Donald Glover and Maya Erskine star in a reboot series of the 2005 film "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."
The show, co-created by Glover and Francesca Sloane, is nothing like the original film.
And for that, it's much more interesting — and ultimately, better.
If you were among the many who wondered why anyone would make a "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" reboot, this time without Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, when the project was announced in 2021, you'd be forgiven.
The new series is ostensibly based on the 2005 film, which is arguably most famous for the fact that it's how Pitt and Jolie first met. But "based" is a pretty loose concept here: Don't expect the same action setup, or even the same conceit, as the original film. Expect something much, much better.
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith," co-created by Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane (who previously worked with Glover on "Atlanta") remixes the film's premise. Instead of a married couple discovering they're rival spies, this show's John and Jane Smith are instead paired up by a mysterious company, legally married, and then sent on dangerous missions together that range from baked goods-based assassinations to ski-slope espionage.
Maya Erskine's Jane joins Glover's John Smith; the two meet awkwardly in their new home, getting to know each other as they trail a target across New York City on their first mission. But despite a promise to leave romance off the table, and split once they both feel they've made enough money, it's clear there's something simmering beneath the surface that's going to come to a head sooner or later.
This central relationship is the true hook of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," a show that's more about cultivating intimacy and vulnerability than it is espionage. A rotating, star-studded cast of guest stars ranging from Sarah Paulson, to Michaela Coel, to Paul Dano sets a colorful backdrop for John and Jane's relationship to develop. We don't get much information about the missions that John and Jane go on, because the particulars don't really matter. Who cares why they have to protect the dubiously moral Toby (Ron Perlman, coincidentally Sloane's father-in-law) from assassination when the situation is much more valuable as a way to broach the couple's differing opinions on kids?
While a previous iteration of the series starred "Fleabag's" Phoebe Waller-Bridge alongside Glover, it's hard to imagine "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" without Erskine. Her muted sensibilities in the role may be a surprise to those who primarily know her from "PEN15," the Hulu comedy she co-created and stars in as a 13-year-old version of herself with a bowl cut. While Glover's John is instantly compelling, clad in impeccably stylish 70s-inspired outfits and radiating sincerity, Erskine's Jane is the show's anchor. She has a tougher time coming to terms with the intimacy of their relationship and how to square it with her own ambition, a tension that Erskine elucidates skillfully in her performance.
Despite its gorgeous costumes and setpieces (such as the couple's New York City home that would make any millennial weep), the show's visual identity isn't its strongest selling point. Rather, its smart dialogue, strong performances, and David Fleming's unnerving score are what establish its bizarre — and incredibly compelling — tone.
All eight episodes of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" are streaming now on Prime Video.
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