Mr. & Mrs. Smith S1E2: Second Date

Marriages are built on honesty. So we open on Jane going through Jack’s stuff while he’s on the patio meditating, and when he catches her, she gives him a straightforward explanation: “I’m going through your stuff.”

Now it’s possible she’s a terrible spy, but it’s more likely she doesn’t want there to be any illusions about the relationship. She’s not really his wife, she’s his colleague, and she’s a spy, and that’s what spies do.

And when John casually suggests the relationship should be a bit more real, she shuts him down quickly. Again, despite the wedding rings and marriage certificate, they’re not really married, and she’d like to keep it that way.

Except where the outside world is concerned. The next door neighbor stops Jane on the sidewalk, accusing her cat of tearing up his garden. Jane lies and says she doesn’t have a cat, but that just leads to more questions. About the cat she claims not to have have, her husband, their house, their jobs… Is he just an annoyed neighbor, or is there something more sinister behind his questions? It’s almost certainly the former, but part of being a spy is that you can never discount the latter.

On that note, Jane and John get another spy mission. It involves an art auction, truth serum and pretending to be on the waitstaff, so we’re leaning into only-in-the-movies spy tropes, which is entirely a good thing. This show knows what kind of show it is. That means it has fun with the spy stuff, and it can do that because it also understands that the spy stuff is window-dressing and it’s the relationship stuff that’s the heart of the story.

The mission also very quickly runs into the Law & Order trope: the most famous actor is automatically the person of interest. In this case it’s John Turturro, playing an eccentric bidding on the art. The mission is to identify one particular bidder a silent auction where neither winning nor losing bidders are announced, and Jane manages to figure out who it is without simply saying, “I bet it’s John Turturro.” It should come as no surprise that he’s terrific in the role, a billionaire entitled enough he adjusts a waiter’s tie without asking, and crazy enough that Jane’s able to get him alone by suggesting they “pay one of the cater-waiters to do whatever we want.” The waiter is, of course, John, and “whatever we want” gets weird very quickly.

But the Smiths have to go along with it; they’ve got a job to do. As was the case last week, neither the spies nor the audience understand why they’re on this mission or what it’s supposed to accomplish. Except unlike last week, things don’t go entirely to plan. Which is a good move for the second episode. We’re establishing that these two aren’t James Bond and Sydney Bristow. They’re good at thinking quickly and improvising a solution, but they screw things up, they’re frequently in over their head, and their unseen boss doesn’t give them enough information to make good decisions.

So it’s a good second step, but at 40 minutes, the episode still feels very thin. We could have used more Turturro, more spycraft, and more buildup to an ending that ends up feeling unearned. A body-disposal scene tries to make a point about how unpleasant that process is, but it’s too quick to have the impact it should. In fairness, Glover says he got Covid filming the scene, so maybe it’s understandable he didn’t want to linger over it.

That being said, the season’s only eight episodes. No reason to rush through them.

Stray Bullets:
• The first episode was called “First Date.” The remaining episodes aren’t titled “Third Date,” “Fourth Date,” etc. but it’d be pretty funny if they were.

• When John decides to return the favor and spy on Jane, she has cannibal porn running on her laptop. Presumably as a gotcha and not out of genuine interest.

• It turns out the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt Mr. & Mrs. Smith was in turn a remake of a 1996 CBS drama of the same name that starred Scott Bakula and Maria Bello, and whose premise is closer to this show’s than the film’s — Bakula is a spy working for a mysterious organization who meets a rival spy (Bello) who’s every bit his match. When he foils her mission and she gets fired, his organization assigns them to work together. The show filmed 13 episodes; only 9 were aired before the show was canceled.

• Maria Bello might have gotten a pink slip, but it seems likely that if our John and Jane fail too many missions, they’re not getting a severance package and six months of COBRA.

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