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The Entire Taken Timeline Explained

Released in 2008, "Taken" is the little action film that could. Produced on a modest budget of just $25 million, the film features a straightforward premise: Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent. When his daughter, Kim, played by Maggie Grace, is kidnapped by Albanian traffickers while on vacation in Paris, Bryan goes on a rampage across Paris, utilizing his particular set of skills to get her back and kill anyone who gets in his way.

The film was a surprise hit, grossing nearly $227 million worldwide and turning Liam Neeson into an action star. "Taken" spawned two sequels and a television adaptation. All three films are written by the duo of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. The original is directed by Pierre Morel, while the two sequels saw Olivier Megaton take the helm. While opinions on the sequels and television series are mixed in comparison to the original, there's no denying Liam Neeson's charisma as an action star.

"Taken" encompasses three movies and a TV series. With that in mind, does the timeline add up? Is the TV show canon to the movies? Does the continuity hold up between all three movies? Is the story of Bryan Mills and his frequently kidnapped family members truly over? For the answer to all these questions and more, read on as we explain the entire timeline of the "Taken" franchise.

Before the movies

The most iconic moment in the entire "Taken" franchise isn't a brutal hand-to-hand fight or an intense gun battle. No, the franchise's most memorable moment arguably comes when Bryan Mills speaks to his daughter's kidnapper on the telephone. He explains to the kidnapper that he doesn't have money to pay ransom, but he does have "a very particular set of skills," learned over a long career, that he will use to rescue his daughter.

The films never fully explain Bryan's history, but mention is made of "Langley," as in Langley, Virginia, headquarters of the CIA. In the first movie, Bryan describes his former career as a preventer, someone who stopped bad things from happening, but he doesn't elaborate beyond that. In "Taken 3," Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) does a background check on Mills and his friends, Sam, Mark, and Bernie, who are all close friends in the present day and worked together in the past. Dotzler says of Bryan, "At 21, he's in the army. At 23, he joins the special forces," at which point his record abruptly ends, meaning that's when he was picked up by the CIA. At some point, he marries Lenore (Famke Janssen) and they have Kim, but his dedication to his work means he's a neglectful patriarch and he ends up divorced. Sometime after retiring from the CIA, Bryan moves to Los Angeles to be closer to his estranged daughter, leading to the events of "Taken."

Kim gets taken

The franchise starts with 2009's "Taken," which begins with Bryan trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim. He fears he may have lost her to her new stepdad, Stuart St. John, played by Xander Berkeley. However, when she wants to go to Paris with her friend Amanda ("Arrow's" Katie Cassidy), she needs her father's permission since she's only 17 years old. Though he initially resists, his daughter and ex-wife are eventually able to convince him to sign the paper.

When Bryan drives Kim to the airport, he discovers that she's not just going to be looking at museums, but following U2 on a tour across Europe. This enrages him, but he also realizes that his ex and daughter conspired against him because he overreacts and is protective to the point of being overbearing. Well, in this case, his negative traits turn out to be a blessing.

Kim and Amanda are immediately singled out by a spotter for an Albanian human trafficking ring. He shares a cab with them to their apartment and then sends gangsters to kidnap the helpless duo. Kim is on the phone with her father when the attack occurs, which leads to the infamous conversation regarding Bryan's "particular set of skills." When Bryan threatens to find and kill the kidnapper, the criminal coldly responds, "Good luck."

Bryan goes on a rampage across Paris

As any father would, Bryan does whatever he can to get his daughter back. Unlike most middle-aged men, Bryan is proficient with all manners of close quarters hand-to-hand combat, firearms, tracking, and he has access to world-class intelligence services thanks to the expertise of his friend Sam (Leland Orser), who runs a high-end private security company. Thanks to the description Kim gave as she was being kidnapped and a voice analysis, Sam is able to identify the kidnapper as Marko Hoxha, an Albanian gangster from the town of Tropojë. Bryan finds Marko's safe house full of goons and he mercilessly kills them all. Along the way, Bryan finds Amanda, dead from a heroin overdose. Bryan quietly mourns the unfortunate girl, but the movie doesn't have time to dwell on her tragic death; there's more human trafficking scum to kill.

For Marko himself, his death varies depending on whether one watches the PG-13 theatrical cut or the unrated version of "Taken." In both versions, Bryan tortures Marko with electricity as the gangster is tied to a metal chair. In the theatrical cut, Bryan attaches jumper cables to the Marko's chair. In the Unrated version, Bryan plunges two sharp metal rods into Marko's thighs, adding some extra pizazz to the electrifying enhanced interrogation. Either way, both versions end with Bryan learning a name, "Patrice Saint-Clair." Bryan then flips the electricity on, leaving Marko to die a violent — and presumably crispy — death.

Bryan saves his daughter

During his rescue mission, Bryan gets a little help from Jean-Claude Pitrel, a Parisian contact from his time in the CIA. These days, Pitrel is dirty, paid by the Albanians to turn a blind eye to their sex trafficking operation. Bryan threatens Pitrel into giving up Saint-Clair's location (even shooting his wife non-fatally to prove he's not messing around). Bryan infiltrates a slave trading auction run by Saint-Clair, though he's captured before he can rescue Kim. Nevertheless, he escapes his captors and chases Kim's "owners" onto a luxury boat owned by a wealthy Sheikh named Raman.

In a thrilling action sequence, Bryan kills just about everybody on the boat in spectacular fashion, from brutal melee takedowns to heated exchanges of gunfire. Finally, it's down to Bryan and Raman, who's holding Kim as a hostage. He begins to utter the phrase, "We can negotiate," but before he can finish, Bryan puts a bullet right between his eyes, ending the threat and saving his daughter. Kim is in disbelief that her father actually came for her, but is nonetheless grateful for the rescue. 

Singing lessons

"Taken" concludes with Bryan reuniting his daughter with her mother and stepfather, but there's one last scene before the movie ends. Early on in the film, Bryan's tough guy credentials are established when he disarms and incapacitates a knife-wielding assailant while working security for a pop star, Sheerah, played by Holly Valance. To express her gratitude, Sheerah offers to introduce Kim to her vocal teacher and see if she has what it takes to become a pop star. The final scene of the film has Bryan and Kim meet Sheerah for a music lesson. The door closes behind them as they all move forward with their lives, ending the movie on a low-key note about moving on from trauma.

Sheerah claims that if her vocal coach says Kim can sing, then she can sing. While the results of the vocal lesson are never disclosed to the viewer, it's likely Kim didn't have the natural chops to become a pop star. "Taken 2" makes fleeting mention of Kim's ongoing music lessons, but "Taken 3" quietly drops this storyline entirely. Maybe Kim can carry a tune, but can she rock an entire stadium full of screaming fans? We'll never know. 

Taken 2 and the cycle of revenge

"Taken 2" opens with a scene set in Tropojë, Albania. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the hometown of Marko, the leader of the gang who kidnapped Kim and Amanda. The local townspeople are mourning the loss of their friends via a mass funeral for all of the Tropojë natives that Bryan killed during the events of the first movie. Marko's father, Murad (Rade Šerbedžija) swears revenge.

To achieve this goal, Murad and his men attack the home of Jean-Claude Pitrel, whose business card was found at the house where Bryan killed all the Albanian gangsters. Bryan had used it to disguise himself as Pitrel and it must have been left at the scene by accident, perhaps knocked out of his pocket during a scuffle. Bryan's mistake proves tragic for Pitrel; it's strongly implied that he, his wife, and their children are all tortured and murdered by Murad's men after he gives up Bryan's identity.

One of Murad's men, the brother of one of Bryan's victims (it's unclear if he's supposed to be Marko's brother, he just says that Bryan killed his brother) learns that Bryan will be going to Istanbul. The plan is to intercept him there and exact their revenge for their fallen comrades.

Lenore and Bryan get taken

In the years between "Taken" and its sequel, the marriage between Lenore and Stuart St. John has fallen onto hard times. They're all but separated, and early in "Taken 2" Stuart spitefully cancels a vacation they had previously planned. Bryan invites his ex-wife and daughter to accompany him to Istanbul. He has a security job to do, but when it's done he'll have a few days for a genuine vacation. Little does he know, he's just placed a target on their backs, as well as his own.

Kim stays at the hotel while Lenore and Bryan go on something of a friendly date. But before anything romantic can happen, Bryan notices that they're being followed. Despite his best efforts, he and Lenore get taken (that's the name of the movie, after all), though he's able to warn Kim. Thanks to her father's phone call, Kim manages to escape from armed gunmen who murder multiple innocent people in their pursuit of the young woman.

Following her father's orders, Kim grabs a gun and several grenades from Bryan's secure briefcase. While on the phone, she detonates one of the grenades, the sound of which her father is able to use to discern his position relative to Kim. It's a bit complicated and stretches believability, but the scene ends with Kim throwing the gun down a rooftop chimney, which Bryan is able to use to kill his captors and escape.

Bryan goes on a rampage across Istanbul

From here on out, it's business as usual for a "Taken" movie, with Bryan killing all the bad guys and saving his family. The action isn't as graceful as the original, relying more on quick cuts and rapid camera movement instead of exciting fight choreography, but it gets the job done. In the end, Bryan confronts Murad in a Turkish bathhouse and offers to let him live in exchange for peace. Bryan puts his gun down and walks away. However, Murad picks it up, aims at Bryan's back, and pulls the trigger. It was a test: the gun is empty, and now Bryan knows that Murad will never stop. Bryan grabs the old gangster patriarch and slams him into a towel hook, impaling his head and killing him instantly. This kill could be an homage to "Midnight Express," another Turkey-set film in which a villain is killed off in an identical (but more R-rated) manner.

Murad mentions that he has two more sons, but they never appear in "Taken 3," so they must have learned from their father's mistake; anyone who goes up against Bryan Mills is doomed to die a brutal death. That doesn't bode well for the villains in "Taken 3."

Kim passes her driver's test

Calling back to the film's first act, which ended with Kim taking a singing lesson, "Taken 2" ends with Kim finally passing her driver's test. It was mentioned she had failed, more than once, earlier in the movie. To celebrate, Kim and her parents (sans Stuart!) get milkshakes at a little shop on the pier. Kim invites a special guest: her boyfriend, Jamie, played by Luke Grimes. Earlier in the film, Kim had kept her boyfriend a secret from her father, worrying that he might overreact. Her formally introducing them shows that Kim and her father have developed a greater level of trust in one another.

To be honest, it's a pretty trite ending compared to the first "Taken." Whereas that film ended with a subtle thematic overtone involving moving on from traumatic events, the ending of "Taken 2" feels almost like the final tag at the end of a domestic sitcom, where everybody has one last laugh before the credits roll. At least "Taken 2" doesn't end with a corny freeze frame, for what that's worth.

Taken 3 and losing Lenore

Released in 2014, "Taken 3" is the grand finale of the "Taken" trilogy. Granted, it's not particularly grand and it doesn't feel like a finale, but it is the last installment, which makes it the finale by default. Unlike the previous films, which saw the action go down in exotic locales like Paris and Istanbul, "Taken 3" is set entirely in the greater Los Angeles area.

From the outset, Bryan is on much better terms with his ex-wife and daughter. Surprisingly, Lenore is still married to Stuart, but their marriage is on the rocks. Lenore even kisses her ex-husband in a moment of weakness, which Bryan clearly enjoys, but ultimately refutes. A man of honor, he insists that Lenore resolve her marital issues with Stuart before moving on. Stuart accuses Bryan of having some kind of affair his wife, and demands that the ex-husband stay away from Lenore. This time around, Stuart is played by Dougray Scott, not Xander Berkeley.

Just when the viewer might think "Taken 3" is a domestic drama and not an action movie, Bryan finds Lenore's dead body at his apartment. Before he can mourn his dead love or even properly process what happened, he's accosted by a pair of cops. Rather than allow himself to be arrested and framed for her murder, he knocks out the cops and goes on the run. 

The Russians did it

While unraveling the conspiracy against him, Bryan must evade Forest Whitaker, his police pursuer. You could argue that Whitaker's character, Inspector Franck Dotzler, is basically a less charismatic rip-off of Tommy Lee Jones from "The Fugitive." The time dedicated to this new character is a large part of why, at nearly two hours in length, "Taken 3" is the longest entry in the trilogy by a wide margin.

After waterboarding Stuart, accusing him of murdering his own wife, Bryan gets Lenore's second husband to admit to shady dealings with a Russian gangster. Stuart says their business dealings went sideways and Oleg Malankov killed Lenore to incentivize Stuart to pay him back. With tech support from his trusty pal, Sam, Bryan attacks Malankov's penthouse apartment, killing the gangster and all of his bodyguards. The battle is much gorier in the unrated version, with bloody gunshot wounds aplenty; the PG-13 theatrical cut is tame in comparison, even using CGI to remove blood from Bryan and Malankov's faces during their fatal encounter.

Actually, Stuart did it, and he's taken Kim!

Before dying, Malankov reveals the truth: Stuart is responsible for Lenore's death. He had her killed in order to collect a life insurance policy to pay off Malankov. Then he decided to pit Bryan and Malankov against each other; if Bryan killed Malankov, Stuart would be able to keep the millions of dollars in life insurance payouts. Once his plan is revealed, Stuart kidnaps Kim, shoots Sam (don't worry, he survives), and flees to his private jet.

Bryan catches up to the jet just in time, and smashes its front landing gear with Malankov's fancy sports car, preventing the villain from fleeing into the sunset. The final showdown sees Stuart holding Kim at gunpoint, echoing her predicament at the end of the first "Taken" film. This time, Kim doesn't wait for her father to rescue her; she breaks free from Stuart's grasp, giving her father a clean shot. Bryan shoots Stuart, but refrains from finishing him off at his daughter's insistence. However, he knows that Stuart will use his money and connections to get a minimal prison sentence, so Bryan threatens him; Bryan promises, when Stuart goes free, that he will be waiting, and he'll mete out some real justice when that time comes.

Kim is pregnant

"Taken 3" ends with Kim revealing to her father that she's pregnant. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, played by Jonny Weston, is the father. It's not entirely clear if Jimmy is the same character as Jamie from "Taken 2," but their names are eerily similar, so it's possible they were supposed to be the same character until Luke Grimes declined to sign on for "Taken 3." Kim actually found out she was pregnant in the film's first act, but couldn't bring herself to tell her dad right away.

The film's final lines pay tribute to Kim's late mother, with Kim and Jimmy promising to name their baby after Lenore if it's a girl. Hopefully, that means they'll call it "Lenny" if it's a boy, since that was Bryan's affectionate nickname for his ex-wife. As an ending, it feels more appropriate than the milkshakes scene in "Taken 2," but it still lacks the impact one would expect from the end of a trilogy. Overall, "Taken 3" doesn't feel like the end of the "Taken" saga, but just another entry in an increasingly generic action franchise. The recasting of Stuart makes his betrayal less compelling, and the tacked on presence of Forest Whitaker feels like a superfluous waste of one of cinema's most beloved actors. It's not the worst movie in the world, but there's nothing in "Taken 3" that isn't done better in at least half a dozen other Liam Neeson movies.

Taken: The Series is non-canon

Following the conclusion of the "Taken" trilogy in cinemas, the franchise continued in the form of "Taken," a television series that aired for two seasons on NBC. While the show debuted to relatively decent ratings and was initially successful, creative shakeups following the first season resulted in much of the cast being fired and replaced with newcomers for a vastly retooled Season 2, which led to a significant drop in ratings and an untimely cancellation. Today, the show is regarded more as a missed opportunity than a proper part of the "Taken" saga, for one huge reason — it's not canon to the film series.

Rather than being a proper prequel to the "Taken" movies, the television series shares no continuity with the movies. Presumably as an effort to save on costs, the show isn't set in the past, but the present day, which makes it impossible to reconcile its events with those of the movies. The show should feature younger versions of the characters audiences know from the films. Instead, it features Clive Standen as a character named Bryan Mills, who simply is not the same person portrayed by Liam Neeson in the film series. Today, the show is little more than a forgotten franchise footnote that's barely inspired by its own source material.

Will there be a Taken 4?

While "Taken 3" was marketed as the final chapter in the trilogy, nothing ever really ends in Hollywood — as long as there's still money to be made. It's hard to imagine a "Taken" movie without Liam Neeson, though Luc Besson had no issue replacing Jason Statham with Ed Skrein for "The Transporter: Refueled." It's possible the producer might decide to repeat this trajectory with "Taken," rebooting the series with a brand new star, but we'd much rather see a proper "Taken 4" starring Liam Neeson, the one and only Bryan Mills.

Neeson was paid a whopping $20 million to star in 2014's "Taken 3," and while the film brought in less money than "Taken 2," it still managed to rake in an impressive $327 million worldwide on a budget of under $50 million. It's been nearly a decade since then, so a new "Taken" sequel has the potential to feel fresh and new. "Taken 3" ends with Kim revealing to her father that she's pregnant with a baby. Knowing Bryan Mills, it's only a matter of time before his grandchild gets kidnapped, forcing the retired CIA agent to utilize his "particular set of skills" once again.