Peacemaker episode 4 gives glimpses of Peacemaker’s origin and in doing so demonstrates how Gunn has changed the narrative from the comics.
Warning: Contains spoilers for Peacemaker episode 4.
In Peacemaker episode 4, the DC TV series gives the first glimpses of Peacemaker’s origin story and hints at the changes that make it different from the comics. John Cena’s Peacemaker first appeared in The Suicide Squad, but aside from a quick introduction from Amanda Waller, he was not given an origin story. While the Peacemaker TV show had already hinted that he was formed by his father’s ideals, it was not until episode 4 that a more concrete origin was shown.
In Peacemaker episode 4, “The Choad Less Traveled,” Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) mentioned to Peacemaker that she read his file about what his father did to him as a child. Peacemaker is made uneasy and asks Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) what the file says and she claims it is vague, that his brother died, and that he was involved. The episode closes with a montage that sees Peacemaker remembering his youth including his father driving him to make what appears to be his first kill, the young Chris Smith spending time with his brother, and his brother falling and dying in front of him.
James Gunn has become known for pulling out more obscure characters from comics and reviving them in the public consciousness. This is true of Peacemaker, but his father, Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick), is an original invention formed by combining White Dragon with Peacemaker’s father from the comics. Here’s how Chris Smith became Peacemaker in the comics, how Peacemaker is changing it, and why it makes his origin story better.
How Chris Smith Became Peacemaker In The Comics
In the original comics, Christopher Smith was born in New York in 1950 to the American Elizabeth Lewis and the Austrian Wolfgang Schmidt and was then raised in Austria. Wolfgang Schmidt was a Nazi and had been a member of the SS. During World War II, Schmidt was the commander of a concentration camp in Poland but had escaped prosecution after the war, covering up his past and becoming a respected industrialist. The truth of Wolfgang Schmidt’s past was uncovered in 1955 and rather than face the penalties for his war crimes, Schmidt took his own life.
Chris Smith witnessed his dad’s suicide, which took place on his fifth birthday, and was traumatized by the event in a way that haunted him for much of his life. His mother moved him to the United States, but his abusive father’s ideals had already taken hold and he began to have visions of his father in an SS uniform and these visions pushed him to better himself and to become worthy of his father’s legacy. These hallucinations helped to push him to enlist to fight in Vietnam on his eighteenth birthday and later helped to lead him to massacre an innocent village believing them to be enemy troops. While he was court-martialed for the offense, he was released to work for the United States government and became the vigilante Peacemaker, seeking to create peace through violence and all at the consistent urging of the visions of his Nazi father’s ghost. In later appearances, Peacemaker had overcome the visions of his father, but it was never discussed how this happened.
Peacemaker’s Brother Will Copy The Original Story
Peacemaker episode 4 only provides glimpses of what happened to Chris’ brother, but enough pieces are there to see that it provides a variation on the comic origin. Auggie Smith, the combination of William Heller’s White Dragon with Wolfgang Schmidt, had a more hands-on approach to teaching his son his ways, directly forcing him to kill someone. While this has helped define who Peacemaker is, it is not the full narrative.
Instead of witnessing his father take his own life, Chris saw his older brother, who he looked up to, die. While his brother appears to die from a sort of seizure, the scene implies that he had been in a fight beforehand as he already has a bloodied nose before he falls backwards. Given what has been shown of Peacemaker’s father, it is reasonable to think that he might have insisted that his sons fight each other as a type of training, and it could have been an accident during such a session that led to Chris’ brother’s death. Having accidentally killed his brother would easily serve to replace the trauma originally caused by witnessing his father’s suicide.
Why Peacemaker’s Origin Change Is So Good
Peacemaker’s change to the titular character’s origin story significantly improves on the original for several reasons, especially when considered for a TV series in the aftermath of The Suicide Squad. In Peacemaker’s introduction to the DCEU, little time is spent on characterization, and he can come across as obnoxious. This is only emphasized by his turning into an antagonist and his killing of Rick Flag. His more complex origin story and trauma provides a new lens to be able to develop empathy for the character in a way that a simple “sins of the father” storyline likely would not have achieved.
By having Peacemaker potentially responsible for his brother’s death, the narrative adds an extra level of guilt to the situation, while still enabling Peacemaker to justifiably blame his father for creating him. Crucially, this storyline leaves the target of that blame alive and corporeal, meaning that Peacemaker can physically defeat the cause of his trauma rather than it being represented in the story by a ghost or vision that eventually fades from the series and would be incongruent with the rest of the tone of the series. Finally, Peacemaker’s guilt over his brother’s death can parallel Rick Flag’s death and serve as a part of his character arc to becoming the better person he wants to be. When Peacemaker killed Rick Flag, he was blindly following Amanda Waller’s orders because he believed that was what was right. If Chris killed his brother as the result of instructions from his father, then combined with the Rick Flag situation it makes sense that Peacemaker has started to question some of his orders and the series drives this connection home by splicing in scenes of Flag’s death with the flashbacks to Chris’ brother’s death. The narrative around Chris’ brother and the one around Rick Flag inform each other and by defeating his father in Peacemaker he can reclaim a sense of self and find some peace over his guilt relating to Flag’s death.
Peacemaker releases new episodes Thursdays on HBO Max.
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