Mr. & Mrs. Smith Review - Relationship On Hard Mode

  • First Released Feb 2, 2024
  • television
Eric Frederiksen on Google+

"My spouse is going to kill me" takes on a whole new meaning when you're both secret agents.

Relationships are hard. They take communication, honesty with yourself and your partner, long-lasting chemistry, and, most importantly, not shooting each other. That's true in general, but it's at the very core of Prime Video's new series, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, starring Donald Glover and Maya Erskine. The show is based on the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie movie of the same name, and has a similar premise, but it's anything but a retread.

In the 2005 film, John and Jane Smith are a married couple who are both, unbeknownst to one another, top-secret superspies. They're bored in their marriage, because it's really hard when two people are as legendarily gorgeous as they are. Things get wild when they discover their true identities, and we get everything you'd expect from a 2005 action movie, including tense dance scenes, Vince Vaughn looking like a mess and giving relationship advice, and an almost unwatchable trailer.

The meaningful similarities between the movie and new show really end at the phrase "married secret agents." The two leads are aware from the very beginning that they are both agents. They've been hired by an unknown employer who greets them via a chat app with the phrase "hihi." And so they call them Hihi. Together, the two take on high-risk missions together, doing things like extracting information, protecting high-value assets, bugging cell phones--you get the idea. The action is, in general, pretty grounded, and secondary to the action, with a few exceptions where the store brings it to the foreground.

The tension of Mr. & Mrs. Smith comes not from them having to protect their identities from one another, but from the fact that they're two strangers, posing as husband and wife, living together while taking on these high-stress missions. The missions aren't even a foreground element of some of the show's eight episodes. Instead, the two have to navigate many of the elements that normal couples do, but everything is turned up to 11.

Each episode is named and themed as a relationship milestone, with the first episode being the first date, while the second is the second date where they have to work through some miscommunication. They take a vacation to a beautiful, snow-y locale, hang out with another (very annoying) couple, and even go to therapy together.

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Almost every episode has a bit of stunt casting, too. One that stands out in particular has John and Jane protecting a high-value asset played by Ron Perlman. While Perlman and his character might be in their 70s, and his character might be a career criminal responsible for some unspeakable acts, the character has all the emotional maturity of a four-year-old. The Smiths aren't protecting him, they're babysitting him. This character unintentionally forces the couple to ask the hard question that comes up when you meet someone organically and fall for them: Do you want kids?

Anyone who has been in a serious relationship will see versions of themselves in these characters. Glover's John Smith is charming and smooth, while Erskine's Jane Smith is cold and takes time to warm to someone. They've been thrown into not just a relationship, but a relationship on hard mode. Relationships can be as stressful and painful as they are fulfilling and rewarding even without putting the couple in life-or-death situations on the regular. This inherent familiarity makes many of the situations intense to watch, and even though there's plenty of gunfire, it's rarely the main reason for that tension.

Glover is a familiar face thanks to projects like Community and Childish Gambino, but Erskine is a newer face comparatively, who we've only seen in smaller projects: the awkward Maya Ishii-Peters in Hulu's comedy PEN15 and the ice-cold Mizu in Netflix's animated series Blue Eye Samurai. They're both charismatic as heck, though, and I felt like I could understand pretty quickly why these two people fell for one another. I was rooting for them almost immediately and wanting them to succeed.

Importantly, though, both of these characters are amateurs equally in romance and intrigue. While the show takes its time in revealing their backstories, we can tell by the end of the interviews that open the series that maybe John and Jane are secret agents because other, more traditional paths in life weren't working out for them. They have the training to do what they're doing, but this wasn't the first job either of them applied for.

If you're going in expecting a slick and sexy shoot 'em-up, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is not that. While lots of shows are intentionally going retro, Donald Glover and co-producer Francesca Sloane aren't interested in looking backward. This is a long, sometimes awkward, but often fun look into relationships that feels thoroughly rooted in 2024.

Eric Frederiksen on Google+
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The Good

  • Glover and Erskine are fun to watch
  • The relationship drama works well
  • They save the action and humor for the right moments

The Bad

  • The stunt casting can feel like a parade of guest stars at times
  • Wouldn't have minded more action

About the Author

Eric Frederiksen is a contributing freelancer to GameSpot. He loves spy thrillers and action movies. Prime Video provided access to all eight episodes of the series ahead of release.