The new HBO Max series Peacemaker drops the audience into the life of Christopher Smith, aka Peacemaker, after the events of last year’s film The Suicide Squad. Played by John Cena, Peacemaker was technically a villain and a detestable one. He was prejudiced and he sought peace at all costs, including killing people. Peacemaker betrayed the team he was working with when they went against government orders to do the right thing. He survived the film, but what adventures will Peacemaker have now? And will they change him as a person?
“A Whole New Whirled”
Well, he’s still the same person at first. His racism, sexism, and general vulgarity are firmly in place for now. He escapes from the hospital because he doesn’t want to go back to prison but he is quickly tracked and put to work for the government again as an assassin.
The team he works with includes a couple of people the viewer will recognize from The Suicide Squad. Emilia Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, is his handler and John Economos, played by Steve Agee, is the tech guy. Danielle Brooks is Leota Adebayo, the new girl, and the mysterious Clemson Murn, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, is calling the shots. We also meet Peacemaker’s dad, Auggie Smith, played by Robert Patrick. There is also another costumed killer of bad people named Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma, who wants to be Peacemaker’s BFF.
Writer-director James Gunn continues on from The Suicide Squad, taking the tone of the extreme moments in that film and honing it even more for this series. Adult content abounds, so just be aware. Particularly in the language. Gunn also establishes a rhythm to the humor that works very well. An Aquaman joke hits early on, while the team banter excels at other times.
This first episode sets up all of this at a successful pace and then allows the overall plot to kick in. Peacemaker’s first mission is Operation Butterfly and his first task is to assassinate a Senator. But before that, he has to contend with a one-night stand who turns out to be an inhuman assassin.
Well, onto the next episode!
“Best Friends, For Never”
Gunn’s writing style keeps the laughs coming despite a bit of uneven pacing in this episode. Peacemaker manages to find a clue about the assassin while his team helps him avoid the cops. This entails framing his father who ends up in prison.
The first episode presented Auggie as a vile, bigoted, despicable person in every way. Patrick is an actor who can exude a menacing attitude to perfection, and that ability suits this role well. As someone who hasn’t read the comics, I can’t speak to the development of his White Dragon persona referenced in this ep, but I do look forward to finding out what the rest of the season has to show.
The character of Vigilante gets strong interactions with Peacemaker in this episode, and it turns out to be one of the most entertaining parts of the series. He appears as Peacemaker is crying about how his actions have made everyone hate him. Is this character growth, hidden behind toxic masculinity intentionally played for laughs? Future episodes will tell.
“Better Goff Dead”
Now, it’s finally time to assassinate that Senator. In the process, Peacemaker also finds out exactly what Operation Butterfly means. The action sequences in this episode hit a high note and the overarching plot of the season is starting to come into focus. Any viewer who has seen The Suicide Squad and remembers what Operation Starfish was about can probably anticipate what happens here. The final shot of this episode whets the audience’s appetite for more, as well.
So far, the strong team dynamic generated among Peacemaker and the others form a good foundation for the over-the-top tone to the gratuitous humor and violence. Certain moments pop up to develop a character or relationship, moments which feel like they might have bearing on future story points.
I am not someone who can say that profane comedy is to my taste, and yet, somehow, this feels like the right attitude for the character of Peacemaker and his story. I found myself wondering what will happen next to him more than I ever expected I would. You become surprisingly invested in his progress. That’s a credit to Gunn and Cena. Gunn’s irreverent writing style seems to pair well with little-known and off-kilter comic book characters, and that’s what happens here.
Welcome to the DCEU on television, everyone. Until next week’s episode!
Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.