Entertainment

How 'John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum' Sets Up the Next Big Fight of the Wickian Universe

john wick
Lionsgate

This post contains spoilers for the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. Don't make John angry.  

John Wick is hard man to kill, that much is known after the first two installments of the franchise that bears his name. But the third, Parabellum, doubles down on that notion in its final moments. For a brief second, it appears that John Wick may have finally been the one to be killed instead of the one doing the killing, bested by the one person he thought was an ally: Ian McShane's Winston, the manager of the assassin hotel, The Continental.

But Winston was wrong to underestimate John. Though he may have been shot and fallen to his death off The Continental's roof, John is still very much alive. The moment marks a heel turn for McShane's character, but director Chad Stahelski cautions his move shouldn't have been much of a surprise: "In our world, everyone's a bad guy. Everyone has to do the most practical of practical."

Before betraying him completely, Winston enlists John's help. Sure, John's the one in trouble for most of the running time. He starts the movie in a state of excommunicado from the assassin community for killing a man on Continental grounds and stays that way until the end. But Winston gets in trouble, too, with the governing body of this crime world, The High Table, for giving John an hour-long head start before the bounty on his head goes into effect. In his resistance to play by the rules, Asia Kate Dillon's The Adjudicator declares Winston's beloved Continental "deconsecrated." Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, John has pledged his allegiance to The High Table in exchange for his life and has been ordered to carry out a hit on Winston. Reunited back in New York, the two old pals decided to stick it to the system, and form an alliance. John will fight Winston's battle, using the hotel's resources ("guns, lots of guns") to take down essentially an army of High Table enforcers.

winston
Lionsgate

When John successfully kills just about everyone The High Table sends his way, The Adjudicator waves their proverbial white flag and sets a rendezvous with Winston on the roof. Winston's made his point and gets to keep The Continental, but John's still in hot water. Winston has a solution for that, and off the roof John goes. Too bad John is Teflon. He's scooped up by Jason Mantzoukas' Tick Tock Man, one of the emissaries of Laurence Fishburne's Bowery King. His appearance is also something of a surprise considering the last time audiences saw him, he was being slashed on the orders of The Adjudicator.

Asked about the ending, Stahelski says it would be foolish to expect a "ride away into the sunset" conclusion. (Though, in all fairness, there are horses earlier in the running time.) "Keanu and I will sit down and think what's the most fucked up conundrum plot we can put ourselves in," he says. There was some resistance to changing John's relationship with Winston, however.

"All the writers and people we talked to said, 'Winston can't turn because everybody loves Winston,'" Stahelski recalls. "No, you're talking about a good guy story. Our guy's not a good guy. If you really think about Wick's journey, he's trying to save his own ass, he's trying to do it in the right way trying for a little bit of redemption and absolution. At the same time, it's navigating a world that doesn't apply the same morality he's trying to achieve. That's kind of fucked. You can't come full circle. You have to draw this wiggly line."

Writer Derek Kolstad, however, wouldn't call Winston a villain just yet. "In this one, you could say Winston reveals himself to be a foe, but I just say in this moment he's an antagonist," he says. "Who is he as the franchise flexes his muscle and that character evolves from here on out? What is his end game? I don't know." Kolstad says what happens next is still up in the air, but there will be a fourth chapter. Lionsgate has already scheduled it for May 21, 2021. "As to where we might go in the fourth one, I don't think we quite know, and yet at the same time, there are scenes that we can't wait to see John do and characters we've been back pocketing for a while that we'll introduce then," he says.

One thing is for certain: John's pissed, and you don't want to be in his way when he's pissed. Long live John Wick. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.