There's a certain inevitability to Prime Video's Mr. & Mrs. Smith finale, "A Breakup," and it's not just because married spies John (Donald Glover) and Jane Smith (Maya Erskine) nearly destroy their home in a heated shootout.
For eight episodes, viewers have been waiting for John and Jane to turn their guns on each other — just as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt did in the film's most famous set piece — and when the moment finally comes, it's cathartic. They don't kill one another, of course, but the violence provides an outlet for their pain and frustration, which has compounded over the course of the season. Their destructive rampage (and a dose of truth serum) gives them the courage to bare their souls, bringing them back together just in time to confront an even deadlier threat: the "extremely high-risk" Smiths (Wagner Moura and Parker Posey) sent to "finalize" them by their anonymous, omnipresent boss, Hihi.
Jane neutralizes Moura's character, but John is wounded during the ensuing firefight, and they flee to the panic room in their extravagant New York City brownstone. Inside, John deteriorates rapidly, and it becomes clear that the only way to save his life is to come out guns blazing and hope to catch Posey's assassin, who paces outside the door like a lion hunting prey, unaware.
The music swells as Jane counts to three, but creators Francesca Sloane and Glover (who co-wrote the episode, with Glover directing solo) cut away right as she's about to open the door. From the street, three gunshots illuminate the dark windows of the house, and the camera slowly pulls away until the credits begin to play. A mid-credits scene fails to offer any clues about what happened — which Jane survived? Did John succumb to his gunshot wound? — although it does advance a comedic subplot about their nosy neighbor (Paul Dano), a real estate analyst for Sotheby's, attempting to get a closer look at their "bespoke" home and convince them to sell.
It's hardly surprising that Mr. & Mrs. Smith ends on a cliffhanger, particularly one that leaves John and Jane's fates up in the air. Espionage Thriller Law practically dictates that stories like these end on a suspenseful note, as do the unspoken rules of streaming shows (and binge releases, more specifically), which use last-minute revelations and dangling plot threads to keep viewers coming back for more. By employing a similar strategy, the reboot makes an obvious case for a Season 2 renewal. And with so many big names attached to the show — including guest stars Michaela Coel, John Turturro, and Sarah Paulson and executive producer and director Hiro Murai — it's not hard to see why Prime Video would want to continue investing in the project, which was produced under Glover's overall deal with the company.
The problem with the final sequence, though, is that it sets up a very different kind of conflict. Season 1 is primarily concerned with the surprising romance that develops between John and Jane, two strangers brought together by their high-risk job, and then pushed apart by their wildly divergent personalities and backgrounds. Their episodic missions are significant only insofar as they reveal new layers to their relationship or nudge them toward a milestone moment. Saving tech titan Gavol (Sharon Horgan) from kidnappers in Episode 3, "First Vacation," fosters a greater degree of intimacy as John and Jane share their location with one another and John reveals he's violating company rules by speaking to his mother; the undercover assignment they describe to their therapist (Paulson) in Episode 6, "Couples Therapy (Naked & Afraid)," illuminates the issues they face as an interracial couple and how their identities have shaped their worldviews.
While their espionage work is important (after all, the show wouldn't exist without it) Sloane and Glover ensure that it always comes second to John and Jane's connection — even in the finale, the most action-packed episode of the season. As they hide in the panic room, Jane, the superior spy and more controlling of the two, extends John the ultimate kindness: She asks for, and then goes along with, his plan to take out Posey's Jane. This seemingly simple act of trust goes a long way toward repairing the rift between them, as John's primary issue in their relationship is Jane's habit of diminishing his contributions and instincts.
With the matter settled, they spend their final minutes of peace negotiating over the size of their future family ("We can have one kid, alright?" says Jane, to which John counters with "five") and divulging their real names. When Jane reveals her name is Alana — John's name is Michael, as we learned earlier — they tearfully agree that their aliases are better. Their previous lives are no longer relevant; all that matters is their shared present and, if they can make it out of the panic room alive, future.
But any way you slice it, that future won't look like John's dream of having a house full of kids (plus his mom) in the mountains. If Mr. & Mrs. Smith is to continue, at least one lead will have to survive, which leaves two possible lanes for Season 2. Either one dies and the other sets out to avenge their death, or they both emerge alive and go on the run. (In both scenarios, Posey's character bites the dust — sorry, Other Jane.)
Both of these options would push the espionage portion of the show to the fore at the expense of the relationship drama, something Sloane and Glover actively sought to avoid in the first eight episodes. Were John, for example, to die, a follow-up season would almost certainly track Jane as she dug deeper into the Hihi organization, which spent the latter part of the season pitting the spouses against each other, in an attempt to hold them accountable for their sins. While there's something exciting about the idea of watching Erskine go John Wick on her fellow spies, the simple fact that she'd be on her own lessens the appeal of the series, which owes much of its success to Glover and Eskine's witty banter and intense sexual chemistry.
It's more likely that Jane uses her last remaining bullet to kill Posey's mercenary and she and John flee New York, hoping to outrun Hihi. At the very least, this plot development keeps Mr. & Mrs. Smith's titular characters together, but with survival suddenly top of mind, there would be little room left for meaningful progress in their marriage. When you're constantly looking over your shoulder, it's difficult to establish a rhythm; without it, the hyper-intimate moments that defined Season 1 become less effective, if they're included at all.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith has already foreshadowed John and Jane's fates if they left the organization and struck out on their own. Looking back, the show's opening scene functions as a cautionary tale: Even Smiths who manage to escape (in this case, Alexander Skarsgård and Eiza González) and live off the grid will be found and savagely gunned down — it's just a matter of when.
The extremely high-risk Smiths issue a similar reminder in the finale as they follow orders from Hihi (or "supe," as Moura's character calls their boss) and prepare to execute their colleagues. "Everyone wants to try to make a break for it, and it's silly," Other Jane tells them. "The more you submit to supe, the stronger your faith, the easier it all becomes," Other John adds.
After failing three missions and murdering one of the company's best operatives (if not two), it's too late for John and Jane to submit to Hihi and hope everything goes back to normal. The only way forward for Mr. & Mrs. Smith's embattled spies is through, but the finale's big cliffhanger limits their options before they even get started. For Sloane and Glover, the challenge becomes continuing John and Jane's story in a way that honors the deep emotional connection they developed throughout Season 1, but now that they've boxed themselves into a corner, that mission is looking even more daunting.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is streaming on Prime Video.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.