I absolutely love Peacemaker, the new DC show on HBO Max starring the pro wrestler-turned-actor John Cena. And that’s not just because I’m a fan of Mr. Cena himself. A series of factors combine to make Peacemaker the first live action DC show (I can’t wait for Harley Quinn season 3) that I’ve actually been able to care about in forever.
Having watched Peacemaker’s first three episodes on Thursday night, I found myself experiencing a form of euphoria (no, not the HBO Max show), because it felt fresh and worth caring about.
This isn’t meant to throw shade at the fans of previous DC forays in television, but Peacemaker just hits differently. So I thought I’d explain why.
Peacemaker will actually (probably) matter more to me
Up front, I’ll admit that we all have different measures of what makes something matter. I remember working in an office (remember that?), and hearing multiple colleagues rave about the latest episodes of DC shows. And, so, those shows mattered to them.
So, I say the following with no offense to the Arrowverse acolytes, which include fans of The Flash and the legions who follow DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. But Peacemaker belongs to a bigger puzzle that isn’t just other shows. Peacemaker, if you haven’t caught what I’m throwing, is the first ever TV series in the DC Extended Universe canon.
That means it exists alongside the excellent Birds of Prey, and some pretty fun movies such as Aquaman and Shazam!. On top of that, the DCEU has some exciting movies in the schedule, most notably The Flash (2022), which will feature Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as Batman, and Black Adam starring Cena’s old in-ring rival Dwayne Johnson. Connections with these movies matter a whole lot more to me than to other shows on The CW, because … well, CW shows have rarely ever hit for me.
If I watched those aforementioned Arrowverse shows, which spawned out of the Stephen Amell-led Arrow, I bet I’d be as annoyed with DC as I am happy with Peacemaker. Those shows were made without any connective tissue to the DC films that were being pumped out at the same time, and were passively made to look unimportant as a result.
And this is all probably a side-effect of being a Marvel movie fan. I just expect all properties that came from the same universe to tie together, and if a show doesn’t, I tend to think “time is precious, let’s move on.” I bet I’m probably missing out, and that if I could appreciate a work of art for itself, and not for thinking “this will be important,” I’d be able to open up my mind. But this is how my brain works at the moment.
James Gunn’s name is a promise
Peacemaker arrives with an informal seal of approval. It’s just like how James Gunn directing 2021’s The Suicide Squad (where Cena’s Peacemaker spins out of) gave people reason to trust a movie with “Suicide Squad” in the title after the trainwreck that was 2016’s Suicide Squad (burdened with the problem that is Jared Leto’s Joker).
Since Gunn (who also gave us the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) wrote every episode of Peacemaker — and directed five episodes including the first — the series feels exciting because a DC show is finally in the hands of an auteur. No offense to Greg Berlanti, who worked on lot of the Arrowverse shows and programs like Dawson’s Creek, but I have a lot more faith in Gunn when it comes to making me care.
And Peacemaker started off with exactly the kind of quality that I expected. The banter crackles with humor; Peacemaker continues to surprise with the stupid things he says; and the show’s soundtrack is too good to be surprising (especially, again, because of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks). Just like how Gunn made us care about a raccoon who wants to steal body parts, he’s got me riveted by a problematic C-level DC comics character in Peacemaker.
Oh, and Robert Patrick’s in it too
Peacemaker’s got an excellent supporting cast, but so far I’m most excited by what Robert Patrick (yes, the T-1000 from Terminator) is up to as Peacemaker’s dad.
Herein, in fact, lies one of my favorite things about Peacemaker. Just like WandaVision and other Marvel shows, this series is allowing a character (this time, Christopher Smith, the man under the shiny basin-looking helmet) to gain greater dimension.
And so Robert Patrick is portraying August “Auggie” Smith, the man who (as Gunn’s The Suicide Squad told us) trained his son to kill from a very young age. No spoilers from the show, but it seems like Chris inherited some of his worst traits from his father, who we quickly learned is a really dark dude.
Peacemaker makes HBO Max Thursdays must-see
In the first Peacemaker episodes, the titular himbo has often referenced DC’s biggest heroes, reminding us that this series could bring in the next DCEU Batman or Superman (neither is cast yet, for what it’s worth). And those first three episodes proved so fun that I now have appointment TV on Thursdays for the first time in forever. If only this could have been the plan all along.
And if that’s not enough, Peacemaker has a pet eagle named Eagly. Who is adorable.