“Peacemaker…what a joke.”
Those were Rick Flag’s dying words after Peacemaker stabbed him in the heart. This moment, which occurs during the final act of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, was a turning point for John Cena’s Peacemaker. While his Task Force X allies chose heroism, Christopher Smith stuck to blind allegiance. If you’ve seen the movie, then you know what happened next. Bloodsport shot Peacemaker, critically injuring him. Of course, it takes more than a bullet to the neck to stop the mighty John Cena, and sure enough, the post credits scene revealed that Peacemaker had survived and Amanda Waller has special plans for him.
If The Suicide Squad was a cinematic feast, then that post credits scene left me hungry for another course. The good news is James Gunn and John Cena are reuniting to continue Peacemaker’s story with an HBO Max television series. How will Peacemaker continue the story and what can we expect? Gunn and Cena are keeping us in suspense, but if we’re curious about what we’ll see in HBO Max’s Peacemaker, some of it is laid out in The Suicide Squad.
When Amanda Waller introduces Smith to Bloodsport she says, “In his hands, anything is a deadly weapon. His father was a soldier who trained his son how to kill from the moment he was born.”
This one piece of dialogue raises so many questions. What kind of man raises their son to be a weapon, and what kind of relationship does Peacemaker have with his father? We already know that Robert Patrick plays Peacemaker’s father, which means that there’s a very good chance we’ll see this unique father-son dynamic play out. In the comics, Peacemaker’s father was a disgraced Nazi, which makes me wonder what kind of a man his live-action dad will be.
After my fourth screening of the movie (don’t judge, it was a good film), it dawned on me that Peacemaker was the only surviving member of Task Force X who never disobeyed Waller. Bloodsport and the others ignored Waller’s orders and attacked Starro because they knew protecting innocent lives was more important than any mission. Peacemaker follows orders at all cost, even if it means crossing moral lines. If Peacemaker hadn’t been shot by Bloodsport, I don’t think he would’ve joined the group during their assault on Starro.
This tells us that Peacemaker and Amanda Waller have something in common. Both of them have no problem breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, except in their cases an egg is a human life. Peacemaker follows orders without question, making him the perfect agent for someone like Waller. This does put him at a contrast with Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, the agents watching over Smith under Waller’s orders (they’re the ones who check in on him in the post-credits scene). Harcourt and Economos proved that they will disobey Waller if they feel she’s crossed a moral line, which means that Peacemaker’s handlers have more principles than he does. That should make this arrangement quite interesting for all three of them.
There’s obviously plenty of room for Peacemaker to learn and grow as a person, but what would it take to change his worldview? Remember, the guy was ready to shoot Ratcatcher 2 in cold blood as she was laying on the floor literally crying out for mercy. In his twisted mind, this was all in the name of peace, which is pretty damn scary. Remember, he did tell the others, “I cherish peace with all my heart. I don’t care how many men, women and children I need to kill to get it.” The Peacemaker series has the opportunity to explore Smith’s twisted ideology and show us what it would take to challenge his perspective.
One thing that seems clear is that whatever it is, it’s probably going to be pretty brutal. Think about it. If a giant telepathic alien creature, hundreds of mind-controlled slaves, a lab of mutilated experiments and the desperate begging of the gentlest member of the Suicide Squad isn’t enough, what the hell is?
You don’t need the brains of the Thinker to conclude that peace is just a crutch that Smith uses to justify the dark path he’s on. If that’s the case, then Rick Flag understood it during his final moments, which is why he called Peacemaker a joke. The Suicide Squad presents Christopher Smith as a misguided man operating with a hypocritical ideology, which perfectly sets the table for a compelling and likely pretty thought-provoking HBO Max series.
With probably more than a few exploding heads.
The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn and featuring John Cena as Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max. Peacemaker, also featuring Gunn and Cena, debuts Thursday. Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.