Peacemaker (Season 1)
James Gunn’s spin-off show is an intriguing action comedy
James Gunn is one of the most exhilarating filmmakers to be working today. His every project is infused with a passionate sense of fun, wanting to both ridicule and pay homage to genre tropes of his youth. His remake last summer of The Suicide Squad (2021) was a bonkers, hilarious, and riveting use of DC comics characters that sadly flopped at the box office. However, his love for such characters led Gunn to create a spin-off series for HBO Max on the side-character and The Suicide Quad villain Peacemaker.
Peacemaker (2022-) follows the eponymous superhero (John Cena) as he is cornered and tasked once again by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to collaborate on a black-ops operation. This time, however, Peacemaker’s team is scaled down to his hometown, where he bumps into his racist father (Robert Patrick), his wannabe sidekick Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), and a set of disgruntled Waller employees.
As with all of Gunn’s work, random humor and a great soundtrack make their way into the show. However, given ample time to explore his characters compared with a film, does let Gunn experiment with character exploration. This helps shift away from Gunn’s previous work, which had been focused on action and shine, and into character depth and story arcs. Gunn capably sets up an intriguing central plot whose nuggets of information keep us guessing throughout the show. This mystery allure allows for the slower parts of the series to pair nicely for viewers.
Gunn’s writing incisive, making many comedy shows of today envious of some his one-liners. The clear blast that the cast is having when improvising is also apparent throughout. Cena is at his absolute best, showcasing a comedic timing and dramatic depth that I had not thought he was capable of. The surrounding cast of lesser-known comedy actors is also strong, with Danielle Brooks and Stroma being particular standouts. Gunn once again shows an adeptness are writing characters that on paper seem incredibly unlikeable and obnoxious, yet by the story’s end become indispensable.
Peacemaker showcases all of Gunn’s usual strengths, however, it also doesn’t dissipate any of his weaknesses. Once again, Gunn seems uncomfortable with emotional or dramatic moments, so that a joke is always around the corner and sometimes ruins a touching moment. This keeps the entire series light, but also prevents it from digging deeper into story and characters. As seen with The Suicide Squad, Gunn also seems to find a difficulty at curtailing gratuitous violence. Exaggerated blood and gore can be comedic in the right portions, but an overwhelming amount of it begins to seem exploitative as it stops serving the story.
Nevertheless, Peacemaker is a rather strong action-comedy and one of the better superhero shows on TV. Surprisingly it is much lighter and funnier than much of the Marvel fare on Disney+, and if you’re able to stomach the exaggerated violence and incessant jokes, you’re bound to have a good time.