Mr. & Mrs. Smith review: The rare reboot that gets it right

Prime Video’s reboot of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” has had a tumultuous journey to the small screen, facing major recasting and a two-year delay since its announcement in early 2021. With the IP already having stumbled once as a TV project, expectations were tempered for this new iteration of the married-assassins thriller. However, the series, developed by Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane (known for their work on “Atlanta”), defies expectations and emerges as a refreshing surprise. It not only lives up to the original but surpasses it, propelled by sharp writing and the undeniable chemistry between its two leads.

John (played by Glover) and Jane Smith (portrayed by Maya Erskine) cross paths for the first time in the elevator of their lavish Manhattan brownstone, provided by their enigmatic employer, an international spy agency known only as “the company.” Despite being legally married strangers, they are paired together by the agency, which operates under the mysterious leadership of an unknown figure. Their interactions with the agency are limited to chat messages from their boss, whose cheery greeting of “Hihi” contrasts sharply with the dangerous world they inhabit.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Maya Erskine, Donald Glover

In a twist of fate, neither Jane nor John expected to be paired with a spy-spouse when they signed up for their covert missions. Their differing personalities and approaches to the arrangement are immediately apparent: Jane is meticulous and secretive, while John, with a military background, is more laid-back and inquisitive. Despite their initial reluctance to embrace their new partnership, their witty banter and undeniable chemistry quickly break down their barriers. As they embark on their first mission together — intercepting a package while narrowly avoiding danger — their unconventional relationship begins to blossom.

Rather than dwelling on the will-they-won’t-they trope, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” wastes no time in showcasing the dynamic between Jane and John, portrayed brilliantly by Glover and Erskine. Over the course of eight exhilarating episodes, the series explores whether their fake marriage can withstand the challenges of their high-stakes lifestyle. Each episode presents a new adventure-of-the-week, blending classic spy-genre elements with relatable relationship quandaries. From epic shootouts to encounters with eccentric billionaires (played by guest stars like John Turturro), tense ski trips with struggling couples, and unexpected insights into parenthood through a petulant “high-value target” (portrayed by Ron Perlman), the show keeps audiences on the edge of their seats while delivering laughs and heartwarming moments.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Donald Glover, Maya Erskine

Glover and Sloane masterfully navigate the balance between action-packed missions and quieter, introspective moments, such as John and Jane’s candid pillow-talk debriefs. In one episode, the spies find themselves in increasingly strained sessions with a couple’s therapist (played by Sarah Paulson), a nod to the original film. Despite the dialogue-heavy nature of the episode, Glover and Erskine maintain the momentum with their electric chemistry. Erskine, known for her endearing awkwardness in PEN15, brings a captivating stillness to Jane’s character, keeping both John and the audience on their toes with her enigmatic demeanor. Glover, with his trademark charisma, portrays John as a complex blend of frustrated caretaker and hopeless romantic, torn between his dangerous profession and his desire for a more conventional home life.

While “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” excels in character dynamics, it could benefit from a more substantial dose of espionage-related intrigue. Jane’s initial curiosity about their employer, “the company,” fades early on, leaving viewers with scant information about the shadowy organization by the season’s end. However, the writers sprinkle breadcrumbs throughout the episodes, hinting at a less-than-savory reputation for the agency. The season finale leaves audiences with a tantalizing cliffhanger, suggesting a potential reckoning for the Smiths and their enigmatic employers in the next installment. Given the quality of this reboot, a second season should be an easy greenlight for Amazon, as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” proves to be an asset worth holding onto.

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