Peacemaker (Review): I Can’t Believe How Great This Turned Out

Peacemaker was a series I didn’t plan to give a chance. But I eventually hopped on board, and I’m glad I did! Read on for my review of season one…

Christopher Smith was raised by his father to be a killing machine. Under the alter ego of Peacemaker, he seeks to bring world peace, no matter how many men, women, and children he’ll have to kill to get it… Smith is captured by A.R.G.U.S agents following injuries he sustained fighting in Corto Maltese. These agents reveal that their boss, Amanda Waller, wants Peacemaker to to help them defeat a new threat: code-name, “Butterfly”. His expertise in weapons, and his criminal record, make him an ideal fall-guy for various assassinations.

I was a HUGE fan of The Suicide Squad. It was, in fact, one my favourite movies of 2021. John Cena’s Peacemaker was a stand-out from that film, though I remained skeptical about his upcoming TV show. I’m a fan of James Gunn’s, and I know he’s got a propensity for adapting D-list comic book properties. Peacemaker as part of a film ensemble was one thing, but a whole Peacemaker show felt like a stretch. I mainly write this review to eat those words… Damn, was this series a blast!

However you feel about the opening scene of the series (which I loved), you’ll be hooked by the end of its title sequence. Seriously, this is probably my favourite theme song/ opening titles in over a decade. It’s incredible! I never skipped it once. ‘Cause I wouldn’t dare miss the comedic yet entrancing dances by all the actors in full costume. Why can’t more comic book properties be this inventive (or shows period)?

Peacemaker makes good use of DC’s lore. The show isn’t shy about including bottom-of-the barrel characters from comic history. But that’s a large part of its charm. These people aren’t DC’s best or brightest, but they’re the ones we’re following for better and for worse.

Even better: Peacemaker isn’t indebted to any prior DC movies or shows. For all intents and purposes, this series could easily be its own thing. Although I would suggest watching at least The Suicide Squad just to give you some context for a few plot points. Notably: Peacemaker is haunted by some of his actions in that film. You can pick up the pieces just by watching Peacemaker, but the moments hit harder if you understand the background.

Peacemaker exists in a strange place between gritty adult drama and the outright silliness of comic books (I mean that in the best possible way). Our main character walks around in a bright red costume with a chrome helmet, and his best friend is an eagle! It gets crazier from there, but I can’t tell you more without spoiling the plot. Yet this series maintains a strong emotional core and tackles some serious issues (in its own absurd but no less genuine ways).

As I said, I can’t get too far into the plot without spoiling events for you. But I’ll say that the series strikes a good balance between its various plot threads. There’s multiple villains to contend with, who threaten the heroes in different ways. And the villains’ story resolutions all tie into Peacemaker’s personal journey. So everything came together nicely.

John Cena’s Peacemaker surrounded by doves of Peace.
Warner Bros. Television

I will say many episodes don’t feel like they contained a LOT of plot for their run-time. Certain sequences go on a tad long (mostly in the first 3 episodes). This occasionally makes it feel as if Gunn and co. were dragging their series out. But there’s two reasons I don’t care enough to make this a genuine complaint: for one thing, Peacemaker is set over the course of a couple days. There’s only so much that can happen in that time-span, and the series’ narrative was well-paced on the whole.

The other reason: what the show lacked in plot-points-per-episode, it makes up for and then-some with its character-building. Peacemaker‘s primary charm is spending time with its odd assortment of killers, criminals, and some (relatively) normal people. I would have watched and enjoyed 8 entire episodes of these characters merely conversing!

I’m envious of how efficiently Peacemaker‘s dialogue is written. Almost every line has meaning, or segways into something important, or demonstrates a character’s worldview. It also accomplishes something most “comedies” fail to do: be funny and build character at the same time. You’re getting a two for one deal here.

I wanna go further on that point. ‘Cause Peacemaker is a hilarious series! I was ecstatic to find the humor landed on a consistent basis. Like, I laughed harder than most “comedies” with every episode. The improv skills of this cast are astounding– especially Cena’s.

I feel like improv is why the characters also tend to “ramble” (in the best possible way). They go off on tangents about random things, which you’d think would be annoying but it adds a realistic flavor and serves multiple functions in the episode– or sets up conversations for later. As I said: the dialogue is extremely efficient.

Now let’s break down the characters from Peacemaker now, shall we? (Non-spoiler still):

John Cena blew me away in this role. I’m one of those people who still has a bias against wrestlers-turned actors, but Cena is legitimately impressive in this show. He’s the backbone of the series.

Cena has a great physicality. Just the way he carries himself– whether he’s dancing, in combat, or relaxing– it feels unique. Maybe it’s ’cause guys his size aren’t often shown as being relaxed or agile? They tend to be stiffer, like statues. Cena’s body language brought Chris Smith to life in dynamic ways!

The character himself was refreshingly complex. He’s a man of seeming-contradictions. Like, he’s juvenile-minded, ruthless killer, yet he can beautifully play piano and cares for animals. The thing is: Peacemaker is nearly a character Chris Smith plays to avoid being his best self. He bullies others to hide his own lack of self-worth; He’s a lively personality around others but uses sex, drugs, and alcohol to dull his emotions.

He became this way due to a childhood of emotional abuse from his white-supremacist father (played by Robert Patrick). August Smith is a truly terrible human being. And he raised his son to be one as well. Peacemaker hates his father deep down, but refuses to break free from his emotional grasp. Peacemaker isn’t a good guy per se, but I feel bad for him when he’s with his father.

Chris Smith only wants to be loved, or even liked by people. And he doesn’t want to be a killer, but that’s the life he was forced into living and he believes in his moral code… till his faith begins to shake.

The thing is: Peacemaker is not a sympathetic person on the surface. He’s a loud-mouthed jerk who carries obvious prejudices, treats people like dirt, and is morally reprehensible. But James Gunn makes us care for him as a human being. Smith’s character journey (of acknowledging and trying to overcome his own self-image) makes for a great story.

Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) having no idea why she was hired for this job.
Warner Bros. Television

Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) is Peacemaker‘s audience stand-in. She’s the “normal” one of the group– untested in “the field”, and hesitant to do outright shady things. Nobody even knows why she was brought on the team. But that’s why I liked her: she’s a regular person who isn’t good at the high stakes espionage stuff. It’s just a job for her. And she constantly doubts her own abilities, which is relatable.

Adebayo’s relationship with Peacemaker was sweet. They helped each other grow, and offered ally-ship to each other where others would not.

Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) is Peacemaker’s second-best friend and his crime-fighting partner. He’s a psychopath who enjoys killing people but has a unique moral code. Vigilante’s obliviousness and insanity make him Peacemaker‘s most entertaining character. Freddie Stroma is excellent in the role, bringing charm to what could otherwise be an annoying or easy-to-hate part.

The thing about Vigilante is that he places high value on Peacemaker’s friendship. He’s willing to do anything for his pal– certainly more than Peacemaker would do for him. One of the show’s best comedy scenes proves that much… Vigilante’s loyalty to Chris often gets him into trouble but it’s his most endearing trait.

Vigilante and Peacemaker perform target practice in the woods
Warner Bros. Television

This article is already running longer than expected. I have so many opinions I wanna rave about this show… Better speed things along.

Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) is a tough, broken, untrusting person. Her journey to connect with fellow human beings again had multiple heartwarming moments; John (Steve Agee) is the IT guy who Peacemaker bullies incessantly, and who gets pushed out of his comfort zone; Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) is the squad’s handler who hides a dark past which inadvertently comes to light– a cool storyline; Judomaster (Nhut Le) can be funny but is no joke. He has a good rivalry with Peacemaker; Amanda Waller is one of DC’s best characters and I wish Gunn had given us more of her.

I freaking love Eagly too! His relationship to Chris is adorable because Gunn shows ways to express Eagly’s affections visually. Also: all of Peacemaker‘s side characters are fun personalities, from the hospital janitor to August Smith’s neighbor!

Peacemaker‘s action sequences feel unique amongst superhero media. It’s simultaneously violent and goofy (in a good way). Gunn keeps the geography clear at all times. I was never confused what was happening. There’s also no ridiculous cuts which obscure the scene. They do use shaky cam a lot. But it’s used well– not incomprehensibly like in most movies and shows.

Beyond the action, Peacemaker is a kinetic series in general. The camera is always moving, rock songs are always blasting in the background. There’s never a dull moment!

Warner Bros clearly gave Gunn a high budget for this series. And he uses it well! Production values are fantastic, and everything looks excellent.

I wish more super-hero media will take lessons from Peacemaker. Comic books are weird, and fun, and deserve to get crazy adaptations. There’s about a million more characters out there as obscure as Peacemaker who are ripe for their time in the spotlight!

But, as for the show itself, I loved it! I connected with all the characters, and emotionally invested in their journeys; the plot was cool and executed well; the action was superb too! Really, Peacemaker is everything I could have wanted in a superhero TV series and more.

If you’re looking for a great superhero story, general action/ comedy, or fantastic show period, Peacemaker is something to Watch ASAP.

What comic book characters do you think deserve their own series (no matter how obscure)? What did you think of Peacemaker? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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