Arts, Television

Donald Glover’s Version of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ Offers a Genuine and Modern Angle to the Classic Spy Movie

★★★☆☆

John (Donald Glover) and Jane Smith (Maya Erskine) receive their first mission from a digitized screen which begins every message with “Hihi,” and is their only mode of communication and instruction from their new employer. 

“Hihi. Follow woman. Meet her at restaurant Orsay at 12PM. Sit near bar. Intercept package immediately. Hand off at 40.717855, -74.019258. Have fun,” the screen reads.

Glover and co-creator Francesca Sloane created a 2024 television rendition of 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Glover’s interpretation of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie movie—which was based on the 1996 TV series—is less of a sinuous spy thriller with explosive chemistry, but rather an awkward romance between two CIA rejects. 

Mr. & Mrs. Smith tells the story of two lonely strangers who leave their past lives to come together in an arranged marriage for their new job. The unknown company employing the newly-wed couple is ambiguous in its identity and goals, yet Mr. and Mrs. Smith eagerly oblige every mission they are presented with.

The contrast between John and Jane’s characters lies in their differing responses to questions posed by their boss—the digital box. 

While John is shocked when one of the first orders calls on him to cut ties with his past, Jane is excited to start a new life. 

“You’re gonna pay me to not talk to my dad?” Jane says in an early comedic scene that sets the tone of the TV series. “Where do I sign?”

John’s worst quality is that he is overly competitive.

The unknown employer provides for John and Jane a beautiful New York City brownstone that looks like it could have come right out of an Architectural Digest feature. The couple claims to work as software engineers from San Francisco to their neighbor and begins their utterly new lives urgently. 

The awkward meet-cute interactions—such as John brushing Jane’s hair behind her ear before rushing into their first high-stakes mission—are cheesy but make for a somewhat endearing budding romance between the lead characters. 

Inconsistencies in the romance story between John and Jane create confusion, however, perhaps due to the air of awkwardness and poignant gaps of dialogue in the script. John takes the lead in pursuing Jane. Jane thwarts his slightly unclear advances. The pair make a pact to abstain from relations to focus on the job, yet the two break this pact shortly after. 

The third episode brings trouble to the two when a mission heightens tensions and emotions. Yet, the anger and irritation between the pair appear somewhat unfounded and extreme, until it suddenly resolves itself. The beginning of this series is characterized by a certain degree of unclearness and the sense that the two characters are distanced by their inability to properly communicate.

This rendition is not the glamorous and sexy spy tale we are used to with previous Mr. & Mrs. Smith scripts, despite the extravagance that comes with John and Jane’s job. Glover’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a millennial take on a spy couple, with more racial inclusivity on-screen and references to politically contentious topics. Despite the awkward silence, a touch of sincerity lingers throughout the show. 

Some viewers may find the romance between Jane and John charming and will keep watching to see what obstacles the couple surmounts together and where their spy journey with the mysterious company leads. Those of us who are looking for a Brangelina-style romance, however, will be thoroughly disappointed. 

Correction (Feb. 18, 2024 5:02 p.m.): This article was corrected from a previous version to clarify that Glover’s iteration of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is not based on the Hitchcock film of the same name. 

February 9, 2024

Leave a Reply