"I cherish peace with all my heart. I don't care how many men, women, and children I need to kill to get it," vows vigilante Peacemaker (John Cena) in The Suicide Squad. Recruited as part of ARGUS Director Amanda Waller's (Viola Davis) Task Force X 2.0, Peacemaker joins the team of expendable criminals sent to Corto Maltese to infiltrate Jotunheim and destroy all traces of Project Starfish. But Peacemaker reveals a secondary mission — to wipe out all records of U.S. involvement — and kills team leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) over a hard drive containing Waller's secrets, finishing Flag with a stab through the heart.
The peace-loving killer tearfully mourns Flag's death in Episode 2 of Gunn's HBO Max spinoff Peacemaker, set five months after Bloodsport (Idris Elba) guns down the rogue vigilante in The Suicide Squad. "You're a f*cking dick. You killed Rick Flag," Peacemaker sobs to himself in "Best Friends For Never." "Flag was right. Peacemaker...what a joke."
"People constantly are writing on Twitter about how awful [Peacemaker] is and how mad they are that he killed Rick Flag — and I may get shit for saying this — but what he was doing, he had a reason for doing it," Gunn said on Podly: The Peacemaker Podcast. "He kills Rick Flag in The Suicide Squad because there's a piece of evidence that he believes will cause the world a great amount of disturbance and death and violence. He's covering up the truth, so if you believe in the truth being out there no matter what, you definitely don't agree with that."
Cena's Peacemaker, real name Christopher Smith, is "not a natural rights perspective, he comes from a utilitarian perspective," Gunn added. "He believes that the world is better off without that bit of information [about Starro]. And if that means killing a guy he really likes and looks up to, he's willing to do that."
Gunn points out Flag "does try to strangle Peacemaker" in their struggle for the drive, further justifying the use of deadly force in Smith's mind. Because Smith survives a bullet fired by Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and the collapse of Jotunheim, his fate confirmed in a post-credits scene setting up Peacemaker, Gunn wanted to drive home Flag's death with a gory shot of his punctured heart.
"In comic book movies, you see people die, and they're not really dead. Peacemaker is one of those people. You know, I wanted to knock it home," Gunn said. "One of the things we talked about most in The Suicide Squad is that shot of Rick Flag's heart getting pierced. To me, that makes it sadder because we're not going to sit there and think, 'Oh, Rick Flag got up and walked away from that after Peacemaker was gone.' He didn't. We saw his heart into blood, he's dead. That's the reason for that shot."
Starring John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Chukwudi Iwuji, Steve Agee, and Robert Patrick, new episodes of DC's Peacemaker premiere Thursdays on HBO Max.