Julien Neaves, Editor
When I heard James Gunn was doing a spin-off series of The Suicide Squad focused on John Cena’s Peacemaker character I was like, “Okay then.” Of the cast of quirky Task Force X members he would not have been my first choice. Probably Bloodsport. Or Rick Flag. But trust in the Gunn as he pulled off not only a great series but easily one of the best live action superhero series ever, DC or otherwise.
So with a cow-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s look at the five reasons HBO MAX’s Peacemaker series rocks hard!
Reason #1 I Wanna Rock!
Anyone familiar with Gunn’s work would know that he loves incorporating songs into his films (the two Guardians films are the best examples) and he has quite the eclectic taste. Well his penchant for music is on display here again with a leaning towards hair bands and 80s metal. Now this is not one of my favourite genres so I did not know any of the music, but I was still entertained for the most part. And it did fit Peacemaker’s character to a tee.
The song that will stick with everyone watched the show is undoubtedly the intro song, Wig Wam’s Do You Wanna Taste It. That is one fun, rocking earworm. And it is the soundtrack to one very unique TV intro. When I first saw that odd, coordinated character dance I was like, “What is this? This is too weird. I’m going to skip it next time.” But I kept watching it and I eventually fell in love with it. And the fact that some of the robotic dance moves actually tied in to the plot of the alien “butterflies” taking over human hosts is pretty brilliant. So I definitely have to throw an invisible bone to this awesome, oddball intro.
Reason #2 Man of Peace
How do you take a douche-y, egotistical, piece of sh– homicidal character that we saw murder a hero just last year and turn him into the protagonist of your series? It’s not an easy task but the show pulls it off.
Part of the credit must go to Cena, who plays Christopher Smith aka Peacemaker with such sincerity that we want to see him do better and be better. Yes he is an immature, uncultured, abrasive and downright ridiculous person but there is a kind and wounded heart beating under all that bravado. There are times when the character is overbearing and a joke stretches out overly long but he is still generally enjoyable.
And the writing also does a commendable job of humanising him. We see he is haunted by his killing of Flag, learn of his abuse by his white supremacist father and front runner for one of the worst humans ever (more on him later), and discover his mission of “peace” is motivated by guilt over accidentally killing his brother as a child. Yeah, this dude is broken.
And remember his line from The Suicide Squad “I cherish peace with all my heart. I don’t care how many men, women, and children I need to kill to get it.” Well ole PM may have been blowing some smoke up our rectums as we see with his hesitation to off the Goff family he is not as cold blooded a killer as he makes himself out to be.
Reason #3 Squad Goals
But Cena is not the only deserving of kudos as he is backed up by one of the strongest casts I have ever seen assembled (sorry, wrong universe). I enjoyed everyone on the main cast here. Danielle Brooks’ Adebayo was sweet and endearing, Jennifer Holland’s Harcourt was kickass, Steve Agee’s John Economos was hilarious, Chukwudi Iwuji’s Murn was intriguing, and Freddie Stroma’s sociopathic Vigilante was a trip and a blast in the action scenes. I loved the interaction between the team which ranged from nonsensical fights to deeply endearing moments. Oh and Eagly. How could I forget Eagly? Man I loved that bird.
Those outside the main squad were no slackers either. Robert Patrick gave a mesmerising performance as the vile Auggie Smith and I loved to hate him. Annie Chang and Lochlyn Munro were fun as cops on Peacemaker’s trail-turned-butterflies Sophie and Larry respectively. Nhut Lee was fantastic as Cheeto munching, smack talking Judomaster. And Viola Davis only shows up in a couple brief scenes as Amanda Waller but she is top notch as usual. All around very strong performances from everyone involved.
Reason #4 Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!
The Suicide Squad was an extremely bloody, gory and violent affair and that carries over into Peacemaker. Cena is a wrestler so he brings that physicality to the grueling close quarters fights such as his battles with Annie and Judomaster. The gore also gets turned up to 11 in the encounters with the butterflies, with heads exploding, decapitations and limbs being sliced off. And I’m something of a gore hound so I loved every minute of it. And the scene where Butterfly-Song transforms attacks the police station with her butterfly army and transforms everyone? Man, that was like something out of a horror movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My two favourite action scenes come from the final two episodes. In the penultimate episode, Stop Dragon My Heart Around (as a lover of puns these episode titles never failed to put a smile on my face) Auggie in his awesome looking White Dragon armour and his followers try to take out Peacemaker and company. It felt so wonderfully comic book and over the top but still with the real emotional stakes, culminating in Christopher having to kill his father. Powerful stuff here. And then in the finale, “It’s Cow or Never” (love it), we have the assault on the Cloverdale Ranch and an absolute orgy of blood and violence. Thirteen flavours of awesome sauce I call that. In terms of action this show not only met my expectations but exceeded them.
Reason #5 Let’s Go Nuts
The last reason Peacemaker rocks is the writing. A story of an unlikeable hero with a ragtag team fighting butterfly-like aliens being fed by a giant hideous creature? It sounds ridiculous on paper but Gunn makes it feel both grounded and fantastical. Even Peacemaker’s toilet-set looking helmets and their different abilities is very silly but it works here by playing both tongue-in-cheek and seriously. And the pacing is so tight there is little filler weighing it down, though some scenes could have probably been trimmed a tad.
In terms of the wider DC universe for most of Season 1 we just get Peacemaker’s offhand and often offensive comments about various characters, both A-list and obscure. But they took it to the next level with a cameo from THE Justice League. You know the running gag about Marvel solo films and why the character didn’t call the Avengers. Well, Gunn had the actual League show up, though late to the party like an 80s horror or action movie. And I know some fans didn’t like the fish fornicating joke but that is standard Peacemaker behaviour. It was cool seeing Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller though I did miss Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot. Having all of them together would have been awesome. Still cool scene though and I appreciated the tie-in to the wider DCEU. And I appreciated this show, which went full throttle with its weirdness and irreverence and never looked back.
Editor Jules’s Score: 9 out of 10
So what did you think of Peacemaker Season 1? And you can check out more DC content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.