This article contains F9 spoilers.
After nine Fast and Furious movies—10 if you count Hobbs and Shaw—you would think the personalities and backstories of the core cast are pretty firmly set in stone. After all, we’re constantly reminded this is a family, and you always hope you know those closest to you. But even the closest knit of families can have long buried secrets, and as it turns out in F9, they’re of the darkest variety too when it comes to Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto.
From F9’s very first scene we’re told that Dom has omitted key details about his past. For instance, on the day his father died while competing in a professional stock car race, he wasn’t the only son there to watch the flames rise. Next to young Dom (played with fire by Vinnie Bennett) is also his little brother, a young Jakob (Finn Cole), Dom’s little brother. Together, they watch Dad burn, and the fallout from those ashes change both men—as well as the whole Fast and Furious franchise.
This is, of course, a functional retcon to explain why Dom and Mia (Jordana Brewster) had a brother we’ve never heard about. It’s also laid out on screen with maximum soap opera theatrics. It turns out that Jakob sabotaged Dad’s car so he’d lose the race. And as we’re at first led to believe by Dom, Jakob did it to kill the man who raised them. That is why Dom cut Jakob out of his life and why we never heard about him until we were 10 movies deep.
However, the way this is integrated into the franchise’s mythology makes Jakob more than a dirty little secret; he in essence becomes the entire reason for Dom’s fixation on creating “the Family” out of partners, teammates, and business associates. Jakob is the hole Dom Toretto built a billion-dollar franchise trying to fill.
To consider this, let’s go back to the very first The Fast and the Furious and how Dom reveals to Brian (Paul Walker) the origin for his rage. The pair are scoping out his father’s 1970 Dodge Charger, which at the time Dom has spent his whole life refusing to drive. There’s a reason, of course. It was Dad’s car, and he’s still not over the day Papa burned up. He revealed the man responsible is named Kenny Linder.
“I watched my Dad burned to death. I remember hearing him scream. People that were there said he had died before the tanks blew. They said it was me who was screaming.”
There’s no mention of a little brother, much less that he believed Jakob intentionally sabotaged Dad’s car to kill him. Only Kenny Linder gets the blame. About a week after the accident, as we’re told in The Fast and the Furious, Dom ran into Kenny again while holding a wrench in his hand. He beat the driver so badly that Dom went to prison for years, and Linder was never able to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle again. He’s now some middle school’s janitor where he has to take the bus to work.
That is how we learn who Dominic Toretto is. And other than another touching story time with Brian in Fast Five—where Dom revealed that his father would help Mia with her schoolwork at the kitchen table every night, and then stay up hours later to read ahead in her textbook’s next chapters—we didn’t discover a lot more about Dom and Mia’s early days.
By introducing John Cena as Jakob in 2021, however, we are given a fuller, richer picture of Dom. We now know why Dom’s so cagey with everyone else about his past. It’s more than just a father’s death that fuels him; it’s also a hatred for his brother. As the flashbacks unspool in F9, we see when he takes a wrench to Kenny Linder’s skull; it’s only because he was eavesdropping on Jakob’s argument with Kenny. It is for a loathing of a brother who killed the only man up to that point he loved which drove Dom to unspeakable levels of violence and his darkest hour. And when he gets out of prison, he uses his superior skills as a racer to blackmail Jakob into pulling a Simba: Run away and never return.
Dom is not driven by the death of his father, but by the figurative and literal loss of his brother. Hence his desire to build a surrogate family is entirely informed by his need to bury the pain that Jakob caused, and replace him with truer chosen brothers. The first one is Brian, Walker’s onscreen sidekick who became such real family for Dom—including by marrying Mia—that Dom named his firstborn son after him; then there’s Han, the Korean street racer whose apparent death triggered a revenge movie; Trej and Roman are at least those funny first-cousins; and Luke Hobbs? Maybe he’s that angry uncle no one talks about anymore.
But Jakob’s betrayal broke Dom. So perhaps Jakob’s redemption can fix him too. Indeed, we’re supposedly only getting two more mainline Fast films directed by Justin Lin. If F9 is thus the beginning of a trilogy-long farewell, the introduction of Jakob offers a true off-ramp for Dom’s rage. As the film progresses, we learn that Jakob did not intend to kill their father. In fact, Dad asked Jakob to sabotage the car to throw the race… he also made him swear never to tell Dom because of the shame of it. Learning the truth causes both sons to realize they’ve misjudged the other. It provides a path toward reconciliation.
After two more films, they might finally even reach a true happily ever after. Jakob offers depth to Dom and his desperate need for family. He also provides a way home.