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Fast & Furious: Redemption Requires Revelation – The Case Against Deckard Shaw #JusticeForHan

It is said that “the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice.” This is truer in media than in life. Unlike the real world, writers and directors get to choose the fates of their characters. I thought of that quote as the Fast and Furious series skewed towards making Shaw a character that we rooted for, rather than someone we should despise.

Let’s keep in mind, Shaw’s introduction was no small thing. Statham was shoehorned into The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift through a post-credits scene reveal at the end of Fast & Furious 6. During that scene, he murdered Han (Sung Kang), a character, whom up to that point, we’d seen in four movies, with his funeral being held in Furious 7. Han was a character the audience had come to know.

RELATED –Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Trailer – The Franchise Goes Full Superhero

Killing Han was not something that happened on accident or in self-defense during mutual combat or anything of the like. To illustrate his menace, Shaw premeditated, stalked and crashed into Han’s car, leaving him crushed and pinned upside down in his vehicle. His friends run to the crash, but are forced to look on as the vehicle ignites and explodes. Best case scenario for Han is that the explosion killed him. If not, he burned to death. Shaw was making a statement to both Dom and the audience. This was done to hurt Dom and his family. Shaw’s entrance was meant to signal that this guy wasn’t screwing around.

The manner in which Shaw killed Han is probably one of the biggest factors running around in my head when I think about why this bothers me. Two movies later, Shaw does a heel-face turn in Fate of the Furious, going from murderer of a character I genuinely enjoyed, to trying to murder all of the FF family throughout the subsequent movie, to BBQing with the FF family on a New York rooftop (as they strangely name a baby after his still living uncle when they should have named him Paul!…I digress), to headlining his own spinoff series.

Concerns about this change in direction can and necessarily should be extended to Gisele (Gal Gadot) as well. The argument being that Owen Shaw, Deckard’s younger brother, through his and his team’s actions in FF6, are just as responsible for her death as Deckard is for Han’s. Yet, there Owen was in Fate of the Furious, flying alongside his big brother with GI Joe style backpacks to save Dom’s son. Even as I sat in the theater watching it, didn’t sit well with me.

You can see where the producers are dropping hints about the eventual retcon of Shaw’s crimes in F8. There’s a line where Hobbs says to Shaw that looking at his military record, things just didn’t seem to add up, given his distinguished record and becoming a traitor. Shaw seems to imply that there’s more to him than Hobbs knows, referencing Hobbs’ own recent brush with the law. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of his criminality that may or may not have occurred (he definitely murdered some people in that F7 opening hospital scene), it seems unlikely that the producers would retcon or walk back a scene they worked so hard to put in Fast 6, recontextualizing Han’s death from an unfortunate accident to a tragic killing.

Within the context of the series, I sort of get it. It could be argued that Hobbs barely knew Han. Over the course of the two movies they were in together, I can’t even recall them ever speaking to one another. Their interactions were always at arm’s length. Hobbs sent, what appeared to be, every precinct in Tokyo to collect them at, presumably at Dom’s request (but doubtful his suggested method), to collect Han and Gisele. Hobbs was also present when Gisele died, as well as when Han was mourning her death at the end of the movie, but never spoke to him.  So, he’d have little emotional impediment to working with Shaw because of this issue.  That reminds me, it would be nice to get a scene in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw where Hobbs mourns Elena.

I’ve also seen various justifications for Shaw being allowed to be a member of the family. One actually used Gisele to say that, while she didn’t pull the trigger on Letty, she’s still just as culpable for her (almost) dying (via accomplice liability) and thus, Shaw should be forgiven.

The most obvious fault in this logic is that Letty didn’t die. Even if Han pops up out of a car two movies from now, motive and intent matter. Gisele didn’t know Dom or anyone else in this series when she appeared in Fast & Furious. If Letty died, it would have been in the course of business.  Gisele didn’t have the requisite mens rea or malice to be as culpable as Shaw for a death that didn’t actually happen. This is unlike Shaw who deliberately went after Han with the explicit purpose of hurting Dom. Furthermore, Gisele was into Dom almost immediately and it’s not difficult to imagine that if she did know Letty had ties to him, she wouldn’t have let her be put in danger.

For Shaw to be redeemed, he has to have some kind of revelation about his actions. Shaw hasn’t mentioned, reckoned with or suffered any consequences because of the murder.  I’m also of the opinion that saving Dom’s baby isn’t enough. Remember, he was motivated, in large part, by his desire to get revenge against Cipher.  Saving Brian (sigh) is a start and gets him on the path, but he still has to face himself and or consequences for what he did.

Letty warning Shaw that they haven’t forgotten everything he’s done and Tej saying they’ll never team up with Shaw did was satisfying, but they ended up working with him anyway.  The extra step of Dom relying on the Shaws after that rebuke was a bit too much for me, without some kind of reckoning or consequences.  Regardless, for some fans, it seemed to be a bridge too far, because #justiceforhan had definitely become a thing again, as it did when Fate of the Furious was released.

When speaking with the LA Times in 2017, writer-producer, Chris Morgan addressed the issue of #justiceforhan: “I think you’ll learn a lot more about it, and I don’t know if that hashtag will be the appropriate one to put on it down the road. But I can tell you this: We will definitely be talking more about Han.”

For now, we have to take Morgan at his word and will likely be waiting until Fast & Furious 9 (2020) for any resolution. As the trailer ran through every action set-piece in the movie during its three and a half minute runtime, I didn’t get the impression F&FP:H&S (yea, I did it) would be delving too deeply into the psyches of the Brothers Shaw. I’d love to be surprised though.

For me, until we see Morgan’s resolution, it just comes off like the writers and producers care more about the dollars that could be reaped by keeping Statham in the fold, than they do a satisfying narrative resolution to what the Shaws did to Han and Gisele.  With this spinoff happening, the studio definitely seems to be making that argument. While this is certainly a business, as a fan of the series, I think Han and Gisele deserve better.

What do you think? Did the deaths of Han and Gisele have any impact on how you view the Shaws? Would you like to see it dealt with more in the series? Would you like a fantabulous yarn about the proliferation of overlong appellations in Hollywood?

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