Peacemaker is a bloody, violent, masterpiece of a series. It continues the vibes of The Suicide Squad by combining heart, humor, and flat out ridiculousness to create something truly special. It should be said that this review is based off of the first seven episodes of an eight episode season.
James Gunn is one of the most brilliant minds working in the Entertainment industry today. He is able to take the most obscure, off-the-wall, characters, and put them in a bloody and violent story that also contains a ridiculous amount of humor and heart. Somehow he will always make us feel for those who truly do not deserve it. That is exactly what he does with Peacemaker in the new HBO Max series.
This is a spin-off of 2021’s The Suicide Squad, and if it has been a while since you have seen it, don’t worry, Peacemaker spends the first few minutes of the series catching you up. However, if it has been a while since you have seen it — why are you doing that to yourself? It’s available to stream on HBO Max now.
After an absolutely hilarious start that involves crass digs at Aquaman that truly make me feel seen, the opening credits, which are choreographed by Charissa Barton, play — and they are genius. What is occurring is hysterical and yet every actor has the most serious look in the world on their faces. I could watch them over and over, which I admit is something I did. They became something to look forward to with each episode.
This dance is going to become an internet sensation, I promise you. All the kids will be doing the dance on TikTok and I do not care to admit how many times I stood in my living room trying to perfect it (for the record I did not succeed).
This series allows audiences to get to know Peacemaker better and in all honestly, we could use one of these for every member of the The Suicide Squad (get to work James). With an eight episode arc this show is given the time to breath. Characters and plot are fleshed out in a way that makes them believable and nothing feels rushed.
Christopher Smith, better known as Peacemaker, may be a horrible person, but this is mostly due to his upbringing. His father is extremely racist, to the point where he is a supervillain named the White Dragon who takes out people of color, whom he feels are second class citizens. This is where a lot of the things Chris says come from. He is suspected to be racist by the public, which is mentioned time and time again throughout the series.
But not only that, a lot of the words that come out of his mouth and inappropriate and sexist. The thing is, he doesn’t fully grasp this or understand it. He thinks he is being nice when complimenting a woman’s breasts, and doesn’t realize just how not cool it is. This is a theme throughout the series and is done in a way that is hilarious, but also points out just how horrible these behaviors are.
There are several twists and each one is given a moment for the audience to sit with it, really letting it sink in. Some of these plot twists might feel a little bit on the predictable side, but in all honesty that is just from the story laying the groundwork so that it is believable.
Peacemaker may be filled with comedy, blood, gore, and a whole lot of vulgarity, but it is also deeply sad and tragic. Peacemaker’s relationship with his father is a troubled one and getting to explore that side of him is just one of the many things that makes this series work.
Robert Patrick, who plays Auggie Smith, does a fantastic job at looking at John Cena with such hate in his eyes that it cuts deep. These two are wonderful on screen together and their chemistry is often showcased through lots of yelling and put downs, makes it easy for viewers to feel that pang of hurt for Peacemaker. Something no one will want to admit.
But that relationship isn’t the only one that works in this series, they all do. James Gunn yet again proves that he knows how to handle an ensemble cast by giving everyone their moment to shine and to feel like there are there for a purpose, not just to fill empty space.
Of course this can’t all be attributed to him, because the cast themselves bring a whole lot to the table too. Each and every one of them becomes their character. Sure, most of them we have see in The Suicide Squad, and it was great to see them back with more time on screen, but the newcomers to DC do just as great a job.
Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo steals many scenes, and hearts, as she is easy to fall in love with. She is witty, but she really cares about those around her too. The way she sticks up for John Economos (Steve Agee) is heartwarming. Speaking of Economos, he is a very welcome returning member of the team, and is another character that it becomes really easy to feel for.
Jennifer Holland plays the rough and tough Emilia Harcourt and I have to admit, I can relate to her on so many levels. I am nowhere near as badass as she is, but girl, sometimes I just want to sit at a bar and enjoy a beer without douchebags bothering me, too. Chukwudi Iwuji has a subtle brilliance about him as Clemson Murn, and he is one that felt like a background character to me at first, but quickly came into his own as the episodes went on.
Nhut Le as Judomaster has one of the best comedic moments involving Flamin Hot Cheetos that is going to make me laugh out loud every time I see them now.
Peacemaker’s secondary sidekick, Vigilante is played by Freddie Stroma and he adds a whole lot to the series. His dynamic with Peacemaker is nearly unmatched — I could watch them together for hours. Of course, Eagly is fantastic as well, and the true hero of the series.
James Gunn has always been a master at cinematography and soundtracks so it should go without saying that these are also exceptional in Peacemaker. The angles and shots used during action scenes are exactly what you would expect from him. They always bring out the best in a moment and truly push the series to be its best. In all honesty, Peacemaker almost feels like a really long movie rather than a Television series, especially when the episodes are watched back to back.
The music is pretty much a character all its own, as per usual with anything Gunn creates. He has a natural ear and eye for what something needs, and he always delivers. Each end credit segment has a different song, and each song connects back to the episode in an unexpected way. Viewers won’t be able to help but smile when they get to them. Plus, they need to totally stick around because each and every episode has an end credit scene (thanks James!).
As for the main “villains” of the series, the Butterflies, they are a brilliant creation from the mind of James Gunn. I don’t know too much about the Peacemaker comic books, but I did my best to dig deep into DC comics and could find absolutely no trace of them. In order to remain spoiler free, I won’t say much except that Gunn created one of the best plotlines in a comic book series that I have ever seen.
There are some horror elements to it that sucked me in almost immediately and had me on the edge of my seat as things unfolded. Watching it all play out was exciting and intense, and the screener for the final episode of the series can’t come soon enough. I would love to pick his brain about his process in coming up with it because it felt unique and familiar, all at the same time.
For those who are massive DC comic book and Peacemaker fans, there are tons of obscure character mentions and Easter eggs.
Peacemaker himself is childish, inconsiderate, oblivious, and believes everything he reads on the internet. But he is also very traumatized. Rarely does a villain become a villain because they had a lovely childhood. In Peacemaker fans get to not only see what has made him into the man he is today, but they are also likely to, very reluctantly, start to understand and feel bad for him.
The Peacemaker series is bloody, violent, vulgar, and full of action. It doesn’t shy away from language, which as somewhere who has a mouth like a sailor, I can appreciate. There is some nudity in here too so if these sort of things bothers you — why were you interested in Peacemaker in the first place?
This action-packed series perfectly picks up where The Suicide Squad left off and allows viewers to get to know Peacemaker a little more while also enjoying blood, gore, a banana pants story, and some kickass music. Not to mention some of the best action scenes on the small screen, that feel like they were made for the big screen.
So if you enjoyed that movie, you are going to freaking love this series. And if you didn’t? Well, what’s that saying? Give peace a chance… mother f*cker.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Written and directed by James Gunn, PEACEMAKER explores the continuing story of the character that John Cena reprises in the aftermath of Gunn’s 2021 film “The Suicide Squad” – a compellingly vainglorious man who believes in peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it.
The series stars John Cena as Peacemaker, Danielle Brooks as Adebayo, Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Jennifer Holland as Harcourt, Steve Agee as Economos, Chukwudi Iwuji as Murn and Robert Patrick as Auggie Smith.
Gunn wrote all eight episodes of PEACEMAKER and directed five, including the first. Gunn, Peter Safran and Matt Miller serve as executive producers on the series, with Cena as co-executive producer. Based on characters from DC, PEACEMAKER is produced by Gunn’s Troll Court Entertainment and The Safran Company in association with Warner Bros. Television.
The DC spinoff series premieres on HBO Max with the first three episodes,
followed by weekly episode drops every Thursday for the remaining five episodes through February 17.
You Might Also Enjoy...
Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Hollywood Critics Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.