What you need to remember from the previous ‘John Wick’ films

What you need to remember from the previous ‘John Wick’ films

Allow us to refresh your memory on the Continental, the High Table, and the other elements of the criminal underworld traversed by Keanu Reeves’ unstoppable assassin.

Christian Holub

Yeah, we’re thinking he’s back.

John Wick: Chapter 4 arrives in theaters this weekend, with Keanu Reeves returning as the unstoppable assassin in a killer suit. With four long years passing since John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum was released, you’d be forgiven for forgetting some of the intricacies of the world that Reeves and director Chad Stahelski (Reeves’ former stuntman) have been building across nearly a decade of movies. 

Although the saga started with a simple premise — a retired assassin gets revenge after a mobster kills his dog — the franchise has become increasingly complex, full of its own intricate jargon. So before you go into Chapter 4, here are the names and places to remember if it’s been a while since you last checked in at the Continental. 

Keanu Reeves stars as ‘John Wick’ in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM.

Keanu Reeves in ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.’

| Credit: Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate

The Continental 

Introduced in the first John Wick film, the Continental is a hotel for assassins where they can rest and recuperate while carrying out their killings. The establishment’s concierge, Charon (the late Lance Reddick), is always on hand to help highly-valued guests like John. In order to peacefully house so many dangerous people (many of whom are competitors and rivals for the same assignments), the Continental’s number-one rule is that no “business” may be conducted on its premises. 

In an action-packed series like this, though, such rules are made to be broken. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) was the first character to take the hotel’s protocols for granted in the original film — first by trying to kill John in his room and then by killing fellow hitman Harry (Clarke Peters) after John enlisted him to restrain her. Perkins’ transgressions led to her execution at the hands of Continental owner Winston (Ian McShane). 

John Wick (2014) Ian McShane

Ian McShane as Winston in ‘John Wick.’

| Credit: David Lee/Lionsgate

She was far from the last to break protocol. At the end of John Wick: Chapter 2, the titular protagonist himself flouted the Continental’s rules by killing crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) as he dined at the hotel. In John’s defense, Santino was asking for it.

As Wick traveled halfway around the world in Parabellum, we learned that the Continental has satellite locations around the globe. For instance, Sofia (Halle Berry) manages the Continental in Morocco — with help from her well-trained attack dogs. When John returned to the New York hotel at the climax of Parabellum, we saw that the hotel also has a fully-stocked arsenal of weapons, allowing John, Winston, and Charon to hold off an invading army. 

It’s worth noting that the John Wick underworld uses distinctly Catholic-sounding names for various rituals of honor and power. “Excommunicado” refers to the status imposed on John at the end of Chapter 2, when he is an open target who can no longer seek shelter or enjoy the protections and privileges of the underworld. “Deconsecrated” is when the status of a sanctioned safe house is removed from a place like the New York Continental, leading to the climactic battle of Parabellum.

At the end of Parabellum, Winston had successfully maintained his stewardship over the hotel by pretending to kill John — but as a result, he probably won’t be able to aid our favorite assassin in the near future. 

The High Table 

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM, US character poster, Said Taghmaoui as The Elder, 2019. © Summit Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

Said Taghmaoui as The Elder in ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.’

| Credit: Summit Entertainment/Everett

A phrase repeated with increasing frequency over the course of the John Wick films, “the High Table,” refers to an international group of crime lords who preside over the economy of assassins the movies revolve around. Seats belong to different criminal families, which can lead to Game of Thrones-style political machinations for power.

But most members of the organization don’t often dirty their hands directly. Throughout Parabellum, the High Table is represented by the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who brought along enforcers to fix the problem presented by John Wick. At the same time, John’s trip to Morocco eventually brought him face-to-face with the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui), the leader of the High Table. The Elder offered John a deal to absolve his conflict with the organization: Kill Winston and work for the High Table for the rest of his life. John, naturally, refused (though not before gifting the Elder his wedding ring, with his finger still attached).

The Resistance 

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, Laurence Fishburne, 2023. ph: Murray Close / © Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King in ‘John Wick: Chapter 4.’

| Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate/Everett

As part of her clean-up duties, the Adjudicator disrupted the criminal empire of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) as punishment for supplying John with the weapon used to kill Santino. Her assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos) slashed the Bowery King himself and left him for dead, but it takes more than that to kill a Fishburne character. At the end of Parabellum, John and the Bowery King announced a new alliance to take down the High Table together. They’ll have their work cut out for them, but so far, no one has survived John’s path of vengeance. 

John Wick: Chapter 4 hits theaters March 24.

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