Peacemaker’s fourth installment indicates that the series plans to take a hard left with its main character in terms of his identity on the antihero spectrum. While making the somewhat-established ruthless mercenary have feelings isn’t surprising, Episode 4 is quick to make it perfectly clear that John Cena’s Peacemaker may have more emotion to offer than anything else.
This episode revolves almost entirely around the characters’ psyches concerning killing. On one end is Vigilante, who at times truly does not understand why he or someone else should not kill any given person. On the other end, arguably, is Adebayo, who is struggling with feeling like she is not cut out for the job after she could not kill someone during the Goff altercation. Harcourt offers a small bit of her insight into murder.
Perhaps Peacemaker is supposed to fit somewhere between these characters. The character has seemingly taken a big leap from where he was in The Suicide Squad. As much as Peacemaker is clearly trying to redeem his character in the long run, the series itself has not seen much if any of the cold-blooded mercenary. Instead—with the aid of his brother’s death and Rick Flag flashbacks—the killer has actually been relatively peaceful. He showed issues with being used as a ruthless tool, and Episode 4 highlights this more. Peacemaker has major issues with Murn’s order for him to kill kids without being told the specifics of why. So the character has maybe shown cracks in his demeanor, although he certainly did not start this series without any.
The episode picks up immediately following the assassination of the butterflied Senator Goff and his family. While the leftovers from that event certainly suggest that there are world-ending implications to Project Butterfly, Peacemaker feels humorous and relaxingly off-task. One of the best quotes comes from Murn: “Every time I turn around one of you is doing something fucked up!”
Plenty of the distraction comes from basic conversations between characters such as Peacemaker’s and Vigilante’s conversation about how “if it walks like a duck…” it must be a duck or at least a duck in a human costume. Vigilante spends a significant amount of time somewhat ironically thanking Peacemaker for “allowing [him] to be tortured,” so that he could become stronger. Peacemaker also takes the time to yell at the elderly neighbor about how Batman causes more people to be killed than he saves by not killing his enemies.
However, a substantial part of the side-tracking this episode comes from Auggie Smith’s—Peacemaker’s father—arc. While Project Butterfly seems more urgent than before, much of this episode is spent with characters trying to keep Peacemaker from ruining everything by talking to his dad. He does, in fact, do just that, which then leads Vigilante to “break into” jail to try and kill Auggie. That also goes sideways, and Auggie is now set on a path to be a more tangible threat to Peacemaker this series.
The focus on Peacemaker’s dad is an odd counterbalance to the overarching Project Butterfly plot, but it brings with it much more emotion and potential character development than the more traditional story brings. Peacemaker’s mini-breakdowns over his role as a killer are accentuated by memories of his father forcing him to kill people in their basement, as well as having some mysterious role in his brother’s death. His total failure at being a psychopath is emphasized by his unwillingness to kill his white supremacist supervillain father. Vigilante makes that point clear, and Adebayo delivers a solid miniature monologue about how everyone wants to believe that their parents are inherently good—but that just isn’t the case with Auggie.
Aside from nearly the entire cast having a crisis of faith over whether or not they are competent enough to do their job, Vigilante is the highlight of every scene he is in. The guy is completely and murderously insane, yet you feel like you could hug him. As much as the series wants to double-down that he is a clinically-certified psychopath, his “I think I might have made things worse” to Harcourt once he gets out of jail is brimming with some kind of emotions. The character is a wonderful mix of incompatible parts that turns out so charming. Judomaster, on the other hand, awakes and escapes from Task Force X custody only to beautifully fight Peacemaker in the parking lot, get shot, and become unconscious in Task Force X custody once more. At the very end, it’s revealed that Murn himself is a butterfly, meaning the Project Butterfly plot should start to kick into high gear.
Peacemaker’s fourth episode further extends the series upward momentum. Again, the action was lacking overall and the pace does not scream “there’s a really important potentially apocalypse-level threat going on.” However, every bit of distractedness and feeling of being off-task is brilliantly and fluidly merged into Peacemaker’s unstoppable humor and signature style. Episode 4 also left no doubts that the series plans to get emotions and dig deeper into what exactly makes a Peacemaker, or even, what exactly makes a killer?