Peacemaker Faces An Imminent Battle In 'Murn After Reading'

Series creator James Gunn is back in the saddle as director for this week's episode of "Peacemaker," which sees our favorite gang of black-ops misfits facing a whole slew of challenges. After the crew finally gained a sense of camaraderie following the events of "Monkey Dory," they now have to take on the butterfly invasion and reckon with Peacemaker's racist dad Auggie (Robert Patrick), who has been released from prison. Not only that, but team member Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) both betrayed Peacemaker (John Cena) and made a horrifying discovery at the end of "Monkey Dory," which means "Murn After Reading" is one seriously chaotic ride. 

Things are about to come to a head for Peacemaker and the rest of the Project Butterfly crew, and their enemies are gaining numbers and the upper hand. With the fate of the world resting on the shoulders of these knuckleheads, everyone should probably start getting their affairs in order. Things are looking pretty bleak, but at least the soundtrack still absolutely rocks. 

SPOILERS for "Peacemaker" episode 6 from here on out!

A Quick Recap

As Adebayo says early in this episode, "this s*** is getting goofy." In "Monkey Dory," Adebayo discovered that team leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) is actually a butterfly when she put on Peacemaker's X-ray vision helmet and saw into his brain. It turns out that both team members Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee) already knew about Murn's butterfly status, although Economos refuses to talk about it and puts his fingers in his ears whenever Harcourt brings it up. Murn is a dissenting butterfly, it turns out, who doesn't want to try to take over the planet. That explains his extensive knowledge about the aliens, and also explains a lot of Murn's weird behavior, but Adebayo is reasonably concerned. 

Peacemaker visits an elementary school as a favor to his custodial friend Jamil (Rizwan Manji) from the hospital. There, he answers questions from a class full of kids who mostly want to know about big-name superheroes like Wonder Woman and Batman. It goes about as well as you'd expect, although Peacemaker does manage to keep himself from dropping any f-bombs in front of the kids. One kid, in particular, sees right through him, telling Peacemaker, "I can see right through you and I think you're a loser." Ouch. One little girl also asks if Peacemaker knows her mom, then tells him that he might "be her real dad." Thankfully, Peacemaker has Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) to talk to afterward, although feelings aren't exactly his forte. Vigilante and Peacemaker end up trying to have a conversation with the butterfly that was in Goff, but that conversation is interrupted when officers Sophie Song (Annie Chang) and Larry Fitzgibbon (Locklyn Munro) arrive with a full police team to arrest Peacemaker. While making Peacemaker and Vigilante make their escape, the butterfly's jar breaks and she ends up taking over Song's body, going on a mission to contact the rest of the butterflies on earth. 

Vigilante and Peacemaker make a very narrow escape, assisted by the unhinged Captain Locke (Christopher Heyerdahl), helping them on orders from Murn. Locke kills several cops in cold blood, then tries to throw Song and Fitzgibbon off the trail by describing the attacker very similarly to the McDonald's mascot the Hamburglar. Our two intrepid not-so-superheroes head to headquarters to figure out their next steps, and we're treated to a montage of their enemies getting assembled. The newly-freed Auggie (Robert Patrick) is ready to don the White Dragon costume once more and kill his son Peacemaker. He's also got a whole Klan of hooded followers, ready to cause trouble for anyone who gets in their way. Meanwhile, Song returns to the police precinct with a whole flock of butterflies, who take over every single person in the building. 

Harcourt and Peacemaker have a nice little moment where she finally calls him Chris and gives him her first name, then he plays a moving piano cover before Vigilante ruins the moment. All of the butterfly-possessed police are on TV, and they have Peacemaker's fake diary and are framing him as a madman who believes in an imminent alien invasion. Just when things were starting to look up for Project Butterfly, it all goes to hell. 

The Sweet

This episode has its fair share of sweet and spicy, though it's not nearly as saccharine as episode 5, which was this show's version of a group hug. Most of the sweet moments in "Murn After Reading" come from character interactions, much like weeks before. There are budding friendships between most of the members of Project Butterfly, and we're finally getting to explore those without as much infighting. Economos' personality continues to be adorable as he sticks his fingers in his ears and yells whenever Harcourt brings up the fact that Murn is a butterfly. That's almost as cute as him wanting that man and monkey to be friends. Also adorable and slightly immature is Vigilante's choice of ringtone: "Barbie Girl" by Aqua. It kind of tracks, honestly. 

The sweetest moment in "Murn After Reading" is Harcourt finally warming up to Peacemaker after spending most of the series absolutely loathing him. She's finally seen past his (admittedly awful) exterior behavior and has realized there is a decent guy in there somewhere. She tells him that he's not a complete piece of s***, but is about 85% a piece of s***. The other 15% seems alright, and she's opening up to that part of him. For the first time in his entire life, Peacemaker has friends, and he celebrates by playing a piano rendition of "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe. Cena is a talented pianist, surprising fans back in 2017 with a cover of the Pixies hit "Where's My Mind?" These moments, where Cena gets to emote without speaking, are fantastic — whether he's dancing in his undies or plunking out a tune. It shows the breadth of his talent and gives more depth to Peacemaker's tortured personality. 

There's one scene that feels as if it balances precisely on the edge between sweet and spicy: when the butterfly leader now inhabiting Song tells Fitzgibbon that Song was fond of him. Fitzgibbon and Song had a fun dynamic that was cut tragically short, but the butterfly feels the need to tell Fitzgibbon that he mattered, even if she knows he's going to die himself very shortly. 

The Spicy

After a relatively sweet episode 5, we're back to being rather spicy. "Murn After Reading" is as close to his Troma roots as Gunn has come in a while, with some seriously sick gore, gallows humor, and a twisted villain hype sequence. The two darkest moments both revolved around the butterflies and their unique ability to take over a human, killing the human in the process. They retain access to the memories of their host, which gives them unique insight into how to best play their role. Gunn loves his parasitic alien monsters (just look at Grant Grant in "Slither" and Starro's babies in "The Suicide Squad"), and these ones are just as existentially terrifying as their cinematic kin. 

"Peacemaker" is a lesson in radical empathy, the concept of trying to empathize with people who might otherwise seem irredeemable. The strongest argument for it comes in this episode when Adebayo accuses the butterfly inside of Murn of killing its host. "You killed Murn, whoever he was!" she shouts, and Iwuji's face contorts into a pained grimace. 

"I took over the worst person I could find," he explains, his voice wavering. "Even he could change. I know that. I took that from him. I took his freedom, and his face, and every day I dread waking up to his memories." 

The butterfly longs for a peaceful existence that doesn't require bloodshed and assimilation. He saw the potential for redemption even in Clemson Murn, a contract killer who had done terrible things for no reason other than money. By killing Murn and taking over his body, the butterfly removed whatever chance he had at redemption. 

Later, the Goff-butterfly that takes over Song tells Fitzgibbon that "smiling is different on every single head." She comments that she has to relearn it each time, before going off to let the rest of the butterflies into the precinct. During the music montage that follows (set to "Monster" by Reckless Love) we see all of the newly butterflied people walking down the hallway, their faces covered in blood and contorting in horrifying grimaces as they attempt to learn to smile. Their disturbing visages are shown opposite White Dragon's white-hooded crew suiting up, including a completely naked woman just running around in a Klan hood. Gunn's roots in Troma's shock exploitation films don't often get time to shine, but this segment is a disturbing delight. 

Best Lines and Post-Credit Sequence

The dialogue on "Peacemaker" is killer. Some of it's Gunn's screenwriting, some of it's improvised, but all of it's hilarious. I've collected some of the best lines from "Murn After Reading" for your giggling enjoyment:

  • Peacemaker explains why he kept the butterfly:

    "Sometimes I just think I'm insecure in my masculinity so I'm making up for it by having a dangerous pet. You know, like those knuckle-d***s in Georgia with a tiger on a leash."

  • Vigilante gives Peacemaker some advice:
    "Cut it out with the introspection. The mind is a field of scorpions best running from not towards."
  • Peacemaker's answer to Vigilante asking how he knew his password:
    "I know my own birthday dude."
  • Vigilante when Peacemaker asks him why he would want to be impregnated a'la "Alien":
    "How else am I ever going to experience motherhood?"
  • Peacemaker confirms that he's a "Starship Troopers" fan:
    "I'm fine killin' aliens, especially bug ones."

This week's post-credits scene is Captain Locke goofing around with the corpses of his victims shortly after killing them in the woods. He mimics being incredibly upset, then asks "does this look sad?" and begins laughing hysterically. I'm going to say the butterfly in his brain was an upgrade. 

New episodes of "Peacemaker" debut Thursdays on HBO Max.