James Gunn loves the concept of chosen family. Be it the scattered, flawed a-holes of Guardians Of The Galaxy drawn together by a mixture of coincidence and the need to save the universe, or the deranged, anarchic members of Taskforce X, bundled together to form a suicide Squad and yet finding common ground and even decency in the company of other lunatics. It’s one of of Gunn’s most endearing themes, and while his movies have to organically fast track these character arcs in order to be economical, however, his spin off show, Peacemaker, has had episodes to gradually stir up its cast of malcontents and screw ups to a point where the endless verbal uppercuts and vicious bouts of sarcasm finally relents and genuine friendships begin to emerge. Well, that episode is finally here and all it took to bring everyone together is the chainsawing of a gorilla. Simple, really.
The team is still struggling with their internal politics due to the fact that a third of them (*cough* Peacemaker & Vigilante *cough*) are murderous psychopaths, one of them is secretly working for Amanda Waller (her undercover, good natured daughter, Leota Adebayo) and one of them (resident computer nerd John Economos) recently caused a massive divide in the group by implicating Peacemaker’s father in a murder that his son committed. After the sliver helmeted helmet continues to vent his anger by quote a literal list of people Economos could have chosen (Optimus Prime and Ariana Grande are in there, but Peacemaker’s on a roll so we’ll give him a break), the team are soon off on yet another mission to eliminate a nest of the parasitic alien threat of the Butterflies with their personal grudges at an all time high.
However, thanks to some earlier advice by Adebayo to maybe tone down his bullying, Peacemaker is stunned to find that he and Economos actually have shit in common (a love for Finnish rock band Hanoi Rocks) and as a result, the incredibly bloody mission ends in success thanks to Peacemaker’s x-ray helmet, a homemade bomb and judicious usage of a chainsaw. It seems that the group is finally pulling in the same direction, but various, disparate hands are already in danger of unraveling this jumper of friendship.
The first is that for all her friendliness, Adebayo still has orders from her tyrannical mother to plant a troublesome diary in Peacemaker’s trailer, detectives Song and Fitzgibbon have realised that, despite the fact that he’s a card-carrying piece of shit, Peacemaker’s father was framed and, worst of all, mission leader, Clemson Murn, is actually a Butterfly himself, a fact that Adebayo has just stumbled across…
So once again we have Peacemaker’s balanced nature of prickly social interaction, hyper-violent slapstick and themes of parental abuse, and while a lot of the subplots are content to crawl along, the true focus of Monkey Dory is to finally have our core group of characters finally thaw, bond and work as an actual unit. To be honest, after four solid episodes of undiluted snark (not to mention John Cena’s remarkable, showstopping rant near the start of of the episode ), it’s a genuine joy to see these guys on the same page. I’ve been dying for Danielle Brooks’ level-headed Adebayo to get more alone time with Peacemaker in order to pry back his toxic facade and urge him to tone down the braggadocio in order to actually be himself and it’s worth the wait as she finally tells the lost suffering Chris things he’s probably never heard before. Elsewhere, even the normally icy and reserved Hardcourt is starting to lower her guard, visibly warming to the positive banter the group is starting to exude and she even goes as far as starting a WhatsApp group for the team (surely the benchmark for any functioning work group) and fondly naming it the 11th Street Kids after a Hanoi Rocks song. However, MVP of the group ends up being Economos who, during a vital juncture of the mission, where it’s revealed that one of the many Butterfly agents has taken residence in the skull of a rampaging gorilla, saves the day by chainsawing the shit out of it much to the delight of Peacemaker. It’s a cool action sequence that truly does bind the team together as they pop skulls with shotguns and dive away from explosions like something out of an 80’s buddy movie and director Rosemary Rodriguez (The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones) stages it nicely, nailing the character beats and keeping the violence nice and smooshy. Christ, even Vigilante cracks a smile (and posts a confusing merman emoji) despite off-handedly stating earlier that he doesn’t really feel emotions…
Of course, by the episode’s end, we’re still three shows from home which leave plenty of room for Gunn to come along and have everyone fuck all these good vibes up. In fact, the seeds have already been sewn with the most heartbreaking betrayals coming from Adebayo, the most normal, adjusted member of the group by a country mile. Not only is she playing the team on behalf of her mother, Amanda Waller (a neat reflection of how Peacemaker was also manipulated by his father as a child), but her planting of a diary in Peacemaker’s trailer will no doubt light the touch paper that’ll ignite all the short lived celebration. It’s a shame, as not many other people would tolerate a man who openly claims that his dick is a lesbian with a straight face… Of course, the other revelations involving white supremacist Auggie Smith being discovered innocent, a Butterfly conspiracy to keep him in jail and the fact that Murn is far more than human certainly won’t help matters much, but for now, let’s just remember the 11th Street Kids how they were in this episode: elated and drenched in the viscera of an alien controlled primate.
I’ve been extremely entertained by the show thus-far, rating it full marks with each and every episode that’s come down the pipe and the reason for that (despite genuinely loving the show) is that it’s refreshing to see a show set in an established world that’s not afraid to talk ridiculous trash and show some ridiculous shit. Some may argue that the outrageous gorilla sawing may have been swiped wholesale from the playbook of The Boys (an admittedly similar show), but there’s something extra-special about Peacemaker spreading some outrageous lies about Superman’s rumoured shit fetish (“You know more than Google? Congratulations.”) and mentioning the Man of Steel directly by name instead of just a made up cape wearer.
Enjoy the happy faces of our cast, folks, cos’ in the next episode I’m willing to bet that the show goes from Peacemaker to heart breaker.