*Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode 8 of Peacemaker*
Who would’ve ever thought to see the Justice League in Peacemaker? Yep, the Justice League. Not all members are seen through their original actors (stand-ins portray Superman and Wonder Woman…which doesn’t give me hope that Henry Cavill will be coming back). Still, the fact that James Gunn managed to get Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller as Aquaman and The Flash respectively to shoot a thirty-second cameo to poke fun at a recurring joke involving Aquaman having sex with fish is hilarious and comes out of nowhere.
Whenever a show-runner or filmmaker teases a season finale and says “big surprises coming!” you always want to temper expectations because “big surprises” can mean anything. But the inclusion of the (always late, it seems) Justice League was the cherry on top to end an incredible show on a high note.
I mean, the note just went higher than what was previously shown in the episode. Peacemaker (John Cena), Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), Economos (Steve Agee), and Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) are now the only hope at saving the world from a Kaiju-esque cow, which is being teleported to another cavern in Maine. It’s a typical climax you’d see in a superhero film (or series), where everyone comes together to try their best to save the world regardless of their disagreements.
John Cena’s emotional arc as Peacemaker finishes its ascent, as he’s now being confronted by inner visions of his father (Robert Patrick), reminding Christopher how, even though he killed him, he will never be able to escape his past and the looming figure of the White Dragon. This is also the first time where Emilia Harcourt expresses concern over Smith, now sharing some form of affection for him, especially when they team up to save the world inside one heck of a central fight scene.
To the sweet sounds of Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It?” Peacemaker, Harcourt, and Vigilante fight off the swarm of butterfly-possessed humans through Gunn’s usual brand of kinetic action and over-the-top kills. Machetes, shields, and heads fly off the screen as Peacemaker and the team fight off the butterflies, and our titular character attempts to kill the cow. Adebayo even gets a share of the action by becoming a “human torpedo” (thanks to one of Smith’s helmets). Finally, even though she misses killing a possessed Song (Annie Chang), she saves the world by being thwarted inside the cow’s intestinal tract and kills it. It’s pretty gross, sure, but it is very much in line with Gunn’s past at Troma Entertainment.
Gunn even manages to throw in some comments on the Trump administration, the COVID crisis, and climate change, as Song explains to Peacemaker the butterflies’ plan to invade the world. But, unfortunately, earth has ignored “science in favor of populist leaders who tell you that the floods and the fires and the disease are unrelated to your actions, valuing profit over survival” and, most timely of all, “treating minor inconveniences as assaults on your freedom.” In another series (or with another writer), it probably wouldn’t have worked.
But given the butterflies’ context to “rid” the world of all of its current problems (by turning them into a mixture of Body Snatchers meets Romero Zombies), it makes sense to integrate a few jabs at our political (and social) failures to make the world a better place. And it’s in that moment where Peacemaker has an epiphany on what he must do to truly “save” the world and attain “peace,” even if our problems may corrupt that “peace.” It works, mainly because we’ve been emotionally invested in Christopher Smith’s journey from (total) zero to flawed hero. And even if his flaws don’t turn him to the hero status that he desires to be, it’s what makes him human and a better hero than, say, Aquaman and The Flash.
Peacemaker works because we care about everyone on the team. Every actor gives their all in a series that exploits their strengths (and flaws) for more profound and rounded protagonists. Even John Economos has his time to shine, as he admits to a possessed Fitzgibbon (Lochlyn Munro) that he dyes his beard in a surprisingly emotional scene. It also contains some of the very best action of any DCEU title yet (closely rivaling Zack Snyder’s movies), a kickass rock soundtrack, and one hell of a finale designed to make everyone scream in total shock as the Justice League come in. It was an unexpected moment that perfectly sums up the series as being wholly off-kilter and contained multiple twists and turns as the show progressed.
Now that a second season has been confirmed (it will likely release in 2024 since Gunn is currently working on The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and Vol. 3), one wonders what Peacemaker will do next and who will show up. All I know is this: if the second season continues the above (and more), it’ll be another terrific time with John Cena and James Gunn.
All episodes of Peacemaker are now streaming on HBO Max.