By the Cedars A&E Staff
(The following review will contain spoilers for James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad”)
“Peacemaker. What a joke.”
If you’ve seen “The Suicide Squad”, the idea of a spinoff devoted entirely to Peacemaker should alone make you question a couple things – in a good way. When I heard that Gunn was making a Peacemaker series, I was intrigued to see how the show would handle one of the most nuanced DC characters of recent memory. Almost right after that, I wondered if I even wanted to see it. Would I actually want to see a redemption arc for the man who killed Rick Flag? Yet the idea of seeing more depth to this character, the idea of understanding why he did what he did and the idea of seeing him own up to his failures and maybe becoming an actual hero won me over.
“Peacemaker” follows its titular character after the events of “The Suicide Squad” as he’s loaned out to a smaller government team operating indirectly under Amanda Waller. Peacemaker is told that he’s needed to assassinate government targets known only as Butterflies, but from as early as the end of the first episode, things are not what they seem. Peacemaker seeks to uncover the truth, all the while grappling with not knowing what kind of man he is. Rick Flag’s last words “Peacemaker, what a joke,” are made into a driving factor by episode 2, as Peacemaker must quickly decide what it means to actually be a hero and whether he can even be one.
“Peacemaker’s” dysfunctional team is played for laughs, but unfortunately, most of the jokes seldom land.
Episode one sees Peacemaker get released from the hospital and go to meet his new team. The team is made up of Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, both returning agents of Waller’s from “The Suicide Squad”, team leader Clemson Murn, and Waller’s own daughter Leota Adebayo. On top of this new team, he must also deal with his strained relationship with his abusive and racist father. This extremely dysfunctional team dynamic adds to most of “Peacemaker’s” drama, and first impressions don’t go well, especially when Peacemaker makes unwanted advances towards Harcourt. The first episode ends in a romantic tangle with a stranger that turns deadly, and shows that in this series, nothing will be what it seems and no one is ever really safe.
Episode two is a lot slower and sees Peacemaker trying to escape from the mess of a situation he was left with in episode one. It also sees a reunion with Peacemaker’s self-proclaimed best friend and probably-insane killer Vigilante. Vigilante gets himself tangled into the events of the plot, bringing some good and bad comic relief as well as another unique perspective into Peacemaker’s life.
Unfortunately, the first two episodes of “Peacemaker’s” three episode premiere misses its target. “The Suicide Squad” established John Cena’s Peacemaker as a violent, irresponsible, immature antihero, but the series takes that concept even further. While there is a scene in episode two that does start to demonstrate Peacemaker’s mental anguish and the reasons why he’s so vulgar (which continues into episode 3), the series extremely overuses this vulgarity. Almost every scene in the first two episodes is littered with strong language and explicit humor, and while some vulgarity can be accepted (“The Suicide Squad” found this balance well), “Peacemaker” finds the line and then proceeds to launch itself past it as far as humanly possible. There’s unnecessary nudity and gratuitous sexual content, the jokes very seldom land, and as the plot takes itself very slowly in the first two episodes, the show feels like it’s being written by a middle schooler who just discovered dirty jokes.
Did I mention that Peacemaker has a pet bald eagle? Eagley is the best character so far.
Episode three is a turning point for the series, however, both in terms of plot and balancing. There is still some questionable content (one brief scene comes to mind), but the plot develops into a genuinely intriguing concept and we finally get to see Peacemaker openly grapple with his morality when he’s given very excessive orders without being told why. Well choreographed and highly stylized action scenes prove to be just as graphic as “The Suicide Squad’s”, but “Peacemaker” seems to take its carnage a little more seriously, especially in this third episode.
Episode three also has great growth for Adebayo and Economos, turning them from comedic side characters to important and interesting members of the team. Both are faced with hard decisions where they have to step up and take action, and each responds in a different way. Discovering the true nature of the Butterfly threat by the end of the third episode was the perfect way for the premiere to really get me back into the show.
Overall, the concept of “Peacemaker” had so much potential, but the first two episodes very nearly had me giving up on the show. Keeping information of its main plot a secret until its third episode causes viewers to question the direction of the show or why it even asks them to care in the first place. “Peacemaker’s” biggest flaw is that it couldn’t seem to balance its two sides – serious character study and raunchy over-the-top comedy – until it was almost too late. The first two episodes are most crucial in a viewer determining whether or not to continue the series, and “Peacemaker” has the worst first impression. Episode three gives hope, though, and if you can endure its overused vulgarity until then, you’ll have slightly smooth waters ahead.
I give episode one a 6/10, episode two a 5/10, and episode three an 8.5/10
“Peacemaker” is currently streaming weekly episodes on HBO Max.