John Cena as the Peacemaker Photo Courtesy of HBO
Jake Markoff
Staff Writer

Marvel recently entered the TV game last year with hit shows like “WandaVision” and “Loki,” which expanded their Cinematic Universe, and DC has joined in on the fun. DC released season one of “Peacemaker” in January of this year, and while this show may not tie into a bigger plot thread, as is the trend in many contemporary Marvel shows, it stands strong as their latest spin-off TV show. Director James Gunn, known for “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and “The Suicide Squad” (2021), focuses in on Christopher Smith, aka The Peacemaker (John Cena), for another over-the-top mission. The Peacemaker is not a character that people were asking to see more of, but James Gunn is a genius at bringing lesser-known characters into the spotlight, as demonstrated by the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s hard not to like John Cena’s portrayal of the lunkheaded villain with a heart of gold – though it is buried under the fact that he thinks the best way to get peace is by killing any men, women, and children in his way.

After recovering from injuries sustained during his last adventure with the Suicide Squad, Peacemaker finds himself once again recruited by the US government for an off-the-book mission. He teams up with tech-expert John Economos (Steve Agee) and the perennial hard-ass Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), who both appeared in “The Suicide Squad” as part of intelligence officer Waller’s (Viola Davis) task force. The team is led by the stone-faced Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) who recruits a fresh face, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). The final member is, of course, Peacemaker’s closest friend, a bald eagle named Eagly, who rounds out the te

The group’s quest in the series is to stop an alien invasion, and Gunn paints the journey through an action/comedy lens. Freddie Stroma plays an unwanted sidekick named Vigilante, who manages to bring hilarity to each scene, despite being a psychopath who murders criminals. Blending of movie genres is something at which James Gunn excels; his background in Troma-style horror informs his over-the-top violence and sexuality. But he is quickly able to shift from violent scenes into heartfelt dialogue and character development not typically seen in raunchy, gore-filled action/comedy. One huge example of this dichotomy is the focus of Peacemaker’s journey: his realization that he has been a villain who needs to reconcile with the past, mainly that which his father did to him, to move forward.

If you enjoyed James Gunn’s 2021 rendition of “ The Suicide Squad,” you will probably enjoy “Peacemaker.” The main cast members each hold their own, and John Cena shows that he’s got acting chops. It would have been easy for him to cross the line into caricature, but he manages to give Peacemaker a charming naivety, instead of coming off as intentionally daft. Even Peacemaker’s father (Robert Patrick), an abusive Aryan supervillain, manages to be someone viewers want to see more. At the end of the day, the character threads hold this show together, along with the great chemistry between the cast members, which gives viewers a strong connection with the villainous bunch.

As a bonus, the show’s soundtrack is laced with glamour rock that serves it well. James Gunn really has a way with using music in his productions, like the iconic use of “Come and Get Your Love” in his film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” In fact, “Peacemaker’s” intro is a contemporary dance number set to “Do You Really Wanna Taste It” by the Norwegian glam rock band, Wig Wam.

During last year’s Television Critics Association press tour, Gunn said of the “Peacemaker” soundtrack, “It’s a lot of ‘80s hair metal, but it’s also a lot of ‘sleaze rock’ and hair metal that comes out of Europe. It was fun finding the really good stuff to inject the series with its flavor, which we kept throughout the whole first season.”

If you only watch one part from Peacemaker, I recommend the intro, and if your answer to the question, “do you really wanna, do you really wanna taste it?” is still no, then you need to go to a tastebud doctor, because “Peacemaker” tastes delightful.