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SYFY WIRE Peacemaker

James Gunn breaks down ‘Peacemaker’ finale & how they pulled off those massive DC cameos

James Gunn has the power now. He can do anything.

By Trent Moore
Peacemaker John Cena

With a second season already announced, we knew James Gunn couldn’t get too crazy in the season finale of his hit HBO Max series Peacemaker. Since, y’know, he had to leave enough pieces on the board to keep The Suicide Squad spinoff going for another year.

But this being James Gunn, he still found some new ways to surprise us — and remind us this show definitely still lives firmly right in the middle of the DCEU.

**Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of Peacemaker**

First, a quick recap: Peacemaker and the team finally catch up to the “cow” the Butterflies are trying to protect, and launch a final assault that leaves most of the team heavily injured. We also learn the Butterflies’ mission is a bit more nuanced than just “world domination.” They’re taking over to try and save Earth from growing anti-science sentiments that led to climate change and calamity on their own planet. So in effect, they’re trying to save us from ourselves, which … isn’t all that different from Peacemaker’s own “Peace at all costs” motto.

Though the mission makes some sense, Peacemaker sides with his friends and humanity instead, and fires a surprise human missile into the Butterflies’ cow, saving Earth from the aliens (for now) but possibly dooming us in general. Yeah, it’s mixed emotions all around.

Justice League cameos

Once the dust settled and Team Peacemaker is walking off the battlefield, the calvary finally arrives. Yeah, that’s right — the full-on Justice League shows up with Aquaman, Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman. They’re just a bit late to the party and missed the big battle. Speaking with Variety, Gunn joked they “didn’t have the budget for them to show up on time,” but he knew he wanted to address the Justice League-sized elephant in the room with the team facing such a major threat.

As for how he got Warner Bros. to approve the cameos — specifically the lines and scenes from Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash — he says he… didn’t, actually. He just wrote it into the script and started shooting, and once they were so far down the road, they just found a way to make the cameo surprises happen.

“I just wrote it and gave them the scripts. I don’t think they really realized what they had agreed to until they saw what I had shot, which was the Justice League there,” Gunn said. “And then I think the full weight of it and, you know, what does this mean for the DCU and all of that became huge pieces of conversation up to the very highest levels of Warners. And to their credit, they let me get away with it.”

He couldn’t go into too much detail, but said “there are reasons” we only see those members of the Justice League in that moment, and not folks like Ray Fisher’s Cyborg or Ben Affleck’s Batman, simply adding it could be related to “future stuff.” He also said he didn’t really try to get Gal Gadot back as Wonder Woman or Henry Cavill back as Superman (those characters remain more in the shadows and aren’t directly shown, and have no lines).

Peacemaker Justice League

He mostly just needed Momoa and Miller to bring a final punchline to a long-running joke, so those are the two he made sure to lock in for those cameo scenes.

“I think before we ever shot the show, we talked to Jason about it. We were like, ‘Listen, [Peacemaker] says you f*ck fish all the time.’ And we were a little afraid he would be upset, but he just laughed. He was cool,” Gunn said. “So he was pretty much on board from the beginning. And then Ezra I just found out through some common friends liked my movies a lot. And so I asked if he would come in and shoot this scene, and he kindly agreed to do that. Actually, Marvel shot [Ezra] for us, while we’re shooting ‘Guardians Vol. 3.’”

Breaking down the ending

Turning to the events of the finale itself, Gunn said he wanted to complete Peacemaker’s character arc and show some true growth from the character we met in The Suicide Squad, which is why he is faced with a choice not dissimilar from the moment where he killed Rick Flag in the film. This time around? He’s changed, and chooses his friends.

“Peacemaker makes the ultimate sacrifice — of perhaps the world. He sort of does the wrong thing for the right reasons. He does the thing that’s spiritually right for him, because it’s honest and true and authentic to himself. But it’s also perhaps problematic and what’s going to come next for all of us,” Gunn explained. “It’s about a character who is trapped in his own ideals, who has lived a life like that because of the trauma that he experienced. And in the last episode, he’s a different guy than the guy who killed Rick Flag. But I wasn’t sure that it was going to be that. It’s hard to call it a happy ending because it’s also tragic at the same time.”

So what’s next? Gunn is hard at work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for Marvel Studios, but has Season 2 of Peacemaker lined up after that (Gunn is signed to write and direct every episode of the next season). He also revealed things are progressing quickly on the mysterious second spinoff series from The Suicide Squad, and an announcement could come soon on that project. Regardless, Gunn said he plans to take a break from films and focus on his TV projects once Guardians Vol. 3 is wrapped.

“Yeah, I think I pretty much have decided that after I’m done with Guardians, I’m going to be doing television for at least a year. My mind’s made up on that,” he said. "Not all the shows that we’re dealing with are things that I’m going to be writing and directing, so some of them may take different amounts of my time. Peacemaker is going to be me writing, me directing and spending all my time on set. But other shows that may not be writing and directing, or not directing, all the episodes.”

The entire first season of Peacemaker is streaming now on HBO Max.