- Platform: HBO Max
- Release Date: 13/01/2022
- Cast: John Cena, Jennifer Holland, Freddie Stroma, Danielle Brooks, Robert Patrick
- Creator: James Gunn
My first introduction to the character of Peacemaker (John Cena) was in the film “The Suicide Squad” directed by James Gunn. He was essentially an anti-hero who went on to kill Rick Flag, one of the only positive characters in the film. In the end-credit scene of that film, it was revealed that Peacemaker had survived the film even after being shot by Deadshot (Idris Elba). It was around the same time that I read an interview with James Gunn where he revealed that he had utilized the covid-19 lockdown period to write an entire season of the Peacemaker and that it will be out on HBO Max in 2022. I was immediately hooked. It was for the reason that I wanted to see how Gunn could possibly redeem a character that had killed off Rick Flag and was in all eventuality a villain.
After watching the first season of Peacemaker, I can safely say that Gunn has not only redeemed the character but has somehow made him into an adorable misfit who is more at home killing people for what he believes is “peace” than having a sensible dialogue with a group of people who aren’t on the same page with his out of the world pop-culture references and histrionics. Gunn decided to shun away the fact that he had purposefully killed Rick Flag. He depicts Peacemaker as a troubled soul and someone who did it all because he was convinced by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) that he was doing it all for ensuring peace. Rick’s murder reoccurs in key moments throughout the series and plays on Peacemaker’s mind as do many other incidents from his troubled past that involved a father who was a white supremacist and who blamed Peacemaker for the death of his brother throughout his life. Thus, through all this, we are not only able to forgive the man but also understand why he is the way he is.
Don’t let the above lines make you believe that the series is a somber dissection and dive into the human psyche as it is one of the most over-the-top, violent, and comical renditions of a serious plot that I have seen in a while. Everything about the series is funny. Even the serious characters are funny in portions where they find themselves overwhelmed by the stupidity and pointless verbal exchanges between the other characters around them. Most of the time, these characters including the protagonist are involved in discussions that range from whether a character has dyed his beard to pop culture references and misgivings from films, music, and Television that they believe are real characters, people, and events. The opening credits of the series give you an idea of what to expect and you exactly that. James Gunn was allowed to wreak havoc with any character that he deemed fit and he does so in great style.
The action of the film is relentless and well-executed. There is a lot of bloodsheds and the violence can be grotesque. But that doesn’t take anything away from the innovative action choreography and sometimes haphazard but always lucid and engrossing nature of it. Some of the best action bits are the large-scale shootouts that are characterized by a lot of physical violence too. One of my favorite action bits was the climactic battle in which innumerable antagonists descended upon a handful of our heroes with the clock ticking away against them. Similar action set pieces are peppered throughout the narrative.
The ensemble cast of the series sans a few did a great job. John Cena is a revelation for me as the character of Peacemaker. I could never imagine that they could act so well. The comedy comes naturally to him and he is deadly serious about everything that he is shown doing. Interestingly, it is the emotional bits where his performance reaches its pinnacle. In almost the final scene of the series, he is made to realize what a terrible thing he was doing to another character by commenting on his dyed beard. The look on the man’s face tells it all and Cena proved his acting prowess by effortlessly invoking the expressions that beautifully transposed the intricacies of the scene to the audiences. His camaraderie with the different characters of the series was just as effective.
Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt who was almost unnoticeable in “The Suicide Squad” is my new favorite femme fatale. Evidently, she has worked extremely hard to hit that sweet spot between maintaining her feminine charm and beauty and getting muscular enough to successfully sell the action sequences that she is shown pulling off. It is not just her physicality that works for her character. It also has a lot to do with how she conducts herself throughout the series. I just loved her self-sure and serious rendition that contributed to the overall comedy just as much. She constantly kept getting frustrated with Cena and the other cast members as they continually pulled her into their mindless antics that somehow pulled her down to the same level of intellect that these full-grown human children were. I also have to add that Holland looks stunning throughout her essay and commands the screen whenever she is on it.
Freddie Stroma as Adrian Chase aka Vigilante is funnier than Cena. He inhabits a crazy universe of his own. He is so far from the real world and is so enamored by the image of the god-like being that he has created for himself that it is hilarious to see him be himself. Here is a man who thinks he is more important than any other superhero and conducts himself as such. Even when he is consummating with a woman, he doesn’t take off his mask. He says some of the craziest things as if they were real things. He takes it upon himself to change the life of the protagonist of the series. Strangely, he looks up to Peacemaker as his best friend who in turn thinks that his pet eagle, Eagly is his best friend. Stroma effortlessly sells every aspect of the twisted character and at every juncture renders the character uncontrollably hilarious. I don’t know if he pulled off his own stunts or was it a stuntman behind the mask but he did pull his weight in the action sequences.
Danielle Brooks plays Adebayo, one of the most “forcefully” important characters in the series. While her character is well-rounded and has a lot going for it, I found her rendering extremely annoying. Amidst a cast of characters who all looked like they could seriously pull off stunts, she is gradually rendered into a killer that I didn’t buy for even a second. As is customary to tick the “Diversity” box, she is a lesbian and the romance between her and her girlfriend always screech a perfectly paced narrative of the series to a halt and is utterly annoying as it adds nothing to the plot or does anything to make the series better other than making it unnecessarily diverse. It is just my personal take on the character and the actor rendering it. I disliked her and the character immensely.
There were a bunch of other characters that had their respective moments to shine but somehow never had enough time to make a sizeable impact. Robert Patrick as Peacemaker’s white Supremacist father Auggie was terrific but he was killed off unceremoniously and his character didn’t go the way I expected it to go. Steve Agee as Economos was perfect. He really came into his own in the last episode of the series. I felt that he should have been given some more time rather than wasting it on a repulsive and irritating character like Adebayo. This would have served the series better. Nhut Le as Judomaster was hilarious.
I was surprised by how much meat the story of the series had. It is a rare trait in a series of this nature as the story has to be simplistic for the antics, comedy, and action to take center stage. Interestingly, the story of Peacemaker is dense, layered and there is an element of surprise and thrill that is maintained almost throughout the series. While there were aspects of it that could be guessed, there were definitely twists and turns that caught me by surprise.
Having said that, there was a lot of unanswered question that I feel will most definitely be addressed in the next season of the series. I also felt that they should have gone for a few reveals in a little more ceremonious manner like the reveal of the “COW” that was done by just one cut when it was something that they were building up to for a few episodes. The change in certain characters was also abrupt and felt awkward.
Peacemaker is easily one of the most entertaining series to have come out in recent times. I loved the fact that they released one episode every Thursday giving time in between to ruminate over the episode. This helped in not only appreciating the beauty and the art of the series but also enjoying the character traits and the comedy of it as it is not easy to be on the same page with these guys. They talk fast, give a ton of pop-culture references, and speak of them as if they were real things. I urge my readers to definitely give this series a chance.