Two lonely strangers land jobs working for a mysterious spy agency that offers them a glorious life of espionage, wealth, world travel, and a dream brownstone in Manhattan. The catch? New identities in an arranged marriage as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a new series from Prime Video, stars Donald Glover as John and Maya Erskine as Jane. Together, John and Jane must complete a new high-risk mission every week, doled out by a computer program they call Hihi. But as their personal and professional lives become intertwined, they’ll be risking both their lives and their hearts.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Delivers Solid Spy Action
One thing Mr. & Mrs. Smith gets right is espionage action. In a series like this, there’s a risk that the spy plots start to feel redundant or recycled. Find target, shoot target, rinse, repeat, etc.
But Mr. & Mrs. Smith does a great job keeping things feeling fresh. John and Jane’s assignments see them taking on what feels like a wide variety of missions; they’re intercepting packages, doing undercover stakeouts and recon, tapping phones, administering truth serum, taking hostages, getaway driving, and – of course – getting involved in a shootout or two. There’s a good mix of physical action and clever planning (and pivoting) on display here, and the show is more interesting for it.
The series also doesn’t take an over-simplified, formulaic approach to the episodes, which I appreciated. It would be easy to let each episode structure fall into the exact same pattern, where Hihi explains the “mission of the day” and then we see the preparation, execution, and aftermath of that mission. Instead, Mr. & Mrs. Smith takes the opportunity to mix things up. Sometimes, we see the very beginning of the process, where Hihi reaches out with instructions for John and Jane. Other times, we jump into the middle of the action and have to play catchup, or see the aftermath of a mission and learn its details later on.
When it comes to blending the action with comedy, the series can be a little more hit-or-miss. Some episodes and missions feel jam-packed with laughs that dovetail nicely with the action (“Double Date” and “Couples Therapy” come to mind). For others, the comedy doesn’t mesh as well. Still, I think the variety of the missions and spy action makes up for it.
So overall, the spy action in this series offers up a solid foundation. Unfortunately, the crack in that foundation is the show’s romance.
Caught In A Bad Romance
The 2005 feature Mr. & Mrs. Smith had plenty of fun action, for sure. But the premise reached the heights that it did because of the incredible chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Prime Video series shook up the romantic side by shifting the premise; in the film, Jolie and Pitt play a couple in a real marriage, but don’t know about each other’s secret identity as a spy. In the series, Glover and Erskine know they’re both spies, but their marriage is fake.
At the start, I thought this was a clever changeup. It would mean we wouldn’t have to watch a lot of bad plot contrivances as John and Jane tried to hide their secret lives from one another episode after episode. But their partnership and arranged marriage could still preserve the steamy romance that made the film so appealing, by giving us a classic slow burn romance instead.
That is… not really what happens in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Instead of digging into the “will they, won’t they” and slowly turning the heat up in each episode, the show sort of speedruns a relationship’s rise and fall.
Across eight episodes John and Jane begin as strangers in an arranged marriage, which then becomes a real relationship, which escalates to a serious relationship, which downturns into being basically estranged, which leads to a final fallout and the resolution of that fallout. It’s just too much, to condense it all like that, and it makes it harder to feel invested in their relationship. I felt like just when I started to really like the idea of them together, their relationship was already falling apart again.
They Hit Different
Mr. & Mrs. Smith doesn’t seem to have a problem delivering espionage glamor and action. Spy intrigue is admittedly a little more iffy; the intention is definitely there, although sometimes the execution feels lacking. Still, for fans who like their spy media with a dash of comedy, it’s not a bad choice.
But this series is crucially missing the chemistry and romance that characterized the film version. For me, that’s what makes it Mr. & Mrs. Smith and not any other spy series. Is it unfair to compare any actors’ chemistry to that of ‘05 Brangelina? Perhaps. But no matter how much I liked Glover and Erskine in their roles individually, I can’t help but feel like I never liked them together as much as I should for a Mr. & Mrs. Smith series.
Was it the actors’ chemistry? The characters themselves? The pacing and plotting of the romance? I’m not sure. But the Mr. & Mrs. Smith series definitely hits different, like the tagline says. I’m just not convinced that’s always a good thing.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith premieres on Prime Video February 2.