WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, in theatres now.
While other major films have wasted large swaths of their runtime to set up future franchise installments, the John Wick series has been dedicated to a more organic growth. The neo-noir world of stylish killers has expanded slowly around the adventures of John Wick. But as his actions begin to have far-reaching ramifications, every assassin across the globe has turned their attention to him.
The conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum sets up Keanu Reeves' titular killer to fight his most imposing force yet, all the while keeping a target painted on his back.
The film expands the John Wick universe, and introduces more of the power players who secretly control this world. Most notable is the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui of Wonder Woman), who's established as such a fearsome figure that the assassin's guild treats him with deference. John eventually makes his way into the desert and is brought to the Elder, who may be the only person who could forgive the assassin's earlier actions. With his word, the bounty on John would disappear. Revealing that he wants to live so that the memory of his deceased wife may continue with him, John agrees to rejoin the assassin's guild. His first mission is to kill his old ally, Winston.
To cement this arrangement, John is forced to cut off one of his fingers. Specifically, he has to lop off his ring finger, losing his wedding band in the process. The Elder is pleased with this act of loyalty, and takes the ring as payment. John is soon sent back to New York City, but the implications of this scene speak to eventual conflict. Given the later events of the film, it wouldn't be surprising to see John eventually turn his attention back to the Elder, especially so he can reclaim his wedding ring.
Turning A Blind Eye
A running subplot throughout John Wick: Chapter 3 centers around the Adjudicator. Sent as a representative of the High Table, the global council of crime lords, the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) arrives to test the loyalties of the warlords who have worked with John Wick. Employing Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his ninjas, the Adjudicator effortlessly wipes out many of the men working for the Director (Anjelica Huston) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). Both of the crime lords are attacked for their role in helping John escape. While the Director is stabbed through the hands after showing penance, the Bowery King receives a far harsher punishment: For each of the seven bullets he gave John in the previous film, he receives a brutal slash from Zero's sword, and is left for dead.
The only New York-based leader who isn't struck down is Winston (Ian McShane), owner of the city's Continental Hotel. That's ironic, considering how hard the Adjudicator tried to have him killed. But thanks to John and Charon (Lance Reddick), the Continental's concierge, none of Zero's forces lays a finger on him. After an intense night of murder and mayhem, the Adjudicator comes to compromise with Winston: In exchange for receiving forgiveness for his transgressions, Winston reaffirms his loyalty to the High Table. To prove it, he turns on the spot and shoots John repeatedly, until he falls off the roof of the hotel. The opportunistic Winston may not have intended for that conclusion, but he's essentially monopolized crime in his city. With many other crime lords dead in John's wake, or incapacitated by the Adjudicator, Winston may have just become the single most powerful man in New York City. At least, for now.
When A Good Man Goes To War
Winston turning on John may have altered the trajectory of the film series. It may have even subtly set up an endgame for John's story. After sparing Winston and forsaking the Elder's orders, John is almost killed by his friend. The only thing that saves him is the timely intervention of the Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas), one of the last remaining associates of the Bowery King. It's revealed in the film's final moments that the Bowery King survived the attack by Zero, which left him covered in deep wounds. The Bowery King, who earlier had talked about renouncing the High Table, is now fully turned against them.
When he leans over to the injured, but very much alive, John, he asks if he's starting to get pissed. John looks up, genuinely furious, and agrees. The film ends with John perhaps angrier than he's been since the beginning of the series. The loss of his dog set him out on a globe-trotting murder rampage. What will the betrayal from one of his oldest friends do to him? John Wick: Chapter 3 reveals that the John we've been dealing with isn't even him going all out, effortlessly setting up a sequel to explore the ramifications of an unchained Wick.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum stars Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas, Lance Reddick and Anjelica Huston.