“Peacemaker… What a joke.”
The final words from Rick Flag still live in my head as they do Peacemaker’s as well. As Rick Flag hung over him, dying, I saw a seismic shift inside of Peacemaker. The first kink in his otherwise pristine armor of peace. John Cena told the entire story with his eyes as the character realized that he wasn’t doing the mission that he so adamantly believed. John Cena blew me away with his performance in The Suicide Squad with his comedic timing, his charisma, and his chemistry on screen. Now in Peacemaker, that unwavering killer who would kill as many men, women, and children as needed to secure peace has a shaken trigger finger.
Peacemaker follows the title character after the events of The Suicide Squad where he is recruited to another secret team put together by Argus. Some of Waller’s team from the film return with Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee), while joined by newcomers Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) and Clemson Murnas (Chukwudi Iwuji) as they investigate Project Butterfly. The Project is as bonkers as it sounds and it’s going to blow your lid off. Peacemaker isn’t the only costumed lunatic to join in on James Gunns slice of the DC universe though. We meet Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) who is out to lunch in a very different way than Peacemaker. We also learn more about Peacemaker’s origins and meet his absolute piece of human garbage father played by Robert Patrick.
The story of Peacemaker is very weird in the absolute best way. I had the chance to check out the first 7 episodes of the show which I promptly devoured as quickly as King Shark does a person. Every character beat, story element, and fight scene had me saying “Okay my other work can wait” and pressing play on the next. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the humor was crude, vulgar, and sometimes a bit much. But for someone who loves dark superhero content with R-rated humor, it kept me engaged from start to finish. It’s clear that James Gunn had so much fun jamming in references to the DC universe at large. They aren’t tongue-in-cheek where the weirdness of DC and comics are played down even slightly. Some of them even made my jaw drop because Gunn has to own the DC Who’s Who to pull out some out-there characters.
The appreciation and love for the universe Peacemaker exists in made me swoon, I won’t be coy with you. I won’t pretend I’m some professional critic at The New Yorker weighing in on the show. The show works so well as a celebration of just how weird comics are. Peacemaker shows up to dinner in his full costume, has his logo on every piece of his equipment while being very verbal about it, and has a pet Eagle named Eagly who steals your heart like a possum from the woods. These are all things that exist in comics. Batman labels all of his toys with Bats so why not a Dove for peace? The people around Peacemaker are often baffled by “cape shit” but for someone who is ride or die DC comics, the show gets it. Sometimes it’s super dark and gritty with humor that’s very in your face but that is the stuff I have read my entire life.
I would love to sit here and write pages on John Cena’s performance in Peacemaker but I don’t want to spoil anything because I want you to see it yourself. There are multiple times throughout the series where we go under the toilet bowl helmet to see the elements that created the monster that is Peacemaker. There are truly emotional moments where I had to ask myself if I was really this emotional because of Peacemaker. The answer is yes. Gunn’s writing is often goofy and over the top but it is always anchored down by humanity. They’re stories about looking at who you are, why you are, and often (75% of the time) about relationships with fathers. Peacemaker is looking inward to see if maybe he can change. Cena sells it with moments where the armor comes off to see the vulnerable scared person beneath.
I missed seeing Danielle Brooks on my television fiercely after Orange is the New Black ended so having her as a main character in Peacemaker made me so excited to finally see it. Her performance in this show is wonderful as she is the newest recruit to the secret organization business. She is the moral compass of the team all the while trying to balance her own life with her wife and 2 dogs. Leota Adebayo is the member without blood on their hands figuratively and physically in some aspects. I know I have talked up John Cena as Peacemaker a lot but it’s because I can’t talk about so much. Some of the things I want to talk about are in the spoiler files about her. When I saw her characters origins, the noise that left my body may get me a written noise complaint from my apartment complex. Her chemistry with John Cena is electric as she tries to learn if the red costume and helmet are truly who he is.
Now I know everyone knew the soundtrack of Peacemaker would be killer, it’s James Gunn. What I wasn’t expecting was a full-on 80’s neon-drenched dance number to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” for the opening credits of the show. Tears streamed down my face from laughing as I rewatched it about 5 times. I love a dance number, full stop. If you want me to give you a 100/10, give me a dance number. Yes, I did cry during The Suicide Squad’s dance scene, why do you ask? Dancing and singing is such an intimate look into a person because most people aren’t trained in either. This show and it’s characters are full of singing and dancing. They’re goofy but it’s always done in a way that made me think about how much they’ve been through and how they kind find some kind of reprieve from that.
So was Rick Flag right? Absolutely. Peacemaker is a murderer who until this point showed no empathy or remorse for his actions but Peacemaker changes that. We see as the character grows through thinking about his actions. We watch as he is called out for his terrible behavior and personality but we get to watch as he grows too. Is this show for everyone? Probably not. The humor will offend some people and the violence may be too much but between that, there is a show about a monster confronting that and searching for his humanity. Peacemaker celebrates the medium it came from with a dove on its sleeve while pushing a small Charlton character to be more than he’s ever been on any page of a comic.