Hello. You have reached this blog, I presume, because you, like me, finished the new Prime series Mr. & Mrs. Smith. You, like me, sat through seven episodes of romance-inflected espionage, and then you, like me, dialed up the season finale to see how our wayward, sometimes-lovestruck assassins Jane and John Smith would fare. And then you, like me, departed the series with blinding rage and just seven words on your mind.
HOW DARE THEY KILL MAX THE CAT?!
The nerve! The injustice! The horror! The—I do not think I am overstating things—abject scandal! The cruelty to us, the viewing public, and to the spirit of the dearly departed Maxy, the series’ low-key star! The contempt for the glue that held the Smiths together! The monstrosity! The disrespect to the real, uncredited, and presumably still living stage cat who played him! The nightmare that sent a nation of reeling pet lovers off to wake up their sweet, slumbering babies to tell them that they love them! The unforgivable shame! Let us all, now, breathe for a moment into a paper bag in Max’s honor.
Let’s take a step back. We met Max early in the first episode, as it was revealed that Jane (Maya Erskine) disobeyed the shadowy Smith spy agency’s requirement to forsake all ties to her pre-Smith life in order to bring along her beloved pink-nosed tabby. Max happily settles into life in the Smiths’ plush New York townhouse to the dismay of an allergic John (Donald Glover), and spends much of the season flouncing around the new digs. He snuggles with Jane in bed and poops in fussy next-door neighbor Paul Dano’s plants (richly deserved). When the other Smiths—Parker Posey and Wagner Moura as fellow agents—come by for dinner, he lets the new Jane (Posey) scratch his head. He waits patiently while his own Jane and John jet-set on missions around the world, all with nary a mention of a cat sitter.
The finale finds the Smiths in crisis. Having failed a third mission, the freshly broken-up pair receives new orders: to “eliminate” one another. At home with Max, Jane initially seems troubled by the command. In lieu of embarking on a hunt for John, who had moved out prior to the new orders, she stops to get bagels and gazes wistfully at the happy couples around her.
And then it happens. As Jane pauses to feed Max—a perfect angel defying the typical mewing frenzy of his kind to wait patiently for the can to be opened—several bullets fly through a window. They miss Jane, but Max is not so lucky; we get a horrible glimpse of his tiny, limp body bleeding on the kitchen island in direct violation of the (a partial list that I will not be fact-checking) Geneva Conventions, First Amendment, U.N. Charter, and a plurality of holy texts. He was a perfect angel; the living, purring embodiment of love—a fuzzy bit of sentimentality that points to the warmth beneath Jane’s steely interior, whose gradual revelation beneath her self-stated sociopathic tendencies forms the show’s emotional core. And they killed him.
But it’s fiction!, you might argue. No cats, surely, were harmed in the making of the show. This changes nothing: Max’s execution is an outrage.
Did Max need to die in service to the story of Mr. & Mrs. Smith? No, he did not. Perhaps Jane needed a narrative shove to send her into a murderous rage at presumed shooter John, fine—but surely, simply thinking that her ex-partner was now trying to kill her would have been enough. Or almost hitting Max, maybe even hitting poor Maxy’s little tail. Wouldn’t that be enough to send any loving cat owner, particularly one trained as an assassin, off the deep end? Max! Did! Not! Need! To! Die!
But our prince’s demise wasn’t enough—no, his memory had to be desecrated, too. Jane does indeed embark on a violent—righteous; brave; dare I say justified?—pursuit of John. Jane and John battle their way through the Whitney Museum and the High Line, across the Meatpacking District and ultimately back to their townhouse, with Jane trying variously to avenge Max via bomb, knife, fist, and bullet. So far, so good. It is the feline John Wick retelling that our little guy deserved.
And then … Jane gets over it. Exhausted by their fight and newly injected with truth serum, Jane and John have about as open and loving a conversation as possible for two people to have. They talk about her relationship with her dad, their checkered careers, their insecurities; they hold hands, they apologize for hurting one another, they make out, they agree to have children together. Nearly nine minutes of total, soul-bearing honesty pass before Jane—without any particular emotion, as if her cherished and faithful buddy leaving her life after all their years together was not, in fact, a very big deal—finally asks, “Why did you kill Max?”
We learn, of course, that John had nothing to do with it—Max was struck down by those wily other Smiths. But that revelation is preceded by almost nine freaking minutes where Jane believes that she is canoodling with the guy who murdered her darling pet in cold blood—and she not only continues canoodling, she doesn’t so much as confront him about it.
When the truth comes out at last and John learns that Max is dead, does Jane’s lover express empathy or grief? No! Quoth John: “I hate that cat.” Is Jane outraged by this sanguinity, this heartless, vile dismissal of a creature she held so dear? Also no!! I am not saying I would hunt Donald Glover to the ends of the earth if he so much as gave my cat a dirty look—I am also not not saying this, though my lawyer (my cat) has advised me not to say any more—but I do not think I am asking much for Jane to not immediately forgive and forget. Would Keanu Reeves have laid down the brass knuckles to let Viggo Tarasov whisper sweet nothings into his neck? No. No, he would not have.
Max deserved better. Rest in power, big fella.