Before ‘The Continental,’ Here’s What You Need to Know About John Wick

The Big Picture

  • John Wick’s High Table controls the empire of assassins, enforcing a strict code of conduct and ruling over a network of killers.
  • The High Table is governed by 12 ancient criminal families, and even its members are bound by blood oaths and can be challenged to deadly duels.
  • The Continental hotels are sanctuaries for assassins, where no killing is allowed, and they serve as hubs for the network’s operations and interactions between assassins.

With four movies that set a new standard for action sequences, John Wick remains one of the most profitable Holywood franchises thanks to Keanu Reeves‘ tragic antihero, neon-infused battles, and lots of gun-fu. Beyond the visual spectacle, each John Wick installment also features bits and pieces of complex lore involving a secret network of assassins. Thanks to its dense mythology, the franchise is ready to expand beyond its titular character with an upcoming movie spinoff starring Ana de Armas and the prequel series The Continental: From the World of John Wick.

With three 90-minute episodes, The Continental will take fans of the franchise back in time to witness what New York looked like in the 1970s, before John Wick’s one-person war against the High Table. It’s an intriguing concept that can offer a new starting point for people who didn’t catch on the movies yet. Still, with so much lore surrounding the franchise, some viewers might feel intimidated to enter The Continental without knowing how the assassins’ organization works. So, for newcomers and people who need to refreshen their memories, here’s what you need to know about John Wick before watching The Continental.

‘John Wick’s High Table Controls the Assassins Empire

Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, and Scott Adkins in John Wick: Chapter 4
Image via Lionsgate

The four John Wick movies center on the titular character, a former assassin who gets back into the killing game after his house is attacked (and his puppy is killed) by a mobster’s son. That event leads to a globetrotting massacre as John takes on the whole organization that supported his deadly business in the years before his early retirement. While seemingly hundreds of assassins work worldwide, they must all abide by a strict code of conduct that the High Table enforces. While the movies never explain the creation of the High Table in detail, we know that this parliament of killers is composed of 12 seats, each held by an ancient criminal family. The heads of each family sit at the High Table, and their will is the law. Every assassin must conduct business while respecting the High Table rules; otherwise, they might become targets themselves. Assassins cut from the Hig Table structure are known as “excommunicado,” meaning they can no longer get any protection or aid from the people and institutions associated with the network.

RELATED: ‘The Continental’ Filmmakers on the Hotel’s New Look in ‘John Wick’ Prequel Series

Even though the High Table often act as tyrants, they are also forced to obey the assassin’s code of conduct. That means members of the High Table can be challenged to deadly duels by lesser crime families. In addition, even the members of the High Table are bound by Markers, blood oaths representing a life debt to another network member. Finally, at the head of the High Table sits The Elder, the top dog of the assassin network who lives in the desert and can only be summoned to deal with matters of great urgency.

The High Table rules over an organization that functions like clockwork, with an Administration department overseeing all the active bounties. The Administration informs the network members when a new job is online, how much they’ll get paid for taking out a target, and which members lost their protection status. Basically, while the High Table is the network’s aristocracy, the Administration is a sector of blue-collar workers responsible for maintaining the paper trail that every assassination attempt needs to ensure transparency. The assassins under the High Table also have their own currency, using gold coins to pay for whatever service they need. Killers can buy guns, bulletproof suits, medical care, and information using these golden coins forged in a secret facility in Morocco by the High Table. Most of these services are available at the Continental, a unique hotel chain assassins use as a haven.

The Continentals Are Sanctuaries in ‘John Wick’

Ian McShane as Winston in John Wick
Image via Lionsgate Films

The Continental promises to explore the origins of the first Continental Hotel in New York City. As such, the series is expected to reveal more about the working of the High Table in a period where there were no safe spaces assassins could use to rest. Furthermore, the series might also reveal if the services used by killers and the monetary system of the golden coins preceded the Continental or were created in conjunction with the hotel.

While the Continental is still in the High Table’s service, the hotel is a sanctuary where no killing can happen. As such, members of the assassin network can seek shelter at the establishment while also getting new gear to enact revenge on their enemies. Not even members of the High Table can kill people inside the Continental, and anyone who breaks this rule becomes an excommunicado. Because of that, the Continental is the beating heart of the assassin organization, where all the killers can mingle without fearing for their lives. While the John Wick films largely concern themselves with the New York Continental, there are similar hotels spread across the world. So far, the John Wick franchise has also showed fans the Continentals of Casablanca, Rome, and Osaka. Each hotel has its manager, who is responsible for making sure that everyone follows the rules. If the manager of any Continental fails to enforce the code of the High Table, their establishment gets deconsecrated, which means the hotel stop being a part of the assassin network and killing can once more happen on its grounds.

Winston and Charon Are the Heart of the New York Continental

Image via Peacock

While Reeves is the franchise’s star, the four John Wick movies’ recurring characters help flesh out its curious universe. At the head of the New York City Continental is Winston Scott (Ian McShane), who treats the hotel as his kingdom and often challenges the High Table. At Winston’s side is Charon (Lance Reddick), the concierge loyal to the Continental above the High Table’s code. The two characters were part of all four John Wick movies, often acting as allies to the titular character. They will also be back for Ballerina, which is set between John Wick: Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

The Continental will follow the adventures of Winston and Charon before they take control of the New York City hotel. As such, the series might explain Winston’s complicated relationship with the High Table and why Charon is always by his side. Since the prequel is set four decades before the first John Wick events, Colin Woodell replaces McShane as a young Winston while Ayomide Adegun portrays a young Charon. The Continental checks in at Peacock on Sept. 22.

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