It was a true tragedy when Paul Walker died away in a car crash almost eight years ago. He passed much too young and was in the middle of a massive star turn in one of the biggest movie franchises ever. The Fast & Furious franchise dealt with the character’s exit, but it never made up for the true sadness of his tragic accident that took his life. Now, there’s reason to suspect the franchise is going to bring him back in some fashion with a digital rendering of the Brian O’Conner character somewhere in the last two movies.
The speculation around the likeness of Paul Walker returning to the Fast & Furious franchise was ramped up at the end of F9 when, during the traditional BBQ scene that culminates every film, Vin Diesel’s Dom mentions there is an empty seat to which Mia say, “He’s on the way.” It’s then that a blue Nissan Skyline pulls into the driveway. This isn’t even really an Easter Egg as much as a full confirmation that Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner fully lives on in this universe. We knew this to be the case, but the idea was that he had retired and we wouldn’t ever see him again.
But having Paul Walker essentially pull into the driveway does lend credence to the idea that the Fast & Furious franchise will attempt to place him, even briefly, in some part of the last two movies. That would have to be a digital rendering obviously, but we’ve seen more than enough examples of this in the past in other big-budget franchises to know it’s a possibility. Will it for sure happen? That’s anyone’s guess. Here’s what director Justin Lin had to say about the possibility of Paul Walker returning in a conversation with CinePop (via ScreenRant):
Obviously, Paul and his character Brian are the soul and heart of how we’ve moved forward. Bringing him back is something I think about every day. As we near the end of the franchise, it’s a conversation I’m having. I think about this possibility every day.
This quote clearly points to the idea that it is, at worst, being heavily considered. And adding “Brian” pulling into the driveway at the end means that they are leaving it very much on the table. It’s been a purposeful move by the franchise to keep Paul Walker ostensibly alive in the Fast & Furious franchise, opting for his character’s retirement rather than death. While alluding to him in other fashions along the way, it never really seemed like the plan was to ever pull something like this off, but now I’d almost be shocked if it didn’t happen.
Paul Walker passed away in 2013 when the car he and business associate Roger Rodas were driving in crashed and caught fire. Their death occurred during the filming for Furious 7. The film pivoted its ending because of the tragedy and had Walker’s O’Conner ride off into the sunset. While the franchise has moved on in his absence, it’s always been with a twinge of sadness because of what Paul Walker meant for the story’s origins and beginnings.
With the next two Fast & Furious installments planning on wrapping up this core group’s storylines, it could be a fitting end to know that the “family” is in some way, shape, or form still together when things are all said and done. This would mean digitally placing Paul Walker into the mix for one last goodbye. Could it be another BBQ scene or maybe them all riding off into the proverbial sunset together? It wouldn’t have to be much, and likely won’t be. But with Brian O’Conner still alive I think he makes his way back in at least one more time.