3 out of 5 stars

Donald Glover (Atlanta) finally brings his updated version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith to the small-screen. Based on the 2005 action movie of the same name, itself inspired by a short-lived 1996 CBS television series, Glover and Maya Erskine (Pen15) play two government agents forced to go undercover as a married couple. In Doug Liman’s film, the central premise was of a seemingly ordinary married couple, both secretly working as undercover agents, who find their lives turned upside down when they unknowingly receive orders to eliminate each other…

However, this new iteration of Mr. & Mrs. Smith reworks the concept, having John (Glover) and Jane (Erskine) connected only by their shared profession as secret agents. It thus feels unconnected from its namesake and could easily exist under a different title because it lacks the vital DNA of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie movie (although the change is ironically closer to the premise of the 1996 TV show starring Scott Bakula and Maria Bello).

Sadly, this 2024 remake fails to capture either the electric chemistry between the original leads or the captivating romance woven into the web of deception. Ultimately, it’s an odd decision to tie this series to an older movie that neither achieved critical acclaim nor holds widespread affection.

After collaborating on FX’s Atlanta (2016-2022) together, Francesca Sloane (Fargo) joins Glover as co-creator of this new Mr. & Mrs Smith. But the show was originally a collaboration with Glover’s Star Wars co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) until she walked away six months into the project, after feeling she was getting in the way of the creative vision. It’s obvious that Glover wrote John’s role for himself, giving his lead more depth and range than his female co-star.

The show opens with John and Jane Smith, two undercover agents masquerading as newlywed software engineers, embarking on a mission that binds them as tightly as their assumed vows. Under the veneer of domesticity, John and Jane navigate the perils of espionage, their secret pasts a constant undercurrent to their carefully constructed reality.

Each episode revolves around a different standalone mission, presented as a kill or protect scenario. Inevitably, things always go awry, and the couple escape in a hail of bullets. This self-contained, formulaic structure strongly evokes early-’90s TV. With only eight episodes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith struggles to the justify time spent on inconsequential side missions or misleading clues. The action-comedy faces a tough balancing act over eight hours: fully exploring the characters and their blossoming connection, unraveling the enigmatic higher powers they serve, and still delivering satisfying action-comedy beats.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith stumbles in its attempt to portray the high-stakes world of espionage in a fresh way. The narrative struggles to breathe life into the setting and characters, often feeling derivative of tropes established in countless other stories within the genre. John and Jane lack depth, their backstories shrouded in mystery, while their mutual understanding remains frustratingly shallow. This results in an audience captivated by the slick action sequences but ultimately unattached to the story’s beating heart. Dropping us directly into the midst of the mission without proper context weakens the emotional investment and makes it difficult to care about the stakes.

Beneath the set pieces and shootouts, the overarching theme is marriage. John and Jane’s relationship reflects the highs and lows experienced by most couples, from struggling with the decision to have children to attending couples therapy and bickering over the cat. Ultimately, the show finds its most engaging moments in the quiet intimacy of the Smith’s unwinding after a stressful day, bickering as any other couple might, reminding us that beneath the thrilling facade lies a relatable and poignant portrait of a marriage.

While the on-screen chemistry between Glover and Erskine is undeniable, Glover’s captivating presence often overshadows Erskine’s quieter performance. John embodies perpetual coolness and smooth charisma, while Jane leans towards a slightly neurotic personality. However, their lack of established history and distinctive quirks might leave audiences struggling to truly connect with the lead pair.

An array of talented actors pepper the show with cameos, often popping up as the couple’s targets. Stars like Paul Dano (The Batman), Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum), Sarah Paulson (Ratched), and Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe) briefly grace the screen, their talents frustratingly underutilised in minor roles that contribute little to the series. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) stands out as one of the few guest stars blessed with a well-developed character, allowing him to truly flex his acting muscles.

Though the plot may stumble at times, the car chases and shootouts are this show’s crowning glory and look spectacular. While Mr. and Mrs. Smith doesn’t break new ground, it charms with its blend of thrilling action and witty humour. Forget gravity-bending feats from John Wick; this Prime Video series prefers to keep things real. These spies are no super spies. They fumble over plans, trip over intel, and wear the wrong shoes for the job, reminding us that even the best couples have their messy moments.

While the last three episodes do manage to build intrigue and shed more light on John and Jane, it’s ultimately too little too late. Mr. and Mrs. Smith needed to offer more than just visually impressive set pieces. Ultimately, it’s a frustrating waste of both its talented leads and even more talented guest stars. Mr. and Mrs. Smith might have found greater success if it had leaned into the comedic potential of a marriage thrown together by extraordinary circumstances. Instead, the show gets bogged down by excessive action sequences, underutilised guest stars, and a misplaced focus on Donald Glover’s James Bond audition reel.

USA | 2024 | 8 EPISODES | 16:9 HD | COLOUR | ENGLISH

Cast & Crew

writers: Francesca Sloane, Donald Glover, Yvonne Hana Yi, Adamma Ebo, Adanne Ebo, Carla Ching, Stephen Glover & Schuyler Pappas.
directors: Donald Glover, Hiro Murai, Christian Sprenger & Karena Evans.
starring: Donald Glover, Maya Erskine, Parker Posey, Wagner Moura, Michaela Coel, John Turturro, Paul Dano, Alexander Skarsgård, Eiza González, Sarah Paulson, Sharon Horgan, Ron Perlman, Billy Campbell & Ursula Corbero.