Mr. and Mrs. Smith doesn’t want us to forget there was once a very famous film with a couple of very famous stars doing what Prime Video’s latest spy rom-com is attempting to recreate for the small screen now. In fact, the show deliberately leans into its impossibly glamorous pedigree by opening with an impossibly gorgeous pair of spies in the form of Eiza González and Alexander Skarsgård, in what can only be a nod to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s iconic performances.
However, within the space of five minutes, our gorgeous pair are no more — their love and their lives cruelly cut down by the arrival of an expert marksman (or woman!) sent to take them out.
Cut to the show’s actual protagonists — Donald Glover as “John” and Maya Erskine, “Jane,” two disillusioned and lonely spies recruited by a mysterious agency who sets the pair a series of increasingly difficult assignments.
John and Jane (not their real names) are in it for the money, but must agree to live together under the pretence of marriage in order to present the best and deepest form of cover for their ops. And at this point in the story, we quickly realize that Mr. and Mrs. Smith the TV show really has very little in common with Mr. and Mrs. Smith the movie. And what a relief that is.
Part of the joy of the series is observing a chalk and cheese pair somehow try to reconcile their worst tendencies — rigid work routines, an innate lack of trust, lifestyle differences, a tendency to go it alone — while learning how to be an effective team. In some ways, the series almost seems like an allegory for marriage and all its delicate compromises. However there are enough high stakes situations, car chases, swanky parties, guns, truth serums, and shoot outs for us not to have to dwell on any deeper meaning for very long.
Both Glover and Erskine are prefect in their respective roles (any lingering hankering for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who departed the project in its early stages, is quickly forgotten), and their at first awkward chemistry is sweet and grounded. If the goal of good TV writing is to place ordinary people in extraordinary situations then Mr. and Mrs. Smith has achieved that goal. Neither John nor Jane ever feel larger than life, whether they are discussing tea vs coffee or debating how best to fit a dead body in their rooftop composter. Their sweet everyman quality, coupled with their growing attraction to each other over the course of the show’s 8 episodes is handled with great care, and feels organic, subtle and very real.
The TV landscape has seen more misses than hits when it comes to the action-romance genre in recent years, with several high-profile attempts landing flat (Whiskey Cavalier, True Lies, The Company You Keep), but Prime Video has latched onto a clever winning formula of action, adventure, intrigue and romance that will surely keep viewers in their seats for seasons to come.
All 8 episodes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith are streaming on Prime Video now.
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