There are a lot of superheroes on TV these days, but none like “Peacemaker” — a murderous, violent, dumb racist.
John Cena reprises his role as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker from the 2021 film “The Suicide Squad.” James Gunn — who wrote and directed the 2021 movie — wrote all eight episodes and directed several of them.
I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but Peacemaker is a convicted killer and vigilante who was released from prison to join a squad undertaking a secret mission for the U.S. government.
“I cherish peace with all my heart,” he said in the film, “and I don’t care how many men, women and children I need to kill to get it.”
Peacemaker appeared to die in the movie, until one of those in-the-credits bonus scenes. He just needed to have a clavicle replaced. And when he gets out of the hospital, he’s recruited to take on more secret and deadly missions, or he’ll have to go back behind bars.
“Peacemaker” is loud. Profane. Violent. For adults only. Gross. Absurd. Sweet. Funny. Charming. Weirdly endearing. And Cena is practically perfect in the role. Really. The former WWE star has both the physical presence required and a sense of humor about himself, the character and the show. Even though he denies it.
“I’m not an athlete and neither do I have a sense of humor,” Cena said. “I have willed my way into the matrix simply by just failing to go away.”
Gunn readily admits that Peacemaker has “blind spots” that are “pretty terrible,” and that he can be “ignorant.” And that he’s a racist. “One of the things, though, that made me want to tell the story of Peacemaker is that he has a lot to learn,” Gunn said. “I think that it’s fun to make a superhero, especially — or supervillain, or whatever you want to think of him as — that has a lot of nuances.”
At the beginning of the first episode, Peacemaker is ticked off when the hospital janitor doesn’t recognize him, and more ticked off when he does.
“You’re that racist superhero!” the janitor says. “You only kill minorities, man!”
“I’ve killed a fair amount of white people, too,” Peacemaker says. And, he adds, ”If somebody’s committing a crime, am I supposed to control what their ethnicity is?”
“No,” the janitor says, “but you need to watch white people as closely as you watch people of color, so you see more of them committing crimes.”
Peacemaker acknowledges that’s a “good point,” and says he will “trust white people less in the future and kill a higher percentage of them.”
And that is one of the better exchanges about racism that we’ve seen on TV.
The cast includes Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee and Freddie Stroma reprising their roles from “The Suicide Squad,” and newcomers Chukwudi Iwuji, Danielle Brooks and Robert Patrick (as Peacemaker’s father).
And, OMG, don’t miss the opening credits. Really.
The first three episodes of “Peacemaker” stream Thursday on HBO Max; the remaining episodes stream one at a time on the five ensuing Thursdays.
At the other end of the superhero spectrum, there’s “Naomi” (9 p.m., Tuesday, The CW/Ch. 30). Naomi (Kaci Walfall) is a sweet 17-year-old with great parents and a fairly typical teenage life, until her hometown is hit by a Superman-related supernatural event — and something is happening to her.
The biggest surprise is that “Naomi” (based on the comic book) isn’t coming to us from uber-producer Greg Berlanti and his team, who are behind every other superhero series on the The CW. This one comes to us from executive producers Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”) and Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”).
But … it feels like a lot of the other superhero shows on The CW. It quickly gets sort of dark and angsty, just like all the others. Too bad.
Elsewhere on TV this week …
“All Creatures Great and Small” (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS/Ch. 7): The second season of this charming, engaging reboot begins. Yay!
“Call Me Kat” (6 p.m. Sunday, Fox/Ch. 13) • Fox renewed this show for a second season? I really like Mayim Bialek, who stars, but this is a really bad show. (Moves to Thursdays at 8 p.m., its regular time slot.)
“Pivoting” (6:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox/Ch. 13): This new Fox comedy is about the hilarious subject of death. Well, it’s about three women who are best friends who decide to change their lives when their fourth best friend dies of cancer. There’s nothing wrong with dark comedy. And this is certainly dark. But it’s not much of a comedy. I watched three episodes, and I laughed once. That’s not enough. (Moves to Thursday at 8:30 p.m., its regular time slot.)
“Euphoria” (7 p.m. Sunday, HBO) • Season 2 of this series, centered on a teenage drug addict, begins. Zendaya won an Emmy for best actress in a drama for Season 1. I was surprised.
“The Kings of Napa” (6 p.m. Tuesday, OWN) • For those of you old enough to remember “Falcon Crest” (1981-90), this is sort of the same thing — another prime-time soap about a family of winemakers in northern California. Only this time, the family is Black.
“Superman and Lois” (8 p.m., Tuesday, CW/Ch. 30) • Season 2 begins. I’m still not entirely sure if I like this show.
“Ray Donovan: The Movie” (7 p.m. Friday, Showtime) • Liev Schrieber returns as the tortured tough guy in this movie. Which wraps up the series. Which was canceled in 2020 after seven seasons. For fans only.
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Friday, Apple TV+) • Joel Coen directs (without his brother, Ethan) this even-darker-than-usual take on the Shakespeare play. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star in this black-and-white, noir-ish movie. It’s better than most Shakespeare on TV, but that’s not saying much.
“Remix My Space with Marsai Martin” (Saturday, Discovery+) • The 17-year-old star of “Black-ish” hosts this show, in which deserving teens get a professional room makeover. Parents can get some ideas for their kids’ rooms.