This post includes spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4.
It feels almost silly to discuss the John Wick franchise in terms of its narrative arc. No one is watching these movies for the plot. But when we come to the end of Chapter 4, it couldn’t be more obvious that this film was designed with a sequel in mind, providing an oddly truncated finale for its title character.
John Wick’s gravestone seems like it was belatedly tacked onto a story that would conclude in Chapter 5—which makes sense, because the original plan was to film four and five back-to-back. Then director Chad Stahelski expressed concerns about his ability to generate enough good ideas for two movies at once, citing the complexity of Chapter 4‘s production process.
He and Keanu Reeves decided to retire the character, saying last month that they were “done for the moment.” Reeves noted that the chances of a sequel were partially dependent on Chapter 4‘s success—which is now very relevant because Chapter 4 is a massive hit and Lionsgate executives are already talking to the press about John Wick 5. (Meanwhile, the post-credits scene with Caine and Akira appears to tease yet another potential spinoff, along with the upcoming Ballerina starring Ana de Armas.)
It hasn’t escaped people’s notice that while Chapter 4 ends with two characters standing over John Wick’s grave, we don’t see him conclusively die onscreen. But beyond the wishful thinking of a John Wick fan wanting more John Wick, his arc still feels unfinished.
Echoing martial arts movies and combat-based games, each film is structured around an escalating series of boss battles. John Wick is positioned as a lone wolf battling powerful authorities: First the Russian mob, then the infrastructure of the Continental hotels, and an increasingly powerful series of criminal overlords working under the High Table. This sets the scene for a showdown with the High Table leadership in the final movie, because the main villain of Chapter 4 is basically a fixer hired to get rid of John Wick before he makes any more trouble
In that context, it’s odd to see John Wick claim victory in Chapter 4 by working within the system: A duel adjudicated by a High Table official, who rewards John’s ability to play by the rules.
Receiving a High Table pardon and then dying (or faking his own death) is John Wick’s only plausible chance of peace within the world these films have created… but it also feels like the story ended before its own finale. After all, the High Table is essentially John’s main antagonist. His entire role is based around sowing chaos and destruction among the authority figures who controlled his life for years.
We need to see John Wick face up against the leaders of the High Table itself, either defeating them or radically disrupting the system. The franchise has spent several movies establishing these unseen leaders as the Big Boss of John Wick’s quest for vengeance and/or freedom. So it’s just as well that Chapter 4 is raking in money at the box office, providing ample reason for Stahelski and Reeves to return.