‘Peacemaker’ Makes Chris Smith Compelling by Showcasing His Humanity

When it comes to the character of Chris Smith aka Peacemaker, the idea of watching an entire series based on him was less than appealing. But somehow James Gunn and star John Cena bottled magic with the HBO Max series Peacemaker and made us root for the most unsympathetic character from The Suicide Squad.

Chris Smith is a man who lived his life being less than what his father Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick) wanted. In his vigilantism, he fights for what he believes is right, but it often leads to him falling into his father’s racist and sexist ways. What makes Peacemaker a fascinating show is that he fully understands his shortcomings and is willing to listen to those around him and grow.

peacemaker john cena leota danielle brooks
Courtesy of HBO Max

We have seen Leota (Danielle Brooks) call him out for how he talks to people or when he’s leaving the hospital and Jamil (Rizwan Manji) tells him to stop stereotyping in his crime-fighting, he listens. He’s not a bad guy when you boil him down, he’s just incredibly misguided and we see in the softer moments in the show that he has room still to grow.

The thing about Chris Smith is that he isn’t inherently a bad man and that probably comes from his lack of praise from Auggie. Auggie is, as we see on the show, a white supremacist and an overall horrendous man. And his lack of empathy and care meant that his son has the compassion that Auggie/The White Dragon lacks.

One of the recent episodes really drove home Chris Smith’s ability to express emotions in a way that is shocking for a character like Peacemaker. Chris learns that his file states that he probably had something to do with the death of his own brother and when he learns this, he goes back to his trailer, gets high, and ends up laying on the ground holding a picture of himself and his brother to his chest while listening to hair metal.

In any other world, the scene would come across as comical but the show has established Chris’ love of hair metal and his unwillingness to just kill for the sake of it and so when he’s upset by this note in his file, he shows that emotion to the audience. In fact, he even has moments when he shows his emotions to those on the team and he doesn’t really see them as a weakness.

His feelings for Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) may have started off as Chris just wanting to sleep with someone since he just got out of prison, but with each new episode, he shows her that he actually cares and isn’t just some macho man trying to woo her.

Courtesy of HBO Max

Peacemaker could have easily been a series that makes a mockery of the “alpha” male ideas or it could have also fallen right into that trap. Instead, what Gunn and Cena have done is give layers to Chris that make him the kind of character that you want to root for. This isn’t to say that Chris Smith is not flawed. He is. Very much so. It’s what makes him fascinating to watch in the series and what is so shocking coming off of The Suicide Squad.

After James Gunn directed The Suicide Squad, I would have happily watched a series about any character other than Chris Smith. I wasn’t that interested in what else his character had to say and yet Gunn and Cena brought us into Chris’ world and showed us that he isn’t just a thoughtless killing machine. They managed to make an alright supervillain into someone an audience can get behind and that’s the shock of the DCEU entirely.

There is still some work the show needs to do but I do think that Gunn and Cena have a great arc in store for us for not only Chris but the rest of the team as well. And probably some more dance numbers. You may not have been a Chris Smith fan prior to this but after watching Peacemaker, you might just find yourself wanting more of Cena’s take on the character in your life.

Peacemaker airs Thursdays on HBO Max and it is a master in storytelling from Gunn, Cena, and the brilliantly talented cast. 

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Image Credit: HBO Max. 

Rachel Leishman is a writer based in New York City.  She specializes in yelling about her favorite properties. A real-life Leslie Knope, she loves her fictional characters and knows probably too much about Harrison Ford's career.