Hell hath no fury like a man avenging his four-legged friend; that’s our takeaway after looking at the titular protagonist’s journey in much-acclaimed “John Wick” trilogy. The Keanu Reeves-starring, single-man-army protagonist-led franchise of sleek, suave action thrillers has managed to retain its unique hold on viewers to the point that even after the completion of the trilogy, fans are hankering for more. Part of the reason for its appeal is that, beyond all the uber-cool action sequences, alluringly classy manhunters, trimmed storytelling, rain-drenched sinful neon backdrops, and fast-paced narrative progression, there is a solid emotional backbone carrying the entirety of the plotline. As the fourth chapter of the franchise is about to be released, let us take a quick look at the storyline that has developed through the trilogy, which can bring readers up to speed with the lore.
John Wick: The First Chapter
In the opening scene of the first movie, we are introduced to the legendary hitman, John Wick, battered and bruised, as he crawls out of his car and plays a video on his mobile that contains a clip of him with his beloved wife, Helen. We learn that Helen passed away due to a chronic illness, leaving a beagle puppy in her memory. As John tries to cope with the loss of the love of his life, he finds some solace in the presence of the puppy named Daisy.
By happenstance, John gets into an argument with local Russian loafers led by a certainly spoiled brat named Iosef, who wishes to buy John’s car, something John is unwilling to do because of his wife’s memory being attached to it. Later that night, the group of ruffians comes to John’s house, beats him up, ransacks his place, kills his dog, and then flees after stealing his car. We later come to know Iosef is the son of Viggo Tarasov, a ruthless Russian mob boss in New York. As Iosef and his crew go to Aurelio, a chop shop owner nearby, to fabricate a new registration for the car, they are refused service by Aurelio after he learns about the identity of the owner, who has been left alive. After Viggo learns about his son’s actions, he humiliates and beats Iosef. From Viggo, we come to know that John Wick, a feared and revered hitman, once used to be his employee, and it was thanks to his last job, which ended with him pulling off the impossible task of clashing against numerous enemy forces, that Viggo was able to create his crime empire. After that, Wick pulled himself out of this life of crime as he settled into an idyllic life for the next five years—that is, until Iosef’s actions, which might bring him out of retirement.
On the other hand, John learns the identity of the perp from Aurelio and prepares to seek vengeance. He digs up the tools of his former trade—firearms and uniquely designed gold coins used as currency for specialized services related to the underworld business. After Viggo’s efforts to reconcile with John go in vain, he sends his goons to take him out at his home, whom Wick takes care of with relative ease. Viggo decides to put Iosef as a lure in the Red Circle nightclub in New York. John goes to New York and boards at the Hotel Continental, a safe haven for underworld operatives that operates under some strict rules, among which the chief one is no taking of lives on the Continental grounds. John is welcomed by the concierge of the hotel, Charon, and later by the manager of the hotel, Winston, who greets John on his return from retirement and warns him about there being no escape once he sets foot back in the game. However, he also informs John about Iosef’s position at Red Circle. Viggo hires John’s old friend and mentor, Marcus, to assassinate him.
After the first attempt to take Iosef’s life in the Red Circle goes in vain, John retreats to the Continental in order to heal from his wounds. Marcus alerts John about another hitwoman, Ms. Perkins, who is hunting Wick for Viggo’s open contract. John presses Perkins to reveal information regarding Viggo’s secret inventory and entrusts her with another hitman boarding the Continental named Harry. However, Perkins manages to escape and kills Harry.
John burns down Viggo’s inventory, consisting of money and gold coins, but most importantly, the leverage Viggo had on the city in the forms of blackmail and extortion material. Viggo is lured out of his hideout and gets ambushed by John, who later gets himself captured. Viggo taunts a captive John, saying his sins in the past led to his misfortune, i.e., his wife’s death, and that both of them are cursed for a lifetime of trauma—a statement with which John agrees. However, before Viggo takes his leave, John lets him know how Daisy’s presence provided a much-needed semblance of hope to John, who was grieving for his wife’s demise, and threatens Viggo and his son’s lives for taking that away from him. After Viggo’s departure, Marcus helps John escape by sniping the guards.
John catches up to Viggo and intimidates him into sharing his son’s location. After Viggo does so, John blazes his way through the heavily fortified hideout and kills Iosef. Later, John and Marcus meet to discuss his prospects, which Ms. Perkins notices. Perkins lets Viggo know about Marcus’ betrayal, and Marcus gets tortured and killed at his home. Viggo taunts John about Marcus’ death, as he makes a return to the city to pay a final visit to his old friend. On the other hand, Winston corners Perkins with his operatives and has her killed for breaking the no-kill rule on the Continental grounds, and he informs John about Viggo’s current location. John kills Viggo’s operatives, fatally wounds Viggo, and gets severely injured himself in the process. As John drives away, the subsequent scenes connect with the opening shot. While John attends to his wounds inside an animal shelter, he spots a pit bull (who was about to be euthanized) and thus out of necessity for a company, the lone assassin adopts the dog and takes him to his humble abode.
John Wick: The Second Chapter
The second chapter of the “John Wick” saga begins just days after the events of the first movie. John Wick shoots his way inside Viggo’s brother Abraham’s hideout and retrieves his stolen car. After returning home, he entrusts Aurelio with the car’s repair and maintenance, as it has been significantly damaged enroute. Later that night, the second in command of the Camorra crime family, Santino D’Antonio, makes a visit to John’s house. After the news of John coming out of retirement made the rounds in the sectors of the underworld, Santino decided to ask John for a favor. However, John is unwilling to return to the life of crime, and with his vengeance enacted, he wants to live the rest of his life in peace. However, Santino is not someone to be refused, and he reminds John of a marker, a certain blood oath he made during his last job with Santino with his own life on the line, which allowed John to leave the life of crime behind him and which, according to the rule, he shouldn’t refuse. John remains adamant about his decision, which initially seems to sent Santino packing from his house—only for him to return with artillery and burn John’s house to the ground. John and his companion dog, whom he rescued previously, barely escape the destruction.
John goes to the Continental and demands the location of Santino from Winston, who wastes no time reminding John of the cardinal rules of their underworld—which are to honor the no-kill rule on the Continental grounds and to honor one’s marker given to another person. According to the rule, after John’s actions with Tarasov made his return official, he is now answerable to the call of the marker if he wants to live, whether he likes it or not. Winston also warns him that if he tries to break the rules, he will be considered an excommunicado—an open target of the underworld—and banished from any form of protection or service, and the overseeing body known as the High Table will seek to end his life thereafter. Begrudgingly, John agrees to accept Santino’s task and plans to take his revenge once he gets free from the marker oath.
John pays a visit to Santino, who wishes to get his sister, Gianna, killed. Gianna is about to become a member of the High Table after the demise of their father, and Santino wants the position for himself. John needs to take out Gianna by infiltrating the heavily fortified catacombs in Rome, where her coronation ceremony will take place. After reaching Rome, John boards at the Continental branch of the city and is greeted by the manager, Julius. John arms himself to the teeth by accessing the premium services of underworld sectors such as the “sommelier,” “cartographer,” and “tailor,” who provide him with armor, ammunition, and navigation equipment. John infiltrates the catacombs and confronts Gianna, who slits her wrists to die on her own terms. John ends her prolonged agony by shooting her in the head and upholds his marker oath.
However, as John escapes from the catacombs, he is attacked by Gianna’s bodyguard Cassian and her security, as well as by Santino’s goons as his way of tying up any loose ends. Julius arranges John’s safe return to New York, where John gets confronted by Cassian, engages in a fight, and leaves Cassian fatally injured. In the process, John gets severely injured and gets taken to the mob boss of vagrants, the Bowery King. In the meantime, Santino opens a seven-million-dollar contract for John, making him a target for other assassins. After regaining his strength, John coerces the Bowery King to assist him with ammunition in his quest to take down Santino, who has now become a member of the High Table. King provides him with a handgun with seven rounds, which John uses to hunt down Santino’s henchmen, but he is unable to take Santino out before the latter seeks safety on the grounds of the Continental. An infuriated John confronts Santino and, despite Winston’s repeated warnings, ends up killing him on the Continental premises. In accordance with the rules of the High Table, John is declared an “excommunicado” by Winston, who gives him a head start of one hour. The Camorra crime family doubles John’s bounty and makes the contract international. John rushes away from the gaze of the underworld with his Staffie and tries to disappear into the crowd.
John Wick: Parabellum, The Third Chapter
The beginning of the movie shows John Wick, now considered an outcast by the underworld, with a heavy bounty on his head, racing against time with his dog to secure some essentials. John entrusts his dog’s safety to Charon and goes to the New York public library, where he retrieves a Russian cross fixed with a rosary and a marker, along with some gold coins. A confrontation with a hitman at the library leaves him injured, and he visits the underworld ‘Doctor’ for treatment, which he has to complete on his own after the one-hour head start given by Winston ends. John goes to Ruska Roma, the headquarters of a Russian crime organization, and visits the director, the very man who reared up and trained an orphan named John since his childhood to be an expert manhunter. The Director is unwilling to go against the rules of the High Table and shelter John, but he produces the cross and rosary as his ‘ticket’ to demand one last favor from her—a safe passage to Casablanca. The Director reluctantly agrees and severs John’s further ties by ripping up the ticket, and John is taken to his destination.
Meanwhile, the High Table sends their enforcer in the form of an adjudicator, who hands Winston and Bowery King a seven-day notice to step down from their designated positions for assisting John Wick. The Adjudicator hires the meticulous Japanese chef/assassin Zero and his pupil to assert dominance, who massacre the forces of Ruska Roma and stab through the Director’s palms under the Adjudicator’s order as a form of penance. At Casablanca, John comes across an old acquaintance named Sofia, who works as a hotel manager for Moroccan Continental. In the past, John had saved her daughter from a life-threatening situation and thus Sofia owes a favor to John. After a brief disagreement, she indulges in John’s request to meet with Berrada, her former superior. They meet Berrada, from whom John gets to know about the location of the Elder, the highest overseer whose command the High Table obeys. In return for his guidance, Berrada demands one of Sofia’s dogs, a request that Sofia declines, which results in Berrada shooting at the dog (thankfully unharmed due to the bulletproof vest). The quartet, John, Sofia, and her two dogs wreak havoc in Berrada’s fortress and kill most of his henchmen; Sofia spares Berrada’s life upon John’s request, though she deservingly cripples him before leaving.
During his long journey to the Elder, John faints in the desert and wakes up in the Elder’s tent. Upon the Elder’s inquiry about what drives John to survive, he acknowledges the reason to be reliving the memories with his wife, Helen. The Elder is willing to spare John his transgressions in exchange for him swearing lifelong fealty to the High Table, the first step of which will be to kill Winston. John agrees to his terms, dismembers his ring finger, and gives away his marriage token to the Elder as a show of loyalty.
After the one-week period is over, the Adjudicator leads Zero and his pupil to the Bowery King’s Den, where, after massacring his entire unit, Zero slashes Bowery King seven times as a reminder of his betrayal of the High Table, presumably leaving him to die. John returns to New York and gets attacked by Zero and his goons but manages to reach the Continental in time. The Adjudicator appears in front of Winston and John, demanding compliance to their individual commands they received from the High Table, only to be denied by both of them. She deconsecrates the Continental and sends Zero and his pupil to kill John, Winston, and any of their associates. Keeping John’s dog and Winston secure in the private vault, John and Charon laid waste to the High Table enforcers. Later, John engages Zero and his pupil in a vicious battle and emerges victorious.
The adjudicator returns and, in exchange for Winston’s show of fealty, agrees to reinstate him and the Continental to their prime positions. As a show of fealty, Winston strategically shoots a suit-armored John down from the roof, and John later gets taken to the still-alive Bowery King, who has nearly lost everything. After being unable to recover John’s body, the Adjudicator warns Winston of the dire consequences of assisting a fugitive, and Bowery King and John plan revenge against the High Table.