The world of John Wick is a puzzle box. Each installment has revealed more about the assassin underworld, detailing the network of killers far beyond just New York City. And, weirdly, it’s plagued by the same kind of bureaucratic infighting you’d find in any office setting. The third installment is no exception, sending John (Keanu Reeves) across the globe and back again, encountering members of the larger assassin world along the way.
But after the events of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum have we seen the last of the Baba Yaga? And what does the future of the franchise have in store? Polygon spoke with the screenwriter to find out more.
[Ed. note: Major spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum follow.]
Rather than being the final piece of a John Wick trilogy, Parabellum ends on a cliffhanger, setting up the dominos for a major shake-up and continuation.
As the film ends, John has been betrayed by his longtime friend Winston (Ian McShane), who has chosen to sacrifice him to The High Table so as to keep control over New York branch of The Continental. The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who also nearly died at the hands of the Table, saves John’s life, transporting him to safety after his fall from the roof of the hotel. Neither have anything to lose, and both have been underestimated by those who would attempt to oust them. They haven’t just survived the ordeal; they’re now out for revenge.
“In the first couple of drafts, we did quote unquote end it,” explained Derek Kolstad, who created the series. “But even in that ending that we wrote, it still left it open to the world, but more along the lines of your gunslinger riding off into the sunset. But over time and over process, let’s be honest, Keanu loves this movie, loves this character. Chad loves this world. [...] There was a larger world to explore and they wanted to delve into it.”
Though it’s fairly clear what John Wick will get up to next (revenge!), there’s an entire world that’s left to dig into. Numerous characters who have been introduced in brief appearances in John’s story who could easily anchor their own spinoffs. Halle Berry’s Sofia, for instance, or The Tailor and The Sommelier from the second film could be expanded.
There’s also the idea that there might be an entity that even John Wick can’t handle. “In a world where everyone fears the Baba Yaga, fears John Wick, who does John fear?” wonders Kolstad. “Is there the Bogeyman of the Bogey man?”
The possibilities are endless given that the infrastructure holding the assassins together has, according to Kolstad, been in place for at least 2000 years. “I think as the franchise goes on that we’d become more international,” Kolstad said, noting that there are Continentals in every city and citing Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore as potential locations. However, “in many ways the heart and the soul of this movie, this franchise, these characters, will be New York.”
Still, there’ll be plenty of room for growth given that one of the planned Wickiverse continuations is a TV series tentatively titled The Continental. Though Kolstad is a non-writing executive producer on the show (whereas he wrote the scripts for the first two John Wick movies and co-wrote the script of the third), he dug into some of the possibilities. “Honestly, if it’s going back to a Continental TV show, I want to see what the kitchen looks like. I want to see who cleans the rooms. I want to see who’s the janitor.”
It’s an expansion of Wick lore that feels in line with the great franchise of our age: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The other Wick movie in development is called Ballerina, the title of which dovetails neatly with the discovery that John comes from similar origins as Black Window: A house that trains girls in ballet and boys in wrestling, turning them into pro assassins.
“It really is starting to feel like its own MCU,” Kolstad agreed. “I know that’s sort of ridiculous when you think about [the fact that] there’s just been three movies at this point, but there’s so much life in this universe right now, it makes perfect sense. I think a lot of that comes down to what the MCU has done so well. It never felt to me like at any point those movies were talking down to the audience just as in John Wick they’re not talking down to you. They’re expecting you to catch up and they’re unveiling a world to you that doesn’t have to describe itself to you. You’re strapping in for the ride and peeling back the layers of the onion.”
What makes the John Wick universe even more special, however, has everything to do with its star. As pointed out by Kolstad, Reeves has stated a dislike of sequels and franchises, so it’s a blessing and a surprise that he’s so married to John Wick. “He has made this character his own and he just wants to run with it for as long as he wants to run with it,” Kolstad said. As for where he’s running to, we’ll just have to wait to find out. “It’s like, well, where the fuck do we go now? The reality is we’re figuring it out.”