The Continental episode 3 review: "A frustrating finish to the John Wick prequel"

The Continental
(Image: © Amazon Prime Video)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Finally delivers on action, but is a frustrating ending to a series that never truly figures out what it wants to be – meaning we probably won't be checking in again.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

The end is here. After two sluggish, muddled episodes, The Continental is coming to its conclusion – but it's a frustrating finish for a show that never really worked out its place in the John Wick universe. 

The Continental Night 1 and Night 2 laid the foundation for an epic showdown between Winston and Cormac, taking so long to get to the inevitable assault on the hotel that The Continental episode 3 feels like a relief simply because something actually happens, even if it's not all that satisfying. 

Guns, lots of guns

The Continental

(Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Episode 1 ends with the promise that we'll be seeing "guns, lots of guns" – and, at last, after the 90-minute diversion that is episode 2, we finally do. The action is more inventive and ambitious than the previous two installments, but it runs into the same problem anyway: the characters aren't fleshed out enough for us to really care if they're in peril or not. 

But, it is fun to watch a bunch of assassins arm for battle set to a jaunty tune, and there are some truly impressive set pieces here revolving around the weird twins Hansel and Gretel (Mark Musashi and Marina Mazepa). Hansel takes on siblings Miles and Lou in a hand-to-hand fight with genuine tension and brutality, while Gretal challenges Yen in an eye-popping rooftop struggle with moves acrobatic enough to make you wince. It's still not quite on the same thrilling, inventive level as the John Wick movies, but it's a huge step up from what we've seen in the show so far. 

There are still a few disappointing action moments, though – what promises to be a huge gunfight instead is shown purely through muzzle flashes when the lights are cut, and, when the electricity returns, it's convenient that everyone but two major characters were killed in the darkness. 

Winston and Cormac's long-awaited showdown is also anticlimactic; they spend much of the episode separated, and when they do clash, there's an empty lack of feeling. As I said last week, this battle relies solely on our emotional investment since we already know Winston is going to be victorious. Unfortunately, the show doesn't seem to realize this, because the history between Winston and Cormac is still vague apart from one single catastrophe that bafflingly becomes a major driver for the plot at the eleventh hour. 

Cormac seems to become a slightly more nuanced bad guy at the end of episode 2, but here he returns to generic "evil and unhinged" characterization. One moment sees him indulge in a drug of some kind procured by Charon, which results in Mel Gibson chewing the scenery so severely I'd be surprised if his jaw didn't hurt. Sure, there's often room for a bad guy with no depth beyond "nasty," but, in a show that's trying to build up some great rivalry rooted in a tragic backstory between its protagonist and lead villain, it just doesn't work.  

Unanswered questions

Katie McGrath in The Continental

(Image credit: Peacock)

The struggle between Winston and Cormac does give the show an opportunity to introduce some new mythology, though The Continental doesn't quite pull it off. We learn more about the hotel itself in episode 3, including its self-defense mechanisms. It's interesting enough, but there's a major attack on this very location in John Wick 3, and I can't help but think some of these measures could have been useful then. Oh, well. 

There's also a truly bizarre exchange between Winston and the Adjudicator – who is played with sinister grace by Katie McGrath – which implies the Adjudicator isn't that fussed about an all-out assault on the hotel. A hell of a lot of business goes down on Continental grounds here, so what gives? John Wick killed one guy in this hotel and it started a chain reaction that ultimately led to his death. Even if the High Table did want Cormac challenged, it's strange that the rule-breaking is just shrugged off in a world that revolves around its very clearly defined laws. 

It ties into a problem I've had throughout this series, which is how weirdly determined it is to withhold information. In the finale, this is even more pronounced. Can you believe I still have no idea why that coin press is so maddeningly important? You know, the thing the entire show is built around? 

Plus, persistent NYPD detective KD's motive is finally revealed in the final episode, but it's an eye-roll twist when it's been jealously guarded for so long that her story seemed a tedious diversion. Now it turns out she actually has a pretty fundamental link to Winston, and all I can say is: 'Okay?' It actually would have been nice to know this in episode 1 to give me time to get invested, but sure! 

Personally, I also have two burning questions that The Continental failed to answer. At the end of John Wick 4, Winston said "farewell, my son" in Russian to John Wick's grave, and a Ruska Roma tattoo was revealed on his wrist. This is not even slightly addressed in The Continental. Then there's one truly bewildering detail that has distracted me for the entire show: why isn't Winston British? Ian McShane's version of the character is very much an English guy, but now Winston is an American who once lived in London, and apparently decided to switch up his accent sometime after this show? 

Checking out

The Continental

(Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

My thoughts on Winston's nationality aren't just nitpicking – the inconsistency speaks to a larger issue with the urge to franchise everything, to fill in every gap, to plumb the depths of every single storytelling opportunity, no matter how dubious. Winston is an English dude who manages the New York Continental in the films and that's all we know about him – and all we need to know. But The Continental wants us to understand that, actually, there's a deep and personal reason he's in New York City, which is actually his hometown, and it's actually tied to his vague, tragic childhood and the loss of his previously unmentioned brother Frankie, and Frankie is actually why Charon (who is still the most compelling part of the prequel) ends up being besties with Winston – if you were wondering (we weren't). 

And that's the overall issue. By the end of episode 3, The Continental simply hasn't justified its own existence. The new lore doesn't work with the films – which are vastly superior anyway – and at the end of almost four and a half hours of storytelling, we don't even know why Winston wanted to manage The Continental and not just simply destroy Cormac. We never get to know any of the new characters well enough to care about their individual stories, either. When the credits rolled, all I thought was: what was the point?  

As the first Wick spin-off, then, it gives some cause for concern about the expanded universe ahead. The next test is 2024's Ballerina, starring Ana de Armas; here's hoping that project clears the bar. 

It remains to be seen if The Continental will open its doors once more for a season 2 – but, after three lukewarm, shallow episodes, I know I won't be checking in again. 


The Continental streams on Peacock in the US and Prime Video internationally. You can fill out your watchlist with our guide to the best shows on Amazon Prime Video

More info

Available platformsTV
GenreDrama
Less
Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.