In the first episode of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” Jane (Maya Erskine) and John (Donald Glover) amble around New York City, spending time in a quaint restaurant and then a park.

They’re chatting, laughing and awkwardly getting to know each other. John asks Jane about herself. She reluctantly answers, but eventually opens up a little more. It’s a charming portrait of a first date.

Then their day takes an abrupt turn, because of their unique jobs.

Jane and John Smith are spies. The woman they’ve been trailing, by order of the shadowy spy organization that employs them, receives the package they’ve been told to intercept. What began as a stakeout-turned-first-date turns into a tense, strategic chase through New York City.

On its surface, as you might have guessed, Amazon Prime Video’s new “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” series, loosely based on the 2005 movie of the same name, is a spy thriller.

But on a deeper level, it’s a study of the millennial generation’s complicated relationship with marriage.

What is ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ about?

Like 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, 2024’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” features a pair of spies.

Jane and John are both employed by the same mysterious spy organization — which they call “Hihi,” after its way of greeting them via text — and are assigned to work together, posing as a married couple.

Each episode involves a new mission and, simultaneously, a new milestone in John and Jane’s relationship. As they work together, they develop real feelings for one another.

But instead of lingering on the fuzzy warmness of the couple’s newly discovered love, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” gets complicated, fast. The pair bicker. They aren’t honest with each other. They’re withholding. They end up in couples’ counseling.

In “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” love is literally a battlefield. The 2005 “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” explored that notion, too. But while the film was glamorous and gritty, the TV series is just gritty.

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” instead of relying on the sex appeal of its two leads, peels back romantic ideas about marriage — and unrelentingly prods at the millennial anxieties underneath.

Millennials and marriage

As has been widely reported and discussed, millennials aren’t getting married at the same rate as previous generations. As Pew Research Center reported in 2020, “Three-in-ten Millennials live with a spouse and their own child — well below the share for previous generations at a comparable age.”

“More than half of Millennials are not married, and those who are got married later in life,” Pew added.

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Why are millennials and Gen Z waiting to get married?

As for why they aren’t getting married, both millennials and Gen Z cited the high price tag of holding a wedding and the fear of divorce, per Yahoo Finance.

It’s interesting, then, that “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” chooses to portray married life the way it does. John and Jane live in a beautiful, perfectly decorated and presumably pricey New York City brownstone — a housing situation that would likely not be impossible if Jane and John didn’t work in the high-demand jobs that dictate their lives.

As Kathryn VanArendonk wrote for Vulture, “The weight of responsibility (in ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’) is ... that your dream life is so otherwise financially unattainable that you can’t have it without taking a job with a truly terrible work-life balance.”

Millennials are notorious for glamorizing hustle culture, and the toxic work-life balance it facilitates could easily wear on a relationship. It certainly wears on Jane and John.

Is it worth it, they wonder, to give up “high-risk, high-reward lives” to have a baby?

Although their situation is unique, many millennial couples have asked that question, according to research.

As CBS reported last year, “A 2021 Pew Research Center Survey shows 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is ‘not too likely’ or ‘not likely at all’ that they will have children someday, up 7 percentage points from 2018’s survey.”

Jane and John Smith’s relationship

Jane and John’s career path ramps their relationship problems up to 100. Jane, who is portrayed as somewhat sociopathic, is controlling during their missions. John is maybe a little too close to his mother, calling her every day.

The couple quarrel and pick each other apart before, during and after high-stake missions, and there’s an unglamorous realness to it all, which is surprising for a slick-looking spy thriller.

As “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” showrunner Francesca Sloane told The Washington Post, “I think my strongest suit is showing the inner depths of raw humanity, and how that can then be funny.”

Despite their disagreements, Jane and John love each other. Jane “pushes John to persevere through feelings of hopelessness,” while John “encourages Jane to shed her colder exterior and find (warmth and love) within herself,” per The Washington Post.

But beyond this, their spy partnership shows their love for each other more than anything else. After all, they’re literal partners in crime, as Alex Abad-Santos pointed out for Vox. Working together everyday, and living together, forces Jane and John to become intimately acquainted with each other.

Their missions quickly fall into a rhythm. They start cracking inside jokes. Whether or not they’re actually good spies, “John and Jane do become good at knowing and understanding their partner,” Abad-Santos wrote for Vox.

Their spy partnership shows what can be accomplished through marriage even as it shows what’s made possible through espionage. What is a marriage if not a partnership in which missions must be carried out?

But instead of eliminating targets and intercepting high-value packages, spouses find themselves going to parent-teacher conferences, divvying up chores, deciding who gets to discipline their kid.

And they approach such tasks based on their knowledge of the other in their partnership — their strengths, weaknesses and everything in between.

Regardless of where the “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” Season 1 finale leaves Jane and John’s relationship (I won’t give away any spoilers), millennial spouses might be surprised to find themselves relating to the pair of spies-turned-lovers — in more ways than one.