The Continental ends on a young Winston Scott, martini in hand, having successfully (and violently) acquired the hotel he’ll be running for the rest of his days. Many questions are left unanswered, which is good for an expanding cinematic universe that’s still more about vibes and ethereal allegory than anything else.
Writer Priscilla Page believes that John Wick is an “allegory for the devastation of losing someone, what it can turn us into, and every ugly emotion that comes with it: the fury, the agony, the desperation.” And, sometimes, a hard-won peace “in a universe that feels uncaring, even hostile to our pain.” The story of The Continental — stretched and modified through the respective vendettas of its ensemble cast — is the same: scaling the Mount Olympus of vengeance, meting out bits of poetic justice one bullet at a time.
But before he can worry about the future, Winston still has to deal with the pesky present and the traumatic past. Tensions are high as we head into “Night 3,” and the chaotic stage is set for the Continental “Grand Reopening.” The plan: get the armory key from Cormac, open up the armory, load up Mazie’s men with weapons, and seize the hotel from the inside out.
Winston Scott meets Mazie, the Bowery Queen, at the abandoned bank he bought for her. An alliance with Mazie is made by telling your story, and Winston’s gesture is no miscalculation. He paints a vivid portrait of his mother, a humble cleaner at the bank that served her an eviction notice and kicked her and her sons out of its doors in rags.
“Banks have always made it their business to break the poor,” he says. “Even an empty one like this sits as a symbol, casting a shadow over the less fortunate.” So its walls and vaults will go to Mazie and her army of love, along with a free rack of suits to infiltrate the Continental, sight unseen. An alternate universe where you can truly disappear into your drip? Who says this isn’t a John Wick joint?
Mazie’s keen on the deal. It’s an alliance of equal power and equal assurances. Winston has shared his story, and in so doing, he’s set the stage for a brighter New York (brighter meaning drenched in neon instead of lined with mounds of garbage). In the World of John Wick, it’s those at the High Table who wield the hands of fate.
Complications come early to this shindig when KD walks into the dojo looking for one of the kids who killed her family in a fire so many years ago. The buildup to this reveal — that KD was the only survivor of the fire Cormac ordered young Winston and Frankie to set — may have been belabored and a little too obvious for those paying close attention to her storyline. But we get our first pointed hint at her brooding Batman-style origin story when she tells Lou she “gets it,” trying to protect her brother. She had a brother, too, one she couldn’t protect.
Lou doesn’t bite, but she eventually leads KD to Winston. Fresh off KD’s tail, Mayhew follows her all the way to a phone booth in Jersey just to get his ass kicked. And he gets his ass kicked again when he tells KD he was following her around. But he gives her the name of Winston’s hotel, where she’ll be walking in on an unexpected little side shootout. Hansel prevails, gets a non-lethal K.O. in on Lou and a bullet graze on KD’s cheek before he’s in a van and en route to the Continental with Winston in tow. Mayhew shows up just in time for KD to tell him to fuck off again, then she goes full Dirty Harry, trading in her badge for the chance at a righteous kill.
As for the rest of our band of misfits, everyone’s in place for the Grand Reopening. Lemmy’s making an aerial entry via parachute, Ronnie’s getting things set up in the mobile HQ disguised as a garbage truck, Miles and Yen are infiltrating from the ground floor, and Gene’s set up on sniper duties in an apartment across the street from the hotel. That leaves Winston and Charon nestled in Cormac’s clutches and ready for the first strike. “Ah, the sirens calling,” Cormac says. It’s all proverbial mustache twirls and snarls from here on out with this guy. For example, when he says, “I shoulda learned the violin so that way I could fiddle while I watched it all burn.” Cormac orders a couple of his goons to throw Winston off the balcony, where Phase One of the plan kicks in. Before he can get tossed, Winston signals to Gene — “Before this goes any further, I’d like you to get something through your thick skulls.” — and bang bang, two clean headshots, and the goons are down.
Cormac should be vulnerable and the next to go down, but Charon, being new to this whole killing part of the game, can’t quite bring himself to pull the trigger on his boss in time. Cormac escapes into the walls like the bloated rat that he is. Down in the lobby, Miles and Yen get the slip on the Concierge, but their paths diverge real quickly. Yen’s on the vengeance track. She’s going to take down Hansel and Gretel in a blaze of glorious vengeance, then meet her husband on the other side.
Back at the dojo, fate finally intervenes on Lou, burying her image of her father as an honorable, no-guns-type warrior for good. “Hieronymus Burton killed the family that built this place,” the Orphan Master tells Lou in their final stand-off. “He was allowed to by the powers that be as long as he continued to work for them.” He hands Lou a big, old, beautiful automatic hand canon, the name Hieryonymus engraved on the side of the barrel like some underworld steampunk katana. At the push of a button, she brings the dojo down in a symphony of ash and rubble, the Orphan Master and his cronies trapped inside. Nothing is holding this kung fu Queen back from the main ass-kicking event now.
And she’ll be just in time for things to pop off in earnest at the hotel — Cormac’s en route to the armory with a growing batch of musclemen in tow. Inimicus has been declared on our crew, making them enemies who can be killed on hotel grounds, for a reward even. Colorful assassins of all kinds are emerging from their hotel rooms to collect. (Shout out to the guy snorting a mound of coke off the edge of his machete). Lemmy makes it to the mail room only to brawl with one of the Accountants, those awesome tatted pinup office worker ladies from the movies. His axe ultimately wins out over her paper cutter blade-turned-katana. And KD, having infiltrated the hotel earlier via swiped gold coin, gets one of the best classic-Wick one-wide-shot kill scenes where she takes out two guys in a matter of balletic fist-pounding seconds.
Boy, those suits sure pay off for Mazie’s boys, who slip right in with Cormac’s guys and turn the tables on them when they meet Winston and Charon at the armory. Too bad nobody’s getting in there, not this night anyway. Cormac breaks the key in the door, the lights go off, and the gunfire goes on until Charon and Winston are the only ones left alive in the room. And wouldn’t you know it, Cormac’s escaped again, this time to the operations room on the secret 13th floor. He barks over the hotel loudspeaker that Winston’s bounty is up to two million, with an extra million for every other “member of his merry band.”
Say, where is our merry band heading into the final round? Down in the speakeasy, we’ve got Miles pinned down by Hansel and some other goons. Lemmy buys him some time by throwing a bomb down to the speakeasy through the mail shoot, but Hansel quickly returns the favor, and it’s r.i.p. Lemmy. Just when we think Miles is a goner too, in comes Lou to lay the death blow on Hansel’s ass. The twist of fate that puts her father’s weapon in her hands is a diabolical one, and the tennis-ball-sized hole it puts through Hansel’s head is one helluva payoff.
With one killer twin out of the way, it’s time for Gretel’s showdown with Yen up at the rooftop fireplace. It’s a marvelous clash of titanic wills and styles — Gretel’s supernatural agility and precision versus Yen’s blunt force and blinding speed. Yen was ready to go down with this exploding ship, so it’s a thrill to see her “choose life,” like Frankie wanted, by strapping that C4 vest to Gretel and letting her enemy go out solo. Vengeance achieved and no worse for wear.
Watching Gretel’s guts fly every which way from the CCTV screen in the operations room is the last straw for Cormac. The High Table’s officially left him in the lurch, so it’s time to activate Defensionum, a self-destruct switch that’ll bring the whole place down. It’s real “better to rule over ashes” type stuff.
“When you see your brother,” Cormac tells Winston in their final showdown, big old wrench raised above his head, “tell him I sent you boys to torch that building because I wanted you to do something you could never come back from. That’s how I make a soldier.” It’s all KD needs to hear as she sneaks up on the scene to shoot Cormac in the chest. Her vengeance satisfied, she leaves Winston with a steely “be seein’ ya” and slow-mo swaggers into the darkness.
And once the Defensionum measure has been deactivated (thanks to Cormac’s severed hand), it’s time for our remaining Magnificent Seven to rendezvous at the lobby bar for a toast to the fallen. Yen and Winston share a few teardrops for Frankie, interrupted by the sound of the Adjudicator’s henchman nailing a notice of Interregnum to the Continental doorway.
Nice job, taking the Continental, the Adjudicator admits. But it wasn’t Winston’s to take. Nevertheless, he’s got the leverage to keep it. The coin press, found in the old car Winston and Frankie lived in as children, is now safe behind Mazie’s bank vault. And the rules of this game have never been clearer. Winston knows the bold moves he’s got to make if he wants to register with the High Table.
Stepping ever-so-smoothly off Continental grounds, he fires a round through the Adjudicator’s skull. It’s not the hotel. It’s what’s inside that counts.
• The incessant ‘70s needle drops were a bit much in the end, sort of snowballing into Stranger Things-esque cosplay of the era. The returns inevitably diminish on that front. Still, the track list was a well-selected one overall. I especially dug the move to end on “New York Groove,” a beloved deep-track single from Ace Frehley’s Kiss solo album.
• I’m surprised this show hasn’t landed with more Wick fans. Again, minus the more frequent cutting in action scenes, everything hits that unmistakable Wick register. And where we lack in Keanu, we get a diverse cast of wicked-awesome characters that’d fit right in with the hot weirdos of the big-screen Continental. I certainly wouldn’t say no to a follow-up season. Get a little deeper into the ‘80s and see how Winston and this rag-tag group deal with their new bosses and vice versa.
• Alas, it seems fate has other plans for The World of John Wick. The lukewarm-at-best reception to this thing bodes ill for any future Wickverse TV projects. But with the Ana De Armas-led Ballerina spin-off movie on the way, my guess is the post-Keanu version of this franchise, if it has legs, will continue on the big screen.
The Continental Finale Recap: The Grand Reopening
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