I know what you’re thinking: how the heck is John Wick: Chapter 2 related to science fiction or fantasy? It’s a neo-noir crime thriller. Except, of course, it’s not about regular people at all; it’s about Gods.
The YouTube series Movies with Mikey called the first John Wick “The Boogeyman Destroys Mount Olympus” and the second one continues in that same vein. The characters we see are not simply mob bosses and hitmen — they are the Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus.
How do we know this? Well, if you stick around to the credits, you will see Lance Reddick’s character (the doorman at the Continental Hotel) is credited as “Charon.” He is literally John’s entry into the Underworld — or, in this case, the entry into the world of killers. Hell, John’s wife, the woman who originally pulled John away from that life, was named Helen. Who else but the most beautiful woman in the world would get the Boogeyman to retire?
In this film, we even have one character (played by Ruby Rose) who is credited simply as “Ares.” She is the main assassin for Santino D’Antonio, an Italian crime lord who pulls John back into the world in this movie by “holding his marker.” It turns out that in order to get out of the life, John had to perform an “impossible task” and Santino helped him with that, so John owes him one favor.
(“Impossible tasks” are common in Greek mythology — from the twelve labors of Hercules to the slaying of Medusa by Perseus to Jason stealing the Golden Fleece. We have yet to learn what “impossible task” John Wick performed, but it really doesn’t matter.)
Santino wants John to kill his sister, who is a member of the “High Table.” If you think about it closely, Santino — who we see most frequently in a museum filled with statues and art — is Apollo, while his sister is Artemis. She even refuses to let John take her life, committing suicide instead, as Artemis herself refused to be bested by a man. When Santino double-crosses John (of course), John has to get the help of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who clearly represents Hades — he pulls John to safety, lets him travel through the underground to find Santino, because he knows that eventually Apollo will want his territory.
The difference, of course, between John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 is that the first film had a tangible revenge element — John was set to burn everything because his puppy had been killed. In this film, there is simply more complications that prevent John from simply retiring — Santino holds his “marker,” so by the rules of their world, John has to do him one favor, but his one favor results in him being targeted and Santino double-crossing him. You can see, however, that John knows Santino will double-cross him — he doesn’t even need an explanation, he just says, “Loose ends?” to Ares and that’s that. There are points in this film where John can simply walk away, but he doesn’t. With the loss of his wife and the puppy, the only thing he held onto in the first film was revenge. Letting go of that revenge is harder than he thinks.
The end of the film is a lot darker than the end of the first film: John has killed Santino, but it was in the sanctuary of the Continental Hotel. This is a huge no-no in Greek mythology — violation of xenia or hospitality got one of the worst punishments, like Sisyphus pushing the boulder or Ixion chained to a fiery wheel — and this results in John being “excommunicated” from their world, with all services they provide (guns, body armor, even a safe place at the Continental) forbidden to him and yet a huge bounty still on his head.
The movie ends with him on the run from pretty much all of the assassins, having made a vow that he will kill anyone who comes after him. How long can he last? How long until he has to find his way and kill the High Table themselves, kill the Gods themselves? Or is it another impossible task? I hope we find out in Chapter 3.