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The New Rules In John Wick 4 Explained

Contains spoilers for "John Wick: Chapter 4"

"John Wick" and its three sequels have everything you could want from a top-tier action movie franchise. Intense set pieces, brutal stunts, some of the best combat scenes in cinema, and mesmerizing gun-fu have kept viewers coming back for more film after film. Sure, other movies like "Raid: Redemption," "IP Man," and "Atomic Blonde" have similar attributes. But what really sets "John Wick" apart is the depth of the world-building the filmmakers set up from the very beginning.

In this world, assassins work for the mysterious High Table, a governing body of faceless rulers who oversee the most ruthless killers known and unknown to humanity. But how can any organization keep all of those killers in line? The answer is simple: Rules. There are specific rules in the "John Wick" universe that all members of the organization run by the High Table must follow. In the first movie, we see what happens when rules are broken when Ms. Perkins (Adrienne Palicki) conducts business on Continental grounds and is subsequently snuffed out. And, of course, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) himself spent multiple movies paying for his transgressions. 

Like any good world-building, we find out a little more about the world with every film. "John Wick: Chapter 4" is no different, as we are treated to a few new rules in Reeves's latest outing.

Don't scheme against The High Table

The end of the second movie sees John Wick breaking the sacred rule against conducting business on the Continental grounds, leading him to be declared excommunicado. He then spends all of "John Wick: Chapter 3" paying for the indiscretion. But he wasn't the only person in the same bind, as Winston (Ian McShane), Charon (Lance Reddick), and The Director (Angelica Houston) all also received reprisals for not turning him into the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). Their actions, in helping Wick, clearly went against The High Table, who are the final authority on all matters. 

"John Wick: Chapter 4" sees even more profound repercussions for assisting the excommunicado, leading to the revelation of a new rule. When the movie begins, we see Winston and Charon summoned to the office of the Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) while a giant hourglass drops to dust, measuring the time as it counts down. Once the sand has fallen, The Continental Hotel is destroyed, and Charon is executed as punishment for going against The High Table. The rule broken by Winston and Charon goes beyond aiding an excommunicado, as the duo specifically helped an individual who is actively at war with the High Table. 

Even though Winston seems to have regained control over his hotel when he shot John Wick off of a roof at the end of "John Wick: Chapter 3," the beginning of "Chapter 4" shows that The High Table has a zero-tolerance policy for those who plot against them. Charon's death is a clear reflection of Winston's actions, which deliberately punish him for playing a small part in a conspiracy against The High Table. 

Duels are how differences are settled

Ever since he got revenge for the death of his puppy by taking out Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) and his father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), John Wick has had a single goal: getting out of the life. Of course, the world of the High Table doesn't make that easy, and his pursuit of freedom goes off the rails multiple times.

We find out in "John Wick: Chapter 4" that there is a relatively straightforward path to getting out from under the table in the form of a one-on-one duel. With the Marquis coming down on him and hunting him into a corner, his only chance to get out of the life is to come face to face with the one person standing between him and freedom.

While it would have robbed audiences of multiple movies seeing Keanu Reeves beat, shoot, and rip his way through hundreds of assassins, it can't be avoided that if he only knew he could challenge someone to one-on-one combat a few movies ago, it would have saved Wick a lot of struggle.

The number two in the duel shares the dueler's fate

The duel provides audiences with an opportunity for a fitting end for our hero, and it takes us back to the old rules of what is assumed to be a very old organization. And along with the law of a duel, the Marquis informs us that while the loser of the fight faces death, his number two is bound to the same fate as his fighter.

Unsurprisingly, Winston acts as John Wick's number two, presumably taking responsibility for delivering the fighter to the duel on time. Winston has been hitching his wagon to the fate of John Wick for three movies, so it should come as no surprise that the man would do so again in the final moments and risk everything on the back of Wick's brutality. If Wick is the victor of the duel, Winston is reinstated as the manager of The Continental. If Wick loses, both of their lives are forfeit.

There is a deep lore that the world of John Wick provides to go along with some of the best action set pieces in all of cinema. Along with that lore comes a set of rules that must be followed by all members or face dire consequences. And by the end of "John Wick: Chapter 4," even our titular hero ultimately can't escape the wrath of the High Table.