REVIEW: ‘Peacemaker’ Episodes 1-3

Peacemaker’s comedic tone and its take-nothing-serious attitude are immediately in full force at the beginning of its premiere episode, and the series’ amazing opening credits promise that that will underlie the entire show. With that, it is successful, and it is sure to please a wide-ranging audience with those elements alone. Still, the first three episodes of Peacemaker left some to be desired with a sometimes-dragging pace. The series mostly makes up for it with its characters and the excitement and pace pick up as the series progresses. 

Where Peacemaker excels most is its desire and fearlessness to allow itself to be the joke rather than just making jokes. In The Suicide Squad, that is essentially what the character of Peacemaker brings to the table, though with a bit more grit than the series is so far generating. Peacemaker is driven by general incompetence, and the series feels somewhat like it exists in some bootleg underbelly of a superhero universe. A universe where generally ordinary but demented people dress up in colorful costumes and casually assimilate into society. From what Peacemaker shows, there is nothing flashy or elegant about the lives of these superheroes—the titular hero lives in a cluttered mobile home—and it adds to the feeling that the series takes place in a reality closer to our own. 

The one thing that Peacemaker nailed before it even began was John Cena’s casting. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but there’s something about him and his performance that is Peacemaker and feels effortlessly so. Cena allows himself to inhabit a character that is the butt of the joke but also portrays genuine bravado yet cluelessness at the same time. Peacemaker does not spend time trying to convince anyone that the titular character is some worthy hero, and the series even attacks the character for being racist within the first few minutes. The character also encapsulates the series’ intended tone, so even if other elements aren’t matching it, Cena’s Peacemaker rightfully anchors it all to keep it from losing its heart.

While there is some controversy over the direction the series decided to take Freddie Stroma’s Vigilante, the character is possibly the best part of Peacemaker so far. While his scenes were sparing over the first couple of episodes, his character is being consistently built into the foundation of the series. His flamboyant, upbeat personality that overlaps with a clearly deranged and murderous individual is a Peacemaker-level character at its finest. Cena’s Peacemaker is otherwise surrounded by a bit more serious and grounded characters, so Vigilante’s personality is a strong addition that compliments Peacemaker’s in a way that others cannot. 

Still, the supporting cast feels integral to the series to the same degree that Peacemaker does. Jennifer Holland’s Emilia Harcourt is often the most serious character of the series but can come across as one-note. Danielle Brooks’ Leota Adebayo is a welcome addition to Peacemaker’s Task Force X that underscores the premise that the team often is not exactly inspiring or competent. Steve Agee’s John Economos mostly seems there to exchange insults with others, and Chukwudi Iwuji is undoubtedly the most formidable and intriguing member but has yet to reveal much about himself. The reluctant team aspect is reminiscent of The Suicide Squad in some senses, but the group’s dynamic has room to evolve and improve. The team plays as (mostly) the level-headed backbone of the Project Butterfly plot, in stark contrast to Peacemaker who ironically is often the most incompetent around. The team, though, is not immune from the series’ desire to make fun of itself and not take things so seriously. As serious as they can be, they also suffer from silly mishaps and poor decision-making skills. Robert Patrick’s Auggie Smith or White Dragon is featured prominently in the first two episodes, and it is made clear that the white supremacist villain will have a substantial role to play other than being the source of Peacemaker’s daddy issues. 

However, the series is surprisingly slower than expected. The first episode in particular felt rather mundane and drawn out, serving as a basic primer without much-added excitement. After that, the series picks up with Episode 3 easily being the best and well-paced of the three. Episode 3 is also the first episode where the overarching “Project Butterfly” really comes into play, though the series is still rolling out the details. The effect is a show that is currently more of a mystery than an action-thriller, but there’s every reason to assume that that will shift. For now, though, Peacemaker falls significantly flatter than maybe it intends to. The humor still carries and drives the series, so it is not left without its fun and heart, even in its blander moments.

All in all, Peacemaker is full of plenty of promise. The first three episodes seem to have set up most of the major players and elements of the series, even though most of Project Butterfly remains under wraps. Hopefully, the show can utilize its strong cast and collection of characters to propel the series to greater heights as the story picks up the pace and the action—hopefully—follows suit. 

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