Peacemaker has finally wrapped up with its season finale and I have to say: I am really happy with how this series turned out. The months between John Cena’s debut as the character in The Suicide Squad and his series’ premiere episodes were long and treacherous, but it lived up to expectations (and may have even exceeded them).
[Warning: Spoilers for the full first season of Peacemaker below!]
For a series about a confused apparent murderous psychopath, it shined brightest when examining the deepest emotional trauma. Most of Chris’s (Peacemaker) story and growth occurs when confronting the truth about his father and it leads to some of the most poignant moments of the show.
Nobody likes to admit the truth that their parents may not be the pedestal-worthy people we see them as children, but it’s always the truth. People are flawed, and I think that truth is what’s really at the heart of the series.
I think the flaw that is most frequently touched upon is the very vow that Peacemaker took: to maintain peace, no matter how many men, women, and children he has to kill to get it. It’s a vow that’s pretty quickly disproven in episode 3 when Chris backs down from killing an alien-infested family.
But that flaw doesn’t only apply to him. Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) struggles with taking a life in the very same episode, and that results in the following episode having a bit of a debate about that topic between her and Harcourt (Jennifer Holland).
This struggle with morality in taking a life and when it’s justifiable goes all the way to the final moments of the finale when Goff (who’s taken over Song’s body) tells Chris about the disagreement between their side of the war and Murn’s (Chukwudi Iwuji).
It’s a wonderful woven thread dissecting the ideals of morality and life and death, and it ultimately comes down to Chris’s truth: that he must always maintain peace. And so he does (with the help of a human torpedo-ized Adebayo).
The characters make it work
The most heartwarming moments of the series come when the team is building their relationships, and every single one of them gets a chance to shine. Adebayo and Chris get along probably the best of anyone, and that comes together in a really nice moment in the finale.
Vigilante’s (Freddie Stroma) relationship with pretty much everyone is really great and I love how he’s so at peace with his own obliviousness. Harcourt is an interesting character who I think was underserved a bit, but a lot of her development was quiet and done without dialogue as she slowly opened up to the people around her.
And then there’s Economos (Steve Agee), who maybe has my favorite development of everyone in the series and is kind of representative of the immaculate writing work on Gunn’s behalf. For most of The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, Economos was a bit player who occasionally had something to do but what mostly a punchline guy who gave the audience a laugh.
But over the course of the story, they slowly start to unveil these deep insecurities about the character and it climaxes in this excellent moment where John has to pretend that he’s talking about himself objectively, and he just gushes about all the insecurities deep inside himself while everyone around him just kind of laughs and calls him pathetic.
Gunn’s specialty: the flawed family
It’s a moment that starts off kind of sad but you realize just how cathartic it really is when the end of the episode comes and John sets a little picture of their whole team right on his desk in Belle Reve.
And that’s what this whole show is really about: the slow build of a wonderfully flawed family. I love the smaller ways that’s portrayed too. You get the big moments like the creation of the “11th Street Kids” group chat, but then you have little bits like Economos picking up the phrase “no wrong time to rock” which really makes my heart kind of melt. It’s flat-out wonderful.
The potential bug in the ointment
There is a little bit of an issue with this series though, I think: James Gunn‘s humor is very niche. And here, his humor is at an all-time high. Not only that, but Gunn clearly gave his team a lot of leeway to improvise and just have a blast. It works a lot of the time, but sometimes even for me, it misses the mark.
However, this show is only partially a comedy, and I think that the show really shines when it hits the dramatic strides in the back half of the show. I don’t think it’ll be for everyone, but I think people would be missing out if they didn’t give it a shot.
Peacemaker has more to offer than just jokes, great emotions, or character building. It creates a believable universe of heroes that feels alive, has fun (although recycled) sci-fi elements, and a heaping helping of fun bloody violence.
It’s really just an 8 episode flex by show creator, writer, and occasional director James Gunn. It’s phenomenal from start to finish, and I’m so excited that a second season has already been confirmed. Peacemaker truly is the future.
All 8 episodes of Peacemaker season 1 are available on HBO Max now. Be on the lookout for The Cosmic Circle’s Peacemaker review podcast coming soon. The podcast will be available through Anchor, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcast, Podbean, and most services where you listen to podcasts.