A certifiable hit in the 2000s, Mr. & Mrs. Smith went against the grain of the then-super-popular Nicholas Sparks romances, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as sexy married assassins pitted against one another. A couple years later, the film's director Doug Liman attempted to recreate the magic for the small screen with Jordana Brewster and Martin Henderson in a failed pilot for ABC. Jolie lamented in a 2010 Vanity Fair spread that no one could produce an original idea for a sequel, so her and Pitt left it alone. It would seem that, along with the leads, studios, networks and audiences were happy to leave Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005 along with their Team Aniston and Team Jolie T-shirts.
However, what series creators Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane have cleverly done in this reboot is examine the ordinary implications of the Smith's extraordinary relationship and circumstances, thereby creating something wholly fresh from a worn concept.
Glover and PEN15's Maya Erskine take up the titular roles as two lonely (and broke) individuals who accept a mysterious offer of espionage with a side of new identities and an arranged marriage. The two assume the pseudonyms John and Jane Smith, and are assigned to one another as spouses and field partners. Initially, the two set boundaries — no sex or actual feelings, make enough money and then cut loose — but, as is the way, their rules fall to the wayside when a spark ignites between them.
Through eight episodes, Mr. & Mrs. Smith delivers much of what audiences are expecting: episodic missions and espionage-y twists. Touring around the world, the action set pieces are understated and beautifully shot — but, ultimately, they take a backseat to the relationship between John and Jane.
Riding off the natural chemistry and sensibilities of Glover and Erskine, a dark, dry humour permeates the entire series, allowing for the ridiculousness of their reality to be expounded into a thoughtful deconstruction of relationships and why we purposefully enter them. While both actors excel in the comedic space, it's their dramatic work in the series that elevates the premise and the writing in a surprising way. An episode that sees John and Jane attend couples counselling with Sarah Paulson as their therapist perfectly illustrates just how tightly written and performed the series is.
In an industry filled with unnecessary remakes and reboots, Glover and Sloane accomplish what so many have failed to do: find what was missing in the original and use that gap to drive something new. The matter-of-fact humour laced around well-choreographed action scenes already creates a highly entertaining show — but, by giving room for the emotional thrust of a couple trying to make it work, this iteration of Mr. & Mrs. Smith lends an intelligence (emotional and otherwise) the 2005 film never offered.