The Continental is a fun new entry in the world of John Wick that fleshes out this universe with detailed, exciting storytelling.
It’s been almost a decade since the first John Wick movie was released and introduced audiences to this iconic world of hitmen and assassins, but each consequent movie has proven that there’s so much more left to explore. From introducing the High Table in John Wick 2 to the character’s excommunication in John Wick 3, there’s always been something new to raise the stakes and give audiences new details about this universe. The Continental is the first direct spin-off in the franchise, and despite a few issues with pacing and messy storytelling, the project’s greatest strength is that it continues to flesh out this world in areas that it hasn’t been before. It’s an extremely rewarding watch for fans of John Wick, not just because of its thematic similarities, but also thanks to the information it reveals about the history of these characters.
The Continental is a three-part event that follows a younger version of Winston, the owner of the titular hotel in New York. Throughout the John Wick films, his journey with the hotel and the High Table has been a fascinating one to watch, with his character arc finally coming together in John Wick 4 and giving him a suitable ending. However, The Continental proves that there’s so much more to Winston that audiences didn’t previously know, and it really capitalizes on this untapped potential to give the show’s story an entirely new dimension. We’re given insight into Winston’s family situation, his early days at the hotel, and how he managed to gain the favor of the High Table, which completely reframes his role in the John Wick movies. This is The Continental’s biggest strength, and it’s where the story really shines.
The character is played by Colin Woodell, who captures Winston’s on-screen charisma excellently. Ian McShane’s version of the character shines through Woodell’s performance, making it clear to see how this character will ultimately become the person that audiences already know and love. There are plenty of great easter eggs and references hidden within the story that long-time fans will appreciate, but it also works on a much simpler level that doesn’t demand any previous knowledge of the John Wick movies. Though The Continental is only three episodes long, it manages to quickly establish the stakes of the story and give enough background information for everything to make sense, before strapping the audience in and shooting forward with breakneck momentum. In that way, it’s very similar to the John Wick movies: a simple story that’s elevated by intense action sequences and charming characters.
Unfortunately, The Continental doesn’t always make the most of the potential that lies before it. The story is pretty basic and doesn’t have any of the twists and turns that made John Wick so beloved, even if it does maintain the slick and suave atmosphere. There’s very little purpose behind the narrative, leaving many scenes to feel like they only exist in order to bring the characters to certain points in the story. Where John Wick always felt pointed and purposeful, The Continental really struggles from a lack of vision that ultimately leaves it feeling like a watered-down version of the movies it’s based on.
While The Continental has plenty of great action sequences that are well-choreographed and help push the story forward, these scenes also feel weak in comparison to the revolutionary action set pieces of John Wick and its sequels. It suffers from a lack of John Wick’s magic ingredient: Chad Stahelski. The Continental proves that Stahelski has always been the reason that John Wick works so well, and once he’s taken out of the equation, everything feels dialled down in a way that’s pretty deflating. The show isn’t bad at all – in fact, it’s better than most other action-based shows that give themselves such a short run of episodes. But it’s not John Wick, and The Continental’s proximity to something so revolutionary without actually being revolutionary itself is its biggest downfall.
The Continental: From the World of John Wick will be available to watch on Peacock on September 22, 2023. Read our list of all John Wick movies ranked from worst to best!