Chad Stahelski, whose career began with stunt work and led to directing, made an unexpected contribution to cinema when he co-created “John Wick” with David Leitch in 2014. No one foresaw that the character would become a classic, especially with the second film, “John Wick,” transformed into an action icon, and his world turned into a cinematic universe. While we’ve seen many successful assassins on the silver screen, the “John Wick” series chose not only to invest in its central character but to create a character within the universe, rather than building a world around the character. This universe remained consistent with its logic until the final moment of the third film. After the final, the logic flew away. And this continued to do so with the fourth film released in 2023. Even though Keanu Reeves’ Baba Yaga is no longer with us, as mentioned, the universe extends far beyond him.
Derek Kolstad, the scriptwriter and designer, has created a John Wick universe that appears set to stay with us for a long time. The Peacock network’s new series, “The Continental,” focuses on the eponymous hotel in New York, one of the busiest stops in the John Wick universe. Next year, we’ll watch “Ballerina,” starring Ana de Armas, where John Wick will also make an appearance. “The Continental” marks the first step in this universe expansion project. It may not have fully met my high expectations, but it was an enjoyable initial step into expanding the universe.
Let’s briefly touch upon the plot: The manager of The Continental, Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson), asks Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) to find his brother, Frankie (Ben Robson). Frankie has stolen the hotel’s Coin Machine and gone missing. Winston’s mission to locate his brother and save his life gradually turns into a rebellion against the hotel.
“The Continental” delves into the origin story of how Winston came to possess the hotel. While he collaborates with various assassins in the city, we also witness the early days of the Bowery King’s underground network. The series’ choice of the time period also hints at possible future seasons. Instead of just focusing on the establishment of the hotel and the assassin guild, the show allows us to explore the origins of several elements we know from the John Wick series. The series excels in its storytelling choice and execution.
“The Continental” also refrains from introducing a new superhero to the audience. Instead of jeopardizing John Wick’s precious place in the universe, the series offers a team dynamic. A group of rebels whose paths cross in various ways launches an attack on the hotel under Winston’s leadership. However, the series goes beyond a simple rebellion against the hotel and enriches the characters’ journey with additional subplots. The police story involving KD (Mishel Prada) and the unresolved past following the two brothers manages to intersect effectively in the hotel’s corridors. The twist in KD’s story, especially how it connects with the brothers and Cormac, was quite successful.
Of course, what we expect from the John Wick universe is endless action. While the series contains quite impressive action scenes for television, it falls a bit short compared to the John Wick movies. The primary reason for this shortfall is that it’s a television series. Even though John Wick is content-rich, one of the secrets to its success lies in Chad Stahelski’s directing and his choices in art design. While “The Continental” beautifully reflects the decadence and extra-stylish fashion nostalgia of 1960s New York, its television direction falls a bit short in terms of action’s impact. Chad Stahelski has created countless memorable scenes in each of the films, but “The Continental” unfortunately lacks the memorable scenes to the same degree.
In summary… “The Continental” is a successful and enjoyable starting point to expand the John Wick universe. The storyline and the final convergence of all paths represent the series’ strongest points. In contrast to the John Wick film series, the show offers a densely presented story but lags in action sequences. One of the secrets behind the success of John Wick is Chad Stahelski’s directing approach. However, “The Continental,” with its straightforward television direction, dilutes the action’s impact. For those with high expectations, the series may lead to some minor disappointments, but, overall, it presents a well-written and well-structured story.
Cast & Crew
creators: Greg Coolidge, Shawn Simmons, Kirk Ward
writers: Greg Coolidge, Glenise Mullins, Shawn Simmons, Kirk Ward, Ken Kristensen, Derek Kolstad (based on the feature film “John Wick” written by)
starring: Mel Gibson, Colin Woodell, Mishel Prada, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Nhung Kate, Jessica Allain, Ayomide Adegun
USA | 2023 | 3 EPISODES |