The DC Comics property universe has been in limbo for a while now, and at times people really don’t know what to expect. When James Gunn (straight off the firing from Disney that they backtracked a bit too late) was hired to do ‘The Suicide Squad’, fans were fine with it given his time with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (the first film for the record is one of my favorite superhero movies ever). But then, he revealed before the movie even came out that he was doing a TV series on the character of Peacemaker, who was played by John Cena. Why? How would this work? We found out some of those answers soon enough, and as our ‘Peacemaker’ Season 1 Review will attest to, this show is the personification of James Gunn’s style and personality in the best ways…and some not-so-nice ones.
The show makes it clear right from the start that this is directly following the stinger from The Suicide Squadwhere Peacemaker is alive after getting shot by Bloodsport (“smaller bullets”) and having a building dropped on him. He’s alive (somehow, even they admit it’s ridiculous he’s fine) and joins a subgroup of Task Force X in order to stop a new threat via “Project Butterfly”. What follows is 8 episodes of violence, insanity, character development, and a whole lot of vulgar language and NSFW content. If you thought Doom Patrol pushed things in its 3 seasons? It’s got nothing on Peacemaker.
Now, if you’re wondering what I meant in the subtitle of this review by “James Gunn Unleashed’ it’s because (and he admitted this after the season 1 finale), WB basically let him do whatever he wanted with this show (with a few small exceptions I’ll get to later) and it shows in every facet of this show. Many times for the best. For example, the intro to Peacemaker has become a viral phenomenon because it’s not what you expect from a superhero show. It’s a wacky dance number that gets you ready for the insanity to come. It’s a ludicrous thing and yet it’s beautiful in every way that matters, hence why we put it below for your viewing pleasure.
Add to that, you can see Gunn’s fingerprints on every character, almost every piece of dialogue, every reference both big and small to the DC Comics universe as a whole (Bat-Mite is canon, believe it), and more. You can tell that James Gunn REALLY loves his job and wanted to convey that love and passion with every episode he made. In fact, Season 2 of Peacemaker is already confirmed, and he’s also confirmed to be writing and directing every episode next go around…and I’m not mad about that.
Getting back to the show itself, this insane take on superheroes and villains would be nothing without John Cena. He was a wild card in The Suicide Squad until he blew everyone away with his “A-Hole Captain America’ and you can tell he was having the time of his life doing this part. And if he were to do nothing more than Peacemaker for the rest of his Hollywood career? He’d be ending on a high note. And not just because of how funny he makes Chris Smith be, or his insanity when it comes to how things should be said or done, but because he does bring a lot of emotional depth to the character that few would expect given the wacky nature of the character we saw in his movie debut.
In fact, much of Season 1 is about him learning to cope with not just his past, but his dad, what people think about him, and even his very definition of peace. We learn that there’s a LOT more going on here and John Cena (to the shock of many I’m sure) will make you feel for him in many ways by the time it’s all done.
But key among this is that James Gunn doesn’t rush things in terms of character development, and even when Peacemaker does make big progression as a person…he still acts like a man-child and at times can’t tell fact from fiction because of how ingrained it is in his personality. Which is actually fine! His “reclamation” if you will from idiot to actual (potential) hero is what will drive this series forward in the second season and more if they decide to do it.
Another key element of this series as a whole is giving depth to characters we had met before, and introducing new ones that helped bring Chris Smith back to almost human. The biggest returns of course are Harcourt and Economos from The Suicide Squad (with Amanda Waller making a fun cameo or two…). Both of them were awesome in TSS and getting to see them here, even more, was fun. Harcourt was the real standout for me because like many characters this season, she went on a major arc from “not wanting to be there” to “can’t imagine being anywhere else”. She hated everything and everyone in episode 1, and yet by episode 7, she’s dubbed the new leader of the team and you REALLY are happy for her because she deserves it, and more.
Key among the new characters is Adebayo, who just so happens to be…Amanda Wallers’ daughter! Plot twist! She’s brought into the team in a way that many can sympathize with given recent times, and her connection with Peacemaker drives the show forward in many ways. She can tell there’s more to him, and actually wants him to be a better person. And even though (on mother’s orders), she betrays him, you believe her when she says she feels bad about this. So when she makes up for it, and makes it up to him and he admits she’s his human BFF? It’s very touching.
As for Vigilante, yeah, this is a MUCH different version of the character that we met in the Arrowverse. He’s the “real BFF” of Peacemaker and has no problem doing violence, or speaking his mind, or going off on weird tangents…it’s a lot.
Now, as for the main threats of this season, that would be…the butterflies. As we find out, there are aliens already on our world and are taking human hosts as they themselves are a kind of alien butterfly. As Peacemaker himself noted…ARGUS isn’t the best at naming their projects.
Learning about these aliens, and the sometimes horrifying ways they go and get things done for their “vow” (more on that later) is both fun and shocking. Especially when one of the team turns out to be one of them!! PLOT TWIST!!!
The other main threat is not so ironically Peacemakers’ father, played by the one and only Robert Partick. He’s very much the reason why Chris is the way he is, and we honestly should be grateful at times that he didn’t go full “White Dragon” because…yeah, that would’ve made him completely unlikeable. But that again is part of his struggle. He loves his dad, and he does want to make him happy, but even he can’t deny that his father is a very evil man. And unlike certain other DC Comics villains who have certain “redeemable qualities”…White Dragon has none. Period.
But their dynamic also reveals the true “story” of the first season. And that’s that not everyone is always as they seem, even when it’s very “clear” to you that they are. Yes, White Dragon was a monster, and just about everyone on the team felt that Peacemaker was just another version of him, but that wasn’t the case at all. Chris is a man who made a vow and believes in it, but is so desperate at times to please people and maintain his vow that he does wrong things. Like what happened with Rick Flagg. Or why he never put his father away. He was raised in a terrible way and became a terrible person in how he treats others, even his “friends”. But as Adebayo shows, once you see what he truly is…it’s a lot easier to connect with him.
The others on the team had that as well. Murn was the alien “double agent”, and he was doing all he can to stop his own kind in order to atone for his past and allow Earth a chance to live. Harcourt was someone who believed in the job, did the right things, but got burned by Waller and felt that nothing would ever go right for her again despite her having all the skills to make a true difference. Even Economos had an arc where he was seen as the “weakest link” and someone that Peacemaker constantly made fun of, but as Chris got to know him…they connected. And of course, Adebayo was the daughter of one of the “best government agents ever” and yet was nothing like her mother. She was doing all she could to help her wife and wasn’t sure she could do what was truly right at times. Only to pull out the rug from her own mother at the finish line and show that you don’t have to be what your parents tell you to be.
I know some of this sounds sappy, but these characters are all very deep and nuanced and that is something that James Gunn is very good at, and one can only imagine what they’ll get up to together next season.
Heck, he even made me feel for some of the villains and the lesser characters! Such as the main alien queen who reveals that she really did have good intentions for Earth, but that we couldn’t be trusted given the path we are on. Something that I’m sure many of you agreed with. Or how about the police officers? Sophie and Larry were just two regular people trying to do their jobs, never gave up on them, and then get taken over by aliens in rather horrifying ways. I felt REALLY BAD for them, I didn’t like them going out like that! That’s good storytelling.
But of course, as a “superhero show”, this wouldn’t be complete without a lot of action, and Peacemaker definitely has that. From gunbattles to hand-to-hand fights, you really see some awesome fight scenes. Peacemaker, Vigilante, Harcourt, Adebayo, and even the incredibly epic Judomaster get their time to shine in the action and it’s both over the top, gory, and fun.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention…Eagly. Yes, Eagly, a sidekick Eagle to Peacemaker that absolutely shouldn’t work as well as it does…but it absolutely does. Seriously James Gunn, how do you pull this off? I really want to know.
Finally, on the good side of things, the soundtrack is very James Gunn, and from the intro piece to some of the key songs that speak to the nature of the plot, the soundtrack shines.
So far, this Peacemaker Season 1 Review has been incredibly positive, and I hope I explained it well because I really didn’t think I’d like this show as much as I have (I felt the same way about Doom Patrol before I started watching that one and felt a similar way). But, as teased in my intro, there are some things that really make this show not one everyone can, or should, watch.
First and foremost, it’s vulgar, incredibly so. I know this is my personality showing, but I personally don’t like hearing the F-Bomb all the time and so even though Peacemaker isn’t a true hero, hearing him, his crew, and various other characters swear every other word was very much a turnoff. In Doom Patrol, Robotman and the others do it as a coping mechanism of sorts and that makes it kind of funny. Here? Not so much.
Also, you can see the style of comedy that James Gunn likes when he’s untethered (meaning not bound by Disney rules) in that he pushes things REALLY far, and very much in the NSFW direction. Just in the first few episodes, we saw Peacemaker and others do things that I will never be able to forget no matter how much I try. While it won’t affect everyone the same way it did me…it’s still worth noting.
That style of comedy is obviously shown the most via Peacemaker and Vigilante, and while Gunn does balance things out at times…other times I really felt it went too far. Including the season finale when out of almost nowhere…the Justice League shows up. For real, well, most of them… They even got Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller to cameo. Which was awesome!
Until Peacemaker (repeating a joke from episode 1), made a line to Aquaman about effing a fish…and Barry played along with it. Really? And yes, I know I am a supporter of the Snyder Cut, so some of you might think I hated this because of my love of Snyder’s movies, but it’s not that. Aquaman has been the butt of way too many jokes over the years, and his solo movie (not made by Snyder) helped bring him back into a positive light. And yet this joke…very much drags him back down, especially since that cameo was very epic (until that joke) and people are already talking about it on both sides of the argument. When honestly, and yes, this is just my opinion, the joke could’ve ended with Peacemaker cussing out the league without the fish line and the point would’ve been made, and thus this debate could’ve been avoided entirely.
Also…and I don’t blame Gunn for this, it was VERY obvious which two Justice League members weren’t there in the cameo…and according to Gunn post-finale, there were “reasons” why he couldn’t put them in. A very obvious sleight on the part of WB to two men who spoke their minds about behind-the-scenes events.
Finally, in terms of writing, while much of the plot was solid and coherent, there were other times when it wasn’t exactly clear what was going on, or how things went the way they did. For example, Adebayo noted numerous times that Waller wanted her “in the fold”, which is fine given who Waller is. But in her cameo in the first episode, she noted her daughter had “talents that deserved to be used”…but…what talents were those?
It wasn’t until the last two episodes that she really showed her mettle in terms of fieldwork (she was a good character from episode one for the record), so what was it that Waller saw? So…why…? Also, in the finale, she literally exposes the Suicide Squad, even though it was that squad that saved the day via Project Butterfly. It was one thing to clear Peacemaker of his crimes, but that felt a little more of a leap. Furthermore, Goff (the alien queen) survives and then decides to go and live with Peacemaker despite him killing their “cow” (you just have to see it to believe it) and basically her entire race.
Furthermore, there are some “comic book moments” that don’t add up. Such as how Peacemaker jumped out of a five-story building and was fine, but the very next episode was struggling to jump from terrace to terrace. There were more cases like this over time. Not the biggest dealbreaker, but again, it was noticeable.
So, what is the final verdict? Peacemaker is very much a show who wants over-the-top action, characters, action, and plot. James Gunn brings his all to this, and it shows. But if you’re someone who wants something a little deeper, and a lot less NSFW, then you might want to pass on this.
But when you look past the things that might make you uncomfortable, you’re going to find a group of characters to cheer for as they go and fight off a bunch of aliens and bad people.
Peacemaker Season 1 Review
Peacemaker Season 1 brings forth a character no one EVER expected to get a chance to shine…and lets him shine. It may not be the kind of show everyone will enjoy, but if you can overlook its rougher elements, you’ll be in for a fun time.