Each week, Chris from @officialtalkintvpodcast will be recapping Peacemaker, now streaming on HBO Max.
A Brief Overview: My thoughts on the current era of Superhero Storytelling
Like any good hero, Peacemaker has arrived! Just in time to save the day and scratch the superhero itch that’s been burning its way into the back of all of our brains.
However, before we talk about James Gunn’s latest contribution to the superhero genre, let’s first reflect on the medium of superhero storytelling as it currently stands.
Do we genuinely crave more superhero content? Have we asked ourselves why it is that we flock to the theaters time and time again for the most recent caped crusaders? Do we feel fulfilled with where this medium of storytelling is going?
These are all questions that I had asked myself during a Marvel rewatch in the height of the lockdowns of 2020. The answers afforded me an entirely new perspective on the way I view a medium of storytelling I truly love.
We are oversaturated with superhero content. It’s hard to look around the current streaming landscape and find a service not offering some type of caped crusader who is here to save the day. As a fan of the genre it is a bit overwhelming and disheartening to witness. The constant bombardment of new IP’s takes away from the quality that makes these types of story so captivating and special.
At the time of writing this review the two major players, Marvel and DC, are inundating us with a constant stream of content. DC has a streaming platform (DC Universe) solely dedicated to caped crusaders, and Marvel introduced the Disney+ series capping off its most prolific year yet. A clever way to fill in the gaps between its flagship, theatrical releases and keep audiences invested in their franchise.
In addition to the efforts of Marvel and DC there are a vast array of new players that have entered the superhero game. Amazon entered the superhero market with shows such as, The Boys and Invincible, Netflix has made attempts in the likes of Jupiter’s Legacy and the successful Umbrella Academy and even Hulu has gotten in on the action with Marvel’s Runaways and the FX collaboration of Legion
It’s hard to look around the current streaming landscape and not find a service offering some type of caped crusader who is here to save the day!
It’s just too much. These are the types of stories I found hard to put down when first discovering the magic of this medium. These stories are special to me and these characters hold a special place in my heart, as I’m sure they do in yours as well.
Because of my emotional attachment to this medium I felt it necessary to start my Peacemaker review series off with an overview of how I feel about the genre as a whole at this current point in time.
To summarize: It’s become formulaic. We have seen creators time and time again copy and paste and drag and drop, in hopes audiences aren’t wise enough to realize it’s the same car with a fresh new coat of paint. The genre has become homogenized.
That is why I stand firm in my criticism. I feel as a critic it is my job to speak my opinion honestly, even when it is unpopular in hopes to challenge the studios and creators of this medium to continue to push forward and strive to achieve greatness. It is unacceptable that these companies are focussed more on the amount of content rather than the quality of the content.
Secondly, I feel that when we are met with a property in this genre that is truly great, one that has the ability to rise above the rest, we must celebrate it. Not only to remind ourselves of why we gravitate to this medium of storytelling for our escapism, but to challenge its vast array of competitors to simply put, do better, and give us content that is of substance.
That is why I am happy to say that in this review we will be talking about a show that I feel can rise up, and cut through this dense and homogenized genre we all love.
And so, let us begin our review of James Gunn’s “Peacemaker”.
Episode 1: A Whole New Whirled
I was immediately charmed while watching this episode. Peacemaker resumes five months after the events of 2021’s highly controverisal “The Suicide Squad”. We follow Christopher Smith, otherwise known as “Peacemaker”, as he is recovering in the hospital from injuries sustained while working on “Project Starfish.”
From the very first scene the show clearly establishes its tone, and that tone can be described with one simple word, ridiculous. This surprise comedy follows A man who was shot and then had a building fall on him and somehow lived. A character who has no regenerating powers, and has no ability that grants him an unfair advantage to survive such obstacles has lived! Peacemaker is just like you and I. Cut him, and he will bleed.
How does he survive you ask? Well.. luck.
You see, the show does not feel the need to explain that. And, it doesn’t have too. The ridiculousness of this scenario adds to this abstract comedy’s charm. For me, this was an immediate sell. I love how on the nose the nature of this comedy is. The way in which we are returning to this character is so refreshing. Gunn has thrown all the traditional rules of storytelling out of the window to reintroduce us to this character. It is so liberating. It truly feels like we are watching someone pursue true creative expression.
The comedy does not stop once it begins. This works to the show’s benefit. Peacemaker is a despicable character. He is racist, sexist, and every other “ist” in the book. He is a character anyone with a working morale compass knows not to like. He is close minded, and very ignorant in his view of the world.
However, Peacemaker is written in a way that almost makes you feel sorry for him. I found myself invested in his well being, hoping he would land on his feet. Much of this comes from John Cena’s portrayal of Peacemaker. Cena brings elements of this character to the already compelling nature of the storytelling in this first episode that truly creates a morale conundrum within the viewer. Paired with the expert level of Gunn’s filmmaking, the two create a perfect cacophony that left me rooting for someone who is the epitome of desciplicable.
This is true storytelling. We do not live in a black and white world. However, for the longest time it feels that our superhero movies have us believe we do. If these characters truly walk among us, shouldn’t they feel like they do? We should feel like we know them. We should feel as if we have shared struggles, sadness, happiness, and the trials and tribulations of life.
What adds to the reliability of Peacemaker as opposed to other heroes who feel larger than life is how the comedic moments help to portray his humanity through his failure to be great. That all to say that comedy isn’t the only thing this series has going for it.
Thankfully, the drama in this series is right where it should be. The web being spun between these characters is intricate, and storied. This cast plays off each other well. Every character has a moment to shine without stepping on the toes of the other. Gunn has a firm handle on his ensemble in this premiere episode.
Gunn and his team have brought theater level combat to the small screen. It is smaller in scale, yet the stakes have never felt higher. A true testament to how strong a premier we have gotten with Peacemaker.
Christian Evanko is a journalist, musician, and host of the Talkin’ TV Podcast. Christian brings his many years of experience in the entertainment industry to the stories he covers in an effort to pull back the curtain and paint a true picture of the importance of covering the arts.
Photo from IGN