A star rating of 4 out of 5.

In this age of streaming platforms, first-look deals and content sharing it’s less usual to have a gap between US and UK releases. Once upon a time viewers could expect to wait months (if not years) to see the latest big TV shows and movies from across the pond, but since the dawn of the internet that gap has been whittled down to almost nothing, especially when it comes to crowd-pleasing superhero shows and movies.


Which is why Peacemaker, the spin-off from 2021’s The Suicide Squad, is a bit of an outlier. Created by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, this show was a massive hit in the States on streaming platform HBO Max, debuting in early January to much fanfare. Here, though, fans have had to wait over two months due to various legal issues, with the entire series finally available in full this week on NOW (or airing week to week on Sky Max if you’re more linear).

So was it worth the wait? I’d say so – and, in a way, UK fans have the better end of the bargain, able to binge and stream this show to their heart’s content. While Peacemaker can be a little too baggy, coarse and self-satisfied for its own good, it’s a truly entertaining show with great characters and laugh-out-loud moments. Oh, and a sentient eagle who gives hugs.

Even if you didn’t see Gunn’s slightly mixed bag Suicide Squad reboot/sequel, the plot isn’t hard to follow. Peacemaker (John Cena), AKA Christopher Smith, is a self-proclaimed superhero and vigilante whose stated aim is “peace at any cost” – no matter how many men, women and children he has to kill to get it. In The Suicide Squad he has a great heel turn against Idris Elba’s similarly-motivated Bloodsport, but now he’s the star of the show, taken from prison for a new secret mission with a ragtag band of helpers.

The cynical Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and petulant Economos (Steve Agee) are back from The Suicide Squad, with newcomers including mysterious team leader Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) and conflicted rookie Adebayo (a great Danielle Brooks), all of whom function as Peacemaker’s handlers and backup.

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And then there’s Vigilante. Played by Brit Freddie Stroma (probably best known for playing Cormac McLaggan in a Harry Potter movie), Vigilante is a brilliant TV creation, a genuinely amoral killer with an upbeat, sunny attitude and a strict understanding of the law. A scene where he infiltrates a prison, completely unintimidated with his drug-store nerd glasses as he strolls past bellowing inmates, is a series highlight.

The cast of Peacemaker left to right - Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, John Cena, Chukwudi Iwuji, Freddie Stroma, Danielle Brooks
The cast of Peacemaker on NOW and Sky Max Sky

Together this loose crew of allies have to face an unknown threat codenamed Project Butterfly. It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that this involves an alien invasion of Earth, with Peacemaker and friends tasked to uncover and destroy sleeper agents operating undercover.

The fly in the ointment for their mission? Peacemaker has had an attack of Protagonitis, the second serious case we’ve seen following The Book of Boba Fett. In The Suicide Squad his schtick was that he would genuinely kill anyone (and had to be humorously held back at times). Now, that role has been taken by Vigilante as the new comic relief, and Peacemaker has grown a conscience. Like Boba Fett, we originally liked him because he was ruthless – but now he’s the hero of his own story, rather than a side character, he's not allowed to be amoral.

This isn’t an issue per se, as the lifeblood of all good TV is in character development. Seeing Peacemaker learn to make friends and deal with his toxic father (Robert Patrick) make for some meaty scenes, and it’s interesting seeing him and Adebayo on parallel, opposite paths as she learns to get her hands dirty in Black Ops.

The only problem is that the change in the central character comes a bit too soon. Peacemaker gradually learning the value of life could have been an interesting arc, but so soon after his brutal appearance in The Suicide Squad his reverse-ferret morality feels like an awkward lurch towards likability. And frankly, what’s interesting about the character is his shaky sense of ethics. Make him another guy who doesn’t want to kill for heroics, and he’s just like any other non-powered vigilante.

The cast of Peacemaker, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, John Cena, Chukwudi Iwuji, Freddie Stroma, Danielle Brooks

This newfound morality also sits a little uneasily against the slightly puerile, sweary humour that characterises Peacemaker (both the show and character). Half the jokes revolve around his slightly inappropriate observations, usually presented in loose, improv-like scenes where the cast shout at each other about trivial matters and pop culture. Sometimes it feels like these scenes would work better with the original, more objectionable Peacemaker. At other times they just feel a little juvenile, a superhero show still trying to shock with bad language and meta humour.

But the strangest thing about this show is how little these complaints matter overall. I have plenty of reservations about this show and the way it’s presented, but I was genuinely hooked from episode to episode, and can’t deny how much I enjoyed the ride. Contrast with other shows which are more admirable but less engaging, and there’s no contest – I’d pick Peacemaker every time.

In other words, for me this late arrival was well worth a few months waiting. And even if you have your own doubts, you’d be worth your while giving peace a chance.

Peacemaker is streaming on NOW, with new episodes airing on Tuesdays on Sky Max. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.


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