(Spoilers ahead for “F9: The Fast Saga”)
There’s a bit of conventional wisdom when watching movies and TV shows that most of us have internalized: If everybody thinks a major character is dead, but we didn’t actually see them die or get a look at their corpse, well, they probably aren’t dead.
That goes triple for a guy like Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who is completely absent from the present narrative in “F9,” even while director Justin Lin and writer Daniel Casey use retcons to tie him to so many past events. And that’s very confusing.
Mr. Nobody, who runs the super secret spy organization that has been tangled up with the #Family since “Fast and Furious 7,” also gets to be the inciting incident for the plot. At the very beginning of “F9,” Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) get a little visit from #Family members who’ve brought a message from Mr. Nobody. The plane he was on, carrying Cipher (Charlize Theron), was attacked by bad guys. Cipher is on the loose, the plane crashed, and nobody knows what happened to Mr. Nobody.
From there, the retcons come as fast and furious as the action does. It turns out that Gisele (Gal Gadot) was secretly working for Mr. Nobody when she was part of the Braga cartel back in the fourth movie. Dom has a secret brother (John Cena) who worked for Mr. Nobody until he went rogue. Han (Sung Kang) was working for Mr. Nobody during “Tokyo Drift” when he died — and it turned out Mr. Nobody helped him fake his own death and leave all his friends hanging in that precarious battle against the Yakuza.
But we never actually find out what happened to Mr. Nobody. We don’t find his body in the wreckage of his plane. He doesn’t pop up at the end of the movie to say hello. He just isn’t there.
“F9” is already a hugely overstuffed movie, so I get it. There’s only so much story you can fit in a single movie, and this movie in particular already has more story than it can handle. Whatever is going on with Mr. Nobody in the present probably got cut for time.
But even so it’s a frustrating thread to leave dangling as we wait for the next movie. We have to assume he’s out there somewhere since we didn’t see a corpse. Maybe he was supposed to die in this one and they changed their mind during editing. Or maybe they’re just holding him in their back pocket for next time. I don’t know the answer, but I do know it’s pretty annoying that they would be so ambiguous about his fate.
But there’s no way he’s dead. Remember, “F9” saw the return of a character who we saw blow up. There was no ambiguity about that death at all, and yet here we are. Mr. Nobody’s fate, by contrast, is full of ambiguity. Mr. Nobody is alive. He has to be.
In any case, none of the other characters seem to be too concerned about it. They never wonder if he’s still out there somewhere, or talk about him like he’s dead. It’s a weird and strange hole in the middle of “F9.”