Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (2023)

© 2023 Static Media®. All Rights Reserved


Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (4)


ByMeg Bucholtz/Updated: March 21, 2023 11:55 am EST

Aside from its title character, the most important personality in the John Wick action saga is Winston, enigmatic proprietor of the New York branch of the Continental Hotel. These hotels, dotted around the world, serve multiple purposes: Safe neutral harbor for hunters and the hunted, one-stop shop for the violently inclined, and even a cheeky bit of dog-boarding, should the odd need arise. Any manager of a Continental must come from a background that can be described in the simplest terms as "colorful," but Ian McShane, who portrays Winston, isn't immediately interested in coughing up his character's secrets. When asked by Den of Geek if he has crafted any kind of history for Winston, his answer is simple enough: "Yeah, I make up my own and it varies according to how you see it. I'm not going to tell you what it is, but yeah." Director Chad Stahelski is equally evasive in an interviewwith The Hollywood Reporter: "I like open-ended questions, sometimes, where not everything gets answered. I also like satisfying the audience, but I like leaving a little to your imagination and a little open for debate."

There's more to pick out about Winston than it might seem at first blush in the three current John Wick films, but the answers come from sources not directly connected to him, necessarily. Here's what can be pieced together about Winston's history through his characterization and the world-building around him, and how that might increase in significance as the already-confirmed fourth and fifth entries come together.

Other characters' respect demonstrates Winston's skills

Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (5)


Winston, as of this writing, has not exactly fought in the same way John Wick and the rest of his adversaries have (to be fair, Ian McShane was 77 in John Wick 3), but he has displayed some of his skill. He is shown to be a pretty impeccable marksman, but probably his most obvious skill is his capacity for leadership. He commands attention and loyalty by doing actually quite little, because it is clear that everyone interacting with him understands who he is and where he came from, much in the same way literally everyone in the universe interacts with John Wick. It's not just The Rules giving him clout; Winston is known like John is, but it's displayed with negative space and narrative — it's what people don't do or say around him, up to and including The Adjudicator. He's also an excellent negotiator, able to talk down hotheads on the verge of breaking the Continental's rules (with the only notable exception being John's murder of D'Antonio at the end of John Wick 2) and acting as power broker for the hotel all throughout the third movie.

If The High Table is composed of organized crime elite, so then must the ranks of Continental managers be, as well. Rather than being the dons, shot-callers, and bosses of families, however, it may be reasonable to assume that the hoteliers are the erstwhile right hands of those at the Table. Who better to run a hotel for hired killers than the best of those among them? It is likely the closest any of them will ever have to a retirement — and the idea does in fact have a teeny bit of canonical support through Sofia's characterization.

Winston defines himself by running a Continental location

Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (6)


We know the most about how to ascend to running a Continental through Sofia, Halle Berry's character in John Wick 3. She is a former hunter, and in ascending to take The Continental, it meant giving up a significant part of her life; despite the safety the hotels are meant to provide, apparently Sofia could not (or simply chose not to) take her daughter with her, and John hid the girl for her, which is what created the Marker relationship between them. Sofia is less than ecstatic about fulfilling the Marker and describes her life as Management as the most peace she's ever had, despite the loss of her child. Perhaps Winston was similarly motivated in seeking to run the New York Continental, and later on, fight so hard to retain his lordship over it and remain in respected-slash-feared status with The High Table. He doesn't just take the job seriously, he relishes it, as he levels The Rules against D'Antonio in John Wick 2 when he tries to have Wick's membership revoked. There's a personal flair in how he enjoys thumbing his nose at people of theoretically-higher status than him.

Berrada, the former manager of the Morocco Continental, appears to have been demoted in a way similar to the one with which the Adjudicator threatens Winston in the third film. Since we later see that if The Adjudicator wishes to kill, they will, "getting affairs in order" must mean living anywhere but the hotel. Winston, however, has "served" for 40 years, though it's unclear if that's all time running The Continental or not. If it is, he would have ascended to the job in his 30s, which would likely be a prestigious thing for someone so young, and such a long time in such a cushy job certainly would make anybody a little possessive of it.

The phone call Winston made in John Wick 2 spoke volumes

Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (7)


John Wick 2 ends with John meeting Winston at the Bethesda Fountain, where Winston tells him that the reckoning he will suffer in the next film is at hand. We see Winston make a phone call to make John excommunicado, and he must give an identification number to certify the order: 11111. That feels like an awfully low identification number, meant to evoke the idea that Winston has been around a long time — longer than probably several members of The High Table and definitely longer than whoever The Elder is, since he appears to be younger than even John Wick. Time means history, and history begets secrets, so Winston must have a lot of them.

We can't be really sure how long this underworld system has operated. The only clue we have to the organization's age is the displayed gold coin in Berrada's compound. He doesn't say how old it is, only that it was extraordinarily difficult to track down. Considering the sheer amount of people registered in the system of this universe, however, only five digits in an ID number — and all ones, at that — means he could be somewhere close to the foundational infrastructure of the underworld as we understand it in the movies. Winston can pretty much have a claim to a catchphrase when he says that the rules are what separate us from the animals multiple times across all three films. Is that the voice of experience? Does he remember a time before The Rules? He also tells The Adjudicator that his loyalties "extend far beyond" The Continental, possibly beyond the jurisdiction of The Table itself. He has clearly lived many lives in his long years, and we have yet to know all of them, or even the totality of one he's living now.

Winston's relationship with John, and what John Wick 4 & 5 may bring

Winston's Backstory In John Wick Explained - Looper (8)


The biggest question for Winston's background is where the friendly relationship with John begins, and now possibly ends. It's frequently stated and even occasionally leveraged against Winston that he is pretty fond of John, but understanding why is a game of speculative leaps of logic. They don't appear to have much in common, since John's rather a hothead and Winston is savage in his calm, icy attitudes towards others. Winston gave John a Marker at the end of John Wick 2– a Marker that has yet to be identified or cashed in — as well as the hour head start to get away. Winston appears to owe John a favor, and the stakes have not gotten high enough yet for John to feel like cashing it in.

Winston knows John well enough to hold his sense of internal honor and emotional state against him, as he does when asking as which "version" of John he wants to die before confronting The Adjudicator. We don't know if the result, which puts John over a balcony to fall four stories, is a double/triple/quadruple-cross, but it nonetheless proves a level of intimacy. In any other context, you wouldn't hesitate to call them friends, and friends are only made through time spent together doing stuff. Winston displayed total willingness to break rules for John up until he was forced to declare him excommunicado. In this universe, that comes from trust earned off the back of taking risks for each other. The tale waiting to be told between them will likely be part of the plot for both the fourth and fifth movies in the franchise. Is it a display of the ultimate trust to undermine The Table, or an ultimate betrayal to leave John to the wolves?



What does 11111 mean in John Wick? ›

It is the same number as President John F. Kennedy's executive order (executive order 11111).

What is Winston's connection to John Wick? ›

Although he is a friend of John Wick, he is still a high-ranking member of the Continental, and does what he has to do to those who break its laws. Winston is a pivotal character of the John Wick (film series), who also serves as an antagonist in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. He is portrayed by Ian McShane.

Why did Winston give John Wick a marker at the end of John Wick 2? ›

Winston gives John a blood oath marker and warns him he can only give him an hour's head start. In John Wick: Chapter 2, there isn't any explicit explanation for the marker John is given. It's assumed to be John's original marker from his blood oath with Santino.

Is John Wick's dad Winston? ›

Winston also has paternal affection for John — or Jonathan, as he, and only he, calls him. So, is Winston John's biological father? Unlikely. “Fourth John Wick, you think, 'Same old,' but it's not,” Ian McShane, who plays Winston, told Screenrant about Chapter 4.

What was John's impossible task? ›

His superior, Viggo Tarasov, promised to allow John to quit if he first completed an "impossible task": killing all of Tarasov's enemies in a single night. Having succeeded, John retired and lived peacefully for just over five years.

Why does Winston call John son? ›

Winston's "son" line could be figurative, as people often say this to close friends of no blood relation, or a sign that Winston thought of John like a son, but combined with the tattoo, suspicions arise. What makes Winston's final words to John even more suspicious is the language in which he speaks them.

What does Charon say to Winston? ›

With all the dignity, class, and humanity of the actor who played him, Charon told Winston, “It has been an honor.” It was the perfect way for Charon to say goodbye to his friend and to the franchise.

Did Winston know John would survive? ›

Instead, the manager of the Continental gets off five shots at John, causing him to tumult over the edge of the hotel's roof. He hits a slanted roof, a fire escape, and an awning before he hits the concrete below… but evidently Winston knew all along that John could live through it.

Why did the high table want Winston dead? ›

The elder asks John to kill Winston to prove his loyalty and fealty to the high table (and the elder himself), but makes it clear that until John does this to prove his loyalty, He is still excommunicado.

Did Winston actually betray John Wick? ›

After Winston betrayed John Wick at the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, but when Ian McShane's character returns in John Wick: Chapter 4 his true motives for doing so may be part of a shocking twist.

Who put the $14 million bounty on John Wick? ›

John Wick: Chapter 2

After John Wick killed Santino D'Antonio on Continental grounds, Winston Scott called the accountants and tells them to process the 14 million dollar bounty on John and that his excommunicado status was to be activated in one hour.

How much is a gold coin worth in John Wick? ›

The gold coins, in and of themselves, have no inherent monetary value. A single coin can pay for many services or products, like a doctor's appointment, a cadaver's disposal, a drink, or a taxi ride, among other things. There is no dollar conversion rate for the coins, as they are more than just money.

What did John Wick's wife do for a living? ›

Helen was a famous photographer who met her future husband John Wick at a restaurant. Wick, was working for Viggo Tarasov and his crime organization as a hitman at the time, fell in love with Helen. It was Helen who caused John to complete one final task for Viggo and retire from a life of killing.

What happens to John Wick's wife? ›

Helen died of a terminal illness shortly before the 2014 John Wick movie, though the franchise doesn't explicitly identify the illness. John Wick's wife was sick for a long time before her death, leaving her time to arrange for John to be given hope through a puppy and make peace with her own fate.

Are nobody and John Wick connected? ›

Both films share the same writer and producer, a Russian villain, similar themes and plot beats, as well as thoughtful world-building, but Nobody is much more than merely a John Wick clone.

Why did Winston shoot John Wick? ›

The ending of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum featured John being shot off the side of the New York Continental Hotel by Winston Scott (Ian McShane) for the crimes leveled at him by the High Table.

What did Santino D Antonio do for John Wick? ›

John Wick, to complete his "impossible task" assigned by Viggo Tarasov, which allowed him to retire and marry his deceased wife, Helen, asked Santino for help. As a form of contract, Santino swore John to a "Marker," an unbreakable promise symbolized by a "blood oath" medallion.

What is the blood oath in John Wick? ›

Quod Debitum Sanquine.” These are the words written on the Blood Oath Marker from the world of John Wick. The Latin phrase translates to “The Blood Debt” but practically stands as the strongest and most dangerous promise that anyone could make.

Why does Winston betray Julia? ›

Winston betrays Julia to save himself, a human act of self-preservation, even though the self is supposed to be reserved for the use of the Party. By saving himself, Winston commits a selfish act, and thus should be punished for it; however, he is spared. This can be seen as a flaw in the story.

Who betrayed Winston? ›

Winston's horrors and fear are brought to light in these chapters: He is betrayed by Julia and O'Brien, he is tortured and ruined, and every hope he had for a future without the Party is destroyed.

Why can t Winston remember his childhood? ›

Why does Winston have trouble remembering his childhood? He suffered a traumatic accident as a teenager. He has subconsciously buried the painful memories of his youth.

Is Charon a girl? ›

In payment he received the coin that was placed in the mouth of the corpse. In art, where he was first depicted in an Attic vase dating from about 500 bce, Charon was represented as a morose and grisly old man.

Why does Winston cry at the end? ›

The telescreen announces victory at the front lines, and Winston is overjoyed to tears. In the end, he is happy to have won the struggle over himself; he loves Big Brother. Totalitarianism has won over humanity; Winston is one of the masses now, putting his real self aside for the Party, for Big Brother.

Why did Charon help John Wick? ›

As gratitude, Charon tells John he owes him a life debt, and will give him assistance whenever he needs it. It it also presumed after that he began to work his way up at Continental Hotel, gaining trust from Winston Scott to be his right-hand man.

Why did the Bowery King help John Wick? ›

“The Bowery King is an anarchist,” Lee said. “So when John had to go off grid, he was there to help him get guns, supplies and bulletproof suits.”

Who is the guy in the desert in John Wick 3? ›

The Elder was the mysterious and all-powerful leader of the High Table who resided in the deserts of Morocco. He is the overarching antagonist of the John Wick franchise.

What did Winston say at the end of John Wick 3? ›

Unsurprisingly, Winston declares Wick “excommunicado” for harming the institution's reputation (along with his own). Like John Wick, Winston lives by a personal code of conduct, but also manipulates the system to his advantage. In the John Wick 3 ending, Reeves' character makes a deal with The Elder of the High Table.

What rule did John Wick break? ›

At the end of John Wick 2, John kills Santino in the New York City Continental, a violation of the strict rule of no "business" being conducted on Continental grounds. John is fully aware that breaking this rule will bring great consequences, which might make his decision seem difficult to grasp.

Why did Santino want John dead? ›

Julius, the Roman Continental's manager, arranges safe passage for John back to New York as Santino opens a contract for $7 million to kill John, ostensibly to avenge his sister's death.

Who is the man who sits above the High Table? ›

There is one who sits above the High Table Although the High Table is the ruling body of the underworld, there is a man whose own authority actually supersedes it. Known only as the Elder, he seems to reside in the Moroccan desert.

Who is the real villain in John Wick? ›

Viggo Tarasov is first seen when he was talking to a car mechanic named Aurelio about striking his son Iosef. Aurelio explains that he did it because Iosef stole John Wick's car and killed his pet puppy Daisy (which was a present from John's late wife Helen) for fun.

Why does Sophia hate John Wick? ›

Personality. Sofia was shown to be mad at John for bringing trouble to her Casablanca Continental, since he was excommunicado. By bringing up the marker, she's obligated to help him against her benefit, possibly fearing that her daughter being kept in hiding may be compromised.

Why did John shoot Gianna? ›

She was also the sister of Italian crime lord Santino D'Antonio and the employer and close friend of Cassian. When Gianna and Santino's father died and Gianna inherited his positions, Santino used a Marker to task John Wick with her assassination so that he could claim Gianna's titles.

Who is the strongest person in John Wick? ›

John Wick: 9 Strongest Hitmen In The Movies, Ranked
  • 8 Ernest.
  • 7 Cassian.
  • 6 Sofia.
  • 5 The Shinobi.
  • 4 Ares.
  • 3 Zero.
  • 2 Caine.
  • 1 John Wick.
Apr 1, 2023

Who is the tattooed woman in John Wick? ›

Kitty Crystal is known for Worst Cooks in America (2010), The Drunken Yoga Show (2016) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017).

Why does John Wick pay in gold? ›

The act of paying with these coins provides a sense of security as even killers have a "code of conduct" ... and those in John Wick's line of work are mostly strict adherents of it.

What is 999 gold coin? ›

Under this, 999 means that your 24K gold is 99.90% pure and other metal constitutes only 0.1%. Similarly, 999.9 means your gold is 99.99% pure, which means only 0.01% is other metal. Before buying, it is always better to ask your jeweller, bank, or digital platform about the purity of gold.

Is The High Table Real? ›

Inspired by the real-world Italian-American Mafia Commission, The High Table is the body that governs organized crime across the entire world. It's composed primarily of twelve individual gangs, each of whom supplies a leader to sit at the Table. Only seven of the twelve factions have been revealed in the films.

How many kills does John Wick have? ›

The John Wick Kill Count Is 439

John Wick features 77 on-screen deaths at John's hands — a number that rose to 128 in John Wick: Chapter 2 as John made some powerful enemies. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum found John on the run with only time for 94 kills along the way.

What does 11111 mean? ›

11111 is an angel number that carries a powerful message from the Universe, signifying spiritual enlightenment and divine guidance. Many believe it is a reminder of our higher power and inner voice, encouraging us to focus on the present moment and also trust in ourselves.

What is John Wick's code name? ›

John became the top enforcer for the New York Russian crime syndicate, becoming an infamous hitman. He was nicknamed "Baba Yaga" after the supernatural Boogeyman-like entity in Slavic folklore.

Who is the highest rank in John Wick? ›

6 The Elder

First appearing in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, The Elder is the head of The High Table and one of the most powerful figures in the John Wick universe. The Elder is not the specific character's name, but rather a title that is passed down to each subsequent leader of the organization.

What does 333 mean? ›

The frequent appearance of the angel number 333 indicates a positive energy toward your quest. King further adds, if you are feeling limited in your life and seeing a lot of threes, view it as a sign of hope. While angel number 333 encourages you to believe in yourself and dream big, there must be a sense of balance.

What does 5 ones in a row mean? ›

phrase. If something happens several times in a row, it happens that number of times without a break.

What does 777 mean? ›

What does 777 mean? The angel number 777 is connected to the individual self, said Summers. Unlike others which are more focused on relationships, such as 222, the angel number 777 is about taking time to focus on yourself and to be alone. Is it in the stars? Free Daily and Monthly Horoscopes.

What did John Wick's wife do? ›

Helen was a famous photographer who met her future husband John Wick at a restaurant. Wick, was working for Viggo Tarasov and his crime organization as a hitman at the time, fell in love with Helen. It was Helen who caused John to complete one final task for Viggo and retire from a life of killing.

Is John Wick 5 confirmed? ›

The World's Most Deadly Assassin Gets New Life as 'John Wick 5' Is Confirmed. An entire cinematic universe is growing "organically" out of the "John Wick" series, says Lionsgate's Motion Picture Group chair Joe Drake.

What is John Wick's wife's name? ›

Helen Wick, the wife of John Wick's title assassin, has left a substantial mark on the franchise that continues to deepen with each sequel, including John Wick: Chapter 4.

Who is the deadliest assassin in John Wick? ›

John Wick: 9 Strongest Hitmen In The Movies, Ranked
  1. 1 John Wick. John Wick himself has to be atop the list of most deadly assassins in the John Wick movies.
  2. 2 Caine. ...
  3. 3 Zero. ...
  4. 4 Ares. ...
  5. 5 The Shinobi. ...
  6. 6 Sofia. ...
  7. 7 Cassian. ...
  8. 8 Ernest. ...
Apr 1, 2023

Does John Wick have a weakness? ›

John Wick is essentially a video game character playing in god mode. He has no weaknesses and he always hits his shot.

Who is John Wick best friend? ›

Marcus is a high class assassin who is John's best friend he was also a mentor to John. Marcus is a father figure to John and other hitmen.

How much is a coin worth on John Wick? ›

The gold coins, in and of themselves, have no inherent monetary value. A single coin can pay for many services or products, like a doctor's appointment, a cadaver's disposal, a drink, or a taxi ride, among other things. There is no dollar conversion rate for the coins, as they are more than just money.

What did Santino do to help John Wick? ›

John Wick: Chapter 2. A few days after John came out of retirement to seek revenge on Viggo and Iosef, Santino decides to visit John Wick and presents the medallion to demand service from him.

Why did Winston give John a marker? ›

Before Winston sends John on his way, he gives him two things: A one-hour head start before the excommunicado begins, and a marker. “You might need this down the road.” Winston tells John. Markers in the John Wick universe are symbols of a debt that must be repaid of above all else.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 27/11/2023

Views: 6183

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.