Peacemaker (TV series)

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker (TV series) logo.jpg
Genre
Created byJames Gunn
Based onCharacters
from DC
Written byJames Gunn
Starring
Music by
Opening theme"Do Ya Wanna Taste It" by Wig Wam
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Lars Winther
  • John H. Starke
  • John Rickard
Production locationVancouver, Canada
Cinematography
Editors
Running time39–46 minutes
Production companies
DistributorWarnerMedia Direct
Release
Original networkHBO Max
Original releaseJanuary 13, 2022 (2022-01-13) –
present (present)
Chronology
Preceded byThe Suicide Squad

Peacemaker is an American superhero television series created by James Gunn for the streaming service HBO Max, based on the DC Comics character of the same name. It is the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) television series and a spin-off from the 2021 film The Suicide Squad. Set after the events of the film, the series further explores jingoistic killer Christopher Smith / Peacemaker. It is produced by The Safran Company and Troll Court Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television, with Gunn serving as showrunner.

John Cena stars as the title character, reprising his role from The Suicide Squad, with Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, and Robert Patrick also starring. Gunn conceived Peacemaker after noting Cena's strength as a dramatic actor while filming The Suicide Squad, and wrote all eight episodes while completing the film during the COVID-19 pandemic. HBO Max ordered Peacemaker straight-to-series in September 2020, and additional casting took place over the following months. Filming began in Vancouver, Canada, in January 2021, with Gunn directing five episodes. Production ended in July. Gunn chose to use hair metal songs for the series' soundtrack, including "Do Ya Wanna Taste It" by Wig Wam for the opening titles; the title sequence features the series' cast performing a choreographed dance number.

Peacemaker premiered on HBO Max on January 13, 2022, with its first three episodes. The rest of the series was released weekly until February 17. Each episode received higher viewership than the last, with the season finale breaking the record for highest single day viewership of an HBO Max original episode. The series has received positive reviews, with praise going to Cena's performance and Gunn's directing and writing. A second season was ordered in February 2022, with Gunn set to write and direct all episodes. Additionally, several other The Suicide Squad spin-off series featuring characters from the film and Peacemaker are in development.

Premise[edit]

After recovering from the injuries he suffered during the events of The Suicide Squad (2021), Christopher Smith / Peacemaker is forced to join the mysterious A.R.G.U.S. black ops squad "Project Butterfly".[1] They are on a mission to identify and eliminate parasitic butterfly-like creatures who have taken over human bodies around the world.[2]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

  • John Cena as Christopher Smith / Peacemaker:
    A jingoistic killer who believes in achieving peace at any cost. Showrunner James Gunn described Peacemaker as a "piece of shit" and a "superhero/supervillain/[the] world's biggest douchebag".[3][4] Gunn did not want the series to remove Peacemaker's worst qualities, but attempted to explain some of them by exploring Peacemaker's relationship with his father.[4] After Peacemaker killed Rick Flag in The Suicide Squad (2021), Flag's final words—"Peacemaker, what a joke"—have a big impact on him in the series.[5]
  • Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo:
    The daughter of A.R.G.U.S. leader Amanda Waller and a member of Project Butterfly.[1][6] Gunn described her as a co-lead with a different political view from Peacemaker's,[7] and said their friendship is the heart of the series because they are the only characters that like each other despite the differences in their personalities and backgrounds.[4] Gunn added that both characters are defined by their parents. Adebayo is an original character created by Gunn,[8] and her first name is taken from his mother.[9]
  • Freddie Stroma as Adrian Chase / Vigilante:
    A self-proclaimed crimefighter who looks up to Peacemaker like an older brother.[10][11] Unlike his comic book depiction as a superhero, Peacemaker's Vigilante is a foolish sociopath, willing to kill any lawbreaker regardless of the severity of their crime. Gunn felt this approach was what a real-life vigilante would be like: "a guy who dresses up in a costume, and goes around and kills people he says are doing something wrong ... he's a sociopath, but he's got this sort of sweet aspect to him."[11]
  • Chukwudi Iwuji as Clemson Murn:
    A mercenary and the leader of Project Butterfly who reports directly to Waller.[1][12] He is revealed to be a Butterfly himself.[13] Iwuji explained that the original mercenary was a bad person, similar to Peacemaker at the start of the series, but the Butterfly who possessed Murn is trying to use his body for good by stopping the rest of the Butterflies.[14] The actor developed a backstory for Murn since he does not exist in the comics, and vocal coach Kohli Calhoun helped develop the character's voice.[15]
  • Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt:
    An A.R.G.U.S. agent who is assigned to Project Butterfly by Waller.[16] Holland was grateful for the nuances that Gunn gave the character, but was concerned that she may come across as a "cold-hearted bitch"; she was glad that the character was not received this way. Holland was able to use her background in competitive gymnastics for the character's many fight scenes.[17] Gunn said the television format meant the relationship that is developed between Harcourt and Peacemaker could be more nuanced than a film would have allowed, with it not being a "love relationship" but also "not not that either".[18]
  • Steve Agee as John Economos:
    An A.R.G.U.S. agent who provides tactical support for Project Butterfly.[19] Agee reluctantly dyed his beard when first portraying the character in The Suicide Squad, and was not happy to do so again for Peacemaker. This is acknowledged within the series as a running joke about his dyed beard,[18] which Cena felt was offensive and unfunny, and showed how much of a bully Peacemaker is. It leads to an emotional scene in the first-season finale where Economos reveals why he dyes his beard, and Cena said this moment allowed Peacemaker to reflect on his actions and realize the harm he had been doing with the jokes.[20]
  • Robert Patrick as August "Auggie" Smith / White Dragon:
    Peacemaker's racist father who supplies him with technology to aid his mission.[16][21] Gunn said Auggie was a worse person than Peacemaker and a "lost cause",[4] executive producer Peter Safran described him as "Archie Bunker on steroids",[8] and Cena said he was the only character in the series who does not have a character arc and journey.[5] Gunn noted that portraying a racist character was a delicate subject and something that HBO Max expressed some concern about.[4] The White Dragon is not Peacemaker's father in the comics but it was always Gunn's intention to make that change when he added Peacemaker to The Suicide Squad.[8]

Recurring[edit]

  • Annie Chang as Sophie Song: an Evergreen police detective who investigates Peacemaker's activities.[12] She becomes the new host of the Butterfly leader.[22]
  • Lochlyn Munro as Larry Fitzgibbon: Song's police partner[12]
  • Elizabeth Ludlow as Keeya Adebayo: Leota's wife[23]
  • Rizwan Manji as Jamil: a janitor who works at the hospital where Peacemaker was admitted[23]
  • Nhut Le as Judomaster: a bodyguard who specializes in martial arts and works for Senator Royland Goff.[24] Gunn described him as a "dick that loves Cheetos".[22]
  • Christopher Heyerdahl as Caspar Locke: an associate of Murn who masquerades as the new Evergreen police captain to undermine Song's investigation[13]

Guest[edit]

  • Alison Araya as Amber Calcaterra: an Evergreen citizen and Evan's wife[25]
  • Lenny Jacobson as Evan Calcaterra: an Evergreen citizen and Amber's husband[25]
  • Antonio Cupo as Royland Goff: a United States Senator and the initial host of the Butterfly leader[2]
  • Mel Tuck as Auggie's elderly neighbor[26]

Viola Davis reprises her DCEU film role as Amanda Waller in an uncredited cameo appearance,[27] as do Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman and Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash. Justice League members Clark Kent / Superman and Diana Prince / Wonder Woman also appear, portrayed by stand-ins with their faces obscured.[28] Additionally, Dee Bradley Baker voices Peacemaker's pet bald eagle, Eagly,[29] and Stephen Blackehart voices Charlie the Gorilla.[30]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (2022)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"A Whole New Whirled"James GunnJames GunnJanuary 13, 2022 (2022-01-13)
Five months after his mission with the Suicide Squad in Corto Maltese,[a] Christopher Smith / Peacemaker has recovered from the injuries he suffered there and is discharged from hospital. Upon returning to his trailer home, Smith is confronted by a group of A.R.G.U.S. agents: Clemson Murn, Emilia Harcourt, John Economos, and newcomer Leota Adebayo. Murn gives him the choice of returning to Belle Reve prison or joining a new mission dubbed "Project Butterfly"; Smith reluctantly accepts the latter. Smith visits his father, Auggie, to retrieve his pet bald eagle, Eagly, and acquire a new outfit. He then has dinner with the team and Murn gives him a dossier of an assassination target. Smith later attempts to flirt with Harcourt in a bar, but is rejected and instead goes home with a different woman at the bar, Annie Sturphausen. Adebayo privately discusses her role in Project Butterfly with her mother, A.R.G.U.S. leader Amanda Waller. Sturphausen attacks Smith and reveals that she has superhuman strength. In the ensuing fight, Smith activates a sonic boom weapon in his helmet that destroys her.
2"Best Friends, For Never"James GunnJames GunnJanuary 13, 2022 (2022-01-13)
Smith contacts Harcourt and explains his situation as Evergreen's police force arrives to investigate the sonic boom. While collecting his things, Smith comes across a mysterious device in Sturphausen's apartment. Smith briefly takes a couple hostage and is able to escape from their apartment's balcony, getting away with Eagly, Harcourt, and Adebayo. Police detectives Sophie Song and Larry Fitzgibbon investigate Sturphausen's death. They arrest Auggie after Economos switches Smith's fingerprints for his in the police system, and Adebayo bribes the couple into identifying Auggie as the man who took them hostage. In prison, Auggie is hailed by a group of white inmates as the "White Dragon". Smith realizes that Sturphausen only tried to attack him after reading the dossier he had on his assassination target and tells the team. Feeling shunned by them, Smith returns to his trailer and is greeted by his one-time crimefighting partner, Vigilante. Vigilante invites Smith to target practice to raise his spirits, and with him discovers that the device from Sturphausen's apartment is a miniature spaceship.
3"Better Goff Dead"James GunnJames GunnJanuary 13, 2022 (2022-01-13)
Murn briefs Smith on their first mission: to assassinate United States Senator Royland Goff, a suspected "Butterfly". Smith expresses hesitance to kill Goff's wife and children, who are also presumed Butterflies, despite previously saying that he was willing to do so for "peace". Smith and Harcourt stakeout the Goff household and are soon joined by a tagalong Vigilante. When the Goff family are seen displaying alien-like behavior, Murn orders Smith to assassinate them all but he hesitates. Vigilante takes over and successfully kills Goff's wife and children, but, before he can kill Goff, the family's bodyguard Judomaster intervenes and incapacitates Smith and Vigilante. Inside the house, Goff tries to force Smith to give up information by torturing Vigilante and unmasking him as Adrian Chase. They are interrupted by Murn, Harcourt, and Adebayo, giving Smith the opportunity to free himself and kill Goff while Economos incapacitates Judomaster. Smith and Vigilante witness a butterfly-like creature emerge from Goff's corpse, and an A.R.G.U.S. computer shows that these Butterflies are suspected to be all over the world.
4"The Choad Less Traveled"Jody HillJames GunnJanuary 20, 2022 (2022-01-20)
The group take Judomaster back to their headquarters, where Smith claims that he killed the Butterfly. Chase drives Smith to Auggie's house to retrieve new equipment, where Smith learns that Auggie has been framed and arrested. Against Murn's wishes and despite Adebayo trying to talk him down, Smith visits Auggie in prison; Auggie threatens to expose Project Butterfly to the police. Adebayo suggests to Chase that Smith would be better off without his father, and Chase gets himself arrested so he can kill Auggie. Smith and Adebayo return to their headquarters where an escaped Judomaster attacks Smith. Adebayo shoots Judomaster before he can reveal a secret about the Butterflies. Smith returns to his trailer, where he is keeping the Butterfly creature alive in a jar. He reflects on having to kill Rick Flag,[a] being trained by his father to be violent, and the death of his brother. In prison, Chase provokes Auggie's prison mates into fighting but fails to get Auggie involved. He is later bailed out by Harcourt. Adebayo finds a lead on the Butterflies and informs Murn, who is secretly a Butterfly himself.
5"Monkey Dory"Rosemary RodriguezJames GunnJanuary 27, 2022 (2022-01-27)
At Auggie's urging, Song and Fitzgibbon realize that Smith killed Sturphausen after double checking Auggie's fingerprints and re-interrogating the couple that Smith held hostage. The team is briefed about how the Butterflies enter human hosts and only feed on an unknown amber fluid. Adebayo's clue leads them to a nearby bottling factory where the liquid is processed and bottled, while Murn enlists an associate, Caspar Locke, to pose as the new police captain and undermine Song's investigation. Song resorts to requesting help from her uncle, a judge. Smith uses a helmet with X-ray vision to learn that all of the factory employees are Butterflies, as well as an escaped gorilla named Charlie. They kill the employees, and Economos earns Smith's respect by killing Charlie with a chainsaw. The team bond on their way back from the factory, and Smith invites Adebayo to drink at his home where she advises him to be nicer to others. She also secretly plants a diary in his home as ordered by Waller. Returning to the office, Adebayo discovers with Smith's X-ray helmet that Murn is a Butterfly, and he attacks her.
6"Murn After Reading"James GunnJames GunnFebruary 3, 2022 (2022-02-03)
Murn reveals to Adebayo that the Butterflies came from a dying planet and the Goff Butterfly led the others in a plan to dominate Earth, with Murn being the sole dissenter. To Locke's dismay, Song releases Auggie from prison and acquires an arrest warrant for Smith. At Smith's trailer, the Goff Butterfly attempts to communicate with Smith and Chase, but the Evergreen police force arrives to arrest Smith. Chase accidentally breaks the Butterfly's jar, allowing it to take over Song. Smith, Chase, and Eagly escape with Locke's help, while the latter acquires the fake diary. Economos traces the Butterflies' activities to Coverdale Ranch, where they believe the Butterflies are using a "cow" to mass-produce the amber fluid. Adebayo feels guilty about hiding secrets from Smith and her mother. Butterfly-Song summons a Butterfly army and takes over the Evergreen police force, prisoners, and Locke. Auggie prepares his followers and puts on the White Dragon armor, intending to kill his son. Butterfly-Locke uses the fake diary to publicly incriminate Smith and issue an arrest warrant.
7"Stop Dragon My Heart Around"Brad AndersonJames GunnFebruary 10, 2022 (2022-02-10)
Feeling betrayed by Adebayo and running out of time, Smith sets out to find the cow with Chase, Eagly, and a reluctant Economos. They are intercepted by Auggie and his followers. Harcourt confronts Adebayo on her secret mission and betrayal, learning of her relationship to Waller in the process. Murn attempts to leave with them, but the Butterfly-possessed police arrive and kill him. Judomaster then attacks Harcourt and Adebayo, who eventually defeat him. Smith is caught by Auggie's followers and Eagly is injured by Auggie. Chase hits a weak point in Auggie's armor, disabling his weapons, while Economos kills Auggie's followers. Smith confronts Auggie about the events that led to Smith accidentally killing his brother Keith when they were children, and then he kills Auggie. The team reunites at a veterinary clinic where Eagly recovers. Without Murn, they appoint Harcourt as their new leader. They prepare to kill the cow before the Butterflies can teleport it to another enclave. Adebayo tries to apologize to Smith, but he tells her that their friendship is over.
8"It's Cow or Never"James GunnJames GunnFebruary 17, 2022 (2022-02-17)
Adebayo contacts Waller and requests that the Justice League or other backup be sent, but there is not enough time. Economos plants Smith's sonic boom helmet at the Butterflies' base, but it fails to kill the cow. Smith, Harcourt and Chase begin an assault, killing many Butterflies, but Harcourt and Chase are seriously injured and Adebayo is forced to fight to save Harcourt. Butterfly-Song spares Smith and explains that the Butterflies are protecting the planet from humans who prioritize profit over their own survival. She asks for his help, but Smith decides to kill the cow by launching Adebayo into it using his human torpedo helmet. Smith shoots Song's body, sparing the Goff Butterfly. The Justice League arrive too late to help. Harcourt, Economos, and Chase undergo medical treatment, while Smith and Adebayo make amends. Adebayo then exposes Project Butterfly, Task Force X, and Waller's role in both to the press, clearing Smith's name. Smith returns home with Eagly and the Goff Butterfly, who he feeds the last of the amber fluid. He is haunted by hallucinations of Auggie.

Season 2[edit]

A second season was officially announced in February 2022, with James Gunn set to write and direct all episodes.[31] He said it would explore the repercussions, good and bad, of the first season's events.[22] After the surprise cancellation of DC's Batgirl film by Warner Bros. Discovery executives in August, Gunn said the second season of Peacemaker was "safe",[32] and would begin filming in 2023.[33]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

[Peacemaker is] not an evil person, he's just a bad guy. He seems sort of irredeemable in the film. But I think that there's more to him. We didn't get a chance to know him [in The Suicide Squad] in the way we get to know some of the other characters. And so that's what the whole show is about.

—Creator and showrunner James Gunn on why he wanted to make a spin-off series about Peacemaker[21]

While completing work on The Suicide Squad (2021) in August 2020, during a COVID-19 lockdown, writer and director James Gunn began writing a spin-off television series centered on the origins of Peacemaker, a character portrayed by John Cena in the film.[3][34] Gunn said he did this "mostly for fun",[34] and mentioned the idea to The Suicide Squad producer Peter Safran as something he would like to pursue. When DC Films later asked Safran about developing a spin-off series based on The Suicide Squad he knew that Gunn would say yes to making a Peacemaker series.[4][35] There were initial discussions about what platform the series should be released through, with the pay television channel HBO and the streaming service HBO Max being two options. The series ultimately went to HBO Max, and Gunn felt this was because it was a new streaming service that needed content and was willing to give Gunn the budget he wanted for the series.[4] DC Films president Walter Hamada later explained that the studio was working with the filmmakers of all its upcoming film slate to try create interconnected spin-off television series for HBO Max based on those films.[36]

HBO Max ordered Peacemaker straight-to-series in September 2020, with Gunn writing all eight episodes of the first season and directing five of them. Gunn and Safran were set as executive producers, with Cena as co-executive producer.[3] The series is produced by Gunn's Troll Court Entertainment and The Safran Company in conjunction with Warner Bros. Television.[37] Matt Miller joined as an additional executive producer in December.[38] In August 2021, Gunn said he wanted to make a second season and was committed to doing so if the series was renewed.[39] He reiterated this after the series premiered in January 2022, despite he and Cena not yet having deals to return for a second season and Gunn wanting to take a break after a busy few years.[5][18] Gunn did not formally agree to make a second season until he had worked out what he wanted the overall character arcs to be, as he and Cena did not want to agree to something that they would not love to make.[28] HBO Max officially announced the second season in February, with Gunn set to write and direct all episodes.[31]

Writing[edit]

James Gunn created the series, wrote all of the episodes, and directed a majority of them.

During the filming of The Suicide Squad, particularly for the scene where Peacemaker attempts to kill Ratcatcher 2, Gunn came to feel that Cena was a much stronger dramatic actor than he was considered to be after previously being known primarily as a professional wrestler and comedic actor. Gunn felt he would be able to show more of this dramatic side to Cena in a story focused on Peacemaker,[18] and also felt the character had not been explored or developed as much as other characters in The Suicide Squad.[21] He eventually decided to write a television series starring the character.[34] Gunn had never worked in television before and approached the project using his experience of writing film scripts and his knowledge of television series that he had seen. He saw the difference between film and television as the former needing to be "more cut and dried" due to the limited runtime while the latter has more time to explore complicated characters and relationships. A particular influence on the series was Better Call Saul, with Gunn drawing parallels between that series' protagonist, Saul Goodman, and Peacemaker.[18]

Gunn took eight weeks to write the first season, during a break between his work on The Suicide Squad and Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023).[34][40] He mostly wrote it in order, with the first two sequences he came up with on the first day of writing being the opening hospital scene and the dance number that is the opening title sequence.[4] Peacemaker extends the world that Gunn built for The Suicide Squad,[3] taking place after the film's post-credit scene which reveals that Peacemaker survived an apparently fatal gunshot wound from earlier in the film.[21] Gunn said the series was an opportunity to explore current world issues through the title character,[3] and to expand on his relationship with his father that is hinted at in the film.[21] He said the story of the first season was about Peacemaker coming to terms with the difference between his ideals and who he actually is,[4] with the character realizing that his identity is based on his childhood trauma and his treatment by his father. Gunn was not sure initially if the character would choose to fight or join the villains at the end of the season, but realized while making it that the series lent itself to being a redemption story. He did not want the villains, the Butterflies, to have a goal that was "thoroughly evil" and instead decided that they wanted to save humanity, despite being "mind-controlling aliens", from its "anti-science" mindset and populist leaders. Gunn said the "anti-science" line was more of a reference to climate change deniers than anti-vaxxers since debates about the COVID-19 vaccine were only just beginning when the season was being made.[28] The scenes in which Peacemaker and Vigilante have an "elaborate target practice" where they shoot and blow-up things in the woods was inspired by Gunn doing similar things with his friends as a child.[18] Gunn added a post-credits scene to the end of each episode as a way to reward fans who watched the full credits every time,[41] with each scene featuring unused footage from the episode. He compared the idea of having a joke after the credits to the end scenes of Rick and Morty.[42]

Like The Suicide Squad, the series features graphic violence and profanity, and HBO Max gave Gunn some notes on the abundant use of the word "fuck" as well as a specific moment in the sixth episode that they were concerned about but that Gunn insisted on keeping.[4] Other notes that Gunn received included questions about his references to certain characters, for instance Bat-Mite who is now canonically part of the DCEU due to this series referencing him; Gunn acknowledged these questions but was mostly able to make the references that he wanted to make, and was never required to make any specific connections to other projects or set-up future DCEU stories.[4] Gunn did say that a character from the series would appear in an upcoming DCEU film,[43] and the fourth episode includes a newspaper headline about the Intergang's activities in Kahndaq, referencing the events of Black Adam (2022).[44] Members of the Justice League also make cameo appearances in the season finale, which caused some concerns for Warner Bros. due to the ramifications it had for the DCEU, but they ultimately allowed it.[28]

Casting[edit]

John Cena stars in the title role, returning from The Suicide Squad.

With the series order in September 2020, John Cena was confirmed to be reprising his role as Peacemaker from The Suicide Squad.[3] The next month, Gunn's close friend Steve Agee joined the series as John Economos, also returning from the film.[19] In November, Gunn's girlfriend Jennifer Holland joined as her The Suicide Squad character Emilia Harcourt, alongside Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo, Robert Patrick as Auggie Smith, and Chris Conrad as Adrian Chase / Vigilante.[6][16] Holland was surprised that Gunn brought her character back for the series, believing that her part in The Suicide Squad would be a short one-off role.[45] Chukwudi Iwuji joined the cast as Clemson Murn in December.[12] One of Gunn's favorite parts of making the series was being able work closely with Holland and Agee, and he soon became close friends with other members of the cast as well,[18] with Gunn going on to cast Iwuji in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.[28]

Several recurring guests were also cast in December: Lochlyn Munro as Larry Fitzgibbon, Annie Chang as Detective Sophie Song, and Christopher Heyerdahl as Captain Locke.[12] Munro was cast after Gunn saw his audition and remembered that Munro had been one of his choices for the role of Shaggy Rogers in Scooby-Doo (2002) prior to Matthew Lillard's casting for that film.[46] In February 2021, several more recurring roles were cast: Elizabeth Ludlow as Keeya, Rizwan Manji as Jamil, Nhut Le as Judomaster, and Alison Araya and Lenny Jacobson as the couple Amber and Evan.[23][24][25] In late May, Freddie Stroma was cast to replace Conrad as Adrian Chase / Vigilante, after Conrad left the series due to creative differences.[10] The series' premiere revealed that Viola Davis reprises her DCEU role as Amanda Waller,[27] while Dee Bradley Baker voices Peacemaker's pet bald eagle, Eagly, after also voicing Ratcatcher 2's pet rat Sebastian in The Suicide Squad.[29] Stephen Blackehart, who made cameo appearances in many of Gunn's previous films including The Suicide Squad, voices the possessed gorilla Charlie.[30]

Gunn knew that the series did not have the budget to allow the Justice League to fight in the final battle, so he always intended for them to "show up late". He also did not expect the actual Justice League actors to reprise their roles in the series, other than Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman.[28] Gunn had known Momoa for a long time and Safran produces the DCEU Aquaman films,[22] so they talked to Momoa early on and revealed that Peacemaker would claim that Aquaman "fucks fish" as a running joke in the series. Momoa thought this was funny and agreed to appear. Gunn later heard that Ezra Miller was a fan of his films and contacted the actor about reprising their role as Barry Allen / The Flash as well. The other Justice League members—Clark Kent / Superman, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, Bruce Wayne / Batman, and Victor Stone / Cyborg—were portrayed by stand-ins.[28] Warner Bros. later asked for Batman and Cyborg to be removed, which Gunn said may have been due to upcoming DCEU projects.[47]

Filming[edit]

By early November 2020, Gunn had arrived in Canada for a two-week quarantine before starting production on the series.[48] Filming began on January 15, 2021, in Vancouver, Canada,[34] under the working title The Scriptures,[49] with Michael Bonvillain serving as cinematographer.[50] Gunn chose to film in Vancouver because he wanted the series to be set in the Pacific Northwest, and because he felt the production would be safer there because Canada was supposedly managing the pandemic better than the United States.[51] Gunn directed five of the series' episodes, with Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez, and Brad Anderson each directing one.[52]

One of the first scenes that the production filmed was the post-credits scene for The Suicide Squad that sets up the beginning of Peacemaker.[45] Davis's first appearance as Waller in the series is on a Zoom call, but rather than have her make a Zoom call to the set in Vancouver the production went to Davis in Los Angeles to film her part.[18] The first five episodes were filmed first,[53] and Conrad had already filmed five-and-a-half episodes as Vigilante when he left the series. Gunn re-shot all of those scenes with Stroma after the latter was hired to replace Conrad,[54] at the same time as the last three episodes were filmed. The sixth episode was filmed last because Gunn initially did not plan to direct it himself, but ultimately he "couldn't let it go" and it became his favorite episode of the season.[53][55] Filming for the first seven episodes took around 12 to 15 days each, and the finale took 21 or 22 days. This was mostly due to the finale requiring night shooting for which there was limited filming time each night.[56] Production on the first season lasted 131 days total, and wrapped on July 11.[57] Gunn later filmed Miller's cameo as the Flash on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, with that film's crew. Marvel allowed this as a favor to DC since Iwuji's screen test for Vol. 3 was filmed on the set of Peacemaker with the series' crew.[28]

Title sequence[edit]

External video
video icon Peacemaker | Opening Credits | HBO Max presents the series' opening titles dance sequence featuring the song "Do Ya Wanna Taste It" by Wig Wam, YouTube video from HBO Max's channel

Gunn wrote the dance number for the series' opening titles into the script because he thought it would be funny, and because he wanted to tell the audience that this would be different from other superhero television series and they should expect to be surprised.[58] The script describes the dance sequence as "the greatest opening credits scene of all time" and "the weirdest dance you've ever seen and everyone in it is completely and 100 percent serious". Gunn hoped that people would be interested enough in the sequence that they would not use the "Skip Intro" button that streaming services use since he felt it was important that viewers see the names of everyone who worked on the series.[59]

The dance number was filmed in the middle of the series' filming schedule over one day in a high school auditorium.[58][59] It features the series' main cast as well as guest stars from several episodes, including Rizwan Manji, who traveled to Canada and went through two weeks of quarantine for a third time just to be in the sequence. Gunn had originally planned for the sequence to be set in the Project Butterfly headquarters but they found it to be too small during rehearsals. When they located the auditorium, he asked production designer Lisa Soper to dress it like a 1970s variety show set. They eventually found that this also did not work and instead moved towards more 1980s designs, such as those used by the band Kraftwerk.[59] Gunn wanted the dancing to be outlandish and robotic, but he wanted all of the actors to do it very seriously and stoically,[4][45] as he felt that reflected the balance of seriousness and silliness that the series has. Gunn hired choreographer Charissa-Lee Barton to help him plan the sequence, and only found out later that she was married to actor Alan Tudyk, who performed many of the actions for Barton while she choreographed the dance.[59] Tudyk also stood-in as Peacemaker during rehearsal when Cena was not available.[60]

Sarofsky, the company behind the onscreen titles for The Suicide Squad, provided the typography for the Peacemaker opening sequence. The company took inspiration from the series' hair metal soundtrack by researching band logos and concert posters for the genre. They found many of these to be "nearly illegible", and needed a font that evoked the style while being readable for the audience. The font New Zelek was ultimately chosen, as it has "the angular, geometric feel we were looking for and the letterforms are clear and familiar enough that one can read the words effortlessly". The letters are shown in pink and blue neon to match with the sequence's production design, and Sarofsky applied the title treatment to the "previously on" title cards and episode titles.[61] After the sequence received positive responses, Gunn said they wanted to "up [their] game" for a potential second season.[59]

Editing[edit]

Each episode begins with a recap,[61] including the first which has a recap of the events of The Suicide Squad. This includes a moment that was removed from the film, in which Flo Crawley, an aide of Waller's who knocked her out during the final fight, is arrested. Gunn said this was not necessary to see for the ending of the film, but was included in the recap for Peacemaker because it explained why the character was not included on the team with Waller's other aides Harcourt and Economos.[62]

Visual effects[edit]

After having a difficult time with the visual effects-heavy character King Shark in The Suicide Squad, Gunn said creating Eagly for Peacemaker was a lot easier. Weta Digital, who worked on King Shark, provided the visual effects for Eagly and based the animated model on an existing one that the company had previously used.[18] The series' camera crew often needed to be digitally removed from the reflections on Peacemaker's helmet.[63]

Music[edit]

External audio
audio icon Peacemaker Official Playlist presents all of the songs that are heard in the series, Spotify playlist created by James Gunn

Gunn revealed in June 2021 that Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner were composing the score for the series,[64] after The Suicide Squad composer John Murphy was busy writing the score for Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.[65] Murphy did perform and produce a cover of Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks", featuring Ralph Saenz, for the series, which was released as a single on January 9, 2022.[66] The following day, Gunn released a Spotify playlist featuring songs from the series; it initially just covered the first three episodes, including Murphy's version of "Pumped Up Kicks", but Gunn planned to update the playlist with the release of each subsequent episode.[67]

Like with his feature films, Gunn selected all of the songs for the series himself and wrote them into the script.[4] He chose the hair metal genre of music because he thought it is what Peacemaker would listen to, and because he had spent the last few years exploring it after previously not being a fan.[59] He was excited to bring those songs, including some from new and unknown bands, to a new audience like he had done with pre-1980s pop music on the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).[4] The series' opening title sequence features the song "Do Ya Wanna Taste It" by Wig Wam.[59] Gunn gave playlists of hair metal songs to Mansell and Kiner as inspiration for the series' score, and discussed the "unapologetically melodic ballads" written by those bands. Mansell developed the "broad strokes" of the music and Kiner fleshed out those ideas. The latter described their music for the series as a mixture of rock, orchestra, and choir, and compared it to the work of bands Queen and Cinderella; Fred Coury, a drummer for Cinderella, contributed to the score. The main theme for Peacemaker is primarily played on electric guitar, even for more emotional moments that traditionally would use piano. Kiner felt they created a score that was unique to the series and title character.[68]

During filming for The Suicide Squad in Panama, Gunn learned that his dog was about to die. He said this was one of the saddest days of his life, and he decided to fly home to see the dog while he still could. When Gunn was waiting to be taken to the airport, Cena played a version of Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" on piano. Gunn said, "It crushed me and yet soothed me and everyone around me was crying", and he wanted to try capture that moment in Peacemaker with a scene where the title character plays a piano and expresses himself as an artist for the first time.[69] In the scene, Cena plays a cover of Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home", which was arranged by Murphy and released as a single on February 4.[69][70] A soundtrack album featuring Mansell and Kiner's score, as well as Murphy's "Pumped Up Kicks" cover and Cena's "Home Sweet Home" cover, was released on February 18.[71]

All music is composed by Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner, except where noted.

Peacemaker (Soundtrack from the HBO Max Original Series)
No.TitleArtist(s)Length
1."Peacemaker Discharged" 3:28
2."Adebayo" 3:10
3."Butterflies" 3:40
4."Cops on the Move" 5:56
5."Vigilante" 2:16
6."Berenstain Bears" 5:27
7."Judomaster" 5:24
8."X-Ray Vision" 2:09
9."Tossing the Trailer" 5:17
10."Auggie" 4:08
11."Peacemaker Confronts His Demon" 3:00
12."Eagly" 5:05
13."Sonic Boom Helmet" 3:22
14."Holy Cow" 3:52
15."I'm Made for This Shit" 5:23
16."Peacemaker Rock Theme Jam" 2:59
17."Pumped Up Kicks (feat. Ralph Saenz)"John Murphy3:25
18."Home Sweet Home (Piano Version)"John Cena2:06
Total length:1:10:00

Marketing[edit]

The first teaser trailer for the series was released during the virtual DC FanDome event in October 2021, along with some behind-the-scenes footage.[72] Commentators discussed the comedic tone of the teaser, feeling it was consistent with Gunn and Cena's work on The Suicide Squad, and also noted the hints that Brooks' Leota could help Peacemaker become a better person during the series. Peacemaker's pet bald eagle, Eagly, was also a highlight from the teaser.[73][74][75][76] From January 6 to May 27, 2022, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood was updated to feature props and costumes from the series, including a life-sized version of Eagly.[77] As he did while promoting The Suicide Squad, Cena decided to wear the Peacemaker costume for some interviews and other promotional events as a way to familiarize the audience with the lesser-known character.[78]

Release[edit]

Peacemaker premiered on HBO Max on January 13, 2022,[72] with its first three episodes. The other five were released weekly through February 17.[79] It was released in the UK on March 22, on Sky Max and Now.[80] The first season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 22, 2022, by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.[81]

Reception[edit]

Viewership[edit]

According to Whip Media, who track viewership data for the 19 million worldwide users of their TV Time app, Peacemaker was the most anticipated new series of January 2022.[82] Variety also named it one of the 40 most anticipated series of 2022.[83] Analytics company Samba TV, which gathers viewership data from certain Smart TVs and content providers, reported that 638,000 U.S. households watched the first episode over its first four days of release. This was considerably lower than their estimates for two recent series on rival streaming service Disney+: The Book of Boba Fett (1.7 million U.S. households in its first five days) and Hawkeye (1.5 million U.S. households during its launch).[84] Whip Media calculated that Peacemaker was the third-highest original streaming series for U.S. viewership during the week it premiered, behind The Book of Boba Fett and Netflix's Cobra Kai. It remained in that position on the chart for the next two weeks, dropped to fourth place for the weeks that the sixth and seventh episodes were released, and ended in second place during the week of the season finale.[85]

JustWatch, a guide to streaming content with access to data from more than 20 million users around the world, estimated that Peacemaker was the second- or third-most watched streaming series in the U.S. for each week of its release, behind Paramount Network's Yellowstone, Showtime's Yellowjackets, and Apple TV+'s Severance on different weeks.[86] Parrot Analytics determines audience "demand expressions" based on various data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, comments on fan and critic rating platforms, downloading and streaming on file sharing sites, and blogging. During the week of the series' debut, the company calculated that for U.S. streaming series it was the fifty-second-most in demand. It moved up to seventh place the next week, and remained in the top ten for the rest of its run. It was calculated to be the fourth-most in demand streaming series in the U.S. during the week of the first-season finale, with Parrot saying it was 33.7 times more in demand than the average series.[87] Globally, the company said Peacemaker was the most in-demand series in the world a week after its debut, ahead of popular series such as The Book of Boba Fett and Netflix's The Witcher. Parrot calculated that, globally, Peacemaker was 69.5 times more in demand than the average series.[88]

On Variety's "Trending TV" chart—which looks at weekly audience engagement based on Twitter mentions, retweets, and likes—the series appeared in the top ten for each week that a new episode was released, starting in second place with 295,000 engagements behind HBO's Euphoria which had 440,000. It was first place for the first time during the week of the season finale, with nearly 700,000 engagements. The site said this "blew away the TV competition", with Euphoria being the next closest series that week with around 460,000 engagements.[89] Deadline Hollywood reported that each episode of Peacemaker received higher viewership than the last,[90] and HBO Max stated that the season finale's viewership was 44 percent higher than the series premiere's. According to the service, the finale broke the record for highest single day viewership of an HBO Max original episode.[91]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 94% approval rating with an average rating of 7.7/10, based on 86 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "John Cena's still in solid form as Peacemaker, leading a bloody good time that gives writer-director James Gunn full permission to let his freak flag fly."[92] Metacritic gave it a weighted average score of 70 out of 100 based on reviews from 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[93]

IGN gave the first three episodes 8 out of 10, saying that "The three-episode premiere offers a goofy takedown of vigilantism" while praising the cast's performances and humor.[94] The Guardian gave the first three episodes a score of 3 out of 5 writing "James Gunn's Suicide Squad character gets his own HBO Max series with mixed results but a winning central performance."[95]

The title sequence was met with critical acclaim,[96][97][98] with TV Guide's Matt Roush stating that it "perfectly captures the tongue-in-bloody-cheek spirit" of the series.[99]

Accolades[edit]

Agee was named TVLine's "Performer of the Week" for the season finale, especially for his emotional monologue about why Economos dyes his beard. The site also noted the performances in the episode of Chang, Brooks, Holland, and Cena,[100] with the latter also being named an honorable mention for "Performer of the Week" for the previous episode, specifically for the scenes where Peacemaker kills his father and prays for Eagly.[101]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
MTV Movie & TV Awards June 5, 2022 Best Comedic Performance John Cena Nominated [102]
Best Musical Moment "Do Ya Wanna Taste It?" Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards August 14, 2022 Best Actor in a Streaming Series, Comedy John Cena Nominated [103]
Best Writing in a Streaming Series, Comedy James Gunn (for "It's Cow or Never") Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards September 4, 2022 Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program Wayne Dalglish and Gaston Morrison Nominated [104]
Saturn Awards October 25, 2022 Best Action / Adventure Series (Streaming) Peacemaker Nominated [105]
Best Supporting Actress in a Streaming Series Danielle Brooks Nominated

Podcast[edit]

HBO Max and DC worked with production company Rooster Teeth to produce an official, aftershow-style video podcast titled Podly. Hosted by Rooster Teeth's Fiona Nova and Ify Nwadiwe, each episode of the podcast includes a recap of one of the series' episodes as well as interviews with cast and crew members. The video podcast is available to stream on HBO Max and YouTube, with an audio-only version of it available via audio platforms.[106]

Spin-off[edit]

In January 2021, Gunn said he had ideas for more The Suicide Squad television spin-offs beyond Peacemaker,[107] and confirmed that he was working on another one a year later.[108] In May 2022, a series featuring Amanda Waller was revealed, with Davis in negotiations to reprise her role. Christal Henry was writing the series, which was expected to build off Waller's appearances in Peacemaker.[109] The next month, Gunn said the series that he had revealed earlier was separate from a potential Amanda Waller project though there would be "some blending" of characters from Peacemaker in both.[110]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b As depicted in The Suicide Squad (2021).

References[edit]

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