The pilot episode of Peacock’s The Continental, titled ‘Brothers in Arms,’ has premiered with all its brutal, colorful, and mysterious flair, taking viewers through the hellish landscape of New York’s underworld during the ’70s. Taking a look back at the past life of the ever-dependable manager of Continental, Winston Scott, some secrets regarding the titular institution get revealed as the then-socio-political situation and economic turbulence keep shaping up the central narrative. In its very first feature-length episode, The Continental puts forth a gritty period piece and builds on the intrigue by maintaining the characteristics and traits of the John Wick universe by assembling the expanded mythology, Gunfu, and emotional complexities together in a pretty solid manner.
The major highlight of the first episode is definitely the adept use of the 70s setting in exploring the world of John Wick, proper characterization that keeps viewers hooked into the narrative flow, and gorgeous visuals that almost impart a movie-like quality to it. A daring conspiracy puts the worst dregs of the underworld on Winston and his brother Francis’ trail, with escape being a seemingly impossible option. The Scott brothers decide to take the threats head-on, which might turn out to be an unwise judgment in the long run.
A New Era: What Did Frankie Steal From Cormac?
At the beginning of the episode, viewers are taken to New York during the mid-fifties, as we see a couple of orphaned adolescent kids—Winston Scott and his elder brother Francis Scott—held in a questioning room and being observed by the authorities from outside. The younger Winston, who seems to be the unwitting orchestrator of the situation that landed them in custody, nervously fumbles while Francis tries to comfort him. At the end, Francis takes the blame for the crime he did not commit and goes to prison. From that point on, Frankie distanced himself from his brother to allow him a chance to secure a good future, something he himself was bereft of.
Years later, viewers are introduced to 1970s New York, and Frankie is working as one of the chief operatives under Cormac O’Connor, a mob boss and loan shark who was responsible for the loss of his family home and the eventual death of his parents a decade ago. Through the years, Cormac has strengthened his rank and climbed up the proverbial ladder of the underworld to become associated with the mysterious, all-powerful controller of the world of organized crime—the High Table—and, by their grace, has become the current manager of New York’s branch of the Continental. Using the merriments of New Year’s Eve as distraction, Frankie steals a coin press from the fortified vault of the Continental, engages in a brutal fight with Cormac’s henchmen (that will at once remind viewers of the John Wick brawls thanks to the identical stature of Frankie), and somehow manages to escape.
Stealing from the lion’s den is no mean feat, and the series quickly establishes Frankie as a formidable player through a prolonged action sequence. It turns out that after fighting in the Vietnam War, Frankie fell in love with a Vietnamese girl named Yen, had a change of heart, and wanted to have a family by leaving his murky, violent past behind. In order to do that, Frankie undertook this act of stealing the coin press on behalf of a group called the Nile, which promised him enough of a fortune in return that it would allow him and Yen to disappear forever. But time and again, the reminder pops up that a normal life and easy escape are out of the question when entangled in the world of crime—something that Frankie and others will soon realize.
Did Winston find the location of his brother?
On the other side of the world, in London, Winston is doing pretty well as a charming smooth talker, conning rich investors, having trysts with their lonely wives, and having amassed enough of a fortune to mingle with the snobby aristocrats. Unable to find Frankie, Cormac abducts Winston and brings him to the Continental, demanding to learn about Frankie’s whereabouts and get back the coin press that was stolen.
Now, viewers who are familiar with the John Wick Lore will realize that the coin press is no ordinary one; it exclusively mints gold coins, which are exchanged to avail service under the High Table; in short, it is what keeps the underworld functional across the globe. As Cormac questions Winston, we also meet a younger version of Charon, who is already working as Cormac’s assistant, and viewers are already anticipating his eventual partnership with Winston. However, as Winston denies knowing anything about Frankie, Cormac allows him to leave but puts his henchmen on his trail.
Winston meets Charlie, whom we had also met in the John Wick movies operating as the High Tables’ ‘Cleaners’. However, in this era, he is yet to be associated with the High Table and works with a small crew. The Scott brothers know him as he was supposed to be their guardian after the demise of their parents. Anyway, Winston learns about Frankie previously being associated with a dojo in Chinatown and decides to visit the area. Charlie also hands over Winston his car, a beautiful muscle number, to aid in his mission of searching for his brother.
Who are the new players?
Viewers are introduced to a female detective, known simply as KD, and his lover and senior officer, Mayhew, who are investigating Frankie’s involvement in a case. As KD tracks down the Continental to be a place of interest in her search, Mayhew at once shuts her down and implores her not to go to the institution, despite what her research or intuition tells her. KD is surprised, but later decides to venture inside the establishment anyway and gets detected by the Continental operatives as an outsider when she tries to pay for her drink in cash. Later, Mayhew sends her classified files on Frankie’s past, right from his childhood to the Vietnam War to his career as a mob operative, possibly to stop KD from popping up on the radar of the High Table, which he supposedly knows can be extremely dangerous. For the first time in John Wick lore, we are seeing authorities being present as an active force in a world that is governed by a high-end crime empire, and it’s kind of refreshing that a new outsider angle is taking us through the intricacies of the High Table.
Speaking of the High Table, we are also introduced to one of the powerful, ruthless operatives of the High Table known as the adjudicators, as the news of the coin press’ theft has reached the upper echelons as well. Nabbing one of Frankie’s associates (who decided to betray him at the last moment but got caught), the adjudicator brutalizes him using one of her hulking brutes as an enforcer—to force him to spill the location of Frankie and the coin press. It is through her that we learn about the High Table, which has existed longer than the Roman Empire itself, establishing its legacy as one of the world’s oldest global organizations. She also considers Cormac’s days as manager of the Continental numbered, which explains how desperate he has become to assuage the ire of the High Table.
Winston goes to the aforementioned dojo and meets Frankie’s war buddy Miles and his crew, consisting of his sister Lou and friend Lemmy. To keep their father’s dojo operational, Miles runs his crew in relatively small-scale criminal activities and, inevitably, ends up in the crosshairs of other gangs. Even though they somehow manage to live another day by fending off other aggressors, Lou is disgruntled about all the killing involved and considers her brother to be addicted to the ‘rush’ that he couldn’t move on from since his war days. Miles states that he shared a strong bond with Frankie, praises his resourcefulness and skills, and provides Winston with a possible location in Alphabet City.
Did Frankie Survive in the End?
Arriving at an abandoned theater in Alphabet City, a place where young Scott’s brother used to hang out, Winston meets Frankie and Yen, initially in rather heated circumstances as Yen tries to hang Frankie to death on suspicion of being an outsider or Cormac’s operative. However, Frankie controls the situation by revealing his identity, revealing what has transpired for so long, and knowing that Winston might have been tailed, stating that coming directly to him was a foolish move on Winston’s part. This proves to be true as soon as Cormac’s operatives start attacking the theater, and somehow Yen, Frankie, and Winston manage to escape in Charlie’s car. The news of their escape reaches Cormac, who employs one of the notorious assassin teams boarding at the Continental, Hansel and Gretel, to kill Frankie and retrieve the coin press.
As the trio reach Charlie’s and take cover, the emotional estrangement between the brothers inevitably surfaces, and Winston berates Frankie for pushing him away since a young age while being involved with Cormac’s operations himself. Frankie states he had to choose some undesirable options to protect Winston from a vicious life such as this, like he did all those years ago and has been doing ever since. His decision to do so eventually paid off, as Winston had established himself as a successful person until he dragged himself back into this mess. Frankie comforts his brother, as he is willing to protect him no matter the stakes.
One of Charlie’s associates informs Cormac about Frankie and Winston’s whereabouts, and he sends his forces to retrieve the invaluable item for the High Table. Cormac, Frankie, and Yen flee from the scene and get involved in a prolonged chase. Eventually, the henchmen catch up to them, and they engage in a fight in one of the rundown apartments, where Frankie has stationed a getaway chopper. Yen proves herself to be an extremely skilled fighter as she dispatches one of the henchmen, while Frankie and Winston take care of the rest of them. But as the trio arrives at the rooftop to board the helicopter, the assassin duo Hansel and Gretel launch an assault using a sniper rifle,making their escape nearly impossible by injuring Yen and the pilot. In order to shake off the tail, Frankie decides to stay back and sacrifice himself and bids farewell to his Winston and Yen, not before reminding his family to look after each other. Frankie jumps off with the box containing the coin press and gets shot dead by Gretel. The backdrop of a red cross lit over a chapel seems almost symbolic, as if a life spent in exacting violence was redeemed with the last act of sacrifice.
The box is taken back to Cormac, and it is revealed that the coin press is obviously not there; Frankie kept it with Yen as it is the only leverage they have against Cormac. Winston takes Yen to Miles’ dojo as he looks forward to exacting revenge on Cormac for his brother’s death—his lines as he demands more guns mimica John Wick’s iconic dialogue. The rest of the two episodes will highlight how costly this decision of Winston proves to be, more of the evil shenanigans of the High Table, and hopefully a connection with the established John Wick universe, as we are already getting a hunch that the Baba Yaga might be related to Yen and the Scott brothers on a personal level.