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What You Need to Remember About ‘The Suicide Squad’ for ‘Peacemaker’

John Cena reprises his character from James Gunn’s DC film in the new HBO Max series

Peace on earth is here. Sort of. Well, “Peacemaker” is here at least.

The first official DC Comics-based series on HBO Max to exist within the world of the DC movies (unlike the shows on the CW that are connected and have their own continuity and standalone stuff like “Titans” and the “Harley Quinn” cartoon) has arrived, and it is bringing the ruckus. Starring John Cena as the titular DC villain, who is called back into service to stop a conspiracy growing in his hometown, “Peacemaker” is unlike any superhero TV show that has come before it. This is rude, crude, and socially irresponsible stuff, full of heavy metal songs and buckets of blood (there’s a reason that Jody Hill, best known for “Eastbound & Down,” directed an episode). All from the mind of James Gunn.

But what do you need to know about “Peacemaker,” especially its connection to last summer’s super-villain extravaganza feature film “The Suicide Squad,” before watching the new series? Are there key things to remember before hitting play when the first three episodes drop on Jan. 13? Let’s get into it.

Peacemaker’s Story in “The Suicide Squad”

In 2021’s feature film “The Suicide Squad” (written and directed by James Gunn) we were first introduced to Christopher Smith, a psychotic killer recruited by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) out of the Belle Reve penitentiary to become a part of Task Force X. Smith, known by his vigilante name Peacemaker, admitted a willingness to kill any man, woman or child, all in the name of freedom. Quite a stance! This militaristic approach was enough to turn off other members of his team (most notably Ratcatcher 2), but he did his job well enough, killing assorted villains on the island nation of Corto Maltese.

Of course, during the finale of “The Suicide Squad,” his true colors shone through and they were most certainly not red, white, and blue. When Task Force X aka the Suicide Squad discovers that Americans aided the Corto Maltese government in a project that involved an alien lifeform and many unwilling test subjects, squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) made a move to retrieve a hard drive to share with the public. Peacemaker revealed that he had a directive from Waller to retrieve that hard drive in order to keep the project secret. Peacemaker and Flag have a violent tussle, ending with Peacemaker stabbing Flag through the heart with a shard of tile. (The camera goes into X-ray mode, so we can see the shard pierce Flag’s heart. Ouch.) Flag’s last words? “Peacemaker? What a joke.”

Later on in the melee, Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) attempts to retrieve the drive, only to be saved by Bloodsport (Idris Elba), a character with similarly merciless tendencies. Earlier in the movie, they debated who had the better shot, including if a smaller bullet could be fired through a larger bullet. During this final confrontation, Elba fires a smaller bullet that goes through Peacemaker’s chunkier bullet. It strikes Peacemaker, who holds his hand to his throat; he collapses in a river of his own blood. The building where Peacemaker is struck is soon destroyed by a rampaging monster. If the bullet didn’t kill him, the towering extraterrestrial did. Or so we thought.

Peacemaker Lives

Peacemaker
HBO Max

In a post-credits scene at the end of the film, we learn that Peacemaker has, in fact, survived. Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee), agents who work for Amanda Waller, visit him in the hospital. Economos suggests that it’s revenge for the team betraying Waller. (In the finale of “The Suicide Squad,” Waller wanted to kill Bloodsport and the rest for helping the people of Corto Maltese. The support team, including Harcourt and Economos, rebelled and assisted Task Force X.) Economos said that she’s saddling them with Peacemaker as retribution. The doctor says that she has heard that he was actually a hero in Corto Maltese. “Is that what you heard?” Economos snarls. What are they recruiting Peacemaker to do now? To save the world, of course.

The Story of the “Peacemaker” Series

What we learn, fairly early in “Peacemaker” (written and largely directed by Gunn), is that for a man who was shot at point-blank range and had a building fall on top of him, he’s remarkably intact – he had a broken collarbone and some blood loss. Crucially, he’s still the same old Peacemaker. Or is he? Has his experience in Corto Maltese, making friends and then ultimately betraying them, changed him for the better? That remains to be seen.

Harcourt and Economos are back, part of a splinter unit who are attempting to avert disaster (the less said about the nature of the threat, the better). This new group, less Task Force X than Small-Team-Stuck-Largely-in-a-Former-Video-Store X also features team leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji ) and, eventually, Adrian Chase aka Vigilante (Freddie Stroma, who took over after more than half the episodes were shot, replacing another actor who left over creative differences), a sort of younger version of Peacemaker who is even more bloodthirsty (but hey, at least he’s cheery). There’s also Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), who may or may not have a connection to another major character from “The Suicide Squad.” (You’ll find out soon enough!) Robert Patrick also plays Peacekeeper’s father, who has a colorful past all his own.

So, to recap, what you should remember from “The Suicide Squad:” Peacemaker is a maniac, Amanda Waller is a morally nebulous instigator, Peacemaker almost died, and he may or may not be feeling bad about killing Rick Flag.

The first three episodes of “Peacemaker” debut on HBO Max on Jan. 13, with new episodes released weekly every Thursday.

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