and Furious" movie. 

So where is Owen? A few possibilities.

The explanation could be really simple. He could be back in jail. During "The Fate of the Furious," it's mentioned he was imprisoned at an undisclosed black site. However, if he already escaped at the end of "F8," it's difficult to believe he'd return. 

Shaw could be dead. However, again, it seems odd that they would kill a character that's so important to Deckard and Queenie off-screen. 

Wait. Didn't Deckard briefly mention Owen Shaw was dead in 'Hobbs & Shaw'?

deckard shaw owen shaw
This moment wasn't what it seemed at first.

Universal Pictures

It seems that way, but no.

Late in "Hobbs & Shaw," Deckard tells Brixton that he forced him to kill his own brother. It seems like he's speaking about Owen at first, but he's actually talking about the Brixton he knew.

Director David Leitch confirmed to Empire that Deckard was referring to Brixton as his "brother" in arms.

"I had the backstory between Brixton and Shaw," said Leitch. "There's a lot to wrap up. I think it was saving Luke for additional stuff, in I don't know, a Shaw standalone movie or whatever."

The likeliest possibility: Shaw is out there, somewhere, and could help explain Han's return

It's likely that Owen's using that plane he acquired from Cipher. He casually mentions to Deckard he's "gonna enjoy having" it as they board. 

owen shaw plane.JPG
Deckard quickly reminds him that he doesn't have a great history with planes. (See "Fast 6.")

Universal Pictures

On the commentary for "The Fate of the Furious," F. Gary Gray says that while Owen Shaw is a good guy for the time being in "F8," that's something that could change.

"This is Dom's genius bringing our actor Luke Evans, who is Owen Shaw, back to the series, not as a bad guy, but, for the moment, a good guy, which is a total surprise," said Gray on the audio commentary.

Could Owen go dark again even though Decks and Hattie are playing for the good guys? Perhaps, but I'm hoping his whereabouts will tie-in to Han's return to the saga. 

Why?

Deckard Shaw said he has to make amends for things he's done in the past. We know he was directly referencing Han thanks to an interview "Fast Saga" writer Chris Morgan gave to Entertainment Weekly.

"There's a line in 'Hobbs & Shaw' that is right before the battle in Samoa where Shaw says to his sister, 'There's things I've done that I have to make amends for.' That line was specifically written and put in there just to let everyone know that he is talking about Han — it is on his mind. It tortures him, and he's going to get to it," said Morgan. 

As a reminder, Deckard was responsible for (what we thought was) Han's death in "Tokyo Drift." Owen was indirectly responsible for the death of Gisele (Gal Gadot), Han's girlfriend in "Fast 6." She dropped from a plane in "Fast 6" to save Han from a member of Owen's group.

han gisele fast 6
The Shaw brothers unintentionally destroyed one of the best "Fast" saga relationships.

Universal Pictures

The Shaw brothers are in a huge debt to Han.

Let's not forget that a lot of fans were rubbed the wrong way when Han was killed from the series, and Deckard Shaw was transformed into a likeable character. (How do you hate a guy who saves a baby from a plane?) It still didn't change the fact that he took Han away from fans. Since the value of family is the core message behind the franchise, there's potential in the Shaw family helping to make Dom's family whole once again.

On a recent episode of The Los Angeles Times' "Asian Enough" podcast with actor Sung Kang, who plays Han, Kang said his return was prompted by fans, who started a #JusticeForHan movement.

"When I got the call from ['F9' director'] Justin [Lin], and he's like, 'Hey, they want Han back. This Justice for Han thing is happening," said Kang of how he was asked to return to the franchise

fast 9 han poster
Universal revealed a character poster for Han when it was announced Sung Kang was returning to the franchise. It gave a wink to die-hard franchise fans.

Universal Pictures

I don't think you can have Han return to the "Fast" saga without having the Shaw brothers involved in some way. They're tied to some of the most emotional moments in Han's history. 

It's clear in "Hobbs & Shaw" that Deckard hasn't made his amends yet. So that positions "F9" to take place, at least in part, after the spinoff. But there will have to be flashbacks to the end of "Furious 6" to explain how Han escaped a deathly car explosion. 

We could also see some flashbacks to where Owen disappeared to after "The Fate of the Furious," whether or not those explain how Queenie Shaw wound in prison remains to be seen.

I know most people probably aren't taking the "Fast and Furious" franchise this seriously. Over the years, it's gone from a film about race wars to an epic telenovela about family and saving the world. But, now, maybe more than ever, people could use an escapism film with a message about the power of family and community.

It feels like "F9" has the potential to be as big of a film as 2011's "Fast Five," which brought so many characters from over the years together on screen.

Regardless of how it plays out, I can't wait for the "Fast" franchise to blow our minds again one day with an explanation for how Han returns. Hopefully, it will put a bunch of pieces into place that are currently scattered across the franchise. 

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