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11 questions you’ll have before, during, and after Fast X

Is Dominic Toretto’s “family” a cult? And other burning Fast X questions, answered.

A large man with long hair riding a large motorcycle through a European street.
Jason Momoa in Fast X (Fast & Furious 10).
Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

As the nation readies itself for the release of Fast X, “the beginning of the end of the road” for the Fast and Furious franchise, you may have questions. Not necessarily about the plot — plot is incidental in a Fast film — but about the really important stuff: Are there cars? What about physics? And how much found family does Fast’s found family find?

Fast & Furious 10, confusingly the series’ 11th film if you include spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, positions itself as the first half of a duology meant to conclude the entire series — although at this point, who knows what a climactic ending for this franchise could even look like. (Also, star Vin Diesel claims executives instead want a trilogy.) They’ve already brought characters back from the dead, shot cars into space, repeatedly defied all laws of gravity, and once harpooned a GTX like Moby Dick.

This time, however, they’ve found an ace in Jason Momoa playing a villain who sashays into the franchise with — what else? — a family vendetta and a taste for destructive chaos that only Dom (Diesel) and his crew can stop. With the help of all those cars, of course.

Yet the cars, while shiny, are arguably no longer the series’ main draw, if they ever were. Fast & Furious has made its truest mark on the culture, not as a bunch of silly action movies showcasing top-of-the-line luxury sports cars, but as a slow-building franchise that earned its deep fandom loyalty by cultivating a consciously diverse, multicultural cast and then keeping those cast members around long enough to turn its mantra of “family” into genuinely compelling lore. It’s a kind of modern-era James Bond, if during his gadget-filled globetrotting Bond collected brothers and sisters for life rather than hot girls. You could even be forgiven if you completely forgot this whole thing started out as a little tale about local Los Angeles street racers.

So fear not if you’re having trouble remembering what happened in, oh, any of the previous 10 films, or who any of these characters are. We’ll cover all the big questions so you can get back to the important business of wondering whether Jason Momoa chose his own shades of nail polish.

1) Car go fast?

Car go fast! Also car go flying, car go swimming, car go speed-skating, car go boom, cargo container full of men’s cologne.

Over time, the Fast series has embraced itself as an utter urban fantasy in which muscle cars and their drivers are virtually indestructible. Cars in this universe aren’t “cars” so much as car-shaped mecha suits; they don’t “drive” so much as speed, fly, fight, glide, swim, sail, bounce, hop, surf, and leapfrog between skyscrapers. It’s as though Knight Rider’s Kit and the essence of Bruce Willis merged and birthed a race of mega-cars that can only be handled by drivers who are — as the movie takes pains to remind us — incredibly, unrelentingly cool.

Two cars beside each other in the dark with their headlights on facing the camera, with a crowd of people cheering behind them.
There’s almost a throwback drag race in this film! Almost.
Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

Like most of the Fast films, the logic of this one falls apart if you think about it for more than a few seconds, but again, you’re not running on logic. You’re running on splashy action scenes and drone footage and stunt racing with beautiful motor vehicles. No car gets shot into space in this one (that was F9), but they do fly out of airplanes, barrel through narrow Italian streets, and careen down scary inclines while on fire, so if you come to this franchise for cars and car chases, you’ll have zero complaints.

2) Does science exist?

In addition to the urban fantasy of it all, it’s increasingly unclear whether any laws of science exist. For example, in this film, Han eats a stoner muffin proffered by a random Pete Davidson cameo that’s supposed to be a super-potent hallucinogen; yet after temporarily tripping, Han immediately sobers up and gets right back to the serious business at hand (cars, heists, saving Dom, the usual). Are drugs real? Are the indestructible car drivers just extremely resilient to their effects? Can you land in a bunch of broken glass and not get a single cut? Is the best way to avoid harm from the fireball you just drove into to simply turn your face away from the heat? What kind of physics training would a street racer need to have to bat a bomb into the Tiber using a crane? Could a makeshift glider built from a canoe and flung from a plane really handle the turbulence? These are the sorts of small niggling questions underscoring the fact that the Fast X universe is not our universe.

Which, frankly, is a complete delight.

3) Who do these people work for?

Largely, the Toretto crew works for themselves. But since F7, they’ve partnered with a litany of government agents working for “The Agency,” an unnamed secret government entity headed by a man called Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), aided by a junior agent known as Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). For several films, Nobody sent Dom’s crew on top-secret assignments, but prior to Fast X he went off the grid and was replaced by the transparently smarmy Aimes (Alan Ritchson, a.k.a. the micropenis guy from New Girl). Nobody’s daughter, newcomer Tess (Brie Larson), has also surfaced to liaise between the crew and the Agency this go-round.

Aimes is openly hostile to Dom, which means the many powerful resources once used to help him and his team now might well be turned against him. Dom also has to contend with Cipher (Charlize Theron), who’s essentially an independent, opportunistic contractor who’s tentatively allied with Dom for now. Who knows how long that will last. If you’ll recall, Cipher tried to steal the God’s Eye, the uber-device Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) invented that could hack into and weaponize any piece of technology on earth. We haven’t seen that device since it was conveniently “lost” a while back, so it would be entirely unsurprising if it turns up as a deus X machina (get it!) at some point.

4) God, that’s a lot of people

That’s not nearly all. In case you need a refresher, our franchise hero is Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and the core crew of his band of misfits, which has roughly stayed the same over the years. There’s Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), his back-from-the-dead girlfriend-turned-wife, stepmother to his son Brian (named after the late Paul Walker’s character, who is not dead but famously literally drove into the sunset in F7). There’s longtime banter buddies, tech guy Tej (Ludacris) and hungry guy Roman (Tyrese Gibson). There’s also the aforementioned Ramsey (a.k.a. Missandei from Game of Thrones), who joined the crew in the seventh film, and master car thief Han (Sung Kang), also recently back from the dead.

Then there’s a long, long litany of people Dom has met along the way and essentially converted from fighting him to helping him. The roster is so long it prompts Aimes to quip that Dom’s “family” is a cult.

Among the recurring uneasy allies who make appearances in this film is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who grudgingly became Dom’s sometime associate after a whole movie (Fast & Furious 6) where he was seeking revenge for his brother, long story. Another frenemy slash equal opportunist is cyberwarrior and ultra-agent Cipher (Charlize Theron), who shows up in this movie to warn Dom and his crew that someone with even bigger grievances — Momoa’s Dante Reyes, son of a former franchise archvillain — is out for blood.

Then there’s Dom’s biological family: Mia, played by Jordana Brewster — still around, still married to the absent Brian — as well as John Cena’s character Jakob, Dom’s actual brother. Dom and Jakob were estranged for years until Jakob, too, spent a whole movie (F9) seeking revenge only to wind up on Dom’s side.

The film also introduces a Brazilian street racer named Isabel played by Daniela Melchior, who — surprise — has a link to Dom.

5) Wait, is Dom’s “family” a cult?

Every Fast fan knows that these cars don’t run on fuel or horsepower — they run on family. “Family” in these movies can mean anything from blood to marriage to a common love of cars, but mostly it is a belief in the inherent goodness of humanity, as well as the importance of having a crew. It is also Vin Diesel’s version of collecting Pokémons: Dom will eventually catch them all.

Part of the series’ primary appeal lies in its ability to make us believe that all of these people really do the mental flip required to lay down their arms, join Dom, and stay loyal to him. Its secret weapon is its ability to then keep all of those characters around and keep fans emotionally invested in them, even as the crew gets bigger and bigger. Fast X has even turned cheeky about “family” as a story mantra turned fandom joke. And while this means there’s less and less for some family members to do — Tej and Roman show up long enough to drive through Rome, get into a fight, and then make up to remind us they’re still besties — the formula works because the individual characters are never as important as their identity as a collective.

In another franchise, these tenuous connections might be enough to leave you head-scratching that someone as stoic as Dom Toretto could command this much loyalty. But “family” in these films can also be weaponized in the opposite direction: multiple villains, including Deckard Shaw and currently Dante Reyes, have been galvanized to seek revenge for previous bad guys to whom they’re related. The difference? Dom’s family ties transcend biology. That’s the secret to his success — his found family keeps his character relatable to his famously modern fandom, whose families are likely equally non-traditional. And, in the logic of this fun weird cinematic universe, every new family member Dom collects gives him an extra edge over the enemy. One might even say it’s his superpower.

Then again, that’s also what one might say about a cult leader, so we’ll leave this call up to the viewer.

6) What’s up with Jason Momoa anyway?

Jason Momoa standing beside a car.
Real men wear purple.
Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

[Mild spoilers for Fast X follow.]

Momoa plays Dante Reyes, whose father, Hernan Reyes, was the primary villain in Fast 5 (2011). Dante’s motive for revenge is simple: He’s fatherless because of Dominic. His solution? Send Dom on a series of quests that force him to try and fail to save lives, conveniently alongside some good old-fashioned heisting. He also frames Dom for his own terrorist attack on Rome. Fun!

Momoa’s turn as Dante — “Enchanté!” — has drawn comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker because of the combination of trolling and sociopathy that underlies his performance. Momoa’s entire vibe is “undermining gender norms for fun and profit.” He drives around in a gorgeous purple Impala. He swans around to, literally, Swan Lake. He has a giggly nail-painting party with some very unconsenting participants.

Momoa’s performance will undoubtedly produce some interesting cultural debate on how much he’s aping the problematic camp of Disney villains. But what’s great about queer villainy is the subversion of the binary becomes a weapon to offend and disgust the prurient. In a recent interview with Screen Rant, Momoa cheekily captures that spirit: He’s gleeful about draping himself in lavender because “my mother absolutely despises that color and I adore that color,” and about “grown-ass men watching me prance around and do ballet.” Sounds like he understood the assignment.

7) For that matter, what’s up with masculinity in this universe?

Momoa’s performance is especially standout given how traditionally masculine the Fast X world has always been. Diesel, at its center, typically operates like a kind of machismo black hole. His entire persona is completely impervious to subversion of any kind: He’s a manly man who displays his sensitive side through actions and symbols rather than tears and a lot of words. Instead, he surrounds himself with a circle of friends and allies who do all of his emoting for him.

Vin Diesel, arms crossed, leaning with his back to a car.
Gender tropes go in but they don’t come out.
Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

This is one reason Walker was so indispensable to the series: He expressed the cheeky, softer masculinity that Diesel’s persona eschews. In Walker’s absence, the action frenemies who’ve taken his place — Statham, The Rock, and Cena — have all expressed variations of Diesel’s stoicism and substitution of strength for sensitivity. Now Momoa, and to some degree Ritchson, arguably undermine that pattern through gender play and queer subtext. Even Ludacris and Tyrese get their moment of sensitivity and male bonding in this film; it’s a bit forced, but we appreciate the effort.

8) Is this movie sexier than the others?

Look. It’s not that these movies are unsexy. It’s purely that sex with humans is not the point. You don’t want to have sex with the people in these movies. You want to have sex with the cars. The car-shaped mecha suits are the seductive sex kittens, with their seductive sexy engine purrs, inviting you to slide inside them and make them roar. This series is for mechanophiles only. If you haven’t figured that out by movie number 11, these are not the unsexy droids you’re looking for.

[Major spoilers for Fast X follow.]

9) Oh man, are [spoilers] really dead?

Toward the end of the film, Fast X seems to see a few of our favorite characters become not-so-much alive, but as we all know, things move a little too fast for death to be “final” for the Torettos. First up, recent addition and medium-responsible uncle Jakob sacrifices himself in a fiery crash, all in a bid to protect Dom and Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) from Dante and his goons in the final showdown. Beside the semi-random Brazilian street racer who explodes during a Rio drag race, Jakob’s death looks the most likely to be for real in Fast X.

Before we can even catch our breath from Jakob’s martyrdom, the plane carrying Tej, Roman, Ramsey, and Han swoops past, flying around and into a mountain, and apparently exploding into flames. Dom looks on in grief as Dante laughs maniacally. Oh no!

It’s important to note that unless you see a body, death is just a state of suspense (or contract negotiation) in the Furyverse. (The body theorem goes for Jakob, too.) Losing that many key family members would significantly undermine the power of the final backyard Corona barbeque still to come, and that feels highly improbable.

10) Can we talk about those cameos?

There are so many cameos in this film it’s hard to believe they managed to cram them all in, but thankfully they pulled it off. In addition to the many cast members already mentioned, Pete Davidson turns up as a random underground tech slash drug dealer. Rita Moreno joins in as Dom, Jakob, and Mia’s grandmother. Meadow Walker, Paul’s daughter, also has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as a flight attendant in the film. Plus, Helen Mirren, playing Deckard’s mom Maggie, turns up just long enough to have nebulous bonding time with Dom, in a surrogate-mom-but-make-it-sexy sort of way.

We’ve already hinted at the return of two major former cast members in the Fast franchise, and sure enough, the final moments of Fast X — which ends on a completely unresolved, scaffolded cliffhanger befitting the first half of a franchise ender — reveal two actors you may have written off for good. First, there’s Gal Gadot (a.k.a. Han’s girlfriend Gisele), a former Agency henchman turned ally who “died” in the sixth film. She’s revealed in the final moments of the film to also be back from the dead, arriving just in time to help Cipher and Letty out of a chilly situation in the Antarctic. While Gisele’s arrival is a shock, fans have been predicting it for years, so it’s less a surprise and more a nice little kicker.

Then, however, in a short mid-credits scene, we get the real surprise.

11) And how much did they pay [spoilers] to come back?

Dwayne Johnson, despite all the rumors, is back.

The Rock’s Luke Hobbs began his role in the franchise as a salty government agent pursuing Dom until he, too, drank the Kool-Aid and joined the Family. Hobbs was so popular that he got his own spinoff film with Statham, 2019’s lackluster Hobbs and Shaw — but offscreen, The Rock got embroiled in a highly publicized feud with several members of the OG cast that made his return seem unlikely.

However, it looks as though Diesel and The Rock finally patched things up last year, just in time for Diesel to convince The Rock to return to the franchise. In a mid-credits reveal, Hobbs gets the call to come bail out his friends.

Will he do it? Or will he be yet another pawn for Dante to toy with? The answer will surely be another explosion-filled fun time at the movies.

Could that be too much fast fury? Nah. Bring it on.