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SYFY WIRE The Continental

What We Learned About The Continental from Peacock's New John Wick Spinoff Series

How Peacock's The Continental nails that funky 1970s vibe to bring the John Wick landmark to life.

By Benjamin Bullard

SPOILER WARNING! Story spoilers lie ahead for Episode 1 of The Continental: From the World of John Wick.

Ah, it feels good to be back in the familiar hotel haunts of the John Wick franchise, even if we’ve booked an assassin’s check-in time that’s 40 years early... at least by Keanu Reeves’ standards. The mean streets of 1970s New York serve up a different kind of backdrop for The Continental: From the World of John Wick (stream it here on Peacock!) but at least once you’re inside, it’s a super-secret spot that’s every bit as opulent as fans of the epic present-day action movies, by now, have come to expect.

Sure, a young, up-and-coming Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) might own The Continental’s leading human role. But the iconic hotel itself — a safe zone where the High Table’s network of contract killers can momentarily leave their bloody business at the door — shares almost-equal billing as one of the Peacock prequel series’ biggest stars.

RELATED: Where Does The Continental Prequel Series Fit Into The John Wick Timeline?

Now that the first movie-length installment in The Continental’s three-part tale has finally landed, John Wick fans are getting a fresh glimpse at how the ultra-exclusive hotel operated back before Winston (played by Ian McShane in the movies) managed to wrestle away the proprietor’s key. And if all those sweeping outside shots of the place look just a little bit different from The Continental’s present-day movie façade, it’s no accident. In fact, the show’s creators had to get, well, a little creative to give the hotel just the right mix of lore-appropriate familiarity and 1970s grit.

What The Continental reveals about John Wick hotel

Even as the outside streets swirl with dingy newspapers, rats, and more turbulent flotsam indicative of its throwback surroundings, The Continental's insides look as lavish and stately as ever. Granted, it’s a little rougher, in places, around its 1970s edges.

Sure, the chandeliers still glisten, the brass still shines, and the bespoke paneled interiors can’t possibly look more burnished. But a big part of any hotel’s character comes directly from the personality of its caretaker, and in the hands of unhinged proprietor Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson), there’s a decidedly more gonzo vibe to what goes on inside The Continental’s hallowed halls.

Nothing drives home that idea like Cormac’s early-episode dance around one of the High Table’s most iron-clad rules. In a move that Winston’s older self would no doubt find unthinkable, Cormac all but snubs the hotel’s no-bloodshed-on-the-premises policy, goading an especially ineffective gangster to voluntarily yeet himself out a window by handing the poor fellow a virtual excommunicado death sentence.

That’s only the first of many crazy Cormac moments during which longtime concierge Charon (the late, great Lance Reddick in the John Wick films, played here in his younger incarnation by Ayomide Adegun) shows the self-control that made his character famous. Obviously bothered by his boss’ me-first disregard for decorum, Charon’s eyes slightly widen in reluctant disbelief with every one of Cormac’s questionable decrees — even as he stoically carries out his sidekick duties like the faithful attendant he is.

RELATED: Why They Literally Built a ‘New’ Continental Hotel Separate From John Wick Films For Peacock Series

How The 1970's Continental is Different From 2000s Version

Look a little deeper past The Continental’s surface sheen, and some pretty cool nods to the show’s period settings really start to emerge. In a breezy era when just about everybody reached for a ciggy treat, the presence of a cigarette vending machine inside the hotel lobby amounts to an all-but-necessary upscale amenity. And in little ways throughout the show, that kind of callback beckons seemingly at every turn, whether it’s spying a bank of good old-fashioned pay phones or riding alongside a killer soundtrack that buoys pivotal moments with added aural spice from James Brown, ZZ Top, Donna Summer, Yes, The Stooges, and more.

Thanks, in part, to intrepid police detective KD (Mishel Prada) and her ill-advised snooping, The Continental’s first installment serves up tons of especially fresh looks at the iconic building’s angular exterior. As it turns out, making the hotel appear recognizable to John Wick fans while splashing it with a dash of 1970s street-level spice wasn’t nearly so simple as rolling up to the Cocoa Exchange building at 1 Wall Street in Manhattan (the real-life landmark used in the movies) and grabbing a few new camera pans.

“That was the only thing that happened in my sandbox that was a huge problem, but I said, let’s do this,” production designer Drew Boughton recently confessed to NBC Insider, explaining that legal requirements meant erecting a giant 40-foot-tall set that had to recreate the structure’s outside features. “There were set extensions, but a lot was physically built and constructed, so you’re looking at a real set behind the performers,” Boughton explained.

“The Wick films are so sophisticated, visually slick with beautiful contemporary aspects,” he added. “Our opportunity was to literally move all of that and do this in the '70s in that beautiful genre of those times… A common misconception is that this is all being done by AI robot computers, but the truth is that’s not how it really is. There are a lot of real artists, painters, sculptors… sometimes people assume everything is digital except for the actors.”

How & when to watch The Continental on Peacock

As the series’ explosive first episode shows, The Continental oozes hyper-realism, boasting details that evoke the legit look and feel of a distinctively gritty time — and an even more distinctive place.

Catch Episode 1 of The Continental: From the World of John Wick on Peacock here, while we await the arrival of the series’ second and third installments — set to debut on September 29 and October 6, respectively.

Need even more High Table action? Keanu Reeves has you covered on Peacock, where both the original John Wick and John Wick 2 are streaming now!