Peacemaker Is Another TV Bullseye for DC
Though Peacemaker was created, written, and (mostly) directed by The Suicide Squad helmer James Gunn, these first three episodes (all of which premiered on HBO Max on Jan. 13) aren’t just a direct continuation of 2021 film. Well, at first it is literally that with the show’s opening moments picking up in the hospital room that Peacemaker was unceremoniosly dumped in in The Suicide Squad’s post-credit scene. But it also soon reveals itself to be an honest-to-goodness zany action TV show, with an absolutely classic opening credits sequence to prove it. Peacemaker very well could have been a medium-ambiguous bit of Suicide Squad supplemental content. It’s to Gunn and the show’s credit that it puts the advantages of TV’s episodic storytelling formula to good use instead.
Thanks to the explosive device still implanted in Chris Smith’s head, Peacemaker gets off to a quick start. While Cena’s character has plans to start a new life, far away from the sins of Corto Maltese, Amanda Waller’s isn’t ready to let him go so easily. Dispatching a pair of characters previously seen in The Suicide Squad: Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee); and a couple who weren’t: Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), an unseen Waller helpfully removes any of the boring motivational work from the proceedings. Peacemaker essentially has to be in the show Peacemaker or his head will explode.
The gang’s mission is a simple one: track down enemy combatants known as “butterflies” and eliminate them. Of course, in the world of The Suicide Squad, mission names are often surprisingly literal. Just as Project Starfish dealt with a giant alien starfish, Project Butterfly deals with alien butterflies who can infiltrate the brains of human beings like Yeerks. Butterflies also give their human hosts superstrength as a whitey-titey clad Peacemaker discovers in episode one upon running afoul a recent sexual contest with a taste for ‘80s hair metal and cheetah print.
Of the first three episodes, episode 1 is the strongest if only due to the exciting novelty of seeing a James Gunn project effortlessly establish a tone. Thanks to a soundtrack fit-to-bursting with glam metal bangers and the presence of Peacemaker’s pet eagle named Eagley, Peacemaker has no problem creating an earnestly corny vibe conducive to a good time. The first episode is also the funniest, with Peacemaker’s opening scene conversation with hospital janitor friend Jamil (Rizwan Manji) generating a full episode’s share of laughs.
Additionally, that scene establishes Peacemaker as the rare superhero series capable of capturing at least a little of the American social and political landscape in its commentary. Jamil frankly tells Peacemaker that he’s a racist, to which Peacemaker can only promise to try to kill more white people. Later on, when Peacemaker returns home to see his overtly racist father Auggie (a brilliant Robert Patrick), the elder Smith has an OAN-style program called “Fact Attack” blaring on his TV.
Peacemaker’s trashy origins and his father’s virulent open hatred for his son and just about everyone else is the most intriguing aspect of this series thus far. Plenty of superhero properties try to confront complicated issues like current events, race, and politics, but very few do so as bluntly as having a superhero’s father be an open white supremacist who urges his son to take out some “commies, Blacks, and papists.”