Peacemaker is a Smack-Dab Perfect Series

This superhero series perfectly blends heart and humor with a heavy helping of mature content


Courtesy of HBOMax

The main cast of the new HBOMax series Peacemaker: Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt, Steve Agee as John Economos, John Cena as Christopher “Peacemaker” Smith, Chukwudi Iwuji as Clemson Murn, Freddie Stroma as Adrian “Vigilante” Chase, Danielle Brooks as Leota Abedayo, and Eagly the Eagle. This series by writer and director James Gunn is fun, comedic, action-packed superhero drama that isn’t like anything else on streaming. The show, which just wrapped up its first season, has won both critical and fan praise, as it has the highest percentage on Rotten Tomatoes of any DCEU project and has become the most popular streaming series in HBOMax history.

Kaya Paluda, Staff Writer

Television series that tie into film franchises are the new trend. Some (like Chucky and Loki) have gotten massive praise while others (Falcon and the Winter Soldier) have had mixed reviews. It was inevitable that Warner would follow this trend with their DC superhero films.

Yet most critics and fans were puzzled when the of these projects was announced to star not Batman or Wonder Woman but the DC hero Peacemaker. While the character has a long comic history, he was not well-known outside of die-hard fans. Then he appeared in James Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad; portrayed by John Cena, Peacemaker was a cold, rude misogynist that would kill without mercy or care.

Critics quickly went to the internet: this is the guy who is getting a series? Really?

Yes really. And it rocks.

Peacemaker has a nearly-flawless eight episodes run that finished with a season finale on Thursday, and now that it’s finished, it is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates great story, great acting, great action, and a great deal of blood and swearing. This is definitely a TV-MA show, but if you can handle edgy content, you will find one of your favorite new shows.


What It’s About

It’s hard to talk about the plot without spoiling the delightful surprises in both James Gunn’s movie and his HBOMax series. The entire premise of the Suicide Squad franchise is that there is a government agency called ARGUS that manages the “capes” in the DC Universe, both superheroes and supervillains. As the head of ARGUS, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has created a black-ops team called Task Force X where she teams disgraced soldiers with supervillains in order to run covert, off-the-books missions. If the villains succeed in doing the government’s dirty work, they get time off their sentences; if not… well, who’s going to miss a villain? The Suicide Squad follows John Cena’s Peacemaker along with Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnermann), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and dozens of other crazy characters from the DC Universe.

At the end of The Suicide Squad, we find out that Peacemaker is still alive from all the ruckus. The beginning of the new series starts with Peacemaker in the hospital after recovering from his injuries. A team from ARGUS arrives and tells him that he hasn’t finished working off his 30-year prison sentence. He can either go back to prison or work on another Task Force X mission called Project Butterfly.

Peacemaker agrees and soon joins a team led by the legendary mercenary Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji). His fellow operatives are his handler Agent Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and IT specialist John Economos (Steve Agee), who Amanda Waller is punishing for their actions in The Suicide Squad. Rounding out the cast is intern Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), fellow costumed hero Vigilante (Freddy Stroma), Peacemaker’s alt-right father Augie Smith (Robert Patrick), and Eagly, Peacemaker’s pet eagle and best friend.

As the series goes along, each episode gets more and more action-packed as Project Butterfly reveals a global-level threat to humanity. The team also struggles with relating to one another: Hartcourt and Murn are cold and direct; Economos is cynical and pessimistic; Adebayo is overly bubbly to hide her dark secret; Vigilante is just plain crazy; and Peacemaker is… well, as writer and director James Gunn describes him, “Captain America if he were a total d—–.” These dynamics led to the interpersonal conflicts and emotional revelations that take this from a by-the-book superhero series into something with a deeper meaning that non-powered audiences can connect.


John Economos (Steve Agee) argues with Peacemaker (John Cena) in front of the rest of the Project Butterfly Task force. While the characters bicker and fight throughout the series, each character evolves and starts to connect to the others in the group. The character relationships are just one reason why this series is fantastic. (Photo courtesy of HBOMax)


What Makes It Great

Each of the characters being so different makes the show so much better than the regular cookie-cutter cape show. John Cena’s Christopher “Peacemaker” Smith is the heart of the show: Cena plays Smith as an ignorant bully in most of his scenes, alienating his teammates with crude racist and sexist comments that are markedly un-PC. Yet when alone, Cena switches to a fragile, damaged soldier who’s questioning his purpose and actively pushes the others away because he doesn’t believe he deserves friends. The first episode does the unthinkable: it makes the overly macho crude meathead sympathetic.

It helps that Cena has a talented cast to work with. Jennifer Holland is a standout as Peacemaker’s no-nonsense handler, as her physical performance makes for most of the killer action scenes in the series. Steve Agee is as funny as ever in his role as the put-upon “dye-beard” Economos, but he also has real emotional moments that give his character dimension. Robert Patrick is a perfect villain as Peacemaker’s overbearing White Supremacist father, and Freddy Stroma is a perfect psychopathic goofball. However, the only performance that truly matches Cena’s in development is Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo; in trying to connect to the man under the absurd-looking helmet, Leota becomes a great foil to Peacemaker as they deal with parallel struggles in their lives. Brooks is used to playing morally gray characters (her most well-known role is Taystee in Orange is the New Black), but she delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as the good person who finds herself doing bad things.

While the acting is superb, it can only rise to that level because of the writing of James Gunn. When isolated because of the pandemic, Gunn wrote the eight episodes as a way to keep busy. He chose to explore Peacemaker because he really enjoyed working with John Cena and wanted to explore what made him into such an awful person. Unlike other shows that have an entire team of writers, the show benefits from having a single voice crafting the story with a single tone. Though he didn’t direct every episode, Gunn’s voice comes through in the way the characters talk, in the sudden jumps between emotional scenes and lighthearted comedy, and in the show’s music.

Sorry, but we have to talk about the music. Gunn, whose Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks became hits, puts his musical flare into each episode. The sound of Peacemaker is undeniably hair metal, with the opening credits set to Wig Wam’s “Do You Wanna Taste It?” going viral. James Gunn created a memorable opening that makes the viewer not want to skip the credits but also foreshadows the story arc of the series:


Should You Watch It?

To say Peacemaker is a very well-put-together show is an understatement. It is action-packed, comical, and a very heartfelt show. I never thought I would laugh and cry so hard at the same show. This show is seriously addicting and hooks the audience from in the opening scene. Unlike other superhero shows that have made a splash lately, you can go into without having watched The Suicide Squad and still get everything. While the series is tied into the DCEU Cinematic Universe and has a couple of great cameos, it also isn’t trying to set up any future movies (though the show is getting a Season Two): it exists as a standalone series that you can watch without knowing years of backstory.

That all being said, this show is rated TV-MA for a reason. There is a lot of very dark humor, full gore, traumatic death scenes, and sporadic male and female nudity. The show also relies on Christopher Smith being an ignorant, awful person as a result of being raised by a Neo-Nazi father, so those who find racism, sexism, and homophobia distasteful should avoid the series as well.

But hopefully that doesn’t discourage you from following this fun, weird little show. Peacemaker follows the beat of its own drum, but that’s what makes this series so wonderful and diverse. It also is what makes it so successful, as it is the most-streamed HBOMax series and, by some estimations, has been the most-watched streaming series this past month. All in all, I can recommend this show to all the superhero lovers and lovers of good writing who can stomach the adult content. Peacemaker brings a whole new light to superhero television and creates something I guarantee you haven’t seen before.

The entire first season of Peacemaker is available to stream on HBOMax.