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The Problem With Peacemaker

HBO Max’s Peacemaker is the hilarious, heart felt DC Comic series we have all been waiting for even if we didn’t know it. Long live Eagly!

Courtesy of HBO Max

HBO Max’s latest DC comic character to get the small screen treatment is Peacemaker. This summer, the muscled-up supe we last saw in James Gunn’s Suicide Squad reboot was resurrected in the post-credits scene where it was revealed not even a bullet from Bloodsport’s gun or a building falling on him can kill him. Picking up shortly after the events from Suicide Squad, Peacemaker has been freed from the clutches of Waller but isn’t exactly free to make his own choices.

With Peacemaker, Gun does what he does best. He creates a found family of misfits and loveable weirdos. New billionaire player Clemson Murn(Chukwudi Iwuji) has assembled a team poached from many of the techies tasked with keeping the Suicide Squad in check. John Economos(Steve Agee) is back to add a dash of cowardly charisma. At the same time, Jennifer Howard’s Emilia Harcourt brings her take no prisoners sensibility to the difficult job of keeping Peacemaker on task and out of jail.

Danielle Brooks’ Leota Adebayo is joining them, whose familial ties to Waller make her instantly intriguing. She brings a jolt of comical realism in a series that is in short supply of practical comedy. The opening dance sequence should tell you everything you need to know about just how far from ordinary things will be. There are no boundaries and no lines that won’t be crossed. That kind of joyful abandon continues through all three episodes aired so far. Things get darker later, but the light setup makes the tougher bits hit harder.

After a messy recasting of Vigilante when nearly five episodes were in the can, James Gunn reshot them with Freddie Stroma. Stroma’s flat Midwest accent and whiplash fast emotions are fun to watch. His prosecutor turned superhero of sorts is haunted by the death of his family at the hands of a mob boss and, in many ways, is less complicated than Peacemaker. Despite his needy love of Peacemaker and deceptive goofiness, he is deadly with a gun and equally skilled at hand-to-hand combat. However, unlike Peacemaker, who becomes figuratively and literally gun shy, he has zero qualms about pulling the trigger. Adrian Chase and his backstory will become an interesting angle to explore as the series continues.

Part of the difficulty with making an entire series about Peacemaker isn’t just that he should have been dead, but the guy killed Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Flag was one of only two characters to survive the reboot along with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and is a beloved hero. When the two squared off, with Peacemaker clearly on the wrong side of right, everyone, including me, was convinced he would be the loser. Having him side with Waller and kill Flag made him public enemy number one in my book, along with just about everyone else. How then do you make an entire series stand alone with such a hated character?

It helps that John Cena is the man behind the mask, whitie tighties, and blustery ignorance. Peacemaker is as complicated as a four piece puzzle, but therein lies the charm. The glam-rock-loving Gen Xer who was emotionally stunted by his vile father played brilliantly by Robert Patrick and his years in Belle Reve knows nothing but misplaced loyalty and violence. Gunn pulls no punches either with Patrick’s Auggie Smith or White Dragon as he is named in the third episode. He is a terrible human being who spews hate and fear as easily as he breathes. He isn’t just hinted at being a racist, but he is the leader of the new wave of white supremacy.

Courtesy of HBO Max

The problem with Peacemaker is I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate him despite having a secret crush on John Cena, who has made a living playing the dumb beefcake. I wanted to but couldn’t. There is a manic glee to the series that forces you to hold onto your crotch and defies you not to laugh. Between the cheetah print, crimped hair, villains called butterflies because there is an actual extraterrestrial butterfly giving them superpowers and controlling them, tiny dogs in fancy coats because they love it, and shocking beats of violence, there is a lot to love about Peacemaker.

The characters are all well-drawn, and Peacemaker’s sidekick Eagly is easily the most unusual and loveable anamorphic number two to grace the screen ever. Peacemaker’s world is rich and unexpectedly vibrant. Sure the pumped-up preener is ridiculous, but there is something behind those eyes this time. I want to roll my eyes at Peacemaker like I would at the obnoxious uncle that you have to endure each Christmas. You feed him and act respectfully, but you may snap if you have to hear his opinions on working moms one more time. I expected to feel that way about this show.

I couldn’t wrap my brain around how this unpleasant character would be able to carry an entire series with all that extended time without real heroes to play off of. However, I shouldn’t have doubted Gunn’s vision. Not only did he deliver the goods, but he did so in hilarious fashion. The problem with Peacemaker is there is no problem. It’s great and I am shocked. Watch it, love it, and go get a plushy eagle today. The first three episodes of Peacemaker are available now on HBO Max, with new episodes released each week.