Peacemaker Episode 8 Review: It’s Cow or Never

The Peacemaker season 1 finale is a gift to both DCEU and television fans alike.

John Cena in the Peacemaker Finale
Photo: HBO Max

This Peacemaker review contains spoilers.

Peacemaker Episode 8

Ever since Peacemaker first premiered on Jan. 13, there’s been an internet group effort to figure out where it stands among other superhero TV shows and DCEU projects in terms of quality. I certainly understand the impulse to rank things, having just eagerly participated in Den of Geek’s own ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But when it comes to Peacemaker, I had little desire to participate in these conversations.

The show has been so novel and enjoyable thus far that it seemed counterproductive to hold it up against the likes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Doom Patrol, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, or any other current or former DC property. Peacemaker is here. Let’s enjoy it now and think about it later. That impulse to not overanalyze Peacemaker’s position in the superhero canon comes crashing down for me in a big way this week with the show’s finale. 

Simply put: “It’s Cow or Never” is the most entertaining DC adaptation since … Aquaman? … The Dark Knight? … Mask of the Phantasm? … Anything ever?

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This is the platonic ideal of a superhero TV show finale. Everything is operating at the top of its game from exhilarating action sequences to strong characterization to just a little bit of inarticulable superhero magic that makes you want to buy some action figures and smash them together in child-like delight. 

Things get started off strong, with the show immediately confronting the biggest issue with the previous episode, “Stop Dragon My Heart Around.” Adebayo’s efforts to apologize are sincere but frequently undercut by Peacemaker and Vigilante’s relentless fart noises. That is quickly followed by another sublimely James Gunn-ian moment in which the gang takes stock of which Peacemaker helmets they have left before the final battle. The anti-gravity helmet is immediately taken off the board due to a verbal mixup, and then Eagly flies off with the ever-important sonic-boom helmet. 

These two scenes back-to-back are pure, uncut Peacemaker. The stakes are high and the characters are focused, but their own faults and complicated dynamics very nearly fuck everything up before the fireworks even begin.

Speaking of those fireworks though…my God. I mean…MY GOD. There may not be a more enjoyable 15 minutes of television this year than Peacemaker and the gang storming the butterfly cow farm/compound. Every character is operating at high capacity. Peacemaker, Vigilante, and Harcourt are finally revealed to be the hyper-competent killing machines we’ve always known them to be. 

The amount of visually phenomenal moments here is almost more than the mind can comprehend. Peacemaker throws his shield and then shoots it into some guy’s throat, Captain America and Mjölnir-style. Vigilante gets shot in the back and then lazily tosses a dagger behind him, immediately hitting his target. Meanwhile, Economos tries to enter the fray to assist a gunsure Adebayo, only to slip on a fence two feet into his run and snap his leg in half. 

Just like Harcourt and Vigilante’s blades here, absolutely everything lands. This is as good as action gets in superhero properties and it’s positively fit-to-bursting with pure love of violence. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that the entire thing is scored to Peacemaker’s default theme song, “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam. Peacemaker is freshly renewed for season 2 and it should vow to include this song at least once per season, even if it’s just a montage of Christopher Smith filling out superhero paperwork. 

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Still, well-executed action sequences are all fine and dandy, but this finale doesn’t truly land without a believable emotional core at its center. Thankfully, Peacemaker is able to pull that off as well. Many times this season the show has lost sight of what makes Peacemaker, Peacemaker – an intractable force with “proto-fascist libertarian ideas of freedom” as Adebayo later puts it. His characterization started to become more coherent last week thanks to the flashback of his brother, Keith’s death. This week, however, brings it all into crystal focus.

While initially they just felt like another James Gunn monster creation, the butterflies have been the ideal Peacemaker villain this whole time, albeit in secret. There’s something perversely paternalistic about wanting peace at all costs, no matter how many people have to die to achieve it. Ideologically, Peacemaker’s goals are fascistic in that they require a strong individual to kill all the world’s assholes to keep the peace. Well, lo’ and behold, it turns out the butterflies want pretty much exactly the same thing.

Having observed how humanity seems destined for climatological, cultural, and political ruin just like in their home world, the butterflies decided to step up and be the human race’s Bug Mommies and Bug Daddies. The pre-Rick Flag Peacemaker of The Suicide Squad probably would have been easily convinced to go along with this. This iteration of Peacemaker does not. Because he has friends who would get caught in the crossfire.

A little corny? Sure. But sometimes corny is correct. All the best laid ideological plans of mice and men often go awry when they meet one other person those plans will negatively affect. And thanks to John Cena’s inherent charm, the show is able to pull it off.

That’s not to say that Peacemaker ends this season as a more cuddly superhero. A pair of unbelievable DC cameos sees to that. Having Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash stop by (along with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman’s noticeably obscured silhouettes) to confirm that Arthur Curry really does fuck fish is a masterstroke of fan service and the perfect cherry to put on this profane sundae.  

Peacemaker asks a very compelling question in its first episode. Now, after this wonderful finale, I think it’s fair to say that the answer to that question is an emphatic yes, yes we do want to taste it.

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5 out of 5