‘Peacemaker’ is an Unapologetically Over the Top Home Run – TV Review

John Cena and James Gunn re-team for the highly anticipated 'Suicide Squad' spin-off series

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John Cena as Peacemaker in the HBO Max series

*This review is for the first three episodes of the series.

In 2021 James Gunn’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ debuted and introduced the world to the new team of criminals. One of those characters was John Cena’s Peacemaker, a self-proclaimed superhero dedicated to bringing peace, no matter the cost. As the film progresses audiences discover that he is a man of his word. Killing numerous people, including one of his own, for peace. But behind the tough exterior is a much more complex human being and that’s just what the series is here to explore.

Set after the events of ‘The Suicide Squad’, Peacemaker is tasked with taking down another secret project. Joining him is Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), John Economos (Steve Agee), and Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji).

James Gunn is once again at the helm and with that he brings his unique blend of humor, over the top violence, and injecting heart into character’s you really shouldn’t root for.

As I mentioned before, Peacemaker truly believes he is a superhero and with that, comes a very big ego but underneath there’s a conflicted, flawed, individual that you quickly start to sympathize for. From the beginning the series lets you know that while there will be plenty of dick jokes, gore, and “WTF” moments to go around, it is also there to explore this individual in between the previously mentioned components.

Going into the show one concern I had was whether or not this series was necessary. While I really enjoyed the character and John Cena was the perfect choice to play Peacemaker. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was enough to this individual to carry a whole show. Thankfully, my concern completely disappeared after a wonderfully wacky and unexpected opening credits. From there we are re-introduced to some of the characters I mentioned above and are given new characters to get to know, including Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) who, like Peacemaker, is dedicated to keeping order in his town no matter who he has to kill to do it.

As he re acclimates to life outside of prison it’s quickly apparent that there is so much more to this character than what was seen last year. The most interesting being his. child like innocence. From juvenile jokes, a pet eagle (simply named Eagly), to a rocky relationship with his father (played by Robert Patrick). Peacemaker, or Chris, wants nothing more than to impress his father. Talking all about the events that transpired in Corto Maltese, he’s met with disapproving and insulting comments.

On several occasions, it seems like the inner young boy in both Chris and Adrian (Vigilante) is what bonds them. They make crass jokes and even go out into the woods and shoot/blow up various appliances.

It’s the in between moments that really make the show work. The jokes land and the violence is just as over the top as you’d expect but when you strip the show of these elements and focus on the characters, the result is something very special. There’s a moment in the second episode where Chris is alone in his trailer, he turns on a record, throws himself down onto his bed and begins to sob. It’s a really cathartic moment for our lead character and you find yourself sympathizing for him. There are numerous moments over the course of the three episode premiere where you feel this way.

‘Peacemaker’ knows when to make you laugh, when to provide some truly shocking moments, but also when to evoke different emotions from its audience and that is perhaps, the series’ greatest strength.

The first three episodes are streaming now on HBO Max with a new episode airing every Thursday for the next five weeks.

Check back each week for a review of the latest episode.