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The Untold Truth Of The Continental In John Wick

It can be easy for the uninitiated to assume that the John Wick movies are just big, dumb action flicks. However, it doesn't take long to realize that a great deal of thought and effort goes into the world building of our favorite dog-loving assassin, and one of our first indications of that comes in the first film as John enters the Continental Hotel in New York City.

We are never given the whole story, just some hints at the bigger picture. Once John steps inside the Continental, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot to the underworld of hired killers in which he operates. From its enigmatic proprietor, Winston, to the huge number of interesting individuals who roam its secret rooms, the Continental is constantly offering up little crumbs of the larger world which operates just beneath its surface. In fact, Birth Movies Death called the Continental one of John Wick's best aspects of world-building.

With the release of John Wick 3, we're taking a look at some of the more interesting secrets of the Continental. There will be spoilers for the first two John Wick films, but we'll avoid divulging the secrets of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.

The Continental has only one hard and fast rule

Guests seem to have free reign to do as they please inside the Continental — there are a variety of services available to the hired killers as they prepare for their assignments or look to unwind between them. That said, there is one activity that is expressly prohibited inside the walls of the hotel — even though we've seen at least one character break that rule in each film.

That rule? No doing "business" inside the hotel. And when they say "business," they aren't talking about accounting.

Yes, the Continental is a safe haven for all the assassins therein. We see this rule get violated by both Ms. Perkins in the first John Wick film, and by John himself at the end of the second. The penalty for violating this sacred rule? Well, this isn't a world full of assassins who don't fulfill their job description. In fact, John's violation of this rule is what sets up the storyline of John Wick 3: Parabellum.

Speaking of the criminal underworld of John Wick...

The concierge of the hotel is a reference to Greek myth

Since the Continental Hotel is our first introduction to the larger criminal underworld of the John Wick universe, it would be easy for us to get lost upon entering. Luckily, the hotel's concierge helps to introduce the audience to this mysterious universe. His name is Charon, and it's a very fitting name for someone with his occupation.

In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman to the underworld. When people died, they would come to the River Styx, which surrounded all of the land of the dead. The river was impossible to cross without the ferryman, and he required you to pay a toll. A body would traditionally be buried with a coin in its mouth — otherwise the spirit would be unable to rest in the afterlife.

Similarly, John Wick's Charon seems able to perform just about any service, including dog sitting, if you pay him the proper fee. If an uninitiated person entered the hotel without payment for Charon, they would likely be left on the wrong side of the river, unable to enter the underworld that most of John Wick's characters move through with ease.

The hotel operates on its own currency system

Speaking of the gold coins that continually change hands in the Continental Hotel, it does appear that the criminal underworld of John Wick operates under its own currency system. Assassination contracts are paid out in real world money, but the gold coins the assassins throw around are useful for a variety of different criminal purposes.

The coins seem to not have a designated value, but they are what John and the other assassins use for the variety of goods and services that are offered at the Continental. They also serve as an unofficial entry pass — since so many criminal businesses are disguised as legitimate ones, the coins let the operator know whether the patron is here for the legitimate service or the nefarious one.

The coins have a Latin phrase on each side. One side reads "Ex Unitae Vires," which is Latin for "Out of Unity, Strength." The other side reads "Ens Causa Sui," which means "It is generated from itself." All the Latin phrasing seems to indicate that this criminal underworld has existed for thousands of years.

The administrative office has an essentially hack-proof security system

One fascinating detail about the Continental Hotel is its administrative department — an elaborate office full of tattooed women. These women operate archaic computers and an old switchboard phone system, and their job is to alert the hired killers of the John Wick universe when a new target has become available.

It may seem like a security risk to run all the information surrounding the world's assassins through a singular office, but there is a method to the Continental's madness. Those bizarre computers are actually Commodore 64s, which were discontinued in 1994. You would think they would have something extremely high tech, but if you think about it, the idea has its advantages. These outdated computers would be incredibly difficult to exploit due to their old operating systems and hardware. Even the savviest data experts wouldn't expect to need to hack a computer system that has not been used for decades.

Fans were briefly able to visit The Continental

Have the John Wick movies ever made you considered dabbling in the world of assassinations? Well, the film's creators actually gave residents of New York a chance to do just that. They offered fans a "one-of-a-kind immersive event" in which guests could experience the Continental Hotel as John Wick himself would. This pop-up experience in Brooklyn allowed fans to step into the role of assassin for a day, registering with the switchboard before getting fitted for a suit and interacting with actors playing their fellow contract killers.

Of course, one thing guests couldn't do was actually check in and spend the night, as this Instagram-ready event was merely a promotion to drum up promotion for John Wick Chapter 3. That's not disparaging it — this looks like something every fan of John Wick would go nuts over. Unfortunately, it ran for only one day in May of 2019. Maybe for the 2021 release of John Wick 4 the film's producers and stars will start a residency, like a Las Vegas show. Hey, we can always dream.

The interiors and exteriors of The Continental are shot at different NYC buildings

There are still a few ways you can experience the world of the Continental Hotel. There may not be action-packed events and a cadre of celebrities wandering through it, but you can go see the hotels where they shot the Continental scenes the next time you visit New York City. Yes, that's "hotels." They have actually used two different buildings to stand in for the Continental.

The exteriors of the Continental are shot at the Beaver Building — it is located at 1 Wall Street Court, at the intersections of Wall Street, Pearl Street, and Beaver Street. The building was once the home of the New York Cocoa Exchange, and is sometimes still referred to as such.

If you want to experience the full Continental Hotel, however, you'll need to hit Delmonico's restaurant at 56 Beaver Street. This historic steakhouse has been open since 1837, and refers to itself as the "First Fine Dining Restaurant in the country." You'll want to make reservations if you want some pictures of yourself inside John Wick's stomping grounds.

Hotel management

We started to learn about the High Table in John Wick: Chapter 2. The global assassin community is overseen by cabal of powerful, rich, shadowy figures who serve as an untouchable ruling class. Though they appear to have a hand in nearly everything that happens in the criminal world of John Wick, it does seem like the managers of each individual branch of the Continental Hotel have some say in how their business operates as well.

Winston, who runs New York City's Continental, flexes some of this muscle at the end of Chapter 2, when John breaks the hotel's rule by killing Santino D'Antonio inside. Although John has been marked for death by the High Table, Winston sends a group of waiting assassins away, and actually delays the contract on John for one hour in order to give him time to get a head start.

Winston seems to know that he can't reverse the decisions of the High Table, but he does have some power to delay and interfere with their orders if he so desires.

There's a theory that Winston is John Wick's father-in-law

Speaking of Winston, one constant question that has not been answered is just why the Continental Hotel's proprietor is so chummy with John. He definitely has a soft spot for Mr. Wick, referring to him with familiarity as "Jonathan" and keeping up with John's life outside of the business. He also seems very concerned when John reenters "the life," and even more concerned when he has to put a contract on his head. Why?

A simple answer might just be because of John's professionalism and abilities. He's also the ever-charming Keanu Reeves. But one theory suggests that Winston may actually be John's father-in-law. It's mostly just speculation, but it would help explain Winston's relationship with John a bit more.

Is it possible that Winston is the father of Helen, John's late wife? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not. But it would be a fun little wrinkle in their relationship.

There's a TV show on the way

If you were worried that Parabellum might be the last we see of the John Wick universe, then we've got some good news for you. Not only has a fourth film been announced, but the story is also set to expand to the small screen. A TV series titled The Continental is in early preproduction, as Starz wants to bring a series based in the John Wick universe to their network in the near future. Details are scarce, but we do know a few things about what's being planned so far.

Rotten Tomatoes has some specific dirt on the show — the creators are gunning for at least three seasons, and they want to start shooting this year. The Continental would debut before the fourth John Wick film and would focus on characters who have never appeared in the movies. Carmi Zlotnick, President of Programming for Starz, currently hopes to see actors like Ian McShane and Keanu Reeves reprise their roles in support of an all-new cast of characters for the spin-off.

It will still be quite some time before we see The Continental debut on television, but it also seems like it is definitely on the way. After all, we'll need a new obsession now that Game of Thrones is over.