“Peacemaker”: Making Peace With a Different Kind of Superhero

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Courtesy of WarnerMedia

“Peacemaker” stars John Cena in this origin story of “The Suicide Squad” character.

Grant Soedler, Herald Reporter

In an age where superhero movies and shows dominate pop culture, it can get tiring to keep up with each and every one, especially when one is required to have at least four different streaming services in order to legally watch them all. Of course, it’s not surprising that many people have lost the energy to get invested in the lesser-known or newer characters that appear in superhero media. So it might come as a shock that the first of DC’s live-action shows that tie into their larger cinematic universe is about some guy named Peacemaker, of all things. And even more shocking is how good it is.
“Peacemaker” is a new HBO Max original series created by James Gunn, best known for directing Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. The series is a direct sequel to 2021’s “The Suicide Squad” film, also directed by Gunn, not to be confused with the similar 2016 film “Suicide Squad.” John Cena reprises his role as Christopher Smith, AKA the Peacemaker, an extremely jingoistic “superhero” who cherishes peace with all his heart, “no matter how many men, women, and children he has to kill to get it.” The series also stars Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee and Robert Patrick. After recovering from the near-fatal injuries suffered during the climax of “The Suicide Squad,” the series sees Peacemaker forced into yet another secret government task force known as “Project Butterfly.” Their mission is to root out and eliminate an invading force of parasitic butterfly-like aliens, who have the ability to burrow into and take over human brains and have already done so to many high-ranking U.S. government officials.
“Peacemaker” is yet another example of James Gunn doing what he does best: taking an unlikely group of misfits and investing viewers in their problems as they come together as a dysfunctional found family. Despite its incredibly strange plot, the series can be incredibly heartfelt and funny, and it takes its time to make you sympathize with every main character’s struggles. This is most apparent with Peacemaker himself, while the series by no means attempts to glorify his jingoistic and extremist mindset– or excuse his jerkish and antagonistic behavior– it does do a great job of making you sympathize with him. This is primarily done by exploring his relationship with his father, Auggie Smith (portrayed by Robert Patrick), a white nationalist and former supervillain known as the White Dragon, which sheds light on the type of upbringing Smith had. It is also clear to the viewer that the events of “The Suicide Squad” had a big impact on Smith, making him question if what he does is actually “good.” John Cena does a fantastic job of bringing the character to life. Of course, the awesome uses of licensed music that are a staple of Gunn’s films are also present, and the songs used are well-incorporated into the show by reflecting the personal taste of the title character.
The series is not without its flaws, however. Despite the show’s humor, the writing can feel a bit stale at times. In addition, the lack of a single overarching antagonist can make the pacing feel a bit off, and sometimes the set design feels very cheap. The tone is also odd, as often none of the characters treat the threats with any seriousness. However, all of these complaints are ultimately nitpicks; “Peacemaker” is a blast from start to finish and can be streamed on HBO Max.