“It’s Cow or Never” is a satisfying finale that brings the overarching plot to a close while delivering action and heart aplenty — not to mention setting up an already confirmed second season.
This recap of Peacemaker Season 1, Episode 8, “It’s Cow or Never”, contains spoilers, including for the Peacemaker ending.
The finale of Peacemaker begins with an apology — sort of, anyway. After everything came to light in the penultimate episode about Leota having tried to fit Chris up with the fake diary on Waller’s orders, she’s feeling remorseful. As uncomfortable as she is receiving moral judgment from people who regularly murder other people, she feels bad about having betrayed a friend, especially one who doesn’t really have any genuine friends who aren’t also psychopathic murderers. It’s pretty telling of Chris’s arrested development that he drowns out the attempted apology with fart noises, and pretty tragic that, as Leota points out, he still defines himself so completely by the death of his brother and the abuse of his father. If he wasn’t a wanted vigilante now, he might have a chance to move on from it. But there’s work to be done in the meantime.
Peacemaker season 1, episode 8 recap
The work, you’ll recall, is finding and killing the cow before the Butterflies teleport it away, which is disastrous from the outset. The initial plan to use Peacemaker’s sonic-boom helmet — one of the others gives everyone nearby scabies, a word I haven’t heard for about 25 years — is thwarted when Eagly drops it in the woods, and the team have to waste precious time combing the area for it while Chris fires his blowgun at aggressive visions of his father (this seems like a decent way to keep Robert Patrick involved despite the death of his character.) After recovering the helmet they still need to get it inside, which involves Economos impersonating one of the Butterflies to infiltrate the barn and the subterranean bunker beneath it, where the fleshy space caterpillar is being milked.
James Gunn is very good at sneaking emotion and pathos into the most ridiculous scenarios. Economos leaves the helmet inside, but he’s so appalled by the sight of the cow that he hurries back outside and makes himself look a little suspect. Fitz (I know these people aren’t themselves anymore and are really just the Butterflies inside their heads, but it makes much more sense to still refer to them by their character names) interrogates him about why he dies his beard, and Economos’s reasoning is so mundane, sad, and truthful that it makes Chris wince at how much his constant jokes have affected this obviously lonely and awkward man. It’s a nothing scene, but Gunn makes it matter.
Of course, Economos gets discovered anyway, kicking off a grandiose set-piece set to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It?”, the song from the opening credits, in which Chris, Vigilante, and Harcourt cleave their way through the Butterflies after sending out several destructive sonic booms through Chris’s helmet. It’s brutal, funny, well-shot, and surprising in that two of the three core characters — Vigilante and Harcourt — get badly wounded. Leota gets her moment, charging into battle with guns akimbo to save Harcourt from being taken over by a Butterfly, and it’s also up to her to don Peacemaker’s human torpedo helmet and follow him into the bowels beneath the barn to make sure the cow is dead.
The cow isn’t dead, and neither is Song, or Goff as Peacemaker knows her. There’s a bit of a fight — and a hilarious bit in which Leota activates the human torpedo helmet and flies head-first into a wall — and then a lengthy discussion about what the Butterflies are up to. As Song explains, they came from a planet that had become unlivable, and when they arrived on Earth they realized it was on the same trajectory; populist leaders convincing people to ignore science and reason, abandon personal responsibility, and put profit above survival. The Butterflies made a vow to save Earth by making the choices for its people that they couldn’t make for themselves, no matter how many lives it cost — which is Peacemaker’s exact ideology, something reinforced to us by flashbacks to his childhood, and to killing Rick Flagg, and to offering the heavens any sacrifice in exchange for peace. Song sees an ally in Chris, someone who would be on-board with their plan, but instead of helping to teleport the cow, Chris instead activates the human torpedo helmet again, sending a staggering, delirious Leota directly into the cow’s guts, and shooting Locke and Song.
When everyone leaves, the Justice League arrives, too late to be useful, mostly just to pay off that recurring gag about Aquaman and fish.
“It’s Cow or Never” delivers as a finale in large part because it actually feels as much like an ending as it does a new beginning. The show has already been renewed for a second season, and yet most of the Butterfly plot has been resolved, and the core characters have reached the logical endpoint of their arcs. Leota — Chris’s real BFF after Eagly — gives a press conference exposing Project: Butterfly as a government-sanctioned program, an extension of Task Force X, which is run by her mother, Amanda Waller. Harcourt survives, barely, and awakes to learn that Chris has spent days at her bedside. She tearfully holds his hand before learning how to walk again. Economos takes a job at Belle Reve Penitentiary, smiling at the framed photograph the crew took while on mission, and Leota returns home to her wife and dogs.
Chris, now a free man, spends time with Eagly in his trailer. But he has also befriended Goff, who he feeds the few remaining drops of amber nectar, and when he sits outside, his father sits next to him, implying that despite everything Chris has done, he’ll never quite be free of the White Dragon.
You can stream Peacemaker Season 1, Episode 8, “It’s Cow or Never”, exclusively on HBO Max. Do you have any thoughts on Peacemaker’s ending? Let us know in the comments.