So let’s talk about John Wick: Chapter 2. Not only is it a phenomenal expansion of the original movie, a remarkably complex deep dive into the mythology of that world and the film most likely to make you view pencils with more fear and respect than you ever thought possible.
It also ends in a manner which is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating and we need to talk about. We’ll see about putting Keanu’s face or maybe that adorable dog below as spoiler space and on we go.
SPOILER SPACE (imagine lift music in your head…)
Still here? Right then. Chapter 2 ends with John having shot his employer, betrayer and target (he has had a very bad day) on Continental grounds. Winston, the New York Continental Manager, has no option but to excommunicate John and put the contract on his life out globally. But, because of the circumstances that led to this, and the favours everyone owes John, Winston gives him an hour’s head start.
So, the last thing we see is John and dog, walking out of Central Park. Every single person they pass gets the contract notice on their phone and slowly, John breaks into a run. He has 58 minutes to get out of a city he barely got into alive. He has nowhere left to run.
First off let’s talk about Winston. Chapter 2 gives us a ton more context on how the Continental hotels operate and how much power Winston has. The answer is, pretty much, “all”. Continental managers are at the very least sheriffs for their cities and may be actual monarchs. The repeated threat of D’Antonio wanting to take New York from Winston certainly implies the only thing separating them from the High Table is the scope of their power. The fact that Winston is able to delay a global contract, and that his account number is all ones, drives that home even harder than John does that pencil into several people’s brains.
So why does Winston delay the contract? It would be easy to view it as an act of friendship but we think there’s more to it than that. John’s world is thick with ritual and class. The entire movie revolves around a seat at the High Table opening up and there are numerous other indications of it. The Continental network, the ritualised use of language (“You working tonight?” “I have never known him to not be in” and so on) and the gold coins, markers and favour economy all speak to that. It’s a Swiss watch of a society, precise, ordered.
Winston has all the power he will ever have. The only person able to change the world they live in, and maybe, give him more, is someone trained by that world but outside it. Someone like the Baba Yaga himself. Winston doesn’t just give John a chance because he likes him. He gives him a chance because when John comes back – and he will – he’ll not only remember his friends but ensure Winston goes up in the world.
Then there’s the world beneath the underworld. We see a chunk of it here with the Bowery King and his network. He’s a man who is clearly connected to the world of the Continentals but not part of it and fiercely proud of that fact. Like Winston, he also wants more than he has. And, like Winston, he knows the best way to make a good weapon is to temper it. The High Table are old, slow and weak for the first time in decades and he plans on taking advantage of that, again, by helping John. If John lives, then everything is going to come crashing down. If he dies, the Bowery King loses nothing.
The world he represents, the world he hints at, is where we’re going to see John in Chapter 3, we’re quite sure. Cut off from the genteel, precise savagery of the Continental and its anonymised staff, John is going to have to get his hands dirty and the Bowery King’s very existence proves that there are people ready and waiting to help him do just that.
Which brings us to Mr Akoni and the High Table itself. Mr Akoni is only seen twice, and each time he’s not happy. Gabrielle D’Antonio has stolen his people and business and left him with almost nothing. When Santino invites him to New York it’s to rub his nose in the familial victory. He’s angry, on the back foot and in need of a tactical advantage.
Enter, stage left, John Wick, carrying a blood-soaked pencil.
Mr Akoni needs a weapon. John needs sanctuary. While Reeves has recently said he wants Chapter 3 to open with John’s battle to get off New York, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Mr Akoni be the one who rescues him. After all, this is a world built on favours…
And then there’s the High Table itself, whose very existence is called into question by Santino’s actions. The assassination of his sister is absolutely within societal rules at the same time as being beyond the pale. The “avenging” of his sister’s murder is absolutely understandable and profoundly hypocritical. In an ideological sense, Santino is the hero of the movie, not that he’d know it. He proves this system is broken, proves it can be gamed. He creates, even without being aware of it, the circumstances that allow Winston and the Bowery King to steer John towards bringing it all down.
Or leading it. The end of the original Conan – the iconic “heavy is the head that wears the crown” moment – could well be where these movies finish. John, a man of principle and discipline, trapped in the life of violence that defined him but able, at last, to curb it. Either that or being the weapon that finally shatters the High Table, the Continental network and everything else. Remember, at the end of Chapter 2 he has nothing aside from his dog. It makes sense for the story to finish with him going from the bottom all the way to the top.
This is all entirely speculation of course but if there’s one thing these movies have taught us it’s that nothing is on screen for no reason. The Bowery King, Winston’s favour, Mr Akoni, even the dog all look set to play big roles in Chapter 3. We’ll be first in line when it hits too. After all, this is the Baba Yaga we’re talking about…