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Times Villains In The John Wick Franchise Were Actually Right

The "John Wick" franchise is packed with memorable villains. Across its first three chapters, the series built a veritable rogues gallery of unsavory antagonists, and the roster of villains is expanding further with the likes of Donnie Yen and Bill Skarsgård joining the franchise in the upcoming fourth chapter. The future "Ballerina" spinoff and the prequel television series "The Continental" will launch "John Wick" from a series to a full-blown cinematic universe, and will surely bring a whole host of new villains along with them.

From the first film to the latest, the "John Wick" series has never been content to take the easy route and offer up one-dimensional villains. While John, of course, has plenty of valid motivation for going head-to-head with these adversaries, they aren't always 100% in the wrong. Whether they have good reason to pursue John or they conduct themselves as nicely and respectfully as possible given the circumstances, the villains in this series often aren't all bad. These are the 12 times Mr. Wick's enemies have been in the right.

Viggo knows John will have his revenge

Straight away in the first "John Wick" movie, the series was already delivering complicated villains that weren't always in the wrong. Retired from his life as a super-assassin, John lands in hot water when he refuses to sell his car to Iosef, the son of Viggo Tarasov, the head of the Tarasov Mob. While breaking into John's home to steal the car, Iosef makes the fatal mistake of killing the puppy that was left to him post-mortem as a final gift from his deceased wife.

As soon as Viggo learns who his son has incurred the wrath of, he knows John Wick will have his vengeance. He scolds his son and, even though he makes every effort to protect him, he knows Iosef has signed his own death sentence long before John actually pulls the trigger. Viggo understands John's need for revenge and is under no disillusions that it will come to fruition. Viggo seems on the verge of handing over Iosef to satisfy John, and it is clear that he would gladly sacrifice any other member of his crime organization short of his own flesh and blood to avoid Mr. Wick's wrath.

Cassian's revenge against John is 100% justified

While most of the villains in the "John Wick" series deserve to meet their end at the hands of Keanu Reeves' titular character, Cassian goes against the grain. Rather than standing in the way of John's path of revenge like his other toughest adversaries, such as Ares or Kirill, Cassian is the one seeking revenge against John instead of the other way around.

Cassian was the sworn protector of Gianna D'Antonio, the Italian crime boss who was ascending to a seat at The High Table. Her power-hungry brother Santino used his marker to force John to assassinate her and steal her seat for himself. John and Cassian share a level of professional respect until John fulfills his end of the marker with Santino. Cassian's desire for revenge against John is 100% justified after John killed his ward. This is something that John is aware of and accepts, and it is also the driving motivator behind John's decision to let him live at the end of their potentially lethal subway fight in "Chapter 2."

Winston gives John all the leeway he can

As the proprietor of the New York City chapter of The Continental, Winston operates in accordance with The High Table and must abide by their rules and the overarching rules of international Continental hotels. Winston's relationship with John is complicated, to say the least, and he has veered into villain territory on more than one occasion — but he mostly operates with John's best interest in mind as a friend rather than remaining a neutral third party.

The end of "Chapter 2" finds Winston excommunicating John after he kills Santino on Continental grounds, violating one of the cardinal rules of the organization. Excommunicating John could easily come across as a villainous move, but it was a bed of John's own making, and Winston is simply abiding by the standard outcome demanded for his violation of the rules. Winston even sticks his own neck out a little bit by giving John the wiggle room of a one-hour head start before the hit contract goes live. This was a liberty not afforded to Ms. Perkins, who was killed on the spot for violating the same rule. Affording John his head start is what brings Winston trouble from the Adjudicator in "Chapter 3."

The ending of "Parabellum" features Winston committing his most direct act of villainy against John so far when he shoots him, leading to his debilitating fall from The Continental's rooftop. But, even this apparent backstab might not be villainous as it appears, and he may have been secretly trying to help John despite the appearance of his actions. Director Chad Stahelski has left it purposefully up to interpretation with the answers to come in the fast-approaching "John Wick: Chapter 4" (via Digital Spy).

Viggo has a valid reason to kill Marcus

At first, John only planned to seek revenge against Iosef for the killing of his dog while retaining a certain level of professional respect toward his father Viggo. It isn't until after Iosef is dead that Viggo crosses an additional line and becomes the new target of John's bloodlust. However, the line that Viggo crosses is a fairly reasonable one in the world of "John Wick."

Marcus, played by Willem Dafoe, is established as an important mentor figure to John in the first film. Viggo initially approaches Marcus and hires him to kill Mr. Wick, but Marcus double-crosses Viggo and retains his allegiance to John. He goes as far as to kill one of Viggo's men with a sniper rifle as they are about to execute John.

The line that Viggo crosses to make him John's new target is killing Marcus. In response to the double-cross and as an act of retribution for the murder of his son, Viggo's actions would likely be considered perfectly valid if they had been carried out by John or any of the other "good" characters. But of course, Mr. Wick does not see it the same way. He takes it personally.

Abram Tarasov makes amends with John

The opening sequence of "John Wick: Chapter 2" has John sneaking, fighting, and crashing his way through a large warehouse chop shop run by the Tarasov Mob. After Viggo's death in the first film, command of the organization is passed on to his brother Abram Tarasov, played by Peter Stormare, who keeps an office within the warehouse. John's stolen car was the lone loose thread left open at the end of the first film, and he is determined to retrieve it from the chop shop by any means necessary.

Abram Tarasov could have easily been a major villain for the sequel, but this potential is sidestepped by the end of the prologue. Abram is well aware of John's reputation as the Baba Yaga and is smart enough to avoid making the same mistakes as his brother and nephew. Since Abram played no direct part in the theft of his car or the killing of his dog and his mentor, John is open to making peace with the new head of the Tarasov Mob. Abram makes the right call, and has his life spared as a result.

Zero has great respect for John

One of John's toughest adversaries in "Chapter 3" and in the franchise as a whole is Zero, played by martial-arts veteran Mark Dacascos. Zero is a skilled fighter on his own but he also has stealthy and lethal Shinobi assassins at his beck and call as well. When Zero is approached by the Adjudicator to kill John Wick, he knows it will be no easy feat, but he accepts the challenge anyway.

Unlike most of John's enemies who fight out of anger, self-defense, or financial gain, Zero is in it for a less nefarious reason. He has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Mr. Wick, even going full-on fan-boy mode when the two finally share a quiet moment of peace on the grounds of The Continental. He considers it an honor to fight John Wick and doesn't hold any real ill will towards him even as they fight to the death. This high level of respect goes a long way in terms of making Zero feel less outright villainous even though he comes closer to killing John than most villains in the series ever do.

The Adjudicator is only doing their job

The Adjudicator drives the majority of the conflict in "Chapter 3," and their antagonistic dynamic doesn't just extend to Mr. Wick. They also rankle the ire of The Bowery King, The Director of the Ruska Roma, and Winston of the NYC Continental. Even though they are clearly making enemies left and right, the Adjudicator never acts with malice.

As an agent of The High Table, the Adjudicator is only doing their job by enforcing the rules and doling out the appropriate punishments. Those on the receiving end of the punishments may feel differently, but nothing is personal for the adjudicator, and they are simply doing their job in an effective, dispassionate manner. Giving The Bowery King seven cuts, stabbing The Director through the hands, and attempting to remove Winston from power over The Continental may all seem like villainous acts, but they did all knowingly break the rules of The High Table that they had agreed to abide by when helping John Wick. However violent the methods may be, the Adjudicator's actions are 100% righteous within the exaggerated reality of the "John Wick" series.

The Elder grants John's request

When the head of The High Table — known only as The Elder — was finally shown on screen in "Chapter 3," the result was not likely what fans of the series expected to find. The reveal came as such a surprise partially because of his secluded base of operations out in the middle of the desert, partially because he lacked the high-class glitz and glamour of many of his lower-ranking associates, but most of all because of how rational and reasonable he is.

Even though a high-dollar hit has been placed on John's head and despite the fact that he has violated several of The High Table's rules by this point, The Elder is willing to hear him out. He is the main behind much of the villainy in the "John Wick" world and the direct cause of many of the attempts on John's life throughout "Chapter 3," but he comes off as far less evil in person. The Elder even grants John's request and provides him with a chance to wipe the slate clean by returning to NYC and assassinating Winston.

As far as audiences are shown, The Elder fully intended to hold up his end of the bargain and give John the escape he was looking for. John is the one who reneges on his side of the agreement when he refuses to kill Winston and instead kills dozens of High-Table-sent thugs.

Gianna D'Antonio did nothing wrong

The one and only time audiences are treated to a look at Mr. Wick fully back in the assassin lifestyle he had left behind arrives in "Chapter 2" when he is forced to carry out a hit for Santino D'Antonio to hold up his end of the marker. His target is Gianna D'Antonio, Santino's sister. Santino wants to steal her seat at The High Table for himself while pinning her death on John in an obvious double-cross.

John plans, initiates, and fully carries out the hit, shooting Gianna in the head after she has already accepted her fate and slit her wrists. Despite being sympathetic, she is still one of the main antagonists of "Chapter 2" with an entire act of the film revolving around how to assassinate her and get away safely, and she is, after all, the head of a deadly Italian crime family. She is without a doubt a morally bad person, but Gianna just might be the only character killed by John in the entire series who truly did nothing wrong to Mr. Wick himself.

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The Shinobi go easy on John

In "Chapter 3," Zero has a small army of Shinobi assassins under his command. These stealthy killers move through the shadows and prefer to use blades over firearms most of the time. Several Shinobi assassins are shown throughout the film, and John dispatches a handful of them prior, but two Shinobi in particular stand out in the film's final act.

Though they remain unnamed, the final two Shinobi faced by John leave a lasting impression with their big two-on-one fight scene. These final two assassins were played by Indonesian martial artists Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, who had earlier co-starred together in Gareth Evans' action masterpiece "The Raid 2." Unlike most of John's other opponents but just like their leader, Zero, these two Shinobi display a high level of respect towards John. They fight fairly, go easy on him, and even offer to help John up after he falls instead of taking the opportunity to kill him. Because of the respect they show him, John returns the favor once he is finally able to turn the tables, showing mercy and allowing them both to live.

Cassian respects the rules of the Continental

As soon as Cassian finds out that his ward, Gianna D'Antonio, has been assassinated, John Wick becomes his sworn enemy. After an extended shootout, knife fight, and fist fight, John and Cassian crash through a glass window and find out that they have wound up on the grounds of the Italian Continental, where conducting business is strictly prohibited.

Cassian is able to stuff down his rage in order to abide by the rules. Though his intent to continue their violent conflict at a later date is clear, Cassian and John are able to have a restrained exchange of words over drinks at the bar. Respecting the rules of The Continental is the right call and the only way to avoid being excommunicated. This level of restraint is something John fails at himself at the end of the film when he is unable to contain his fury towards Santino and executes him in the middle of the NYC Continental dining hall. If Cassian had failed this test of restraint, he would have shared the same excommunication fate that John faces at in the closing moments of "Chapter 2" and all throughout "Chapter 3."

Viggo tries to let John off the hook

As far as Russian crime kingpins go, Viggo Tarasov is extremely understanding and forgiving. He gives John ample opportunity to get off the hook and let bygones be bygones, but John refuses to move on. He will do everything in his power to keep his son Iosef alive but he understands why John wants him dead. Viggo is willing to overlook the slaying of dozens of his men as long as his son is spared.

Even after his son has been killed, Viggo still offers John a chance to let their violent history be water under the bridge. Rather than swearing revenge against John for killing his son, Viggo settles for an exchange. John killed his son, so Viggo will kill John's mentor Marcus in the absence of John having any living family members. This is Viggo's attempt to balance out the scales of justice without condemning John to death himself, but John is far less forgiving than Viggo and escalates matters further. All the way up until their final showdown on the docks, Viggo always leaves the option to make amends or to cut and run available to John, but Mr. Wick has no interest in letting things go.