Mr and Mrs Smith

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

2024 - United States

This is definitely not your Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Mr. and Mrs. Smith!

Review by AJ

Within the first few minutes the show introduced us to a Jolie-Pitt look alike pairing – played by Eiza Gonzalez and Alexander Skaarsgard – and then promptly killed them off. Subtly, it is the show’s way to acknowledge the uproar over casting people of colour in the lead roles. But the show forges ahead in full confidence, injecting a whole new flavour into a well-known brand in such a significant way.

Instead of two experienced operatives so confident in their attractiveness, we got two awkward new spies going undercover for the first time. John (Donald Glover) and Jane Smith (Maya Erskine) are new spy agency recruits who immediately get put in an arranged marriage for their missions. This is, according to Jane, meant to make them less inclined to defect. As they face the reality of espionage, John and Jane must deal with their inner turmoil and their growing romantic feelings.

Mr and Mrs Smith

It is a risky move to take a well-known property that people already associated strongly with one thing and turn it into something else. In Mr. and Mrs. Smith the series’ tone is so far away from the vibrant film version they might as well exist separately. Co-created by Glover, who was responsible for the critically acclaimed black comedy Atlanta, and with the involvement of Killing Eve creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who was due to star before dropping out midway through), the new interpretation is more sombre and character driven. Waller-Bridge and Glover’s handprints are indeed all over this project. 

Its focus on quiet moments rather than constant shootouts and explosion lend the show a melancholic quality. The budding relationship between John and Jane is given ample time to develop while the spycraft takes second priority. Featuring two wounded souls who use the spy jobs to run from their pasts only to find a kindred spirit, the romantic interplay feels grounded. The slow burn tension can test your patience though if you come in expecting a thrilling espionage plot. 

Mr and Mrs Smith

The visuals, grainy filter cinematography and all, underscore this more low-key approach. Every frame is bathed in this drab blue-gray hue. As opposed to the glamorous James Bond-esque setting of the movie, it is instead filmed in the seedy parts of whatever locations they are in. There is no fancy dance party or mansion to sexy-fight in, they run their operations in dirty alleyways and abandoned buildings. 

Basically, it has zero connection to the Pitt-Jolie movie except for the basic premise of two spies married to each other. As far as spy features go, it’s got some neat tricks up its sleeve. But it gets buried underneath the dour character studies.

Mr and Mrs Smith

These days, there is an overwhelming tendency to turn everything gritty and depressing just to make it appear more substantial. It’s quite a shame. Glover who gained fame from beloved comedy Community and Erskine from PEN15 are two highly charismatic actors with proven comedic chops. Given the talents involved, this could have been a fun rom com slash spy comedy that’s been long missing from our screens. Alas, levity is still seen as second rate to serious fare so here we are. 

In itself, the show has its own charisma, thanks to strong leading performances by the leads and its visceral take on modern spies. However, putting Mr. & Mrs. Smith in the title definitely created an expectation that feels unfair given just how different the end result ended up being. It’s this persistent Hollywood tendency to slap IP on everything for marketability, not taking into account how it would actually fit. This will divide people: if a sexy spy romcom is what you want, this might disappoint; but if examination of modern relationships seen through the lens of spycraft is your thing, then go give it a try. 

Published on May 12th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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