The Continental – Season 1 Episode 1 “Brothers in Arms” Recap & Review

“Brothers in Arms”

Episode 1 of The Continental begins in New York City. The year is 1955. The police have apprehended Frankie and his younger brother Winston. Winston keeps repeating he didn’t mean to “do it.” But Frankie tries to convince his brother that it isn’t his fault.

Several years later, Frankie executes a robbery at the NY Continental, which is owned by Cormac O’Connor. The old business tycoon took Frankie in as an orphan. Frankie wants a specific piece from Cormac’s vault. But as he lays his hands on it, his partner threatens to shoot him if Frankie doesn’t give him the piece.

Frankie surprises him with a concealed gun. The partner’s automatic weapon goes off as he succumbs to the shots, killing the people partying upstairs celebrating New Year’s Eve. Cormac’s men, led by Lawrence, immediately assemble to inspect. Frankie fights his way through the sea of men coming at him. He also has a getaway driver, who remains unnamed at this point.

Meanwhile, Winston is making an investment pitch to a businessman, Mr Davenport, in London. Winston wants to build car parking spaces in central London and leverage the real estate boom. However, Davenport isn’t interested. His young trophy wife, Rosalind, intercedes and piles on Winston’s dull idea. When she brings up popstar David Bowie visiting their disco club the other day, Winston phones his manager, Tony. It is subtle coercion as Tony convinces the Davenports to invest in a venture that Tony is a part of himself. And the next moment it turns out not. Rosalind and Winston are actually associates. They duped Davenport to invest in the venture, just as Winston had planned.

They spend the night together. While Rosa is taking a shower, Winston is attacked by three masked men. Someone dressed as a housemaid injects him with a sedative and they take Winston away. Cormac admonishes his men for not having retrieved the coin press that Frankie stole. We also meet a young Charon, standing by Cormac’s side as his loyal manager. Cormac coerces one of the men to jump to his death from the balcony by threatening to kill his family. Cormac cannot kill on the premises of The Continental, given the High Table’s rules. Winston is brought to the hotel and Cormac questions him about Frankie.

It seems that the brothers have had a falling out. Winston makes it clear he cannot help Cormac, who lets him go. But he asks his men to follow Winston to see if he approaches his brother. Next, we meet a police officer in the NYPD, KD, who is having an affair with her superior, Det. Mayhew. They are currently tailing Uzan, a Russian gangster who works for Cormac. KD is seemingly after Uzan’s supplier, whom she believes is Frankie. But Mayhew stops her from taking the case forward. He knows about the High Table and that the NYPD is supposed to look the other way. 

Winston visits his old friend Charlie, who tells him Frankie might be in Chinatown. Winston alleges that Cormac destroyed their family, put them on the street, and left Frankie to rot in jail for years. Winston’s next destination is Burton Karate, a dojo run by brother-sister duo Miles and Lou. These two were earlier involved in a messy shootout with Uzan and his men and came out on top. Miles was also involved in the Vietnam War and is in the business of selling firearms illegally. Winston pays them a visit and ends up with two guns pointed at him in the basement of the dojo by Miles and Lemmy.

Frankie has apparently not been in touch with Lou and Miles for months. Miles tells him that Frankie worked with them before. But they had a falling out one day when he didn’t show up for a gun buy. Winston is told Frankie might be in Alphabet City, which is where he heads next. It turns out that Frankie’s partner paid to betray him and survived the gunshot. He is tortured by The Adjudicator at High Table’s behest. The coin press is a significant artefact that could bring the entire organization down. 

KD ignores Mayhew’s instructions and goes into The Continental the next day. The staff is unnerved by her presence and lets her know she isn’t welcome at the hotel. Winston isn’t greeted too well by Frankie and his partner, Yen, either. He asks his brother to go underground but Frankie wants to stay. Cormac’s men have followed Winston, setting up a delightful gunfight sequence for us. They launch a missile at the old theatre where the brothers and Yen are holed up… at least that is what we are led to believe at first. The goons have the wrong building as Winston craftily set up a trap for them. Frankie tries to warn Winston about Cormac, who will do anything to not make the High Table upset. 

The trio escapes and goes to see Uncle Charlie. Cormac enlists the help of twins Hansel and Gretel, whose hairstyles are inspired by Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Yen is upset with Frankie. In conversation, we learn that Cormac brought the Scott family to the streets because they couldn’t repay a loan. Frankie explains that he cut off Winston from this life because he wanted him to lead a good one. It turns out that one of Charlie’s friends works for Cormac. He informs him about the brothers and is instructed to kill them. Yen gets to him first and the trio are left to fight off Cormac’s men.

They are able to fend them off and Charlie’s other friend sets up a chopper at the top of the building for them to escape. But before they can board it, the twins reach the terrace of an adjacent building and shoot Yen and the driver of the chopper. In order to save them, Frankie sacrifices his own life and is killed by Gretel. It turns out that the box does not have the Coin Press as Winston goes to the Burton Dojo for help. 

The Episode Review

The Continental’s first episode is characterized by the unmistakable John Wick brand of action sequences and quirky characters that make the franchise so special. The production is top-notch, especially how the creatives have resurrected NY City of the ’70s. The historic garbage strike makes the identification easy enough. Lighting, sound, fast gun-fu with the camera staying on the action are epithets of the JW cinematic universe. 

At almost 90 minutes long, the episode is unconventionally long. And I did find myself wavering quite a bit in between. The episode does have stretches of dullness where the writing effort seems lazy and derivative. After the explosive start, the story slows down to establish the universe to its full extent. However, these moments are sandwiched between two strong halves that will pique interest for fans of John Wick.

The narrative seems to have taken a step beyond the action, which was very tastefully done, keeping in line with the franchise’s brand. We saw the sowing of rich character arcs that have inklings of iconic and memorable characters. The soundtrack is a banger, replete with choices that elevate the momentum of the plot. The subtle callback to Anton Chigurh is a highlight of the episode as well.

I feel the series does not have enough time to do justice to the vision of the creators. There is so much to explore here, it must have been difficult for them to streamline their choices. 


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