The following contains major spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4. You’ve been warned!
As the credits rolled on the phenomenal John Wick: Chapter 4, an unspoken question hung in the air of my theater: “Did they really just kill John Wick?”
We’d just watched the extraordinary assassin (played by Keanu Reeves) win his freedom from the High Table by killing the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) in a duel. But it’s not long before he collapses, bleeding, on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris. From there, the film cuts to an image of his gravestone. The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and Winston (Ian McShane) mourn him. They even have John’s pitbull with them, so it looks like he’s gone for good. Still, in this era of game-changing post-credits sequences, there’s always hope that a beloved character will return after the film ends — but that is not the case for John Wick: Chapter 4. Instead of teasing that John will return in John Wick: Chapter 5, the post-credits scene hints at something else: a new rivalry.
‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ review: Inject this movie into my veins
We see John’s old friend and adversary Caine (Donnie Yen) arrive at a crowded Sacré-Coeur with a bouquet of flowers. He’s there to see his violinist daughter, whom the High Table threatened to kill should Caine fail to do their bidding. Like John, Caine is also free from the High Table after the duel, so he is finally able to approach his daughter without fear. However, there’s one loose end he did not account for.
During his hunt for John, Caine killed Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), the manager of the Osaka Continental. However, he left Shimazu’s daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama) alive. Before she parted ways with John, she made it very clear that either he would kill Caine or she would.
The post-credits scene shows Akira preparing to make good on that promise as she makes her way through the throngs at Sacré-Coeur towards Caine, box cutter in hand. We cut to black just after Akira pulls the blade out, but the meaning is clear: Just like John Wick in his first film, she is now on a quest for revenge.
So, what happens next? Is Akira able to surprise Caine in the crowd? Will this spawn a John Wick spinoff focused on Caine and Akira, related or similar to the upcoming film Ballerina and TV series The Continental?
Even if it doesn’t have massive franchise-wide connotations, this post-credits scene reinforces one of the key themes of John Wick: Chapter 4: Those who live the life of an assassin can never truly be free. Both John and Caine get pulled out of supposed retirement and forced into a bloody cycle of vengeance. Caine refers to the two of them as “damned,” while John is repeatedly told that the only end to his path — and the only way for him to find freedom — is death.
Sure, this end-credits scene could be setting up a sequel (I wouldn’t say no to more Yen and Sawayama), but it is also an effective reminder of the brutality of life in John Wick’s world. Like Caine, you may think you’re free and clear — but that’s never the case.