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John Wick's Real Name & Backstory (Finally) Explained

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, in theaters now.

One of the biggest draws of the John Wick franchise is the shroud of mystery surrounding the titular hitman, played by Keanu Reeves. The 2014 original film introduced him as a retired assassin seeking happiness in marriage, only to lose that and go on a killing spree. The 2017 sequel then followed John as he paid off a debt after getting back into the game, which resulted in him running afoul of the High Table and going on the lam.

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However, through all of that, we've never been given the character's true backstory. That changes in John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, as some history is finally given into the true identity of the Baba Yaga.

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John has been built up as a legend, as the bogeyman, from the get-go. Director Chad Stahelski didn't give us a glimpse into his past in the first two films, but teased his backstory. We knew John was seeking a life away from the bloodshed, and that he thought love was the key. However, when his wife and dog were taken from him, John re-entered the game. Yet every ally or enemy he met glossed over their shared histories. When the Camorra warlord, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), called in John to repay the marker for helping him out years before, we weren't provided with clue as to who John was. Thankfully, Parabellum introduces us to a mother-like figure who spills the beans on John in a brief but illuminating exchange.

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After killing Santino on Continental grounds in Chapter 2, John's life is forfeit and he's forced to go on the run. However, he uses a "ticket" -- a unique crucifix he pulled from a Russian book at the New York Public Library -- and cuts a bloody path to a seedy ballet theater. Despite being declared "excommunicado," he's granted a temporary amnesty with the ticket as he seeks out the Director (Anjelica Huston). We learn the Russian is a member of the High Table who protected John in the past, only to be disappointed when he retired. However, things change drastically when she calls him "Jardani."

At first it sounds like an Eastern European spin on his name, and she's simply mocking him because he'll be dead in a few hours. But as she denies his request for safe passage out of the United States, John reveals the truth: He's Jardani Jovonovich, a former member of the Director's tribe. He demands he's owed this boon, and offers her the ticket, cashing in the favor for performing certain tasks for her in the past.

Annoyed yet obligated, the Director acquiesces and tells John she will honor the code of the tribe, which she brought over from Belarus to eke out a new life. When John calls himself "a son of Belarus," we see that while he may not be her literal blood, the Director is indeed a warped mother-figure who feels some sort of emotional attachment. She eventually helps him leave the country, only to be punished by the High Table for her betrayal.

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That she did this means Jardani means a lot to her, but it leaves us with more questions. The John Wick prequel comics painted him as a kid on the run in Mexico who turned into a killer after his village was burned, so we don't know if he went to the Director after she brought his people over. Also, we have no clue as to what happened to John's family, and exactly at which point did he began training to become an assassin. All we know is, as the Director indicated, John had murder coursing through his veins the moment he was born.

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. The film opens Friday nationwide.

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