'The Continental': Should you watch the 'John Wick' prequel miniseries? Critics weigh in.

Time is money. Should you spend yours on 'The Continental'? Here's what the critics are saying.

Colin Woodell as a young Winston Scott in The Continental. (Starz)
Colin Woodell as a young Winston Scott in The Continental. (Starz) (STARZ)

The Continental, the new three-part prequel miniseries set in the world of John Wick, has arrived on Peacock and critics have weighed in on things like the format, the action and the cast that includes Mel Gibson.

Stemming from the four-film John Wick franchise that has pulled in more than a billion dollars and built a strong fan base along the way, this series goes back 40 years to tell the story of how The Continental — a central plot point to the movies and its characters — came to be what fans know it today: an international syndicate of luxury hotels catering to big-time criminals, where assassination assignments are safely exchanged using special gold coins that are pressed in and distributed by the house.

Familiar characters from the films include Winston Scott, played by Ian MacShane in the movies and by Colin Woodell in the series, along with Charon, played by the late Lance Reddick in the films and by Ayomide Adegun in this, his first-ever role.

And it's worth noting that Gibson is part of the cast as one of the main bad guys, and the one who was running The Continental back in the '70s.

The Continental was developed, written and executive produced by Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward and Shawn Simmons, with John Wick movie director Chad Stahelski serving as an executive producer as well.

So is this hotel worth checking into? Here’s a look at how The Continental: From the World of John Wick is playing with critics.

At first glance

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer Score: 51%

Metacritic Score: 55

The miniseries format isn’t wicking — errr — working

The series spans three heavily serialized episodes of roughly 90 minutes each, which positions it in a frustrating middle ground between a too-long movie and a too-short TV season. It takes the entire feature-length premiere to get to the core premise of Winston trying to topple Cormac’s rule, and most of the feature-length finale to play out the bullet-riddled climax. In between, there’s not quite enough time to flesh out the promising ensemble with the care they deserve. — Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter

Break in, kill the mini-bosses up the tower, kill the big boss at the top floor. Almost as alluringly simple as the original inciting incident in John Wick — they killed his dog, now he’s gonna kill them. But a lean feature film’s running time and pacing prove more of a fertile ground for this spartan of storytelling than a four hour and 30 minute miniseries. — Gregory Lawrence, The Wrap

By its second episode, The Continental: From the World of John Wick has ground to a veritable halt, wasting energy on interpersonal squabbles and vengeful schemes that are neither original nor consequential. Choice soundtrack cuts from The Who, James Brown, Heart and numerous others strive to offset the torpor, as do a variety of cutesy subplots, none more tedious than a sniper named Gene (Ray McKinnon) trying to strike up a romantic rapport with the woman whose apartment he’s commandeered to complete a homicidal task. Nick Schager, Daily Beast

There’s plenty for John Wick fans… maybe too much

The Continental is filled with family betrayal, fatal fires, fatal fire extinguishers, a little Heart and a million Easter eggs and coin presses for the hard-core Wickheads… The story is daft and the resolutions often neglect their own setups, but that’s bull’s-eye on-brand for Wickworld. There are some moral dilemmas encountered in the hallways as a younger and vengeance-seeking Winston Scott tries to take over the iconic establishment, but The Continental is primarily a gritty and swagger-filled romp, as it should be. — Dominic Patten, Deadline

The Continental assumes you are deeply familiar with the John Wick mythology, to the point where it’s mostly never explained just who is and is not aware of what the High Table is, what the rules of The Continental are, and what the heck an “Adjudicator” does. Granted, the movies are pretty tight-lipped with answers like that (ask a Wick fan to explain the difference between an Adjudicator and a Harbinger without saying “one of them is Mr. Krabs”), but they also make it fairly clear who is and is not already aware of these things. Sam Barsanti, AV Club

There’s also just… so… much… talk about the mythology of assassin world. The first movie offered vague hints about how all of this worked, teasing things in a way that made viewers eager to find out more. This turned into a “be careful what you wish for” situation, as the more granular the sequels got about the gold coins, the pneumatic tubes, and Winston having to kneel before representatives of the High Table, the less interesting any of that material got. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

The directors have fun with the 1970s vibe

Where the Wick films mixed classic cinema, Hong Kong bullet operas, and Buster Keaton pictures into its unique bullet-hurricane formula, director Albert Hughes (Menace II Society) uses the prequel’s '70s backdrop to play host to a whole new set of action and crime film influences in the first episode. The show’s DNA is suffused with '70s crime flicks like Taxi Driver and The French Connection, not to mention nods to kung fu flicks and blaxploitation. The costumes pop with leather jackets, flared pants, and well-tailored suits, the cars are vintage, and the needle drops are groovy (if so frequent as to be overstuffed at times). — Clint Worthington, Consequence

There will be no filling of Keanu Reeves’s shoes

[Colin] Woodell, who turned in fiendishly ambiguous work on The Flight Attendant, is fundamentally miscast and misdirected as Winston, leaning much too far into the stylization of the material and coming off as a kid play-acting in dress-up clothes rather than evoking any kind of authenticity — let alone one in conversation with McShane’s take on the same role. — Gregory Lawrence, The Wrap

The supporting cast is where it's at

The real bright lights of this sanguinary saga, however, are [Mishel] Prada and [Ayomide] Adegun. No spoilers, as Peacock has insisted for almost all of the twists and turns of The Continental, but Vida vet Prada and Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes actor Adegun deliver breakout performances here that have further spinoffs tattooed all over them. — Dominic Patten, Deadline

Mishel Prada as KD is one of the few bright spots in The Continental. (Starz Entertainment)
Mishel Prada as KD is one of the few bright spots in The Continental. (Starz) (Starz Entertainment)

Enough about the acting, what about the action?

The focus is less on the fluidity of movement that typifies John Wick’s fights, and more on the strange environments and staging choices, like Lou (Jessica Allain) and Mayhew (Jeremy Bobb) trading blows inside a cramped phone booth, or Lemmy (Adam Shapiro) trying to fend off a Continental secretary who keeps attacking him with a paper cutter’s blade and other Seventies office supplies. — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

The action sequences here, the raison d’être of the John Wick film franchise, are, like, totally fine! It’s clear many of the lead performers don’t have as much stunt experience, or time to train, as those in the film, resulting in some of their fight choreo being edited down to feel less intuitive, de-escalating into mere shootouts or simply consisting of limp-feeling punches. — Gregory Lawrence, The Wrap

Mel Gibson is in it

Mel Gibson and Katie McGrath. (Starz Entertainment)
Mel Gibson and Katie McGrath in The Continental. (Starz) (Starz Entertainment)

And then — grumble grumble — there’s Gibson. To be clear: This show, and all shows, would be better without him. There’s nothing he brings to this that anyone other than Mel Gibson would not do better, if only by not being Mel Gibson. — Sam Barsanti, AV Club

In a vacuum, Gibson might be a perfectly reasonable choice of household name to play the scenery-chewing villain whose intensity outpaces his actual screen time. But The Continental does not exist in a vacuum. It’s being released into a reality where Gibson’s history of racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, abusive behavior has been well documented. — Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter

The contentious Gibson, playing a one-man insane asylum in the greater madhouse of this murderous underworld, looks like he’s having his most fun onscreen in decades. The deuteragonist of the three-parter in many ways, the Lethal Weapon alum is given top billing, and Woodell struts down the avenues as a man growing into becoming Ian McShane. — Dominic Patten, Deadline

So, is it worth watching?

Ultimately, The Continental fails to realize Reeves’s central role in the appeal of the John Wick films. Imagining that those predecessors’ formula might work without him — and with an augmented focus on their mythos — turns out to be the most misguided of this show’s many unwise decisions. — Nick Schager, Daily Beast

Shows based on popular IP are all the rage among TV development executives, who believe that familiar brand names are the only way to get noticed in a marketplace with way too many shows, and way too many outlets on which to see them. But you have to understand why the audience cared about that IP in the first place, and provide something that will tap into that love. — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

The Continental is often simmering, but only rarely cooking. Credit where credit’s due: the miniseries is genuinely interested in expanding the voice and world of John Wick rather than mere rehash. — Gregory Lawrence, The Wrap

As a pure continuation of John Wick lore, The Continental is a worthy watch, one that offers similar bloody mayhem to its predecessors in a new, wide-lapelled outfit. But it’s hard not to feel that the show, with its leaden pacing, convoluted cast of characters, and lack of a nucleus in a powerhouse figure like Reeves, comes up short compared to the film series it desperately wants to evoke. — Clint Worthington, Consequence

Even with Mel Gibson involved, it’s not bad enough to hurt the John Wick franchise, but it’s also not exciting enough to justify becoming a key part of the canon. — Sam Barsanti, AV Club

The Continental premieres Friday, Sept. 22 on Peacock.