DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Peacemaker premiere episode “A Whole New Whirled” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome, arbitrators of peace! James Gunn‘s Peacemaker is finally here, the spin-off to the delightfully raunchy and whimsically violent The Suicide Squad. “A Whole New Whirled” sets the stage for what’s sure to be a hilarious, bawdy, bloody and entertaining first season.
Gunn methodically establishes each main character in the premiere in a way that not many shows do. He hones in on character development, understanding we need to fall for these characters.
Of course, it’s colorful, tongue-in-cheek and chock full of toe-tapping ’80s rock songs — this is very much a James Gunn show, and I’m here for it. It’s all humor and heart.
Ready to delve into “A Whole New Whirled”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Christopher Smith, a.k.a. Peacemaker (John Cena), sitting in the hospital and looking at an x-ray of his near-fatal injury from The Suicide Squad. The doctor discharges him, citing that he’s on the path to recovery. He chats it up with Jamil (the consistently brilliant Rizwan Manji), the janitor, about that one time they shared a blunt and whether anyone might pursue him. You know, like the law.
This scene between Manji and Cena alone is enough to sell anyone on this show.
While Peacemaker’s leaving, we see one of the nurses text Mr. Murn regarding his departure. Good ole P hops into a taxi and celebrates when nobody notices his exit.
Cue: the delightful opening credits. Trust me; you won’t fast forward through them.
Later, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) arrives at a hotel with her wife, Keeya (Elizabeth Faith Ludlow), for the new task Amanda Waller assigned her. Keeya urges Leota to exercise caution, as this is dangerous work the latter’s about to undertake. Leota reassures her wifey that she’ll pick up the paycheck and they’ll move home after she finishes the job.
The taxi driver pulls in front of a star-spangled bedecked trailer, which can only belong to Peacemaker. However, Christopher doesn’t have any money since, you know, he was in prison for four years. But the driver accepts Peacemaker’s flashy helmet as payment.
After smashing his window to gain ingress, Chris finds his cellphone has a plethora of voicemails from Adrian Chase, a.k.a. Vigilante.
Suddenly, Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), John Economos (Steve Agee) and Leota target Peacemaker from all sides, weapons brandished. Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) approaches Chris from inside his trailer. Murn informs Chris that he reports directly to Amanda Waller.
The gang needs Peacemaker to perform hits, like a contract killer. This time, it’s for “Project Butterfly.” These “butterflies” signify the insidious baddies Chris needs to kill. Murn introduces Peacemaker to his team. Should Chris refuse, he’ll go back to prison. Not only that, but there’s still the chip in his brain that Murn and co. can trigger at any moment. Boom!
Leota proceeds to give a speech about how excited she is to work with everyone, and this is the scene that made me fall head over heels for Danielle Brooks. It’s the *chef’s kiss* of comedy.
Murn orders Peacemaker to meet the crew at a restaurant for more details regarding Project Butterfly and his first case. But now it’s time to get Eagly back.
Next, Chris drives to his father Auggie’s (Robert Patrick) house to reunite with the old man and retrieve his pet eagle. Here we see Auggie’s a racist tool with zero redeeming qualities who severely mistreats his son, spewing vitriol.
When Chris finally reunites with Eagly, we see the bird “embrace” his owner, as only an animal with wings can. James Gunn harbors an affinity for animal sidekicks, and I’m always here for it.
Meanwhile, Harcourt, Economos and Leota move into their shoddy, makeshift headquarters. Chris has dinner with Eagly and Auggie, and the father/son duo seemingly bond over an anecdote about Bloodsport’s musophobia (fear of rats).
Then, Auggie gives Chris a new helmet since the latter gave his to a taxi driver. We see the older man boasts a bevy of shiny helmets, all with different capabilities, in his supervillain-like lair.
Later, Chris meets with his new task force team for dinner. Harcourt, Murn, Leota and Economos poke fun at Peacemaker for arriving in full costume with Eagly in the backseat of his car. Our titular character showcases his sexism when he calls the waitress “sweet cheeks.” He spots Adrian (Freddie Stroma) in the restaurant, and the latter looks ecstatic to see his pal again. However, Chris doesn’t recognize him.
Murn hands Chris a file with info on his first target and urges him to peruse it at home.
Adrian bursts outside into the alley behind the restaurant and gleefully celebrates the return of Peacemaker. Now they can do vigilante stuff together!
This next scene wherein Adrian nervously tells his coworker he’s excited about his pregnant not-girlfriend’s abortion is another bit of comedic gold.
Leota and Chris share a moment outside the restaurant, even though Eagly bites the former. Peacemaker exhibits genuine friendliness toward Leota.
Next, Chris follows Harcourt into a local bar. Harcourt lays the smackdown on a few toxic masculine bros and rebuffs Peacemaker’s offer of mindless sex. But Chris finds another blonde, Annie Sturphausen (Crystal Mudry), eyeing him from across the bar, so the night’s not a total bust.
On another note, Harcourt kicks ass.
We see Leota video chatting with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who’s — plot twist — also her mother. Waller urges Leota to keep empathy out of this line of work after she notes a certain sadness in Peacemaker.
Meanwhile, Chris has a night of sexy fun with Annie. He plays one of her records featuring a hair metal band and proceeds to dance around in his tighty whities. Thank you, James Gunn, for blessing audiences with this visual.
However, Chris’s one-night-stand buddy charges toward him with a knife poised to kill.
Peacemaker and Annie battle it out in their undergarments. Annie tries to kill him and successfully stabs him a few times. It’s a fantastic fight scene in true Gunn fashion.
Chris notices Annie appears to be a metahuman. She holds her own against him. After diving out of the window, Chris dons his helmet, which emits a powerful light, obliterating his sex pal. Not only that, but it destroys the parking lot around him. Thankfully, Eagly’s okay. He’s got a dead possum on which Chris can munch. Best friends for life!
Cena owns this role, and I’m glad to see more of him as the man who will do anything to achieve peace. So far, so good. I’m hungry for more (Someone, please give Eagly a spin-off!)!
New episodes of Peacemaker are available to stream every Thursday on HBO Max.