“Second Date”, Mr. & Mrs. Smith‘s lean, focused second episode, opens with its protagonists snooping through each other’s belongings – a fitting visual metaphor for the poking around all new couples do in some way, as they begin to feel out the new emotional (and physical) space they’re sharing. However, the truth often only comes out when the cards are on the table – and as “Second Date” brings its characters to that moment for the first time, begins displaying some of the exciting potential seen in the (enjoyable, but meandering) pilot episode.
“Second Date”, as the title propounds, focuses on John and Jane’s second mission – but it’s also about observing the pair as they begin to develop a rapport with each other as they try to figure out the very vague personal and professional parameters of their new careers. John ponders whether the company wants them to truly fall in love and shares his dream of having someone to come home to after a terrible day, and Jane proposes a pact for them to part ways once they’ve made a “comfortable” amount of money; it’s clear the two are coming from a very different starting place with their new arrangement, and “Second Date” smartly pokes at this in ways that catalyze the kinetic second half of the episode (which thankfully clocks in at 46 minutes, a much more manageable length for a drama, I don’t give a shit where it’s airing).
After the successful (if unnerving) intercept of “First Date”, John and Jane are settling rather comfortably into their new arrangements, a bit of unearned confidence bleeding into their pointed observations – and later, their improvised plan to complete their second mission at a swanky art show. And it makes for an interesting episode, as “Second Date” reflects on the nature of first impressions: both textually, through John and Jane’s quickly-evolving understanding of each other, and observably, as Mr. & Mrs. Smith shifts away from the wandering pilot into something sharper, funnier – and surprisingly, sexier, as “Second Date” puts dresses its stars to the nines and sends them off to find and interrogate an art collector (played by none other than John Turturro, one of the episode’s two eye-raising guest appearances).
The mission, of course, is the real highlight of the episode: Mr. & Mrs. Smith‘s first two episodes have done a fantastic job establishing its characters adaptative working styles. It makes for great interplay, as John switches up the plan on the fly, planting himself within the catering staff (which… did he forget about the last catering staff he saw?) as Jane’s instincts take over flying solo, falling quickly into a false identity when she approaches real estate mogul Eric Shane (Turturro), who is in the process of purchasing Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) for a record $106 million.
Like the first episode, “Second Date” isolates its characters to place them in an extremely intimate setting; their voices literally echoing through each other’s heads, in a way often reserved for our internal monologue. It’s a really strong integration of sound design into the show’s narrative; it makes their conversations, which range from talking about mission specifics to Jane making cracks about his “natural” catering ability, feel incredibly personal, even when they’re ostensibly focused on the narrative beat at hand.
“Second Date” also benefits from a bit of distance from the pilot, which lets its sardonic sense of humor shine through, particularly in the episode’s second half. John and Jane’s early confidence comes back to haunt them at the mission’s most critical moment, when they both accidentally inject Eric with truth serum and let him escape. As the two watch him admit to various felonies (he grabs the microphone from the auction’s MC to rant about exploitation islands for tax and sex), babble about the daughter he forgets he has, and later expire on their kitchen floor, one can feel “Second Date” starting to find a rhythm for the series, in a way that pays off wonderfully in the third act.
After Eric dies, the couple really put their newfound relationship through a stress test, as they contend with breaking the corpse’s arms and legs so he’ll fit in their rooftop composter. A moment darkly hilarious (and reminiscent of The Sopranos‘ season four episode, “Whoever Did This”) and unsettlingly endearing, John and Jane’s first failed mission feels like a proof of concept for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, striking the difficult balance of being an intriguing story about perception (like when Jane plants a link to cannibal porn on her laptop, knowing John was going to snoop through it) and reality, of what happens when two people take something theoretical (both in life and love) and have to contend with it being real.
The episode ends with Jane finding John in the basement, trying to put the day’s events behind him by watching a few ripoff Tom & Jerry cartoons. After talking and joking for a few moments, “Second Date” closes with the two having some impromptu sex, immediately breaking the boundaries set not 18 hours earlier: though Jane is still playing her cards incredibly close to her vest, even she can recognize sometimes it’s just nice to have some company (or a good fuck) when it’s been a real shit day.
As they embrace, Mr. & Mrs. Smith proves its willing to commit to its premise, in a way so many modern dramas are unwilling to do early on. Stylish, focused – and even a little bit sexy – “Second Date” is a terrific second offering for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, an encouraging sign the series is quickly getting a grasp on its many competing elements as it pushes its audience, and central couple, through a wringer of dangerous missions, impressive guest stars, and emotional vulnerability.
- what is this jar with two blue marbles Jane has in her bedroom?
- I really don’t like the logo they chose for the series. It’s so fucking boring.
- The final shot of the episode sees the camera pan over the couple’s work computer screen, where Mr. Hihi warns them of a MISSION INCOMPLETE, and ONLY 2 FAILURES REMAINING – which is a silly, arbitrary bit of information to close the episode on, unless this series is really committed to offing its main characters every few years.
- Props again to the sound design team – that bone breaking sound was gnarly.
- after Jane proposes paying John the ‘busboy’ to do whatever he wants, Eric takes the pair to his room and forces them to engage in… dog play? Look, weird billionaire sexual proclivities is well-worn territory on modern television, but this extended sequence was still uncomfortable as hell.
- Well, Jane is certainly a… confident driver, we’ll say.
- Harris definitely mentions the infamous composter, which cannot bode well for his future.