A star rating of 4 out of 5.

I think a lot of people think they know what they're getting with Mr & Mrs Smith.


The show, of course, has a somewhat complicated history, and that's before you even get started on it being based on a 2005 film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The series was first announced in 2021 as a creative collaboration between Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and was meant to be arriving on Prime Video in 2022.

When Waller-Bridge stepped away from the project due to "creative differences", it seemed evident what this show would be, because Glover's own creative trajectory has landed so thoroughly in the surreal and the off-kilter.

His own series, Atlanta, was notoriously dreamlike and free-wheeling, straying further from its original premise as the years went on - and often landing more in the anthology space. Meanwhile, his music as Childish Gambino has also become more high concept over the years.

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Fans of the artistic polymath can be forgiven for thinking this too would be a trippy, heady experience.

However, that's not quite where Mr & Mrs Smith has landed...

Donald Glover appears shirtless in Mr & Mrs Smith
Donald Glover stars in Mr & Mrs Smith. David Lee/Prime Video

In truth, Mr & Mrs Smith does lean into surreal concepts and sequences, but perhaps not as extensively as one might have presumed. It is actually one of Glover's more accessible projects, and given the already high concept premise, it benefits from this approach.

The story follows two people who are hired by a mysterious spy organisation, which they don't even know anything about, to complete high risk missions for substantial fees.

They are given new identities as John and Jane Smith, and paired up as a married couple. They live together, work together and, as time goes on, their relationship and their marriage becomes more and more real.

Fans of the film by which this has been inspired will note that they are in almost no way similar or connected.

The general premise, the worlds in which they take place and the tones are completely different. The only thing they do share is two married spies called John and Jane Smith.

Based on comments made by Glover, this feels like less of a loving tribute to the film, or borne out of an appreciation for it, but instead that he liked aspects of the original premise but not the execution.

He's almost revealed as much himself, saying that he got into the project because he didn't "get" the original film and wanted to see "what kind of movie" we need now, rather than "just a good date movie".

Donald Glover reading a piece of paper and Maya Erskine looking at a laptop in Mr and Mrs Smith
Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in Mr & Mrs Smith. David Lee/Prime Video

Whatever the origination of this take on the concept, it works.

Glover, showrunner Francesca Sloane and their team of writers use the series to examine the very concept of marriage and partnership - the early exciting days, the gradual emergence of conflict and the push and pull between your devotion and duty to one another, when up against your own individualism.

There are spy thrills, for sure, but they're largely used to expound upon this initial concept, and introduce literal high stakes to an emotional pressure cooker. Of course, this is all in a situation where they literally can't leave one another...

The premise is solid and innately funny, but it only truly works because it has two incredibly gifted performers at its centre, who have a whole lot of chemistry with one another.

Glover is impressive - charming, funny, an effortless leading man who never takes the easy choice and is always surprising. But, of course, we already knew he would be.

Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in Mr and Mrs Smith sitting on a bench in a park
Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in Mr & Mrs Smith. David Lee/Prime Video

The breakout is Erskine, who has already proven herself in series such as PEN15, Betas and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but here gets a chance to reach a new audience, and excels in the complex role.

Her Jane is more hard-edged and practical than John, but doesn't fall into stereotypes and clichés. We learn more about both of them as the season progresses, and Erskine believably and comprehensively sells us on every new shade of her character, while also proving to be an engaging action star.

Some of the best scenes across the season are made up of the two of them talking. Whether they're falling for one another, bickering, completing a mission or simply bouncing off each other's energy, they are electric and often hilarious to watch - even if their open air discussions mean they are two of the least covert spies ever put to screen.

The action, the locations and visual style of the series are all also impressive and engaging, but smartly they do tend to play a supporting role to the exploration of the central characters and their relationship, and they aren't the things you first recall when thinking back on an episode.

Maya Erskine holds a rifle in a scene from Mr & Mrs Smith
Maya Erskine stars in Mr & Mrs Smith. David Lee/Prime Video

Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is populated with a who's who of A-listers and acting talent, from Alexander Skarsgård to Sarah Paulson, Sharon Horgan to Ron Perlman.

Each make memorable guest appearances across the episodes, with another addition, John Turturro, appearing in some especially memorable scenes.

Wagner Moura and Parker Posey also make a particular impact in their episode, as another couple who have a double date with John and Jane.

It's a stand-out instalment, playing on the way couples interact with others, and how they work together as a 'team', while proving to be the perfect example of absurdly mixing the high concept spy world with down-to-earth situations - but to reveal any more would be spoiling the fun.

Wagner Moura holding a credit card in Mr & Mrs Smith
Wagner Moura in Mr & Mrs Smith. David Lee/Prime Video

Perhaps the best feat the series accomplishes is to keep its episodes just that - truly episodic.

Where so many shows have become obsessed with telling one long-running narrative, with each episode blending into the next, this one keeps a through-line of character development, but tells varied stories, often with what are assumed to be substantial time-jumps between them.

The rotating guest cast helps with this, but it leaves the series feeling more adventurous, able to explore different themes and depict different missions, each of which has its own individual texture.

All of this means there perhaps aren't as many earth-shattering twists that some may be expecting. If you've seen the trailer, then you can probably gauge the sort of thing you should expect, even if you assumed that Glover's involvement meant there was a surprise hiding somewhere.

Perhaps the thing which ties it closest to Atlanta is its atmosphere and tone, which is always kept slightly off-kilter and foreboding, in large part because of an excellent, distinctive score from composer Emile Mosseri.

It's not going to rewrite the rule book or redefine the spy genre, and not every moment of it lands. If you're a fan of the film and looking for something similar, this really might not be your speed.

What Mr & Mrs Smith is, though, is a consistently funny, well-realised version of its core concept, with impressive action, a unique tone and a convincing exploration of its themes.

If this was Glover's intention at the outset, as appears to have been the case, well then - mission accomplished.

Mr & Mrs Smith premieres on Friday 2nd February on Prime Video. Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Prime Video and pay £8.99 a month after that.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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