Warning: this story contains spoilers for Peacemaker Episodes 1-3. The Suicide Squad writer-director James Gunn reveals the moment that inspired him to bring back Christopher Smith (John Cena) in the sequel series Peacemaker. Recruited to Task Force X by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and sent to Corto Maltese to destroy all traces of Project Starfish, Smith double-crosses the team and kills Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) over a hard drive containing information harmful to the United States. Before he can kill sole witness Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) — "I'm thorough," a remorseful Smith explains — he's gunned down by Bloodsport (Idris Elba).
"There was a moment with John, there were a couple of moments in particular, but one with John where he was about to kill Ratcatcher 2. I saw this incredibly sad feeling about Peacemaker as it's happening, this sense of regret, and I started to see a side of John Cena that I hadn't seen before," Gunn told Nerdist. "I knew he was funny, I always knew he was funny, but I started to see that he had the ability to go deep and express this sadness. John and I also talked a lot during the show about this character who felt so isolated, and even when everybody else starts getting along, he feels like he's alone."
Gunn noted Smith "doesn't connect to other people, and the way he tries to connect is through bravado — which is very insecure — and it doesn't work for him."
The Suicide Squad filmmaker previously revealed it was a vulnerable beat between Smith and Robert DuBois, a.k.a. the armored assassin Bloodsport, about fathers that provided a "seed" for Peacemaker. In Episode 1, "A Whole New Whirled," Smith's father, Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick), lets out a bellyaching laugh when he learns about DuBois' childhood trauma suffered at the hands of his own parent.
"Through the story, you learn where Peacemaker came from," Gunn previously told Variety about Peacemaker. "There's a moment in the movie where Bloodsport talks about his father and what his father was like, and you cut to a shot of Peacemaker, and Peacemaker nods. That's the seed of the entire Peacemaker series. So we get to see Peacemaker with his father, who's played by Robert Patrick, where he came from, what he's done, what that means to him, and where he's going after all of this."
The helmeted hero wannabe is "not an evil person, he's just a bad guy," Gunn added. "He seems sort of irredeemable in the film. But I think that there's more to him. We didn't get a chance to know him [in The Suicide Squad] in the way we get to know some of the other characters. And so, that's what the whole show is about. I needed eight episodes to do it, at least."
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.