by Jordan Scire
Look, it’s low brow and about a bunch of idiots, but it’s good. The obligatory shoehorned “THE MESSAGE” exists, but the main character makes an honest choice at the end. There are cool moments, there is a decent team dynamic, and (most of) the main characters are not woke. And while “like” may not be the best word, you get to know the characters and they grow on you.
Since not much, and not much better, is coming out of Hollywood today, I give it a B. It is above average considering, but there is an albatross (perhaps several?) hung around its neck.
What kind of a show is this?
This is a TV-MA show on HBO directed by James Gunn. Keeping that in mind- there is at least one sex scene (two, plus a lesbian make-out session), a lot of gore, even more 80’s music, and a ton of F-bombs. Consider yourself warned.
Peacemaker is a D-level hero/villain from the 1960’s by Charlton comics Joe Gill and Pete Boyette. There were 5 issues in 1967 and 4 issues in 1988. He pops up in a few other series here and there, too. It’s DC, so there are 5 iterations of his character. However, the key themes are high tech tools (his helmet in particular), being mentally unstable, and a government affiliation of some sort.
This series picks up with Peacemaker waking up in a hospital 3 months after The Suicide Squad movie. The Peacemaker in the movie was shown as confident, competent, and willing to kill anyone at the drop of a hat “for peace”. His personal mantra from the movie was “I cherish peace with all of my heart. I don’t care how many men, women, and children I kill to get it.”
I went into this series wondering where they were going to take this character and how they were going to deal with the emotions of him killing Rick Flag in The Suicide Squad (an attempt to cover up US involvement in Project Starfish). There were signs that this had caused some cracks in the “peace at any cost” idea that was Peacemaker’s foundation.
Also, I wondered who else they were going to drag into this. You never know when one of your favorite small characters will get a shot, and which unknown will be a standout.
The title character, Peacemaker is not the character we saw in The Suicide Squad. His confidence and competence were left behind in Corto Maltese. Instead, we meet a character who asks a janitor for advice on what to do when he can’t decide if he should go back to jail after waking up and can hardly navigate any social situation.
Peacemaker just can’t seem to handle not having someone giving him orders, and comes off as unsure, not in control, and reactionary for most of the series. Also, he acts like a petulant teenager as he engages in the tropes of: turning the music up to avoid talking about things, being a jerk to everyone while thinking it’s a sign of affection, and trying to get laid by everything female.
Some of the main characters were returning support staff from The Suicide Squad. This worked well, as it helps bridge the two stories with more than just Peacemaker. The returning characters are John Economos, the big guy with the beard who called out Starro as a Kaiju, and Harcourt, who only interacted with the team, not doing anything particularly special. These two characters are handling Peacemaker again.
Harcourt and Economos play well. Harcourt is the hard ass who eventually warms to people and Economos is struggling with his confidence. At first. Peacemaker’s continual razzing gets under his skin until it prompts him to stop acting like an idiot (as much) and pulls off a few awesome feats.
Two new faces on the team are the new team leader, Murn who is left mysteriously not talked about, and Leota Adeboya, Amanda Waller’s daughter. Of course, she’s a lesbian, and her wife shows up for a few minutes.
Murn plays the serious mission-leader well and keeps them on task as much as possible, but he remains conflicted and mysterious.
Adeboya is a big black woman who is “made for this $%&#” as we are told over and over. She scored a crazy-high score on some competency test when she was young but doesn’t want to be in the same line of work her as her mom. She is her mom’s “inside guy” on this off-the-books mission. She is the most out-of-place but is somehow the most accepted. Peacemaker even calls her his best friend at the end. This is a low point as she is the source of ”THE MESSAGE”.
Vigilante is a co-superhero with Peacemaker and thinks Peacemaker is his best friend. Vigilante is not right in the head. In the comics he has some regeneration, and they may be including that here, but it’s not clear. He doesn’t seem to get emotions, and he doesn’t really grow. He is literally just there for Peacemaker every time Peacemaker needs him, and not always in appropriate ways. He kind of acts as a gauge to show how Peacemaker is changing through the series.
Peacemaker’s dad is a “white supremacist” and a brilliant scientist who has built his own high-tech armor suit and provides Peacemaker with high-tech helmets. He and Peacemaker’s relationship is horrible and it’s obvious this will come to a head by the end of this season.
And then there’s the coolest character in the show: Eagly. He is an American bald eagle who is Peacemaker’s sidekick/pet. He looks good and interacts well with the rest of the cast. The antics that having a bald eagle on the team causes is great.
Also, there are two eagle-human hugs in this series. It looks awesome.
Peacemaker, aka Christopher Smith, wakes up from a 3-month coma, and he can’t decide what to do. Gone is the confident battle-hardened warrior. Now we have a man who is trying to figure out what he can get away with and doing a very poor job of it.
The main characters from the government track him down to his trailer in a trailer park and get the drop on him at gun point. They tell him he can stay out of jail if he works with them on Project Butterfly.
It then takes 4 episodes before we find out what Project Butterfly is. After 3 fights with “Butterflies,” I found this annoying and not worth the payoff. It does establish that Peacemaker is not the thinking type and sets the tone; withholding key information as a control tactic in the team Amanda Waller has put together to go after these Butterflies.
In the first few episodes, Peacemaker avoids killing people and makes excuses for it; he’s having “feelings and things” about it. The slack is taken up by a friend of his, Vigilante, who is messed up in the head, and is, by all accounts, a regular guy who desperately wants Peacemaker’s approval.
We start to see John Economos get ribbed mercilessly by Peacemaker for a slew of personal hygiene issues, the ongoing roast is the poorly dyed beard he sports the entire show.
Harcourt gets established as a no-nonsense badass. Everyone tries to get him on their side in the banter they all engage in, but he acts above it all.
Peacemaker picks up a chick at a bar, and discovers she is a Butterfly when she reads the file that he has with him and promptly attacks him.
Economos sends Peacemaker’s dad, the white dragon, to prison in Peacemaker’s place, because when Peacemaker kills a Butterfly, “they” have his car and his prints on the scene. John hacks the police computers and puts his dad’s name on the prints and car registration.
A senator’s family is the first target in the operation. Peacemaker finds he is unable to kill the kids and sort of freezes. Vigilante picks up the slack until Judo Master, a 4’ tall martial artist who wears green body armor, captures them.
The team almost flubs the mission but pulls it off. Peacemaker refuses to kill the last Butterfly… and keeps it in a jar. He doesn’t tell anyone except Vigilante.
Peacemaker’s dad is arrested. Vigilante then gets arrested and tries to kill Peacemaker’s dad to “help” Peacemaker. Vigilante kicks a lot of the Aryan Nation members’ butts, but is let out before he can take out Peacemaker’s dad.
********Spoilers below (really!)********
Okay, last chance to just go watch it. The really important spoilers begin here!
It’s finally learned that Murns is a Butterfly, and that Butterflies are literal alien butterflies that crawl up in your brain and take over your body. This also gives the body super strength and agility… because aliens.
They find out that the butterflies can only eat nectar from their home world, so the team tracks down the supply to a bottling company and attacks.
Economos finally becomes one-of-the-guys after he kills a giant ape-butterfly by plunging a chainsaw through its chest. It is an epic scene, and they rock out in the RZV before and after. It’s a real team bonding moment for all of them and brings them all closer together.
Peacemaker has no problem killing Butterflies or people trying to kill him and is able to strut his stuff on this mission. The only person bummed out is Vigilante because he had brought the chainsaw, and Economos got to use it to kill something, not him.
They find out the only source of this nectar is the “cow” and get a location for it.
Meanwhile, the police finally figure out that Peacemaker’s dad is innocent, let him out, and try to arrest Peacemaker. Peacemaker escapes, but the Butterfly he’s been keeping gets out and takes over a police detective. The new Butterfly then gets a lot of other Butterflies and takes over the whole local police force as well as the people in the jail where Peacemaker’s dad was being kept.
Adeboya had planted a diary in Peacemaker’s trailer framing him, complete with a conspiracy theory to cover up the entire operation. Once the police are infected, they release this info to the world and Peacemaker is really pissed at Adeboya, who had been meshing with the team well up until now.
Adeboya had her own little arc of not accepting this part of her, and in the fight for the alien cow she finally accepts her skills and kicks butt to save a few of the team members. I found this whole thing the worst storyline and most contrived. Also, she is having an issue with her lesbian wife, but they kiss and make up in a lesbian scene at the end of the series. She is the bearer of “THE MESSAGE” and her character has the thickest plot armor and contrivances of anyone.
Another nugget is dropped that the Butterflies are here to take over our world, but no reason why is given.
Peacemaker’s dad, The White Dragon, gets suited up and plans to go kill Peacemaker. Peacemaker and his dad’s history is revealed. It turns out that Peacemaker’s dad had the brothers fight each other and bets were placed when they were around 10. Peacemaker landed a blow that killed his brother, and Peacemaker’s dad has always blamed him for killing his brother. This was the impetus he used to train Peacemaker.
Murn is killed by the Butterflies and tells the team to go after the cow. On the way to kill the cow, The White Dragon shows up with 20 gang members of the Aryan Nation and tries to kill Peacemaker and company. It’s a good fight and they handle it well. Peacemaker kills his dad.
The team regroups at a veterinarian’s office because Eagly and Vigilante were hurt in the fight with The White Dragon and the Aryan Nation. After they regroup, they go to take on the cow.
Peacemaker finally reveals the source of his vow. It turns out after he killed his brother by accident, he made a vow to God that he would do anything for peace.
Adeboya and Peacemaker have it out over the planted diary. Fart jokes ensue. It’s amazing.
All the armaments they have left are basically small arms and Peacemaker’s helmets. They then set it up to try to take out the cow with the sonic-boom helmet. The writers did a good job not contriving this whole scenario, aside from Adebayo’s contribution.
Peacemaker is at the last point where he can let the cow live or kill it. The leader Butterfly, whom he kept in a jar for a while, tells him that the Butterfiles messed up their planet, and are trying to take control of the earth in order to prevent humans from the same fate. “We’re not doing this for power. We’re doing this because we took a vow… your people are on the exact same trajectory our people had been on: ignoring science and listening to populist leaders who tell you that the floods and the fires and the disease are unrelated to your own actions, valuing profit over survival, treating minor inconveniences as assaults on your freedom… So, we made a vow to do anything we could to change your future: to make your choices for you, to save your world no matter how many lives it costs us.”
Then Peacemaker kills their cow. As they walk out, The Justice League shows up. Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller are the only ones who have actual lines. Wonder Woman and Superman were stand-ins. (Tells you who needs the paycheck.) .. But hearing AquaMan deny having sexual relations with fish was awesome.
Adebayo does take some responsibility at the end and exposes the black-ops program, The Suicide Squad to the press, which was a surprise to me.
Harcourt finally respects, and possibly falls for Peacemaker. It should be interesting to see where this goes.
Peacemaker keeps seeing his dad in his mind, which also may lead to something interesting. The writers left enough on the table for a second season, which is already in the works.
It’s a James Gunn series and it has the same Guardians of the Galaxy feel to it. Gunn does a good job making us care about everyone, even though we have never heard of them before. He forces a bit of the backstory, but overall works well with what he was handed from The Suicide Squad.
Judo Master is shoehorned in to use another DC character and is an excuse for a point of contention in one scene. Perhaps more of him will come out in Season 2.
“THE MESSAGE” is relatively contained, and as long as you realize these people are basically idiots, but can grow, there is fun to be had… that is, if you can overlook the F-bombs, sex scenes, and lesbionics that fill the cracks.