WARNING: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for John Wick: Chapter 2
In 2014, John Wick became a sleeper action hit, wowing moviegoers with its innovative gun-fu set pieces and intricate world-building. The underground assassin society begged to be explored further in followups, and John Wick: Chapter 2 delivered on the promise of its predecessor in highly entertaining ways (read our review). Not only was the action next-level, director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad expanded the franchise's mythology in ways that felt organic and natural, never forcing something for the sake of making a sequel. The critical (and, hopefully, commercial) success of Chapter 2 means that a third installment should be on its way soon - though the studio hasn't officially given it a green light.
The first John Wick was very much a self-contained story, showing the former hitman get revenge and avenge the murder of his beloved puppy. In contrast, Chapter 2 is a bit more open-ended, teasing fans with a tantalizing cliffhanger that presents a very uncertain future for John and his unnamed pit bull. Here's how John Wick 2 sets up Chapter 3.
John's motivations for returning to the fold in Chapter 2 are not as emotional and personal as they were in the first film, but they're nonetheless intriguing. Word of his comeback spread through the criminal network, and old acquaintance Santino D'Antonio comes to ask John to fulfill a blood oath they made many years ago. Santino helped John with his mythical "impossible task" (which allowed Wick to leave the assassin life), and now it's John's turn to aid Santino. John is tasked with murdering Santino's sister, Gianna, so Santino can have her seat at the High Table.
Of course, John is successful in his mission, but then the tables are turned. Instead of simply honoring the arrangement and letting John go in peace, Santino makes public his intention to extract vengeance for his sister's death and places an open $7 million contract on John. Wick is then forced to fight for his life against a sprawling lineup of hitmen, killing a plethora of people in a multitude of brutal ways. His blood-soaked quest leads him straight to Santino, who has taken refuge at the Continental Hotel, where conducting business is strictly forbidden. But at this point, John does not care about the rules and makes a truly shocking decision.
In the Continental lounge, after Santino taunts John by saying he can essentially stay at the Hotel indefinitely, John - right in front of Hotel manager Winston - pulls out a gun and shoots Santino in the head, explicitly violating one of the two basic laws of the assassin culture (the other being fulfilling blood oaths). It's a choice that has severe consequences for John, something he very well understood when he pulled the trigger. Those who saw what happened to Perkins in the first film know what's in store for Mr. Wick - it most likely involves a dinner reservation for one.
In Chapter 2's final scene, John is summoned by Winston, who reveals that the price on John's head is now doubled. Winston is taking the contract international, and has excommunicated John from all Continental locations and benefits. As a courtesy, he gives his old friend one hour to escape, but John is going to literally be fighting against the world on his own now. John warns Winston that no matter who comes for him, he will kill them all, and then runs to safety with his dog, paranoid that anyone watching him in New York could be an assassin plotting to collect the bounty. The man who wanted nothing more than to just get out and live in peace is now in deeper than he's ever been.
Where Can The Story Go?
Should John Wick: Chapter 3 come into fruition (and, there's nothing suggesting it won't), the obvious route for Stahelski and company to go is to pick up right where they left off, having the whole film be about John as a globally-wanted man with a death sentence and examining how he can correct the situation. This could make for a refreshing change-of-pace, as Wick will be trying to survive with extremely limited resources. In the first two installments, he had full access to all the perks that come with Continental membership, including a tactical tailor and his very own Q who sets him up with much-needed artillery. Now, however, if John shows his face at any of the Hotels, he's a dead man walking.
Even though John Wick is the most lethal hitman in history, he will still need some help if he is to ward off everyone who is coming after him. A possibility there could be the Bowery King, Laurence Fishburne's enigmatic character from Chapter 2. Stahelski is hopeful Fishburne would return in another film should the opportunity present itself, and the Bowery King is mysterious enough to warrant another appearance. In fact, the director claims to envision him as an "integral" part of his idea for a third movie, so it would be a shame if we never saw the crime lord again. Based on his interactions with John, it's clear the two have a tumultuous history, but they did join forces and could do so again depending on the situation. The Bowery King and his personal army were very much off the grid, and could give John asylum if he was in a giving mood. But since Wick has so little to offer in return (he's more desperate than he was in Chapter 2), would the Bowery King be so charitable?
If John is out of friends in the United States, he could look elsewhere for aid. Stahelski mentioned in an interview with us that the story could possible shift gears to the Middle East or Asia, two regions he is a fan of. There's still a lot about John's past audiences do not know, so it's plausible he has some contacts in foreign lands who can lend a helping hand. Setting the third installment in a different country, after Rome took center stage in Chapter 2, could be a wise creative choice and give the filmmakers more interesting locations to use for whatever set pieces they have in mind for the next outing. Given how heavily martial arts inspired the action of John Wick, this would also be a great way to pay homage to its influences and roots, opening the door for mind-blowing action.
Even if John is to find an ally or two, he faces a task even more impossible than the one he previously accomplished. If he's able to kill Winston, it doesn't necessarily mean the contract will be lifted. So unless Wick single-handedly mows through everybody in the assassin network (which would stretch the realm of believability), he's going to have to find some way to get the account canceled before someone gets the better of him. That has a lot of potential to be a compelling narrative, placing the protagonist in a perilous situation that's without precedent. As long as the dog is safe and secure, fans would happily be on board for that.
"John Wick vs. The World" looks to be the main pitch for John Wick: Chapter 3, and if the results are anything like the first two entries, viewers will be in for a treat. They've set themselves up nicely for a film that can further escalate the stakes while at the same time revealing more about the larger universe. Granted, it'd be hard to see how this potential plot could be topped in a fourth entry, so perhaps now is the time for Stahelski to go for broke and cap off a thrilling action trilogy unlike anything we've seen - with John ideally finally getting to live a tranquil existence with no worries about who may come to visit. Time will tell, but there are a number of possibilities for the filmmakers to go, and audiences can't wait to see what they have in store.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) release date: Feb 10, 2017