NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Peacemaker” are present in this review
Rounding out the initial trio of Peacemaker episodes is an episode that focuses mostly on developing the series’ core threat, the Butterflies. These sinister creatures are all the more intriguing when you consider that they don’t appear to have any direct origins in DC Comics lore. Even The Suicide Squad eventually culminated in an epic battle with OG Justice League enemy, Starro the Conquerer, but the Butterflies currently seem to be an original invention by writer-director, James Gunn. They also give protagonist, Christopher Smith a chance to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his vow of ‘peace at any cost’, as no human is safe from the threat of being possessed and overtaken by these apparent alien invaders, not even children.
This test comes into focus throughout, “Better Goff Dead”, which sees Chris and his team finally executing their mission to assassinate Senator Goff. Initially, this begins with more banter and silliness, something that also leads nicely into a third Peacemaker episode that plays up the humour above all else. In fact, the emphasis on humour can sometimes play some unwelcome havoc with the show’s tone here, which is probably the worst thing one can say about yet another standout Peacemaker episode, in fairness. There are some more serious moments attempted, such as Chris attempting to bond with Harcourt, and later struggling to kill the Goff family after they’re all confirmed to be Butterflies, for example, but they don’t really land that organically because the rest of this episode is so blatantly silly. The moment that lands the most leaden comes from Adebayo as well, after she hesitates when it comes to killing an innocent Goff bodyguard, only to be horrified when Harcourt finishes the job for her.
Fortunately, these ill-placed serious scenes only take up a very small portion of this episode, most of which maintains humour that fires on all cylinders. The show’s lead ensemble finally feels truly complete here to boot, as Vigilante, now confirmed to be the Adrian Chase incarnation of this DC Comics antihero, noses into Chris’ team’s operation, and eventually gets swept into the Butterfly hunt that Chris’ team is undertaking. Freddie Stroma is a comedic highlight within a series that’s already packed with comedic highlights as well, not least of those being headliner, John Cena. Cena’s and Stroma’s rapport together particularly continues to shine here, eventually culminating in a gut-bustingly hilarious torture scene that sees Adrian taking the place of Chris when Goff tries to torture them for information, only to find that Chris is thoroughly apathetic to Adrian’s suffering.
This episode also introduces another key antagonist to Chris’ team, that being another lesser-known DC Comics hero, Judomaster. In the case of the DC Extended Universe, Judomaster is the conspicuously short, but astonishingly skilled bodyguard of Senator Goff. Judomaster’s presence here finally amps up Peacemaker’s action once again, leading to more effectively hard-hitting melees, as Vigilante is attacked before he can fully take out the entire Goff family with a sniper rifle. Despite how deadly he is however, Judomaster’s diminutive height and penchant for Cheetos still gets played for laughs in the end, in a way that fits Peacemaker’s macho, but silly tone pretty effectively. Even the way that Judomaster is ultimately neutralized by a nervous Economos ends up being a ridiculous gag, after Judomaster is hit by Economos’ car, and later beaten unconscious by a pipe when he refuses to stop crawling away from the wreck.
As much as this episode’s threats tend to skew primarily towards jokes, we also get some important answers surrounding how the Butterflies work, and how they intend to spread their influence across Earth. Murn seems particularly concerned about the Butterflies as well, possibly suggesting that he had some kind of run-in with them before his current team was put together. The freaky new layers being gradually added to these aliens with every episode are pretty great too, such as their human hosts extending proboscis-like tongues to slurp up a honey-like goo as a meal, or the Butterflies themselves wrestling their way out of blood and viscera after they’re forced to flee a dead host body. Like I said, these Butterfly scenes are all the better when DC fans can’t easily draw a parallel from DC Comics lore too, something that only further enhances the mystery of where the Butterflies may come from, and which DC villain(s) they may or may not be connected to in the end.
“Better Goff Dead” is a mostly breezy Peacemaker episode that’s rather straightforward, with almost its entire runtime taking place at the Goff estate. This episode’s emphasis on humour also makes it an especially quick, digestible watch, even if the joke-oriented focus meshes poorly with the handful of moments wherein the narrative suddenly tries to get serious for a minute. Still, it’s unsurprising that Peacemaker remains an outstanding new HBO Max/Crave series in its third episode, one that keeps introducing fun new characters while further developing a threat that feels simultaneously goofy, creepy and menacing. It’s kind of amazing that, for all its early growing pains on the big screen, the DCEU has already delivered an apparent slam dunk with its first-ever TV series, one that couldn’t be further removed from the noble foundation of DC’s flagship Justice League heroes, but nonetheless seems to be all the better for it.
- Amusing introduction to the DCEU's Judomaster
- Creepy, yet fun exploration of the Butterflies' methods
- Excellent gags throughout the team's rapport
- Handful of dramatic scenes don't mesh well