HBO Max Comes In Peacemaker

When (Green) Arrow premiered, I thought it would be nifty if it was folded into the same continuity as Man Of Steel. It wasn’t, but the Beeboverse flourished as its own TV ecosystem. It wasn’t until this year that there would be a TV show directly tied into DC’s interconnected movies. Since the MCU can’t decide which television programs count prior to last year’s Disney+ boom, HBO Max isn’t that far behind the competition. Throw your dog the invisible bone for Peacemaker (& The Suicide Squad) SPOILERS!

Peacemaker

If Djimon Hounsou can play two characters in this cinematic universe…

Although I appreciated John Cena’s performance, I didn’t’ leave The Suicide Squad wanting to see more Peacemaker. I didn’t mind that he murdered Rick Flag, but he crossed a line when he tried to kill Ratcatacher II! I suppose he was the only surviving member of Task Force X (Pour one out for Polka-Dot Man.) that could use an arc. Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, & Sylvester Stallone may also be too pricey for a series, whereas Daniela Melchior isn’t a big enough star yet for the studio to invest in a solo project. (Weasel nabbed a cameo in The Book Of Boba Fett.

While I’ve been predisposed to like James Gunn’s oeuvre (Prisoners are forced to read his tweets! That punishment is cruel & unusual!) since Tromeo & Juliet, I wasn’t sure if he could make Peacemaker engaging enough to sustain his first television series. Fortunately he pulled it off. Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez, & Brad Anderson directed three episodes he didn’t.

Fans are claiming that “John Cena was born to play Peacemaker!” That sort of phrasing implies that a casting has lived up to viewers’ expectations of a renowned character, such as Chris Evans as Captain America. I think it’s more apt to say Cena will be superimposed onto audience’s minds when they read the formerly obscure Peacemaker in the future. (While he had his own series, he didn’t catch on to the same degree as Blue Beetle, The Question, or Captain Atom. Evergreen, Washington is in Charlton County, a reference to the original publisher of Peacemaker’s & Judomaster’s exploits.) Make no mistake, however, Cena delivers an outstanding star performance that believably conveys a gamut of emotions. Cena’s face does resemble a Dracula when angered! He’s so damn good that Gail Simone had to give up her blood feud!

I’m getting a lot of Super vibes from from Peacemaker’s opening credits, wonder if that was intentional. It is the anti-Lost! It was choreographed by Charissa Barton with preliminary dancing performed by Alan “Mr. Nobody” Tudyk. Putting the Wig Wam song in the opening primed me to appreciate it even more when it scores the climactic assault. In addition to not skipping the opening credits, also stay through the end credits for extended scenes.

Peacemaker used to be the least developed member of Task Force X, but here he gets all the layers! Who expected this walking oxymoron to be this deep? Devoting a whole season to Christopher Smith’s redemption arc in-progress is more satisfying than abruptly speeding to it in the conclusion like US Agent. Since Peacemaker burst onto the superhero scene by capturing Kite-Man, when & why did he start killing foes? Why was he arrested for “having integrity?” Is that code for not narcing on his dad? Chris is subtly implied to be bisexual beyond threesomes. Someone derisively referred to this as “woke Tick,” Why wouldn’t the Tick be woke? He accepted Speak being a capybara. (I’m still mad the cartoon DVD releases are incomplete!) After being shot in the neck & having a building collapse on top of him, he survives with only clavicle needing to be replaced.

Punisher & some of Batman’s more popular interpretations have a tragic machismo that romanticizes their brutality. Peacemaker is a deconstruction of the anti-hero. Instead of a dark costume that viewers equate with cool, his vibrant costume looks ridiculous. Although he’s got a terrible dad, Christopher Smith didn’t witness his family’s murder to justify a war on criminals. He’s the one who accidentally killed his own brother as a child. Unlike most murderous superheroes, he’s called out for his kills forming a racist pattern. (It appears they made an effort to avoid perpetuating this in the casualty casting.) Rather than a brilliant tactician, he’s a clumsy blunt instrument who flubs his missions & has to be bailed out. Not only do his co-workers not respect him, his imbecility implies that’s the correct response. If he were less of a laughing stock, his toxic masculinity would be intolerable. This ex-con was selected for the mission because he’s a very convenient fall guy for the government. He doesn’t have any friends because he in turn disses the one person, Adrian Chase, seeking his comradeship. This series doesn’t want you to aspire to become a killer vigilante, although some viewers will still miss the point.

Peacemaker heard a rumor that Aquaman is the Troy McClure of the superhero set. It’s an upgrade from the public thinking him useless! Some offended Snyderbros actually thought his comments about the Justice League’s peccadilloes were meant to be taken at face value. They are also upset that the neighbor says Batman has a no killing rule because it contradicts all the henchmen he indiscriminately slew in BVSDOJ. Of course if Batman believed in murder then he would’ve absolutely snuffed out Joker & Harley Quinn for what they did to Robin. So there’s no consensus here, even before The Flash film upends the timeline.

Bat-Mite exists! How much do we need to bribe James Gunn to see a full Bat-Mite appearance? Doll-Man’s size skeeves out Smith. A time displaced Matter-Eater Lad ate a Wendy’s! (Is Bismoll really so abysmal?) Peacemaker made his debut apprehending Kite-Man? Hell yeah! He needs to be the Big Bad seeking vengeance in season two! I want a whole spinoff starring these oddballs! This was a missed opportunity for a Killer Moth reference.

Eagly is a good violent lad that Peacemaker doesn’t consider a pet only fit for insecure Floridians. Eagly is mostly CGI & voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. (He keeps stealing dubbing jobs from real animals! Were this a Disney production, Tudyk would’ve dubbed Eagly as well.) This feathery good boy keeps trying to feed his human large varmints to cheer him up. Although it’s unclear whether they bestowed any superpowers upon Chris like when Danny Rand hugged a dragon, Eagly’s hugs are miraculous!

Although her surname is nearly hardcore, the hypercomptent Emilia Harcourt is too pretty to be respected. (This mirrors detractors claiming Jennifer Holland was only cast because she’s Gunn’s fiance.) She finds this treatment extra offensive since her job is her personality. She & unglamorous John Economos (Steve Agee) hate being demoted to handle the man who killed their friend, Rick Flag. A deleted scene that made its way into “previously on…” revealed Flo Crawley, The Suicide Squad’s unsung heroine, was arrested for knocking out Amanda Waller.

Just as Peacemaker was Waller’s mole on Task Force X, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) is her mole on this team. The inexperienced Leota is secretly Waller’s daughter. (She isn’t a direct adaptation of any of them from the comics.) Despite initially seeming completely unsuited to this line of work, it turns out she inherited her mother’s manipulative streak. The new job strains her relationship with her wife (Gunn didn’t realize he’d worked with Elizabeth Faith Ludlow before on GOTG II.) & dogs. (Never move back to Gotham. A coterie of villains lurks there!) Both Adebayo & Peacemaker were raised to obey their domineering parents even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Vigilante II with the cool suit was a mash-up of Punisher with Daredevil. Some fans are probably mad they made Vigilante a buffoonish psychopath Olive Garden Fennel Fields busboy rather than a DA. (Or does giving him a blue collar job make him more relatable?) His suit with the prescription visor looks much more badass than Peacemaker’s, so they put in extra work to make sure he’s not a role model. At least this time he is Adrian Chase, unlike on Arrow. He takes his secret identity very seriously. He seems dopier than Peacemaker, but maybe he’s just autistic? Their friendship (with benefits) is very believable. Although he looks like a dweeb, Chase is actually a superb fighter even unarmed. Another point is his favor is he’s staunchly anti-racist. He’ll still too eager to execute petty lawbreakers though. Freddie Stroma is so endearing I wonder if the character would’ve worked as well had he not been recast late in filming. He has an impeccable disguise voice.

Two of the most effective ways to give a problematic character a redemption arc is to show their troubled past & surround them with much worse people. Peacemaker accomplishes both via the vile Auggie Smith. I also expected Vigilante to fall into the second category. Early on, it seemed like he’d be a fanboy that took Peacemaker’s methods even farther & had to be put down for Chris to see the error of his ways. (Peacemaker iced a Vigilante, albeit Chase’s successor, in the comics too. Chase famously killed himself later on.) As the season progressed, Vigilante started looking like a better version of Peacemaker. So now my money’s on him being martyred by White Dragon.

Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) is proud he’s never shared his feelings. Was he being honest as a Butterfly or trying to mimic machismo to blend in? This undercover alien picked a host with a somewhat less conspicuous name than King Faraday. The traitor Ik-no-bloke infested the most vile spy he could find yet is still ashamed he robbed Murn of his chance for redemption.

There is a staggeringly delightful amount of incompetence on display. Peacemaker is nearly killed post-coitus by a Butterfly after she reads the assassination dossier he brought into her bedroom instead of leaving in his car. He draws attention to himself before the mission even starts when he vaporizes her & part of the apartment parking lot with his helmet’s sonic blast. Instead of grabbing his gear & leaving ASAP, he raids her apartment of stuff as more cops arrive. When changing the registration of his patriotic car so the cops won’t search for him, Economos just changes it to Peacemaker’s father. (There were so many other options. Did Chris want to frame the cast of Riverdale, including Lochlyn Munro, or the characters themselves? At least the new police chief had the wherewithal to pin his murders on The Hamburglar.) Deputy Peggy mistook a piece of face for pizza. Government codenames for alien parasites still aren’t abstract enough. Nobody stops Vigilante from tailing the team. Despite his motto, Peacemaker can’t shoot kids. (Did he ever, or was it just hyperbole?) Leota convinces Vigilante to kill Peacemaker’s dad in prison to keep him from snitching on them, but that worsens all the trust issues. The Peace Train tastes terrible in real life too!

I’ve complained about casting slim women as superstrong characters, but Annie Sturphausen is the exception based on the fight at the end of the premiere. (Annie being disposable helps.) It really commits to Peacemaker being physically outclassed that’s equally hilarious & terrifying. For someone who’s not metahuman, Chris sure can take a thrashing. Their brutal battle is even more impressive knowing that Cena & Crystal Mudry were filming in their underwear while it it was freezing.

The series humor is better in context than the trailers. A bit too much relies upon characters embarrassing themselves by saying awkward things. It depends on your tolerance for cringe comedy. If some of the dialogue was trimmed slightly (Vigilante is often too dopey, though he has his quotable moments.), bits between the ultraviolence would be just right. In a series full of vulgar workplace insults, it’s refreshing that Economos & Adebayo aren’t mocked for being more heavyset than typical action stars.

Peacemaker fully embraces to the superhero lifestyle even on a black ops wetworks job. Just like Batman, he needs his logo on all his weapons. He has to be a dick-head because his helmets are so phallic. Why didn’t his movie helm have any powers? The X-Ray vision helmet with pointy flanges makes Peacemaker look like Orion & provides a subtle They Live allusion. The human torpedo helmet is used to better effect than Cannonball in The New Mutants. Chekov said that “If you introduce a scabies helmet in act one, it must be worn in act three.” You knew this, Gunn!

Chris’s unloving father is a neo-Nazi inventor with Frankenstein hair. He’s renamed Auggie Smith rather than Wolfgang Schmidt as the timeline no longer makes sense for him to be an authentic WWII Nazi officer in exile. His character is merged with the armored supervillain White Dragon. It’s a niftier looking costume than this dirtbag deserves. His followers wear white hoods with two horns rather than typical KKK hoods. Robert Patrick & Gunn work overtime to make sure Auggie isn’t sympathetic or dignified to avoid anyone misconstruing him as a noble dad like they did with Thanos, whom also made his kids participate in glorified baby fights. In retrospect, it’s amazing Peacemaker didn’t grow up to be much worse.

“Economos, are you saying there’s a wrong time to rock?” While Star-Lord had Awesome Mix cassettes his mother made for him, Peacemaker steals glam rock LPs. He’s even able to use a hostage’s mutual love love of Cinderella to hook up with her. I’m surprised more writer-directors don’t insert needledrops of their characters’ favorite songs to humanize them. (Contrariwise, Shredder canonically hates music despite his rockin’ name.) While others are lucky if they get just one favorite tune featured, Gunn delivers full playlists for his protagonists. Peacemaker playing piano is poignant. Even the non-diegetic music is made of obscure bangers (not sausages).

Aside from answering mockery with ass kickings, Judomaster (Nhut Le) is opaque. Apparently Senator Goff’s former bodyguard keeps fighting the 11th Street Kids because he supports Butterflies. (Why didn’t Goff keep its torture tools sharp? I guess trying to cut off toes with blunt blades is more torturous.) He survived being brutally bludgeoned by Economos by moving his kidney up to his heart.

Judomaster’s costume is much less comics accurate than Peacemaker’s & Vigilante’s, which isn’t a bad thing. His green contrasts nicely against their red & black. It might look a bit too much like Kite-Man’s kit if he does make an appearance. While I don’t mind most supersuits getting additional texturing for live action, these costumes have some of the most confident blocks of saturated solid colors that really pop. They don’t overcompensate eith extraneous lines.

Judomaster

He would’ve gone by Cheetosmaster if there wasn’t a trademark issue.

Butterflies aren’t as cool as Starro. They kill their hosts’ original minds too. Give Peacemaker a jetpack to fight them! Their obelisk-ships reminds of Mr. Mind hijacking Skeets in 52. Is Peacemaker wanting to give up murder plus his experience with alien parasites setting him up to mentor Blue Beetle? I regret that this is real butterfly news instead of an Onion article or a Peacemaker subplot.

For once a background news report isn’t directly relevant to the episode’s main plot. I’m leaping to the conclusion that the zoo’s missing ape was a former resident of Gorilla City. Charlie speaks (possibly thanks to the Butterfly inside his skull), but it’s not explicitly Grodd, Solovar, Sam Simeon, or Primaat. Economos usurps Vigilante’s dream of murdering Charlie with a chainsaw in the next.

Detective Sophie Song (Annie Chang) isn’t fooled by The 11st Street Kids’ halfbaked frame job. Although she knows Auggie Smith is awful, she realizes he didn’t liquefy Annie Sturphausen. (White Dragon seems like he’s killed people before who weren’t criminals though.) Releasing the White Dragon so they can bust his son paves the road to Hell with good intentions. During the raid on Peacemaker’s trailer, Eek-stack-ik-ik escapes her jar & wears Song as a skinsuit. Now the alien queen has to learn how to smile all over again! The police also found the forged journal prematurely, making Peacemaker public enemy #1 before the mission is complete. The scene of the Butterflies infesting the police station was superlative!

Economos’s reaction to Chris’s face getting mauled after tying his helmet to a wild racoon was great. Unlike Grunkle Stan, White Dragon isn’t allowed to punch bald eagles! My earlier prediction was wrong as Vigilante survives Auggie’s Super Sentai suit. His skinhead posse are unceremoniously mowed down. Peacemaker kills his vile dad mid-monologue for traumatic character growth. After Murn is murked, Harcourt deservedly inherits his leadership role.

The Butterfly’s nectar cow made some viewers realize this is a stealth Monsters Vs. Aliens reskin. After Eagly drops the sonic boom helmet in the wrong spot, panicky Economos has to go undercover to get it as close to the cow & teleporter as possible. When Peacemaker arrives to complete the mission after  demonstrating his deadly throwing shield, he’s surprised Eek-stack-ik-ik asks for his help in teleporting the cow to Maine. She explains the Butterflies were taking human hosts to prevent humanity from destroying Earth just like their homeworld was. Just when you think he’ll live up to his name by making peace with the Butterflies, he has Leota kill the cow with the human torpedo helmet. Although both were antagonistic roles, Chang got me to root for both Sophie & Eek-stack-ik-ik.

Waller manages to get the Justice League to support her daughter’s team, but they’re embarrassingly late. (Judomaster is even later to aid the other side.) As in the both Suicide Squad films, they don’t swoop in to save the day from a cataclysmic threat because it’s not their story. The tradition of Superman’s stunt double guest starring is now extended to Wonder Woman. Cyborg, Batman, Martian Manhunter, & the freshly namedropped Green Arrow didn’t attend. The authentic Aquaman & Flash add some legitimacy to this cameo. A surprise Captain Boomerang resurrection would’ve been more impressive.

Peacemaker tells Leota he didn’t help the Butterflies save the world because he knew they’d have to kill his teammates. Prioritizing his friends over his mission is a big reversal from his debut stance! He’s trying to be a better person, but the writing is savvy enough to question whether he made the right choice (unlike Stargirl). It’s better if humans choose to make sacrifices for the greater good, although the species track record hasn’t been great lately. If they continue to reject the ends, does that justify the optimistic means? Now that the Butterflies’ food supply is extinct, Chris is complicit in interplanetary genocide too.

Peacemaker’s heart to heart with Leota spurs her to spill the Task Force X tea to the media to her mother’s chagrin. Does this mean there won’t be a third movie? This exonerates Peacemaker & Vigilante. The whole team survived besides Murn/Ik-no-bloke. Chris isn’t rewarded by hooking up with Harcourt. Eek-stack-ik-ik returns in defeat to drink the last of the nectar, while Chris is literally haunted by White Dragon. Does underused Christopher Heyerdahl tweeting an image of Elongated Man & Sue portend their arrival next season? If so, will absurd character embargoes nix their return to The Flash’s TV series?

Unlike the TV series ostensibly about Boba Fett, Peacemaker develops its protagonist & focuses its plot. The result is much better! Who would’ve expected that? While it had cameos from DC films, it wasn’t distractingly seeding in backdoor pilots. This was much better than early impressions led me to believe. Not only is its star awards-worthy, there are no duds in the supporting cast. It’s as good as the other DC Universe HBO Max show that combines F-bombs with absurdity & emotional trauma, Doom Patrol! (Swamp Thing could’ve finished its first season if it had more cussing!) It’s coming back for season 2! Now let’s get that Weasel spinoff! He totally wants to taste it!

~

Unlike his action figures, this Peacemaker statue includes firearms, a better likeness, & a Starro spore! It loses the dance off though.

We’re finally getting Starro The Conqueror, but it’s an altverse version with too many eyes? But I wanted the classic or movie version! Odds on Starro being repacked as deluxe “Gold Label” with a new cycloptic central piece?

Spider-Man: No Way Home didn’t deserve an Oscar nomination for special effects in a year when The Green Knight & The Suicide Squad were snubbed! Everybody vote for them & Titane in the #OscarsFanFavorite initiative that’s destined to backfire spectacularly!

6 thoughts on “HBO Max Comes In Peacemaker

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