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Breaking down the ending of 'John Wick: Chapter 4' & what it means for the franchise
Let's take a closer look at where the fourth installment in the series leaves things, and what might come next.
With a runtime stretching to almost three hours, John Wick: Chapter 4 is the biggest film in the Wick franchise so far, and it's not just because we spent more time with John and his friends this time around. With a story that takes the title character around the world and some of the biggest action sequences the series has ever devised, Chapter 4 never stops feeling like yet another level-up for one of the most popular action heroes of the 21st century.
It's an exceptionally ambitious movie, and that feeling continues right up until its ending.
So, now that Chapter 4 is in theaters, let's take a closer look at the concluding moments of this film, and ponder what they might mean for the future of the Wick films.
SPOILERS AHEAD for John Wick: Chapter 4
Well, there's no easy way to say this, so we'll just say it so we can talk about it: The Baba Yaga is (apparently) dead. Yes, in the wake of his duel with the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), largely conducted by the Marquis' chosen stand-in Caine (Donnie Yen), John collapsed on the steps of a Paris church, thought about his departed wife Helen, said her name, and moved on into the great beyond. It's a surprising closing moment for a franchise built so squarely on making Wick into an unstoppable force who by all rights should have been dead several times by now, but it feels pretty definitive in the context of the moment.
Why does it feel definitive? Well, for one thing, when Winston (Ian McShane) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) visit John's grave back in America -- having adorned it with his chosen epitaph of "Loving Husband" and placed his stone right next to Helen's -- they do seem to be genuinely mourning their friend. They even go so far as to theorize about whether or not John went to Heaven or Hell after his death, which doesn't seem like something you do if you're in on a fakeout. That, plus the genuinely moving way in which John went out with Helen on his mind, all suggests that he really did finally pass on in peace, having earned his freedom from the High Table the hard way.
But if the rule-laced world of assassins in John Wick has taught us anything, it's that rules are made to be broken, and precedents are made to be shattered, so let's at least consider the possibility that John managed to fake his death so he could have an extra layer of insulation from the world of killers in which he spent so much of his time. We don't actually see him die, after all. The film cuts away with a tasteful dissolve before that moment, implying John's final breaths without necessarily showing them to us, and we never see a proper funeral or any display of a body. That might just be because Chapter 4 is a really long movie and there simply wasn't time for too much ceremony, or it might just be because John wasn't really a ceremonial guy. Whatever the case, should Reeves wish to return to the role, there are certainly wrinkles within the narrative that would allow him to come back from the dead, so to speak.
For the moment, though, let's take the movie's ending in good faith and assume that John is dead. Does that mean his franchise dies with him? Of course not! There's already one spinoff movie -- Ballerina, which takes place between Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 -- on the way, along with a prequel streaming series set at The Continental, coming soon to Peacock. But even setting those spinoffs aside, John's shadow is long, and his final moments leave plenty of loose ends for future films to run with, should the franchise stewards see fit.
Take Winston, for example. He defied the High Table, backed John's play to take them on, and even personally proposed the duel with the Marquis to settle the matter, with the added angle that he be restored to the Continental should John win. At the end of the film, he gets to walk away with exactly what he wanted, taking back his hotel and all of its privileges, but that doesn't mean he's free and clear. The Marquis isn't the only member of the High Table, after all, and it's possible some other member is ready to set out and get revenge for what happened in Paris. And since John is dead, that leaves Winston holding the bag.
But even that's not the end of the interesting possibilities at work near the end of this film. There's the issue of Nobody (Shamier Anderson) and what he might do after bonding with John near the end. There's the ongoing feud between Caine and Akira (Rina Sawayama) over what went down at the Osaka Continental. There's the Bowery King's own quest for more power in defiance of the Table. There's Winston's Ruska Roma tattoo and what it could mean for his own relationships within both John's world and the overall underworld. And of course, there's the general uproar that comes from the world's most-feared assassin taking down not just multiple High Table players, but the Elder himself. What does that power vacuum look like, and who rises up to fill it?
We might never know the answer to that question, or to many other posed by Chapter 4's concluding minutes. We might not ever see another John Wick film, and Ballerina might be the last time Reeves puts on the suit as the character. For now, though, we can reflect on something that's been true of this franchise since it began nearly a decade ago: This world has always felt bigger and more layered than one man's story, and that means it'll live on in our heads no matter how many more movies we get.