With the rapid expansion of the superhero genre in American pop culture, recent films and television shows like “Deadpool,” “The Boys” and “Joker” have developed a new gory and cynical subgenre of the great American hero. “Peacemaker” represents the newest venture into that genre. While “The Suicide Squad” was a box office flop in theaters this past summer, it generally received good reviews and John Cena’s role as Peacemaker was a standout aspect of the film. This new television series takes an in-depth approach to the complex Peacemaker character and succeeds in telling a nuanced, but exhilarating story with John Cena shining at the center.
“Peacemaker” follows the eponymous character after the events of “The Suicide Squad.” After successfully overcoming his injuries sustained in the third act of the film, Peacemaker gets a new taste of (sort of) freedom on a mission in the United States to stop an alien invasion. He teams up with a squad organized by the covert Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) of the “Suicide Squad” franchise. In this team, we meet Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), the leader of the mission, Agent Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), tech guy John Economos (Steve Agee), friend of Peacemaker and fellow masked Vigilante Adrian Chase (Freddie Stroma), and Waller’s daughter, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). Together, the team is contracted to take down the ominous Butterflies. While adjusting back to society after spending four years in prison, Peacemaker also confronts the inner demons of his past actions, his rocky relationship with his father (Robert Patrick), and his own loneliness. The series follows themes of trauma, loyalty and the reevaluation of a person’s morals.
Before getting into a deeper review for this series, it is fair to address that this show is not for everyone. It is vulgar and at times grotesque. While the gory superhero subgenre is growing in popularity, I would not blame anyone for sitting out on a series where people can explode on screen.
One of “Peacemaker”’s biggest strengths is John Cena’s performance as the lead. Cena has a deep commitment to the role. Within the context of the ridiculous aspects of the show, John Cena’s intensity and seriousness makes the series shine. The former wrestler knows how to have a commanding presence which makes him a perfect fit for such a wild but nuanced character. Anyone who has seen Cena in “The Suicide Squad” knows that the character is not a good person. He is a killer who has extreme nationalistic beliefs. The “Peacemaker” series gives this character a chance not to be excused for his actions, but understood as to how and why he acts the way he does. We are not sympathetic to Peacemaker, but we can empathize with his internal problems. He has the possibility to change, but his progress will be an insanely long and complicated process.
While the show deals with serious topics, it does so in a comic (book) scenario. Even the opening credits of the series features a big dance number with rock music. All the cast members are performing fun-looking choreography with stone cold serious faces. In a way, the opening is a perfect expression of the show: taking a fun premise seriously.
While this show may be polarizing due to its graphic content, it is a great character exploration of the title role. John Cena excels in his role as the extreme wannabe superhero, leaving audiences both entertained and a little disgusted. While an enjoyable ride from start to finish, anybody not interested should at least check out the opening credits. If you call yourself a fan of “The Suicide Squad” or John Cena, this show is definitely worth checking out.
“Peacemaker” is available to stream on HBO Max.