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'The Suicide Squad' spoilers! How that surprise end-credits scene sets up John Cena's spinoff show

Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

Spoiler alert! The following post reveals plot points and the ending of “The Suicide Squad” so beware if you haven’t seen it yet.

That “Game of Thrones” Red Wedding episode has nothing on the bloodshed spattered all over “The Suicide Squad,” with writer/director James Gunn killing off the vast majority of his supervillain lineup – including John Cena’s Peacemaker, the title character of an upcoming HBO Max spinoff show.

Well, for a bit at least.

The new “Squad” (currently in theaters and on HBO Max) opened with tragedy – poor Weasel (Sean Gunn) drowning after jumping out of a plane – and got immediately worse from there when pretty much half our heroes bit the dust hitting the beach of the fictional South American island of Corto Maltese, including returnee Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).

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Director James Gunn (fourth from right) shares a laugh with "The Suicide Squad" stars Sean Gunn, Pete Davidson, Mayling Ng, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Margot Robbie, Flula Borg and Michael Rooker – many of whose characters don't survive the movie.

The members of Task Force X learned that the place was housing Starro the Conqueror, a mind-controlling giant starfish from outer space. His appearance led to even more death: Peacemaker murdered group leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) when Flag refused to destroy the records of America’s deep involvement with the Starro experiment, Bloodsport (Idris Elba) shot Peacemaker and left him for dead in a crumbling building, and poor Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) got crushed by one of Starro’s immense arms.

The lone survivors to make it out alive were Bloodsport, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone). That is, until the two end-credits scenes: In the first, Weasel somehow wakes up on the beach and runs off. And in the other – surprise! – Peacemaker is still alive as well, laid up in a hospital bed when two employees of Task Force X commander Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) reluctantly visit the comatose Squad member.

“You realize this is revenge, right? Waller knows we double-crossed her and she’s getting back at us by saddling us with this (jerk),” John Economos (Steve Agee) says to his colleague Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland).

“I heard he was sort of a hero down in Corto Maltese,” the doctor says, before asking them, “What do you guys want him for?” Harcourt’s response: “Just to save the (expletive) world, that’s all.”

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That tease sets the stage for the new “Peacemaker” series, premiering in January with Gunn writing and directing. The show wasn’t hatched until Gunn had finished his initial production work on “Squad,” and the post-credit scene was filmed while making “Peacemaker,” which co-stars Agee and Holland alongside Cena.

John Cena's character Peacemaker is introduced in "The Suicide Squad" and will next be featured in his own HBO Max series.

“I think about different stories that can be told with these characters,” Gunn says. “And for some reason, when I was a little kid, I loved that crappy 'Captain America' TV movie (from 1979). To me, that was the greatest thing in the world. And so I was like, what would a really messed-up version of that be today with the character of Peacemaker?"

With the HBO Max series, Gunn reveals there’s a ‘70s TV-show vibe, an “All in the Family” element and even some politics, “which is really something that I scratched the surface of in ‘Suicide Squad’ but get to deal with a little bit more fully in the ‘Peacemaker’ show.”

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Peacemaker’s “pretty right wing,” Gunn confirms. In an early “Squad” scene, Cena's morally questionable patriot boasts that he’ll do anything in the name of liberty, even kill, and Bloodsport responds, “I think ‘liberty’ is just your excuse to do whatever you want.” Gunn says a lot of the upcoming show is “a conversation” between Peacemaker and a character played by “Orange Is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks – “somebody who's on the opposite side of the political spectrum” – about “where can we come together.”

“James swings really big when he writes material," says Cena. "And I really hope ‘Peacemaker’ is going to be a series that people are talking about for a ton of reasons. We’ve got something that is going to be conversational and that people want more of.”