Episodes Watched: Whole Season
The John Wick franchise has been quite unlike any other as it often borders between being an extreme, over-the-top fight fest and a suspenseful, thrilling conspiracy drama. The series, which starred Keanu Reeves as the masterful “Baba Yaga” for close to a decade, is turning over a new leaf even with word of another sequel being spread around.
This has come in the form of a three-episode spin-off known as The Continental: From the World of John Wick, a world-builder that dives into the intricacies and history behind the infamous John Wick locale. The show follows a young Winston Scott (Colin Woodell), whose brother has mysteriously gone missing following his escape from the Continental, in a 1970s New York City.
Now having to face his terrible past, Winston must get help from whoever he can to save his brother and stop the Continental’s malicious leader, Cormac (Mel Gibson), or harrowingly die trying.
Perhaps the best part about The Continental has to be its many, many intense action sequences. Each episode contains these fast-paced, amazingly choreographed scenes with a great use of the environment to keep viewers on their feet. It certainly feels reminiscent of certain shots pulled from the John Wick sequels, particularly the more isolated, close-corner moments.
Right from the bat, the show will launch you straight into the action with a painstaking escapade following Winston’s brother, Frankie (Ben Robson) as he desperately tries to escape the Continental’s hordes of assassins. With quick slides and pans that manage to follow the flow of each hit and shot Frankie makes, the inspired slick cinematography manages to work for a long-form event like The Continental.
To create these awesome scenes, the show employs a handful of antagonists that pose a dangerous threat. Specifically, there are these odd Twins, Hansel (Mark Musashi) and Gretel (Marina Mazepa), who are completely silent for the entire show. Luckily, their vow of silence is compensated with their comically sinister expressions and impressive martial arts skills mixed with their agile flexibility.
In addition, the main cast is able to bounce off one another in a way that doesn’t feel stagnant in the flow of the overarching story while further developing their personalities and motives for helping Winston. This comes in the form of a brother-sister duo Lou (Jessica Allain) and Miles (Hubert Point-DuJour), whose relation to Winston may not be as clear at first.
However, by the middle of the show, Lou and Miles have such emotional moments that linger with some focused cinematography and a good amount of timing, lending themselves to prove why their own stories are important alongside Winston’s. These arcs are wonderfully supported by some great performances from the actors themselves as most of the main cast is able to be empathetic and engaging with their characters while being influenced by the noir-gangster city landscapes of New York.
There are also other characters, like the John Wick regular and aide to Cormac, Charon (Ayomide Adegun), whose personal stories coincide with Winston’s quest to take down Cormac in ways that don’t deter, but add to the ever-deepening groundwork of The Continental. The show’s pacing wonderfully utilizes these character-driven stories, though there are some ends that felt like they could’ve been explored just a bit more.
Luckily, Mel Gibson’s Cormac was surprisingly conniving and deviously threatening as the show’s main antagonist. Wherever his character is present, Cormac can go from being a bloodthirsty, angry tyrant to a reserved and calculating menace who believes in loyalty and retribution at all costs.
His interactions with the show’s range of characters often create different motives within him, which all tie back to his own mission of stopping Winston’s plans. The show makes great use of Cormac, though at some points he may feel over-exaggerated, particularly in the later moments of the series.
However, even when a brutal show like The Continental can make itself shine, there are some aspects that hold this show back. More precisely, some of the show’s villains don’t get their deserved payoff or are under-utilized and get lost in the overall plot.
For example, the show introduces what looks to be an overarching enemy in the Adjudicator (Katie McGrath), one of the High Table’s special agents. However, she has little bearing on the main story between Winston and Cormac save for a few moments within the first and final episodes.
In addition, as Winston is faced with the threat of the Cormac-run Continental, Lou and Miles have their own personal struggles with a Chinatown gang who have their own issues with the two. Some of these calmer scenes can feel a bit rushed as the episode wants to get back into the excitement of it all, which can take away some of the emotional resonance for these characters.
As a whole, The Continental: From the World of John Wick manages to adapt and transform the fired-up action and prowess of the John Wick franchise while creating an interesting, self-contained noir story even if it takes a few shots to finally hit.
With this intriguing show, the John Wick universe is beginning to feel like its own larger puzzle in the wake of John Wick’s actual death in the fourth chapter of the franchise. As this universe slowly moves on from following the path of its lead master hitman, hopefully, it can continue to expand in a meaningful way that can stay true to this franchise’s original intentions.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Continental: From the World of John Wick will stream on Peacock on September 22.
Check out our other review of The Continental by Kyle Sivits here.
This review was written during the 2023 WGA (now resolved) and SAG-AFTRA (ongoing) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series/movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.