*Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode four of Peacemaker*
After three intense episodes setting the stage for a potential alien invasion, episode four of Peacemaker further develops its character relationship between Christopher Smith/Peacemaker (John Cena) and the A.R.G.U.S. team while giving us more insight into his past with his abusive father (Robert Patrick).
Even if Peacemaker desperately wants to find love from his father, thinking that if he loves him, he’ll love him back, Auggie (Patrick) doesn’t want anything to do with him. Smith visits his old man to prison to admit he was framed by John Economos (Steve Agee) during episode one’s encounter with a butterfly. Auggie immediately says he will rat him out the second he has the chance to. He doesn’t love him, and a brief flashback scene reveals that his father only wanted to inflict pain on his son as early as he could so he could “become a man.” But Smith didn’t become the white supremacist/Deep state-fearing man his father wanted him to be, which is part of the reason why he rejects him.
Robert Patrick dominates the minimal screen time he has and shares a rather tense scene with Freddie Stroma’s Adrian Chase/Vigilante. The latter, after Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) implies that Smith would be better off if his father were dead, purposefully gets arrested to try and kill Auggie. This leads to an incredible, albeit brief, prison fight scene, which brilliantly showcases Vigilante’s martial arts skills as a true force to be reckoned with, even if the superhero made the situation worse by exacerbating Auggie’s calls for Detective Song (Annie Chang).
We also learn more about Vigilante here, that he’s more than a “psychopath” (what Jennifer Holland’s Harcourt calls him) who desperately seeks Peacemaker’s attention. Above all else, he wants to do the right thing, even if he has to screw up multiple times to learn his lesson finally. Finally, when he admits to Harcourt that he indeed screwed up, you can tell from his facial expressions that it took him lots of self-guilt to realize his mistake, and finally reveals the character’s vulnerabilities.
Speaking of martial arts, Judomaster (Nhut Le) gets a rematch with Peacemaker, and it’s even more exciting than in the third episode, mainly because we can see the fight scene this time around. As much as Michael Bonvillain’s cinematography and Fred Raskin/Greg D’Auria’s editing tries to emulate the same visceral feeling from The Suicide Squad, the photography feels particularly murky in Peacemaker, compared to the bright colors of TSS.
Of course, it may be intentional, but it makes the fight scenes set at night particularly difficult to follow and look at. Apply the same kinetic camerawork and dynamic editing on a fight scene set during the day with Peacemaker and Judomaster, and you get a more cathartic (and effective) fight sequence, tightly choreographed and masterfully edited. It even ends in a surprising moment, with Adebayo shooting Judomaster before he wanted to spill information about the butterflies, that “they’re not what they seem. They…” I guess we’ll never know…
…or will we? As much as it was a cool nod to the comics to see White Dragon’s comic-accurate armor as Peacemaker collected more helmets, the best reveal of the episode comes during its last minute. Chukwudi Iwuji’s Clemson Murn has always desperately tried to keep the team together, even if individual teammates keep making one terrible decision after the other. That’s why he dubs them “The Apple Dumpling Gang,” but like Economos says, “they always triumph in the end.” Well, he’s a butterfly.
That’s right, the leader who is trying to “stop an alien invasion” with The Apple Dumpling Gang is deceiving them? This was totally unexpected and completely changes the direction of where the show was supposed to go, with a rather paint-by-numbers “hero has a journey of self-discovery while stopping an alien invasion” trope James Gunn has done in his Guardians of the Galaxy movies, to a series where (quite literally) all bets are off. What’s going to happen next? Even I have no idea, as I always try to theorize what may happen next, and now…who knows? That’s the exciting part because it will keep us all on our toes until next week, when we will clearly know more about Murn and the butterflies’ endgame.
The fourth episode of Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.