REVIEW: ‘Peacemaker’ Is Surprisingly Profound-And Extremely Profane

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Peacemaker - But Why Tho

Peacemaker is an HBO Max Original Series created by James Gunn and starring John Cena as the titular antihero. Following the events of The Suicide Squad, Christopher Smith aka Peacemaker is discharged from the hospital following his supposedly fatal shootout with Bloodsport. However, he is drawn into a new black ops mission by mercenary Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), who is attempting to stop the mysterious “Project Butterfly”. Peacemaker joins Murn’s task force which consists of CIA Agent Emilia Hartcourt (Jennifer Holland), tech expert John Economos (Steve Agee), and Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), with his self-proclaimed “friend” Adrian Chase/Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) tagging along. Complicating matters, Peacemaker struggles with his guilt over killing Rick Flagg and his immensely toxic relationship with his father Auggie (Robert Patrick).

When the series was first announced, I remember scratching my head and thinking “This guy gets a TV show?” Out of all the members of the Suicide Squad, Peacemaker seemed like the least interesting character to follow. However, Gunn uses the series to explore what made Smith the way he is. Much like John Walker from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or Homelander from The Boys, Smith is a walking example of the danger that unchecked nationalism can create-in The Suicide Squad, he boasted about achieving peace at any cost no matter how many men, women, and children he needed to kill to get it. That credo is put to the test, with Cena’s body language revealing how shaken Smith’s experience in Corto Maltese left him-one episode even features him breaking down in tears.

Even though the series is willing to explore Peacemaker’s inner turmoil, it also doesn’t forget that he’s a boorish and profane individual. Gunn, who wrote the entire series, revels in dialogue where Smith and the other members of his task force hurl insults at each other-including Smith constantly referring to Economos as “dye beard” and believing that Google and Facebook provide accurate information. And if you have a favorite DC superhero, be warned: none of them are safe from Smith’s insults-he calls Batman a coward for letting the Joker live, implies that Wonder Woman was “eye-effing” him at a party when invited to be a guest speaker at a school, and claims that Aquaman has sex with fish. There are also nods to lesser-known DC characters such as Kite-Man and the Legion of Superheroes’ Matter-Eater Lad; not since the Harley Quinn animated series have I seen a DC show this willing to push the envelope.

What also helps balance the mix of comedy and gravitas is the supporting cast surrounding Cena. As Murn, Iwuji exudes a calm and downright chilly demeanor that rivals Viola Davis’ performance as Amanda Waller. Holland and Agee, both carryovers from The Suicide Squad, are afforded more time to flesh out their characters; Hartcourt deftly handles fieldwork and shrugging off Peacemaker’s less than subtle advances while Economos gets what is perhaps the series’ most absurdly awesome moment. The weak link is Stroma’s Vigilante; he often comes across as a lesser Deadpool, and much like Smith your tolerance for his antics will wax and wane depending on the scene.

The standouts of the cast are Brooks and Patrick, as they represent twin extremes in Smith’s life. Brooks’ performance as Adebayo seems to be the opposite of who Smith is; she’s in a loving relationship with her wife, she doesn’t know if she’s cut out for fieldwork, and she can see how damaged Smith truly is. Combine that with a surprising connection to another Suicide Squad character, and she ends up being perhaps the most compelling character in the ensemble. Patrick is utterly terrifying as the elder Smith; it turns out that he has his own dark secrets, including an alter ego as a white supremacist supervillain. Gunn’s work has delved into the relationship between a father and his son, but this has to be the darkest take on it yet; Patrick completely sells the audience on how despicable Auggie really is.

Directing-wise, Gunn translates fairly well to TV; while his work on The Suicide Squad and the Guardians of the Galaxy films was filled with massive set pieces and bursting with color, Peacemaker feels more grounded and down to earth-well as down to earth as you can get when your protagonist is a trained killer dressed in the colors of the American Flag. The fight scenes have plenty of gritty, bloody action; every time Peacemaker and colleagues fight with the martial arts-themed villainJudomaster (Nhut Le) the end result looks like a tornado blew through the set. But kudos have to go to the opening sequence, an elaborate number staged to “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam, and Eagly-Smith’s pet eagle, who ends up stealing a number of scenes and being a surprising emotional anchor Directors Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez, and Brad Anderson also tackle an episode and show they’re more than willing to run free in Gunn’s sandbox.

Peacemaker proves to be a surprisingly profound yet hilariously profane spinoff of The Suicide Squad, thanks to the creative union of James Gunn and John Cena. If you loved The Suicide Squad or have enjoyed HBO Max’s other adult-skewing DC shows such as Harley Quinn or Doom Patrol, this is definitely worth a watch.

The first three episodes of Peacemaker will be available to stream on HBO Max on Thursday, January 13. New episodes premiere every Thursday.


Peacemaker
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Peacemaker proves to be a surprisingly profound yet hilariously profane spinoff of The Suicide Squad, thanks to the creative union of James Gunn and John Cena. If you loved The Suicide Squad or have enjoyed HBO Max’s other adult-skewing DC shows such as Harley Quinn or Doom Patrol, this is definitely worth a watch.

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