The movie explained the character’s absence, as his on-screen wife Mia returns to the franchise.
Though star Paul Walker tragically died in 2013, his “Fast & Furious” character Brian O’Conner lives on.
After the character drove off into the sunset at the end of “Fast & Furious 7” — which was partly filmed after the actor’s death using his real-life brothers as stand-ins and digital magic — he and Mia (Jordana Brewster) were totally MIA from “Fate of the Furious.”
In “Fate,” the two were kept out of the action as Dom (Vin Diesel) didn’t want to put their family in danger. “F9,” however, brings Mia back on-screen. So, how did she return while her other half didn’t? Simple, he was babysitting.
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The central plot for the new film involves Mia and Dom’s long lost brother Jakob (John Cena) coming back for revenge. With that personal tie to the story, Mia returns to the fold and kicks some serious ass, while explaining that Brian stayed home to watch the couple’s two children and Dom’s son with Elena (Elsa Pataky), the oddly-named Little Brian. Why they didn’t name the kid Paul as a more fitting tribute to the late actor, we’ll never know.
Brian gets referenced again toward the end of the film, as Dom gives Jakob a “10-second car” to escape capture. “Someone once gave me a 10-second car as a second chance,” Dom tells Jakob — referencing Brian’s actions in the first film — before saying he “owes” his brother the same shot.
Viewers get one more reference in the final scene of the film, set at a big family barbecue with an empty seat at the table for Brian. His blue Nissan Skyline roars then into the driveway, just before the credits roll.
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Diesel recently spoke with E! about the decision to keep Brian very much alive in the franchise, even if we don’t see him onscreen anymore.
“When the tragedy happened back in 2013, we stopped filming ‘Furious 7’ for about five months because we were wrapping our heads around what we were going to do, while mourning,” Vin said. “And the studio accepted a bold decision, which was to allow the character to exist in our mythology.”
“And to that end alone, you have to honor that. On a personal level, we started this franchise together,” he added. “Alongside us starting the franchise, we started a brotherhood. Our brotherhood will outlast the franchise.”
The franchise will come to an end after its 11th installment, with Diesel teasing that Paul’s real-life daughter Meadow could appear in one of the final two films. “I would not count anything out,” said Vin, “Let me just — without giving you all of the secrets of ‘Fast 10.’ Let’s just say nothing’s ruled out.”
“F9” is in theaters now.