‘Peacemaker’ flexes its muscles with crazy surprises in its finale


The following contains spoilers about the “Peacemaker” season finale.

(CNN)Given how protective outfits like Marvel and DC are when it comes to their major characters, the “Peacemaker” finale on HBO Max felt genuinely surprising — a major muscle pose by writer-director James Gunn, reflecting the extent to which he has been turned loose to play in the DC Comics sandbox.

The ultra-violent series/spoof featuring John Cena closed with a pitched battle to save the world, after someone had proposed sending in the Justice League instead of relying on his ragtag group of misfits.

Then, lo and behold, the Justice League actually appeared (a couple of them strictly in silhouette) once the fight was done, with cameos by Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller as Aquaman and the Flash, respectively, dropping more F-bombs than they ever could in the PG-13-rated confines of the DC universe.

    For Gunn, who spun “Peacemaker” out of his directing stint on “The Suicide Squad,” that playful climax felt like a victory cigar, underscoring the extent to which DC and Warner Bros. (like CNN, units of WarnerMedia) were willing to grant him access to its characters. It also reinforces the significance of HBO Max, the company’s streaming service, which has already renewed the series for a second season, announcing that Gunn would write and direct all the episodes.

      “They let me do whatever I want,” Gunn told Rolling Stone, which was obvious practically from the get-go, but even more so in the finale.

        The latitude that Gunn enjoyed in producing the show further highlights why feature-film talent has been drawn to the realm of streaming, which provides creative opportunities that wouldn’t be as readily available in the confines of a theatrical blockbuster. That included capping off the finale with a clear environmental message, with the alien threat noting that humans are already well on their way to destroying the planet on their own.

        Indeed, the hunger for such content has birthed an entire subgenre of dark and satirical superheroes, including Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” and Amazon’s “The Boys,” which will return (at least, sort of) with a series of blood-drenched animated shorts next month.

            At times, “Peacemaker” felt like it was trying too hard to be irreverent, but that reflects Gunn’s creative sensibility, while sending a message to talent about what’s possible in the world of streaming — including dragging Aquaman into your show, just for fun.

            Want to make that project you never thought that you could? “Come on in,” “Peacemaker” seemed to say, “the water’s fine.”