Spoiler alert: the following article contains spoilers for John Wick: Chapters 1, 2 & 3 – Parabellum.
If you’re anything like me or Alice from Alice in Wonderland, you’re a curious person who regularly goes down various rabbit holes; in my case, internet rabbit holes. The other night, I somehow came upon an old theory on Reddit by user ‘coces’ that I feel needs to be shared and explored.
The Reddit post suggested that the popular John Wick franchise, starring Keanu Reeves as the titular character, will consist of a total of five films and each film will represent one of the five stages of grief. Naturally, I became fascinated and decided to dig deeper to see if this theory could be true.
Firstly, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, the ‘five stages of grief’ concept was developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1960s and, originally, the concept explained the various feelings people with terminal illnesses go through while processing their imminent death. Today, medical professionals agree that most people who are dealing with grief in general, experience the five stages, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
So far, three John Wick films have been released and a fourth is on the way… but so is a fifth. Lionsgate announced way back in 2020 there would be a fifth John Wick film – currently titled John Wick: Chapter 5 – and Lionsgate’s CEO John Feltheimer also said the studio hoped to shoot the fourth and fifth John Wick films back to back.
Of course, John Wick: Chapter 4 was delayed repeatedly due to COVID-19 but is finally confirmed to currently be in post-production and is slated for a March 2023 release date… so, Reeves could be secretly filming the fifth instalment right now. Ultimately, the confirmation of a John Wick 5 – paired with the fact that a sixth John Wick hasn’t been rumoured or announced – means that there are officially going to be five John Wick films, which perfectly aligns with the five stages of grief.
If you’re still not convinced that this genius theory will turn out to be true, prepare to be amazed because the existing first three John Wick films already seem to represent the first three stages of grief.
The first film starts with John attending his wife, Helen’s funeral; so obviously, John’s dealing with grief. But he’s also clearly in the first stage of that grief: denial. John continually flashes back to memories of when Helen was alive; as if she never died. Then, he spends the whole film distracting himself, rather than dealing with and accepting Helen’s death, with a difficult time-consuming task (tracking down and killing those that were involved with the theft of his car and the murder of his puppy).
The second John Wick film sees John experience a blind rage or, you know, the second stage of grief: anger. John is forced to call upon his assassin skills and complete a kill but upon doing so is betrayed. John then becomes so angry he irrationally kills on Continental Hotel grounds – an unbreakable rule of the underworld – which leads to a huge bounty on his own head and losing all access to underworld resources.
Finally, for almost the entirety of the third film, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, John is bargaining; the third stage of grief. He constantly has to make deals and negotiate – with both old connections and The High Table – to stay alive. Plus, the film’s name ‘Parabellum’ is derived from the Latin saying ‘si vis pacem, para bellum’ which roughly translates to ‘if you want peace, then prepare for war’ and honestly, that whole phrase sounds like bargaining to me.
We’ll have to wait until the 23rd of March next year to see if the fourth John Wick film represents the fourth stage of grief: depression. As there are next to no details available surrounding John Wick: Chapter 4’s plot, it could be entirely possible.
And if John Wick 4 does explore depression, then obviously for this theory to work, the fifth film – whenever it gets released – would have to explore the final stage of grief, acceptance… which you have to admit would neatly wrap up the franchise. Especially, if the fifth and final John Wick film ends with John finding peace and accepting Helen’s death, as it would perfectly mirror the first film which practically starts with a note from Helen telling John “now that I have found my peace, find yours.”
Of course, this theory could just be a coincidence or easily disproved if Lionsgate announces a sixth film –something that’s not totally out of the question considering how popular and successful the John Wick franchise is and the fact that Reeves told GQ in 2019 he’ll happily keep making John Wick films as long as the fans want them.
As Marcus wisely says to John in the first film, “there’s no rhyme or reason to this life” and, hey, perhaps there’s no reason or rhyme to this theory… But I’m convinced it’s brilliant and will turn out to be true.