When helping to build Mad Max: Fury Road‘s character arcs for Max and Furiosa, dramaturge Nico Lathouris saw how three chases could bind the characters together:
“The first chase brings the Road Warrior [Max] and the Praetorian [Furiosa] together, the second chase manacles them together in mutual obligation, and the third chase bonds their hearts together as they fight for each other.”
–Nico Lathouris, quoted in Blood, Sweat & Chrome
The Writer Emergency Pack XL card “Handcuffs of Fate” reminds us forcing two opposing characters to work together can move the story forward. Let’s dig in to the suggestions on “Handcuffs of Fate” to see how Fury Road binds characters together, and how you can learn to use these tactics in your story!
How might your heroes wind up actually bound together?
The card asks about the specifics that could cause your characters to have the “cuffs” slapped on them. What’s the specific object or situation that connects them?
In the first chase, Furiosa escapes Immortan Joe’s citadel in a war rig, sneaking out several of Joe’s “wives.” As Immortan Joe and his war boys pursue them, Max finds himself chained to the War Boy Nux, hung on a car as a living IV bag.
Max is literally bound to Nux by an IV line wrapped in a chain. After Nux crashes his car, Max needs to carry the unconscious War Boy as he looks for a way to break the chain.
Max finds Furiosa and the wives, and after a brief fight manages to get free of Nix. However, he finds himself bound to Furiosa in a different way: The war rig stalls when he tries to steal it and leave everyone else behind.
Furiosa programmed a kill switch sequence so that only she can drive the rig. Max needs Furiosa if he’s going to keep running away from Immortan Joe, and Furiosa won’t leave without the wives. Since Max wants to keep running, he lets them all back into the truck’s cab.
What else could force them to stick together?
“Handcuffs of Fate” isn’t just about literal bindings, but also shared purpose. If two characters want the same thing, even if they’re starting from a different point, they could be pushed to work together to reach the goal.
The second chase begins after Max gets into the war rig with Furiosa. She’s made a deal to get safe passage through a canyon, but needs Max to drive the rig in case she’s double-crossed. Her goal to get the wives to safety pushes her to trust Max in this moment, teaching him her kill switch code.
Even though Max doesn’t believe in Furiosa’s goal of getting to The Green Place, she’s headed in the direction he wants to travel. Their common goal to survive continues to bind them together, as Furiosa and Max fight off a biker gang and other assault vehicles sent after them. The life-or-death stakes of the chase put them in situations where they need to defend each other and learn to work together.
One key example of building this dynamic comes when Max can’t hit an approaching vehicle with a sniper rifle and hands the gun to Furiosa. She uses Max’s shoulder to help steady the gun and take her shot, successfully hitting the target. The moment shows how they stand a better chance of surviving when they cooperate.
What if they break the bonds before they reach their goal?
Characters bound together don’t always stay that way until the end. Sometimes one or both characters are given a way out to end their partnership early. This provides a chance to choose to stick together and see things through.
When Furiosa and Max successfully reach the land of the Vuvalini, they learn that the Green Place Furiosa remembered has long since died out.
Now with new allies and new vehicles, Furiosa and the wives plan to continue riding in the same direction to see if there’s anywhere safe to stop running. Furiosa offers Max a bike and supplies and suggests he keeps riding with them.
Now that they’re out of immediate danger, there’s no pressing force holding them together, and Max initially plans to head his own way.
But he stops and turns around. He has a plan.
The momentary separation and ending of the partnership gives Max a chance to come back and choose to bind his fate to Furiosa’s. He appeals to the idea that both of them are looking for “redemption,” and that taking the Vuvalini and the wives back to retake the citadel from Immortan Joe could give that to both of them.
Instead of physical bonds or imminent danger forcing them together, they shake on it. They choose to bind themselves together based on a shared emotional need.
One more thing…
At the end of the third chase back to the citadel, Max surprises Furiosa again by renewing that bond.
Furiosa is injured and fading fast. Max grabs the IV cable that once tied him to Nux and hooks himself back up. He donates his blood to Furiosa, choosing to risk his own life to save hers.
To help the moment land and solidify this bond, Max finally reveals his name to Furiosa. The physical bond of the IV line connects with the emotional bond of letting his guard down and revealing something about his past.
Looking back on what Nico Lathouris said, this literally binds their hearts together. But to get to this point, they first had to be forced together by circumstance and shared needs.
If you have a writer emergency…
Look for ways to bind characters together to force them to cooperate.
- Who would slap the “cuffs” on your heroes, and how?
- What shared need could force them to stick together?
- If they break the bonds before they reach their goal, would they choose to go their separate ways, or work together?
Find out how to get more tips like these with the Writer Emergency Pack XL!