DC is joining Marvel into the foray of TV shows to complement its extended universe. Peacemaker is the first official show to be part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Beginning after the events of The Suicide Squad, showrunner James Gunn zeroes in on a character that was left for dead, and who is perhaps meant to be a change in direction from DC’s previous…creative choices.
Right from the start, Peacemaker’s opening sequence is one of the most creative TV openings in recent memory. It really sets the tone for what this series wants to be. The opening sequence is a very clear departure from previous DC properties on its own, and leans into the wackiness and lets the characters express themselves in the most over-the-top way. The robotic dance moves are phenomenal, and it’s a tribute to the talent of everyone in the opening sequence that they managed to make it through without bursting into laughter.
John Cena as Peacemaker/Christopher Smith really was a smart choice. Of all the characters we were either introduced to or re-introduced to in The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker was arguably one of the most interesting characters that truly fit the definition of a bad person doing some good. In The Suicide Squad, James Gunn apparently told Cena to play Peacemaker as a “douchy, bro-y Captain America”. He continued this characterization, and played it to near perfection. The moral complexities of a character who fights for peace at any cost, no matter how many people he needs to kill to get it, is an interesting choice for a franchise that has struggled with heroes and villains alike.
There is a lot more to Peacemaker than meets the eye, however. At his core, he’s an exceptionally lonely man just looking for love and acceptance. We are introduced to his father Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick), a vehemently racist man with an upside-down American flag on his front lawn to display his political views to all. He didn’t visit his son once in prison or while he was in hospital. All of this tells us exactly what we need to know about this character. Peacemaker clearly craves his father’s love, and is broken when he realizes he still can’t find it. Cena may seem like an odd choice to play a man with this emotional depth, and yet somehow he makes it work.
The team up we saw right from the first episode might just be the beginning of DC fixing its problem of assembling heroes. In the past, a la Justice League, heroes were mashed together with no additional context with the hope that fans would sit and enjoy the ride. This team, although pre-assembled, seems to be giving us a combination of team members we’ve met before like John Economos (Steve Agee) and Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) with new members Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) and Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). Hopefully with the pacing of this show, we will get to know these characters even better as the series continues.
In the first episode, we got the first tidbits of all of the team members. They seem to have good chemistry so far, riffing off one another without it becoming pedantic. They all seem to work well together in the most dysfunctional way, which may ultimately be their strength. They all seem to have tragic and complicated backstories to unpack, which could either work very well or very poorly going forward.
Peacemaker started out strong, and absolutely has potential to be one of DC’s strongest entries to date if all goes well. There’s a good mix of silly, zaniness combined with serious moral questions that have been posed. Perhaps this is the strategy the powers that be at DC headquarters have needed to take all along. To spotlight a lesser known character and develop them rather than focus on a character we already know and have seen on screen numerous times. The latter can lead to sacrifice of story, and hopefully that’s not what we’ll see here. We can tentatively look forward to what comes next, as a solid foundation has been set.
New episodes of Peacemaker air Thursdays on HBO.