SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this article until you’ve watched this week’s episode of Peacemaker!
Peacemaker is the only “well-behaved child” on his team.
I realize that statement might be causing some of you to raise your eyebrows, or wonder if I’m actually watching the show, but hear me out. Yes, Christopher Smith is violent, crass and problematic, but he’s the only one who listens to his authority figures, whether it’s his father or Amanda Waller. Peacemaker is an obedient child, but his teammates are another story.
The reason John Economos and Emilia Harcourt have been assigned to Project Butterfly is because they were disobedient children—at the end of The Suicide Squad they participated in the coup against their boss Amanda Waller. Nobody crosses the Wall, so the Task Force X director retaliated by making them Peacemaker’s handlers. While Waller may not be Economos or Harcourt’s mother, she was a domineering authority figure in their life and one who they chose to rebel from. Even now, they’re still keeping secrets from her and going behind her back. Harcourt in particular keeps insisting that Waller can’t be trusted (which to be fair, is true) and the duo have agreed not to tell her the truth about Murn.
If you’ve watched the latest episode (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), then you know there’s a lot more to Clemson Murn than meets the eye. Murn is a Butterfly, but he’s trying to stop the global takeover the rest of his race is planning. In other words, he’s doing more than rebelling against a parent or an authority figure—he’s turning his back on his entire planet. This week, he instructed the rest of the team to kill “the cow” that is feeding the other Butterflies, a move that will cause his species to starve to death. Nobody points this out to Murn, but this move would kill him as well. He’s disobedient even to the point of death.
This brings us to Vigilante, and I feel like the case with him is obvious. Like his comic book counterpart, Adrian Chase is rebelling at a justice system he feels is corrupt. His methods are violent and unconventional, but in his mind, this is how you rid the streets of crime. Like Murn, his “parent” here is more than just one figure, it’s his entire race. That being said, there was that weird statement from Peacemaker about how Adrian’s father pretended to be gay to get away from him, so maybe he has actual parental issues as well.
Now let’s talk about Peacemaker, who seems to be the only member of the team with a blind devotion to authority figures. After watching The Suicide Squad, I wrote an article that pointed out how Peacemaker was the only member of his team who never disobeyed Waller. After seeing HBO Max’s Peacemaker, the reason for that becomes clear—his father molded him in such a way that Christopher Smith will always crave the approval of his authority figures. To fully understand Peacemaker’s relationship with his father, I’d suggest rewatching their dinner scene from the first episode and his conversation with Adebayo in the fourth episode.
As Peacemaker dines with his father, he does everything he could to elicit some sort of positive emotion out of him. They finally bond over Bloodsport’s fear of rats, and Peacemaker is briefly on cloud nine. Making his father laugh gives Chris the biggest smile, until Auggie asks if Bloodsport was the one who shot him. The moment is quickly over, and Peacemaker spends the rest of their time together trying to recapture that approval. The next time you rewatch the series (let’s be honest, all of us will be rewatching), look at the way Peacemaker responds to his father and compare it to the way he responds to everyone else. He becomes a completely different person.
Leota Adebayo confronts Chris on this in the fourth episode in an intense conversation. She tells Peacemaker some hard truths about his father, and Chris doesn’t do much to dispute them. Intellectually, he knows that his father is a white supremacist and someone who doesn’t have his best interests at heart. Peacemaker knows all of this, but he isn’t strong enough to break the hold his father has over him. In fact, he’s still willing to tell his father that he was framed, even though it jeopardizes Project Butterfly and the fate of the planet. That’s how hard it is for him to break free. Once again, I’d recommend revisiting this scene, because it’s critical in understanding the complicated relationship Peacemaker has with his father.
Speaking of Adebayo, you may have noticed that I skipped her when I wrote about Peacemaker’s teammates and that’s because her situation is complicated. For starters, Leota’s mother is Amanda Waller, and I could only imagine how that affected her upbringing. Like her teammates, Adebayo has done a little bit of parental rebellion, as she’s agreed not to tell Waller about Murn’s true nature…for now. Let’s not forget that she’s also given in to her mother’s pressure and planted the fake diary in Peacemaker’s trailer.
In this week’s episode, “Murn After Reading,” Leota talks to her wife Keeya about her conflicting loyalties.
“I know stuff that my mom doesn’t know, and if I tell her I betray them, and if I don’t tell her then I betray her, and I’m just not made for this shit,” she confesses. I suspect this is one of the reasons she and Peacemaker are drawn to one another, they both are struggling to escape from the shadows of their parents.
For now, Peacemaker might be the only one who hasn’t turned his back on his parental figure, but that may change soon. As we saw today, Auggie is suiting up as the White Dragon and is gunning for his son. When the White Dragon inevitably catches up with him, Chris will have some hard choices to make. Is he strong enough to follow the example of his rebellious teammates and finally turn his back on his father? I suspect we’ll all find out sooner rather than later, and knowing HBO Max’s Peacemaker, the result will be both gruesome and heartbreaking. And it’ll be up to us which of them ultimately makes it harder to watch.
Look for new episodes of Peacemaker every Thursday on HBO Max. Are you as enthusiastic about peace as Christopher Smith? Check out our official Peacemaker series page!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.