This story contains a major spoiler for John Wick: Chapter 4
The ending of John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming as a shock for fans.
Wick wins his climatic duel against the villainous Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) yet is seemingly fatally wounded, having finally suffered one gunshot too many. He utters his late wife’s name, “Helen,” who died in the opening of 2014’s John Wick. Wick then seemingly perishes, and the film’s final scene has Winston (Ian McShane) standing at Wick’s grave.
When the film recently premiered at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival, a fan asked director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves about the ending.
“We had the opportunity [to do another film] because the audience [response to] Chapter Three, and we were like, ‘What was the Why?’” Reeves says, seemingly referring to the overarching reason for Chapter 4 to exist. “And when Chad and I was talking, the Why? was death – and it was John Wick’s death. For him to get his peace, or freedom, in a way … that was the reason to make the movie. It can’t just be, ‘Let’s do another one.’ It was really about death, or a way of dying. We were really inspired by the Hagakure…”
The Hagakure, Stahelski notes, is a Japanese code of ethics. A book devoted to its teachings, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, is described “a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior.”
“We kind of took the way of dying – or the way we live well to die well – as the theme,” Stahelski says.
Reeves was asked what his favorite scene in the film, and he pointed to Wick’s final moment. “If I just looked at from [the perspective of] John – John Wick – maybe him at the end on the stairs,” he says. “When he says ‘Helen.’ That, for me, after like eight years of playing the role and after shooting the [massive fight on the other set of stairs], that part that was [a poignant link] to the past.”
Before the pandemic struck, Stahelski was aiming to shoot a fourth and a fifth installment back to back. The filmmakers later told the press they were taking a wait-and-see approach. A post-credits scene leaves room for the idea of a spin-off focused on Donnie Yen’s Caine and/or Rina Sawayama’s Akira.
While Reeves and Stahelski sounded pretty firm that the Baba Yaga is deceased, the editing of Chapter 4 final moments leaves just enough vagueness (Wick isn’t clearly shown dead) to give the filmmakers some wiggle room should they want to bring him back with some sort of faked-his-own-death revelation – though such a move would undermine the power of Chapter 4 ending and wouldn’t make much sense (if Wick could have pulled that off all along, why would he wait until he finally fought his way out of danger to do it?).
There’s also another possibility, should Reeves want to return to the role – making a prequel set before Wick retired to settle down with his wife, though that would require Wick playing a far younger version of the character than we’d ever seen. Fortunately, as one SXSW audience member noted to Reeves, he doesn’t seem to age. “Yeah, man, I age,” Reeves replied wearily. “It’s happening, man.”