DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Peacemaker episode “The Choad Less Traveled” has spoilers. Grab a bag of Cheetos, rock out with Eagly to a Cinderella record and proceed at your peril.

Welcome back, arbitrators of peace! Peacemaker‘s fourth outing, “The Choad Less Traveled,” is the series’ best one yet. It’s certainly one of James Gunn‘s most poignant and heartfelt episodes. We see our titular character reconcile with his trauma and grapple with this question: Is Peacemaker a hero or a villain? John Cena pulls out all the stops and delivers a touching (and surprising) dramatic performance, showcasing his versatility as an actor. 

But, to me, Freddie Stroma makes this episode as the endearing and delightfully violent Vigilante. 

Stroma stretches his comedy legs while offering up Viggy’s vulnerable side, proving he’s a multidimensional character beyond comedic relief. 

Ready to dive into “The Choad Less Traveled”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with our gang returning home from the Goff mission. Adrian, a.k.a. Vigilante (Stroma), complains incessantly about potentially losing his pinky toe. Hey, you need it for balance. Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and Leota (Danielle Brooks) try to dispute this, but Viggy’s right, y’all.

Back at their headquarters, Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) delegates tasks, ordering Leota and Harcourt to search important files while Economos (Steve Agee) watches over the unconscious Judomaster (Nhut Le). Murn ushers Chris Smith, a.k.a. Peacemaker (Cena), into his office for a chat. 

Murn questions Peacemaker’s dedication to the mission, notably since the latter failed to take out the Goff butterflies. But his weaponry’s bereft of the dove of peace! He can’t kill without it! 

Meanwhile, Leota and Harcourt commence their assignment, and Leota apologizes again for not shooting Goff’s guard. Harcourt firmly reminds her she needs a stronger stomach in this business. 

Freddie Stroma and Danielle Brooks in Peacemaker Season 1 Episode 4 The Choad Less Traveled

Pictured: Freddie Stroma and Danielle Brooks in PEACEMAKER Season 1 Episode 4, “The Choad Less Traveled.” Photo by Katie Yu/HBO Max.

Leota flees to the bathroom to compose herself. Brooks churns in nuanced, solid work in this episode. 

Then, we see Judomaster on a couch while hooked to an IV. Economos observes him. 

Vigilante drives Peacemaker to grab a few helmets at Auggie’s house. Viggy and Chris bicker over our titular character’s failure to save Viggy from Goff torturing him. It’s abundantly clear Peacemaker feels no empathy for Vigilante’s half-amputated pinky toe! This scene between Cena and Stroma is fantastic. 

After swiping all of his father’s helmets, Peacemaker gets into an argument with Auggie’s older neighbor (Mel Tuck). The older man believes Chris isn’t a superhero; he’s a villain. He uses Batman as an example of a hero who doesn’t murder people constantly.

Peacemaker spits in the face of that caped jerk! 

Through Auggie’s neighbor, Peacemaker learns of his father’s imprisonment. Chris calls Murn to chew him out and asks Vigilante to drive him to the prison.

Murn tasks Leota with the challenge of talking Peacemaker out of visiting his father. 

Meanwhile, Judomaster wakes, and we all know he’ll find a way out of his restraints. It’s only a matter of time!

Leota hails Chris outside the jail facility and urges him to refrain from seeing Auggie. But Peacemaker refuses to listen — he thinks they all betrayed him; however, he softens his edges when he discovers only Economos framed his father. Leota mentions Peacemaker’s file, which arrests his attention.

Still, Leota’s impassioned words aren’t enough to dissuade Chris. After Peacemaker heads inside, Leota quickly identifies Vigilante, even with the latter in civilian attire. Viggy tries to disguise his voice but to no avail. God, this scene is so funny. 

Robert Patrick in Peacemaker Season 1 Episode 4 The Choad Less Traveled

Pictured: Robert Patrick in PEACEMAKER Season 1 Episode 4, “The Choad Less Traveled.” Photo by Katie Yu/HBO Max.

Peacemaker spills the beans to Auggie (Robert Patrick), telling him Murn and the team framed him. Chris asks his dad to stick it out behind bars a little longer while he finishes eradicating the butterflies. However, Auggie spews more vitriol and hurls insults at his son, stating he’ll go to the police to clear his name. 

Dad of the Year!

While outside chatting, Leota surreptitiously plants the idea of killing Auggie in Viggy’s impressionable (but lovable) brain. Auggie can’t pin the blame on Chris if something happens to him. Vigilante leaves the premises. 

Peacemaker returns from his visit, so Leota offers to drive him home. Chris laments his “chode” status and that it’s not the “good kind.” But Leota asserts he’s the good-est chode that ever chode-d. 

Vigilante brazenly barges into a cop gathering, grabs a trashcan and attempts to toss it through a window. Of course, the police officers arrest him on the spot. Just watch the pinky toe, please. 

Economos calls Leota and Chris while they’re on the road to inform them of Judomaster’s escape. Suddenly, Judomaster attacks Economos. When Peacemaker and Leota arrive, they find Economos on the floor, breathless. Peacemaker chases Judomaster outside, and the pair duke it out, Round Two-style. 

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When Judomaster tries to tell Peacemaker the butterflies aren’t what he thinks, Leota shoots the former in the chest. She finally hit someone! Thankfully, Judomaster still lives, so Leota doesn’t have too much blood on her hands. 

Later, Viggy marches through the prison in his jumpsuit, looking the picture of someone who doesn’t give a fork. He sits with Auggie and his Nazi white supremacist lackeys. Viggy tries to incite a fight leading to killing Auggie by throwing out “trigger words” for the poor snowflakes. 

Admittedly, this scene solidified my ardent love for Vigilante. 

Suddenly, one of the Nazis lunges for Viggy, so he lays the smackdown on all of Auggie’s buddies with ease. Auggie refrains from fighting Vigilante. While the cops seize the duo, Viggy mentions something about Auggie being a terrible father, revealing his identity to Auggie. Auggie emphatically demands to speak with Detective Song. 

John Cena and Nhut Le in Peacemaker Season 1 Episode 4 The Choad Less Traveled

Pictured: John Cena and Nhut Le in PEACEMAKER Season 1 Episode 4, “The Choad Less Traveled.” Photo by Katie Yu/HBO Max.

Meanwhile, in Peacemaker’s humble trailer, we see him procure a mason jar with none other than Goff’s butterfly. Well, just Goff himself. Initially, he told Harcourt he shot the butterfly, but he lied. 

Leota inadvertently lets slip that Viggy’s in prison trying to kill Auggie. Murn’s infuriated, and he orders the gang to remedy the situation. Framing Peacemaker’s father and then murdering him isn’t going to endear Peacemaker to them. 

So, Economos looks up Vigilante to uncover his civilian identity. 

Is no one going to talk about Economos’ laptop wallpaper being him posing like a “badass” on a motorcycle? 

Later, Chris meets Harcourt at the local pub to ask her about his file. She divulges it dictates his father’s abusive behavior. That Auggie trained his sons to kill at a young age and Chris’s involvement with his brother’s death. 

In his trailer, Peacemaker puts on a record and dances sadly to the music. I sincerely hope we get countless John Cena dance sequences on this show. 

Harcourt breaks Viggy out of prison and picks him up. He slides into the passenger seat, formally introduces himself and emotionally informs Harcourt he “messed up.” Viggy didn’t kill Auggie, and now the latter believes his son “sent” someone to murder him. It’s nice to see a more vulnerable side to Vigilante. Even the usually stoic Harcourt softens here. 

Jennifer Holland and John Cena in Peacemaker Season 1 Episode 4 The Choad Less Traveled

Pictured: Jennifer Holland and John Cena in PEACEMAKER Season 1 Episode 4, “The Choad Less Traveled.” Photo by Katie Yu/HBO Max.

While Peacemaker dances, we see flashbacks from his childhood. One includes Auggie giving Chris a screwdriver to stab a man to death. Then, we see Peacemaker’s brother writhing on the ground before he dies. Chris falls on the floor, crying, and finds comfort in Eagly and Goff the Butterfly. 

Leota strikes gold amid her search through some documents. She finds a business card for Glan Tai, a bottling company. Then, Leota procures a similar card for Glan Tai among Annie Sturphausen’s belongings. She calls Murn to inform him of her discovery. 

He’s on his way, but first — time to slurp honey-colored goo in a bowl with his elongated tongue thingy! He’s a butterfly

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Talk about a cliffhanger! This episode propels the narrative forward, giving us plenty to anticipate in the coming installments. Murn’s butterfly status will undoubtedly sow the seeds of division among the team, but it’ll yield oodles of juicy drama (and comedy). 

Peacemaker‘s biting hilarity and bleeding heart are infectious, with fully-fledged, grounded characters you can’t help but love. It’s pure rock ‘n roll on acid with a headbanging soundtrack, nuanced performances and laughs out the wazoo. 

“Two choads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” 

New episodes of Peacemaker are available to stream every Thursday on HBO Max. 

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