|Directing||James Gunn, Brad Anderson, Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez|
|Producing||James Gunn, Peter Safran, John Cena, Lars P. Winther, John H. Starke, Simon Hatt, Matt Miller|
|Writing||James Gunn, based on characters created by Pat Boyette and Joe Gill|
|Starring||John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Chukwudi Iwuji, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, Robert Patrick, Annie Chang, Lochlyn Munro, Nhut Le, Dee Bradley Backer, Elizabeth Faith Ludlow, Christopher Heyerdahl, Quinn Bennett, Liam Hughes, Rizwan Manji|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Crime, Fantasy, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Comic Book|
|Release Date||January 13, 2022|
Peacemaker is an American television series executive produced by James Gunn for HBO Max. Gunn also serves as the series showrunner. Based on the DC comic book line of the same name, John Cena, former WWE pro wrestler, returns to his role as the anti-hero Peacemaker from James Gunn’s directed Suicide Squad sequel. During the production of The Suicide Squad, Gunn began conceptualizing a spin-off series based on characters from the film and wrote a television series centered around Peacemaker that would provide his origin story. This side project was done for fun with no intent to move towards development. DC Films later approached the production team with the opportunity to develop a potential spin-off series to act as DC Films’ first induction of a series to its DC Extended Universe to be released on HBO Max.
DC Films and HBO Max ordered eight episodes with James Gunn running and writing each episode and directing a hand full as well. Peter Safran, who served as an executive producer on 2021’s The Suicide Squad, is also one of this series’ executive producers. Adding the star power of its production staff, series lead John Cena also joined the production team. Peacemaker was produced by Gunn’s production company Troll Court Entertainment, Peter Safrans’ The Safran Company, and Warner Brothers Television. Production on the series began in January 2021 and saw many of the stars reprise their roles from the film along with additions of talented, fresh faces. The series sees the return of Cena in the title role of Peacemaker, Jennifer Holland as agent Emilia Harcourt, Steve Agee as John Economos, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Adding to the established characters in the DCEU are Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Liwuji, and Robert Patrick. Production on the series concluded in July 2021 and was set to premiere in early 2022.
Serving as the DC Extended Universe’s first installment of a television series, Peacemaker premiered on HBO Max on Thursday, January 13, 2022. The series premiered with its first three episodes and subsequently released new episodes weekly. James Gunn’s Peacemaker was released to rave reviews and was widely accepted by critics and audiences. Rotten Tomatoes has the show at an impressive 95% critic rating along with an 87% audience score. Metacritic scores the series with a 69 and an average user score of 7.4, and IGN has awarded the series with a “Great” review at an 8 out of 10. On February 16, HBO Max and DC Films announced a second season of Peacemaker is in the works along with another unnamed Suicide Squad spin-off series.
Spiritual Content: In a childhood flashback scene, Peacemaker kneels in prayer. He prays for forgiveness and peace of mind.
Violence: The series is hyper-violent. There are multiple episodes with gore and blood. Scenes include detailed dismemberment, gun violence, torture, and death.
Language/Crude Humor: The series is full of foul language. It is raunchy and crude. There is an abundance of sex jokes and profanity, including extreme use of the words f**k, sh*t, a**, c**t, and many others.
Sexual Content: There are multiple episodes during the first half of the series where nudity is present. Women are seen topless, including a full-body sex scene between a man and woman.
Drug/ Alcohol Use: A number of characters consume alcohol at a bar.
Other Negative Themes: The character The White Dragon preaches racism and leads a gang of racist followers. White supremacy is spouted by many characters.
Positive Themes: Peacemaker overcomes his internal demons from a tragic event in his past and emotional abuse at the hands of his father.
The Peacemaker series takes place five months after the events of The Suicide Squad. After Peacemaker’s rapid recovery from the injuries he suffered from the film, he is forced to join a mysterious black ops group to avoid returning to prison. Sanctioned by Amanda Waller (The Suicide Squad and The Help’s Viola Davis), he joins Clemson Murn (The Girl Who Got Away and The Split’s Chukwudi), Emilia Harcourt (The Suicide Squad and Brightburns’s Jennifer Holland), John Economos (The Suicide Squad and New Girl’s Steve Agee), and Leota Adebayo (Orange is the New Black and Mahalia’s Danielle Brooks) to A.R.G.U.S., charged with the task to complete a secret black ops mission codenamed “Project Butterfly.”
Peacemaker attempts to find normalcy after his recent suicide mission and prison stay. He retrieves his pet eagle named Eagly, receives a visit from a former crime-fighting partner named Vigilante (Pitch Perfect’s Freddie Stroma), and visits his father, the former evil and racist villain White Dragon (Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick). Shortly after, A.R.G.U.S. meets up at a cheap franchise restaurant for their first briefing to receive their assignments. Once dismissed, Harcourt turns down Peacemaker’s advancements while visiting a dive bar, but picks up and sleeps with a strange woman from the bar.
After their brief encounter, the strange woman attacks and overpowers Peacemaker. After being tossed out of a window, Peacemaker is finally able to retrieve a weapon from his car and defeat the super-powered female. The team regroups to assess the situation, and the members of the team reveal their distrust of one another and their disfunction. The teams’ I.T. specialist Economos frames Peacemaker’s father to cover up Peacemaker’s involvement in the strange woman’s death. While in prison, Aggie, aka White Dragon, commands a large group of loyal white supremacists.
On their first mission, Peacemaker and the rest of A.R.G.U.S. take their place at a sniper’s vantage point in order to assassinate their target. As the target and his family, consisting of his wife and two children, are in range, Peacemaker is ordered to kill the entire family; however, he cannot bring himself to target the children. After realizing he cannot complete the mission, Vigilante steps in for Peacemaker to attempt to complete the task. Subsequently, Peacemaker and Vigilante are captured by their primary target. After being tortured by the target, Peacemaker and Vigilante gain the upper hand and discover the true nature of “Project Butterfly.”
Prior to The Suicide Squad, no one other than true comic book enthusiasts knew of Peacemaker. The fact this obscure character was the first for DC to enter a series into the DC Extended Universe is surprising. However, James Gunn, along with John Cena, have turned this little-known comic hero into one of the best and most compelling characters in television today. Gunn has doubled down on the humor and violence established in his Suicide Squad, yet with Peacemaker, he ups the ante with over-the-top concepts, character studies, and heart.
Audiences have come to expect excellence with any Gunn production. His work on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the critically-praised The Suicide Squad, and his lesser-known films, has created an expectation of greatness. What was not expected from this series is Cena’s performance in the title role. Though his performances in previous outings in film and television are serviceable at best, Cena embodies the powerful, yet vulnerable, rugged yet emotional, and cool yet goofy character that is Peacemaker. He truly comes into his own. He plays the character as a rude, crude jerk with the best of intentions, but who is absolutely authentic no matter how silly he may look.
Gunn has the capability to develop stories involving teams while ensuring no character feels underutilized. He definitely showcases that ability in Peacemaker. He perfectly balances the characters and their backstories seamlessly. This ensemble is a delight to watch as they spew out absurd yet entertaining dialog penned by Gunn.
Over-the-top is an understatement when describing Peacemaker. Gunn truly hit a career high here. The overall concept and story of the series may seem as if they come from the mind of a schizophrenic manchild suffering from perverse fever dreams. But in the hand of Gunn, these nonsensical concepts play out like Shakespeare.
The violence and body gore in the series is also extreme. The show is hyper-violent and bloody. Though many of the graphic scenes may be uncomfortable to watch, it will be difficult to tear your eyes away from the screen. Surrounded by out-of-this-world concepts, natural and ridiculous dialog, and extreme gore, surprisingly the series is full of heart and emotion. Gunn and Cena dig deep into the character of Peacemaker for all the world to see. The character’s broken and abusive relationship with his racist father is explored in uncomfortable detail. Peacemaker’s relationship with his younger brother is analyzed as boyhood trauma forms the man he has become. Gunn’s writing along with the performances from the entire cast makes the most ridiculous, nonsensical scenes break your heart and bring a tear to your eye.
While Gunn brings his wit to the small screen, he also brings his cinematic directing style. Peacemaker is a treat for the eyes. Many television shows based on comic book properties often have a low-budget look to them. Peacemaker looks and feels as if was made for the big screen. Gunn holds nothing back in his visual storytelling. The production of the series is equal in quality to any previous DC film property. Even in modern series that use CGI, it often pales in comparison to what is found in feature films. Peacemaker’s visual effects are flawless. Full CGI characters are photorealistic and absolutely believable.
Gunn masterfully directs this cast to achieve a tone of absurdity, immaturity, and goofiness and perfectly balances it with an emotional depth and character development many writers and directors fail to achieve. Many of Gunn’s projects use music to enhance the story and give it more color, and Peacemaker is no different. The series is peppered with hair metal that speaks to Peacemaker’s and the team’s emotional state. On the subject of music, the opening dance number for the theme of the series is absolutely charming. Every main character participates in an awkward choreographed dance number to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It”. The cast’s deadpan faces combined with the absurdly goofy dance moves is a perfect example of the series juxtaposition of authenticity and ridiculousness.
At its core, Peacemaker is about its characters. Is it violent. Is it over-the-top. Is it goofy. Is it crude. However, the core of the show is about the characters, their development, and their story arcs. The dynamics Gunn develops between his cast are hilariously emotional. He combines brutality and beauty effortlessly. Only in the hands of Gunn can a group of people walking down a hallway while smiling be so uncomfortable it is barely watchable. Outside looking in, most would assume the series is an immature action series staring a lumbering musclehead shooting guns and spouting curse words, but the series is so much more. Peacemaker subverts these expectations and serves up many surprises. DC Films, James Gunn, and John Cena successfully bring this little-known character to the forefront of pop culture. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that will have you clutching your stomach in laughter, picking your jaw up from the floor out of shock, and wiping the tears from your eyes from crying all in a matter of minutes.
The Bottom Line
If you like over-the-top violence, goofy science-fiction concepts, and the drama and emotion of a Shakespearian tragedy, then Peacemaker is for you.