Mr. & Mrs. Smith TV Review

Donald Glover and Maya Erskine elevate this remake of the 2005 Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt film with a blend of spycraft, humor, and relationship drama.

Last Updated on March 5, 2024

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PLOT: 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. John and Jane Smith. Now hitched, John and Jane navigate a high-risk mission every week while also facing a new relationship milestone. Their complex cover story becomes even more complicated when they catch real feelings for each other. What’s riskier: espionage or marriage?

REVIEW: The 2005 film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, was one of the top-grossing films of the year despite mixed reviews. Written by Simon Kinberg and directed by Doug Liman, the movie was bolstered by the real-life romance between stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The tabloid fodder of that relationship was free marketing for the film which was a mediocre action comedy about a married couple who do not know they are rival spies contracted to take each other out. The new series based on Mr. & Mrs. Smith keeps the marriage and spy elements of the film’s plot but completely transforms them into a unique tale that follows a relationship through all of its stages but with the added risk of death. Developed by Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane, this new Mr. & Mrs. Smith is dramatic, funny, violent, and so unlike the original film and its shortlived ABC spin-off that it deserves a spot on your watchlist.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith review

Collaborating with many of the talented writers and directors he worked with on Atlanta, this unique take on Mr. & Mrs. Smith is nothing like what I expected. The opening scene of the premiere episode features Alexander Skarsgard and Eiza Gonzalez in a sequence that, at first, seems to be out of place with the series that follows. We then meet John Smith (Donald Glover) and Jane Smith (Maya Erskine) as they are interviewed separately. The job interview asks them to forsake their prior lives and enter a legal marriage with a complete stranger. The coupling will serve as a professional front for them to take on secret missions on behalf of the unnamed agency that employs them. John and Jane meet for the first time at their luxurious brownstone as they take on their first mission. From the first time they meet, John and Jane have sparks but keep things distant as they learn the ropes of being spies. By the end of the first episode, the stakes of their new career are apparent.

In an intriguing shift from the 2005 film, this Mr. & Mrs. Smith makes John and Jane fully aware of each other’s spying career as they are partners. The show then progresses through key relationship milestones as the episodes bear titles like “First Date”, “First Vacation”, “Do You Want Kids?”, “Couples Therapy” and more. The eight-episode series serves as a full timeline of a romantic relationship with the added twist of forcing these two characters into life-or-death missions. In one episode, John and Jane must contend with a kidnapping and ransom demand, and in another, they deal with administering truth serum to a target. Sometimes the missions work out and other times complications lead to the couple garnering a strike. Three strikes and they are out which strengthens their bond with each other as much as it pushes them apart. It is a very intriguing way of structuring this story but allows Donald Glover and Maya Erskine to command the majority of the series between themselves. Both actors are incredibly talented and their chemistry sells this series for me.

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It also helps that there is a solid roster of guest stars including Parker Posey and Wagner Moura, Michaela Coel, John Turturro, Sharon Horgan, Billy Campbell, Ron Perlman, and Ursula Corbero. Sarah Paulson and Paul Dano have key roles as a therapist and the Smiths’ neighbor, respectively, who factor into the overall narrative of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. But, even with these amazing talents, the majority of the series centers on Glover and Erskine. Originally developed with Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Jane role, Maya Erskine more than holds her own opposite Donald Glover. A story like this hinges on the interaction between the leads and the unique circumstances of the pair struggling with pretending to love each other and then actually falling for one another makes the awkwardness at the center something special. This story also thrives on the small and quiet moments between John and Jane as we see the roots of their relationship growing and fracturing organically.

Created by Francesca Sloane, a veteran writer, and producer on Fargo and Atlanta, alongside Donald Glover, Mr. & Mrs. Smith embraces the sometimes surreal elements of Atlanta and Swarm to tell stories that feel just a bit off. An entire episode focused on John and Jane meeting another pair of Smiths has so many strange moments that I could not tell if there was a twist coming. The tension in every episode is palpable and that is a kudos to the writing and directing teams on this series. Sloane wrote or co-wrote six of the eight episodes while Glover helped script two. They were joined by Stephen Glover, Carla Ching, Yvonne Hana Yi, Adamma EBo, Adanne Ebo, and Schuyler Pappas. Directing duties went to veteran collaborator Hiro Murai as well as cinematographer Christian Sprenger as well as Donald Glover himself. All of the talent involved helps shape this series into a structured narrative that echoes the feature film when bullets begin to fly between John and Jane at the end of the season. The action here is measured and used sparingly in each episode but balances the dialogue-heavy interactions which were amongst my favorite parts of this series.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith review

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a fantastic series that could end with this run of eight episodes or carry on for a second season as the finale is structured in a way that would work for either future path. The action is well done and the spycraft never feels outside of the realm of what realistic characters could do, but there are so many resonant moments in this series including broken bones, farts, and relationship minutae that work perfectly in the context of this story. Maya Erskine and Donald Glover make a great team and I feel this series eclipses the feature film that inspired it, mostly because this is absolutely nothing like it. Chock full of great music and one of the coolest on-screen apartments/homes in recent memory, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the definitive spy-romcom/relationship drama and is a solid binge-watch this weekend.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith premieres all eight episodes on February 2nd on Prime Video.

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About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.