It's no secret that Sung Kang's presumed-dead Fast & Furious character Han returns to the franchise in new entry Fast & Furious 9 – the first trailer for the delayed action flick (released all the way back in February 2020) confirmed the fan-favourite's resurrection, after the series had previously gone to absurd lengths to feature Han despite his on-screen demise.


But how exactly is Han still alive? F9 does give us an answer – sort of – but it's delivered as part of a madcap plot involving hijacked satellites, high-powered magnets and all manner of vehicular mayhem, so if you left the cinema feeling confused, we've got you covered... (Warning: Do not continue reading until you've seen Fast & Furious 9 – spoilers for the movie follow!)

Kang actually made his debut as Han in director Justin Lin's 2002 film Better Luck Tomorrow – not officially part of the Fast film saga – but his first appearance in the core franchise comes in 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Han owns his own garage and is involved in Tokyo's elite street racing scene, befriending the film's lead Sean Boswell (Lucas Black). During a street pursuit involving Sean and the film's antagonist Takashi (Brian Tee), Han's car collides with a Mercedes S-Class and he is apparently killed when his vehicle explodes moments later.

The next three Fast & Furious movies – 2009's Fast & Furious, 2011's Fast Five and 2013's Fast & Furious 6 – all again feature Han, with this trilogy being set before the events of Tokyo Drift. Fast & Furious 6, though, finally brings us up to speed (no pun intended) – with his girlfriend Gisele (Gal Gadot) having been killed, Han finally makes good on his much reiterated promise of relocating to Tokyo. In that film's post-credits scene, we revisit his car crash as seen in Tokyo Drift – but with a twist, as it's revealed that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was behind the wheel of the Mercedes which t-boned Han, acting to avenge his brother Owen (Luke Evans) who, in Fast 6, had gone up against Han, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and the gang and come out on the losing side.

Han was then presumed dead in 2015's Furious 7 and 2017's The Fate of the Furious, but this year's F9 ret-cons the events of Tokyo Drift for a second time, revealing that Han in fact survived the explosion... with the help of a recurring character in the Fast franchise, intelligence operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).

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On a mission that leads them to Tokyo, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) discover that Han is not only still alive but has an adopted daughter, Elle (Anna Sawai). Han explains that Gisele was actually working for Mr. Nobody and that, in the wake of her death, he was approached by the spy to join the ranks of his covert ops team. Feeling directionless in the wake of Gisele's death and looking for purpose, Han agrees.

Han's death in The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Han's supposed death in The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift Universal

In order to become a covert super spy, Han fakes his death – he and Mr. Nobody had known that Deckard Shaw was heading to Tokyo with vengeance on his mind (how exactly is not explained – a tip-off from within the intelligence community presumably) and used this as an opportunity to stage Han's demise in the car crash. (Again, the specifics of how Han escaped the burning wreck in the seconds between the crash and it exploding are not revealed – his escape is simply referred to as a "magic trick" devised by Mr. Nobody. A double? Hologram? Ejector seat? You decide!)

Han adopted Elle while on a mission for Mr. Nobody – her parents were murdered by terrorists seeking to gain control of a device which Elle's scientist parents had invented, which would allow the user to control every digital device in the world, with Han then executing the terrorists and saving Elle, who became his ward.

In F9, Han rejoins Dominic Toretto's crew and helps to stop Dom's long-lost brother Jakob (John Cena) from using the device invented by Elle's parents to unleash havoc. He also reunites with Sean Boswell from Tokyo Drift, who likewise returns in the latest Fast film and is overjoyed to discover that his old friend is alive after all.

That's not quite the end to Han's story so far, though – in a post-credits scene, Deckard Shaw returns and gets the fright of his life when Han shows up on his doorstep. (OK, so Han didn't actually die in that crash, but he's still probably pretty miffed that Shaw attempted to kill him.)

We'll have to wait until the next instalment in the Fast saga to find out what's next for Han and whether we'll get any more clarification on the details surrounding his miraculous resurrection, or whether fans will just have to make do with "spy stuff" as an explanation...

Read more: How the Fast & Furious series became Hollywood's most important franchise


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