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Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are the true heroes of the 'John Wick' movies

They live by a code. 

By Brian Silliman
Ian McShane in John Wick: Chapter 3 (2019)

Even a one-man killing machine needs assistance. Keanu Reeves shoots, hits, punches, and obliterates his way through all three John Wick movies. He can’t always do it alone, though. He has help, and that help often comes in the form of two pivotal characters.

John Wick, John Wick 2, and John Wick 3: Parabellum are all currently streaming on Peacock. Each movie features the brilliance of Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Lance Reddick (The Wire) as Winston and Charon, respectively. They run the Continental (soon to be the namesake of an upcoming Peacock series), a fascinating location that provides Wick with a safe haven from time to time. Both Winston and Charon manage to help John even when the Continental can’t.

Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam. John Wick wouldn’t have gotten far without Winston and Charon. He may have gotten through the first movie, but the second? It’s doubtful. Winston and Charon, in many ways, are the true heroes of the John Wick movies.

RELATED: 'The Continental': Peacock nabs 'John Wick' prequel series about a young Winston

Winston provides necessary wisdom for John; John trusts him, and that trust is not misplaced. There is a benevolence in what Winston does that puts John at ease, giving him momentary bouts of respite from the ongoing sprees of violence. These moments allow all of us watching to catch our breath at the same time. Winston has a code, and he runs the Continental accordingly. He doesn’t tolerate any breaking of the rules… but he finds a way to bend them when it comes to John. He obviously likes and respects Mr. Wick, so he adapts his code when he wants to.

The most pivotal example of this comes at the end of the second movie, when John has openly broken the rules of the Continental. Winston has to call for John to be made “excommunicado," but also affords John a luxury that we doubt he’d give anyone else: He gives him an hour head start. He lets John start running, and that makes all the difference.

Winston doesn’t have to do this. It’s bad for him personally that he does this, really, because consequences come calling in the third movie. Even so, we never get the feeling that Winston regrets his actions. He may serve a company (the High Table), but he’s not a company man. When the company isn’t worth serving (or is openly abusing power), he stays true to himself. He is a good man in a world of liars and killers.

The same can be said of Charon, the enigmatic concierge of the Continental. He's Winston’s #1 lieutenant, and is also the coolest character in the franchise. Lance Reddick gives what seems like an effortless air of mysterious gentleman magic to Charon. He’s a puzzle without edges, but we trust him. John trusts him too.

Not only does John trust him, John trusts him with his dog. That is no small thing. To ensure his pet’s safety, John leaves his dog with Charon on more than one occasion. That is so much bigger than trusting him with his own life, because as we know, John doesn’t f**k around when it comes to dogs. 

RELATED: 'John Wick' almost ended the entire franchise on a cliffhanger - stream the trilogy on Peacock

Charon is much more strict than Winston is when it comes to the rules of the Continental, but he still uses this adherence to the rules to benefit John Wick. The services of the establishment are lost to John in the third movie, but the rules still apply to everyone else. You can’t kill the ex-communicated Wick on consecrated ground without becoming ex-communicated yourself. Charon has to remind someone of this. Take that, Zero!

When the High Table attacks the Continental, Charon and Winston show that they aren’t all about wisdom and rules. They break out the guns, bust open the books, and lay out everyone sent in by the awful Adjudicator. They both have game, and they come out on top in the end. Our hearts break when we think that they’ve betrayed John, but it’s only a well-played ruse. To see these two turn against John would be a serious punch to the gut. To see either of them be killed would have an even worse effect.

The real reason that we love the both of them so much is relatively simple: McShane and Reddick give fantastic performances. Keanu Reeves is the beautiful face of the franchise and it wouldn’t work without him. That said, Wick’s world always feels joyously alive, with secrets lying around every corner. The work of McShane and Reddick fills that particular cup. The two veteran actors eat up the screen every second they get. They don’t wink. They look like they are having as much fun as we are.

They are so ingrained in the world of John Wick that they’ll both return in the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4. They’re also slated to appear in the spin-off project, Ballerina. They are pivotal to the world of these stories, and thankfully we’re not the only ones who think so.

Without Winston and Charon, these movies wouldn’t be as much fun as they are. As for John Wick himself? We’re not going to say that he’d be dead without them, because he’s John Wick. We watched him kill a guy with a hardcover book. It is John Wick’s soul that remains intact thanks to the actions of these two, however. Thanks to them, John Wick is never truly alone.

The next Continental adjacent action spectacle, John Wick: Chapter 4, arrives in theaters on March 24. Ballerina will hopefully have a release date soon. Peacock's The Continental -- a prequel series which takes place in 1975 and centers around young hotel manager, Winston Scott (Colin Woodell playing the character made famous on the big screen by McShane) -- debuts later this year.

In the meantime, head over to Peacock for John Wick, John Wick Chapter 2, and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum to get refreshed on all the puppy snuggles and gunplay.