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‘Mr & Mrs Smith’, the epitome of a shotgun marriage

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Courtesy Amazon MGM Studios
John (Donald Glover) and Jane (Maya Erskine) star in Amazon Prime’s “Mr and Mrs Smith.”

It is no secret that remakes and sequels of old pop culture classics don’t always have the best reputation. There is always a risk when it comes to taking something already beloved by many and trying to recreate it for a new generation. Which is why Francesca Sloane’s and Donald Glover’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” strips the idea for the iconic 2005 Brangelina film and spins it in a whole new direction.

Like all its predecessors, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” follows the story of a “married” couple who share the Smith surname. Here, John (Donald Glover) is an outcast, ex-marine who is paired up by a mysterious chatbot with Jane (Maya Erskine), a Type A, lonely girl who was rejected by the CIA for her “anti-social” tendencies. All eight episodes of the first season were released on Amazon Prime on Feb. 2.

One of the biggest differences and perhaps what makes this series so attractive is that unlike other spy-centered storylines, John and Jane are two common everyday folks who renounce their previous lives to build a shared, adrenaline-filled one. This makes for a series that, rather than focus on action-heavy drama, allows the audience to connect with the development of these two awkward individuals in high risk situations.

Through fast, witty and quirky banter, the series travels through the different stages of John and Jane’s relationship. From their first attempt to establish a practical cohabitation, to their blooming romance, to the inevitable damage caused by the unlikely circumstances that they are forced to navigate this flame. The missions tend to lend themselves more to that comedic undertone in the series than “Bond-like” espionage, which feels fitting with the unfamiliar nature the show has for John and Jane. Yet it also feels as if the creators are too scared to fully embrace the humor in them, still trying to provide proper homage to their precursors and stick to the high stakes of the job.

Perhaps the only scene that truly lives up to the Brangelina “sex-spionage” is the opening scene of the season where we see an alternate John (Alexander Skarsgård) and Jane (Eiza González) who resemble the movie’s true leads in sex appeal and hairstyles while delivering a scene of risky, passionate hailstorm of bullets. This scene also introduces viewers to the idea of multiple Mr. and Mrs. Smiths, a plot device that Sloane and Glover used throughout the plot to leave viewers hooked and on the edge of their couch. 

Another original twist in this “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” recreation is the omnipresence and anonymity of the company that hires, allocates and assigns missions to the Smiths. From the very start, audiences are left with a million questions of who is behind the screen and to what degree they are involved in these missions. Is it a third party that gives orders and waits for reporting? That coincidentally stumbles upon individuals who are looking for an extra buzz to their ordinary lives? Or is this charming “Hihi” hiding something more manipulative and powerful than initially let on?

Despite this being a center of tension for much of the drama, there seems to be a missed opportunity here for the creators to exploit “the company” even more. In itself, it sets the tone of the show to be less “Mission: Impossible” and more “Black Mirror” yet the company is rarely directly addressed as it transforms into less of a spy organization and more of a strange, cult-like power. Jane shows a special interest in “the company” but quickly forgets as she also brings down her walls to start her romance with John. 

Glover has stellar moments throughout the series, despite feeling a bit underwhelming during the first episodes when his character seems to be reduced to the same cool, laid-back hunk stereotypical of spies. He, as expected, shines when it comes to comedy, yet also surprises the viewers as we get to the core of John Smith. Erskine, in a sense, is faced with an opposite effect, stealing the show from the get go as we see a more reserved and careful Jane, worried to give into this relationship and lose sight of who she is. As the plot moves forward, and the honeymoon phase ends, Erskine’s performance, much like Jane’s identity, seems to fade away. 

Glover and Erskine give the audience a relationship that doesn’t feel unreachable; they portray neighborhood citizens who act and look like neighborhood citizens. The foundation for their relationship feels natural and requited, and their chemistry works for this, but as they move deeper into their relationship and we start to see a semblance to a true “Mr. and Mrs.” married pair, it is clear that they lack that passionate bond. In the show, Mr. and Mrs. Smith are not fervid lovers who have fallen apart because of rivalries and secrets, instead they are millennials living in Brooklyn and navigating the hardships of finding “the one” in a unique way.

While this show should in no way be expected to mimic previous adaptations that share a title, Glover and Sloane do include multiple easter eggs for fans to enjoy without tying the story in itself to previous media. Ultimately, the series is most enjoyable as its own standalone concept. It promises a thought provoking stream that leaves viewers with an appetite for more.

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Mariana Contreras, Assistant Life and Culture Editor
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