Peacemaker: What Is Project Butterfly?

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Peacemaker Episodes 1-3. "What the f*ck is Project Butterfly?" asks Christopher Smith (John Cena), the toilet seat-helmeted "hero" catching butterflies on Peacemaker. Five months after A.R.G.U.S. Director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits Smith to Task Force X, sending him to Corto Maltese to destroy all traces of Project Starfish in The Suicide Squad, Waller's team tasks the vigilante with a new mission: "Save the f*cking world." Joining forces with Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), John Economos (Steve Agee), and Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), the black ops squad is under orders to find and assassinate suspected "butterflies."

After "Project Starfish" referred to the giant alien starfish Starro in The Suicide Squad, Smith suspects "Project Butterfly" means he's "fighting a Mothra now." He later questions if being a Butterfly is "a venereal disease of some type," crudely asking if he's going to turn into a "dick vampire" after a one-night-stand with the super-powered Butterfly Annie Sturphausen (Crystal Mudry). 

Murn explains "Project Butterfly" is a domestic situation that needs Smith, a weapons expert and born killer, to take out "bad people whom we call Butterflies." If he refuses, he's returned to Belle Reve; if he flees, they detonate the nanite explosive embedded in his skull. According to Murn, the fate of the country depends on Project Butterfly. 

(Photo: Warner Bros. / HBO Max)

The first Butterfly Smith eliminates is Annie, a super-strong metahuman who appears to be possessed by an inhuman creature. The classified operation known only to a few is so top-secret that Waller's team won't reveal to Smith why their targets are called "Butterflies." 

When he begins to suspect that Butterflies are mind-controlling aliens sent to infiltrate the planet, Smith discovers the meaning of Project Butterfly during a mission to assassinate United States Senator Royland Goff (Antonio Cupo). Teamed with the homicidal maniac Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), who gleefully guns down Royland's Butterfly-possessed family, Smith realizes the meaning behind "Project Butterfly" when he shoots the senator in the face — revealing a parasitic creature resembling a butterfly. 

(Photo: Warner Bros. / HBO Max)

Episode 3, "Better Goff Dead," ends with a cliffhanger as Economos' computers ping the approximate geo-coordinates of suspected Butterflies across the country — and the world.

New episodes of Peacemaker premiere Thursdays on HBO Max.