Warning - major SPOILERS for The Fate of the Furious
Some characters are made to suffer. Most of them deserve it. It’s an ancient tenet of dramatic storytelling. Even the most tragic figures in fiction usually have some personality defect that leads to their downfall.
But some are just made to suffer for no reason, innocents who do the right thing at every turn and yet can’t avoid a kick in the ass for their troubles. These cases are not normal, and when they become particularly egregious, it’s hard not to expel a little side-eye at the seemingly unnecessary and mean spirited cruelty of it all.
Such is the case with Elena Fast, the Fast and Furious series’ number one recipient of bad days. We first meet an unassuming Elena in Fast 5. The Rock’s Hobbs has already picked her from a number of more qualified Rio de Janeiro police officers to be his translator and temporary overseas partner, simply because he knows she’s someone he can trust. That may sound like a very prestigious and important promotion, but as the saying goes, the tallest blade of grass is first to be cut by the lawnmower.
Elena’s life started sucking well before we even meet her. As Dom finds out after sneaking into her apartment to passively seduce her, Elena was once married to the love of her life. One of the few honest cops in the land, he fell victim to his own ideals and left Elena a widow. This information is meant to internally unite Elena and Dom (who at this point, is also bereft of his life’s one true love), but think about the entirety of her story before this growling meathead walked uninvited through her door and brought her into a world of pain. She had years with a man who was good and stood by her side, and she suffered his loss without the benefit of superheroes and a side-surplus of family and bbq.
Nevertheless, Dom and Elena find kindred spirits in each other, and decide to fill their respective lost-love holes with each other’s affection. And it works for a little while. The two get a house together by the beach. She learns to deal with his meat sweats, the motor oil hand prints on her bum, and his oddly high-pitched snoring. He’s not her ex, but who is? At least she’s not alone anymore.
And then Dom discovers that his wife isn’t dead after all. And while Elena sits at home worrying, he tears London apart trying to bring her back home. When he finally does, Elena knows the time has come for her to step aside. And she does, willingly. Letty doesn’t even remember Dom, but they are fated to be together. And Elena has too much love for Dom to get in the way of his happiness.
Besides, it’s not all bad. She gets a full-time job as Hobbs’ wingman. Helping him with paperwork, occasionally babysitting his daughter and never ever having sex with him.
Many people would give in to despair by this point, but not Elena. She wasn’t going to family picnics, or family funerals, or driving fancy cars in Abu Dhabi, but her bills were paid. And she knew she had a little miracle on the way - a child, slowly growing in her tummy since her time with Dom. Once again, Elena had to choose between getting help or letting Dom have his happiness. Knowing Dom and Letty were about to go on their honeymoon, she opted to wait to tell him until after they returned, not wanting to interrupt their fun. It was a very hard decision; she deliberated a full year after her son’s birth.
But before she could do that, an evil woman named Cypher kidnapped Elena and the child she refused to name until Dom had a say in the matter. And before that situation could get resolved, Elena lost her life due to Dom’s reluctance to shoot Letty on Cypher's orders. She was shot in the head by a bearded goon, merely to teach someone else's learning moment.
And so she will never get to see her baby grow up. He will instead be raised by Dom. And Letty. And all their fancy friends. And every once in a while, they might look up in the sky and drop her a line, if they still have patience for it after talking to Han, whose murderer seems cool now but never says grace and won’t touch Corona.
Dear Elena, you deserved better than this. You should have stayed in Rio, pining over your dead husband. Now you’re in Heaven, probably waiting for your new boyfriend’s wife to go out of town. They say family means everything. But what of the cousins? What of the cousins?
Elena Neves is played by Elsa Pataky, who is married to Chris Hemsworth.