Skip to main content

The Suicide Squad’s James Gunn Defends Why John Cena’s Peacemaker Killed Rick Flag

John Cena pointing gun as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It wasn’t that long ago when a new incarnation of Task Force X came together to battle a giant alien starfish in The Suicide Squad. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag was one of the few characters from 2016’s Suicide Squad who returned for this James Gunn-written and directing installment, but unfortunately, he met his demise at the hands of John Cena’s Christopher Smith, a.k.a. Peacemaker. Now with the Peacemaker series having debuted on HBO Max, Gunn is defending why Cena’s character decided to take this course of action.

For those who need a refresher, although Rick Flag and Peacemaker were on the same side for the majority of their time together in The Suicide Squad, when the former discovered how the United States was involved with the experimentation on Starro in Corto Maltese and planned to share that information with the press, the latter revealed he’d been tasked by Amanda Waller to ensure that the hard drive containing said information didn’t make its way to the public. A fight ensued, and while Rick Flag had the upper hand for a bit, Peacemaker emerged victorious, with Flag’s final words after that shard pierced his heart being, “Peacemaker. What a joke.” Here’s what James Gunn had to say about this moment while appearing on Podly: The Peacemaker Podcast:

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 man, what he was doing, he had a reason for doing it. 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. And he's covering up the truth, so if you believe in the truth being out there no matter what, yeah, you definitely don't agree with that. But he’s not a natural rights perspective. He comes from a utilitarian perspective. So he believes that the world is better off without that bit of information. And if that means killing a guy he really likes and looks up to, he’s willing to do that. And then, let’s also say, Rick Flag does try to strangle Peacemaker.

So while James Gunn isn’t necessarily condoning the act itself, he does defend that Peacemaker had understandable motivations for killing Rick Flag, rather than this simply being cold-blooded murder. It’s clear during The Suicide Squad that Peacemaker respects Flag, but ultimately his ideals prevent him from allowing Flag to release that information that would reveal a dark secret about the U.S. government. Peacemaker tried to change Flag’s mind and then take the hard drive without lethal measures, but once Flag’s hands were around his throat, he had no choice but to kill the man who oversaw Task Force X out in the field.

Had John Cena’s time as Peacemaker ended with The Suicide Squad, then viewers wouldn’t be faulted for questioning if the character truly felt remorseless about what he did to Rick Flag. However, now he’s leading his own spinoff series, and minor SPOILER alert for the Peacemaker episode “Best Friends, For Never,” but there’s a scene where he’s sobbing in his home about various things, including having to kill Flag. That’s not to say that Peacemaker is fully redeemed or anywhere close to making the transition from antihero to superhero, but at least we know for a fact now he’s not happy about what he did.

You can watch Christopher Smith’s continuing journey on James Gunn’s Peacemaker series, with both it and The Suicide Squad being available to stream on HBO Max. Gunn also teased back in October that he’s working on an additional DC project, although whether it will be Suicide Squad-related or something separate remains to be seen. 

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.