I battled the cable company’s phone tree for half an hour to bring you my thoughts on Legends and all I got was this vague sense of promise.
Legends, Wednesdays at 9/8c, only on TNT.
Here’s What We Know
Sean Bean is Martin Odum, the most natural undercover agent the FBI has ever had. He’s a legend at living his cover stories – his legends. But what if Martin Odum is also a legend… and Martin doesn’t quite know that yet?
Background (Eyes Only)
IMDB doesn’t list a creator and none of the writers or producers are (currently) listed on more than a couple of episodes. The names are solid, although they do suggest a certain level of aesthetic – for examples: Mark Bomback wrote the most recent Planet of the Apes, The Wolverine, and Live Free or Die Hard (i.e. #4) and Howard Gordon executive produced 24 and Tyrant among others.
But oh man the cast. Sean Bean is the sort of good looking but not perfect, well-trained but not showy actor you want playing multiple characters, several of which will doubtless be broody. Smart, talented, TV veteran role players are really well cast in their roles here: Ali Larter, Tina Majorino (Mac from Veronica Mars), Steve Harris as a CIA suit… nary a line out of place from this crew.
Feels like it’s primarily aimed at whoever networks think are fans of the Bourne movies. And folks who felt Alias never took itself seriously enough. Oh, and people who really want to see Sean Bean survive well into a storyline for once.
We Have a Go
There’s certainly promise here. The undercover FBI plot is generally well executed – I could watch this team go after a single suitable threat for the entire short season. The possibility that there’s Something Else going on is very intriguing, although as the next section notes we don’t get much of it in the pilot.
A smaller cast and more intimate scenario – plus presumably a bigger budget, what with Bean headlining – puts Legends at the high end of TNT’s continual rebranding of original programming. It’s no The Last Ship, in other words.
Somehow they filled an hour and still underwrote everything. There’s a moment early on where Bean gives some of his cover’s backstory and it’s so perfunctory that it tells instead of shows us something about the meta arc, and for no good reason. Zeljko Ivanek basically sleepwalks through his few lines, and he’s supposed to (spoiler) be the episode’s big bad.1 Nothing really rises to the level of cliche, but my pulse neither quickened nor halted at any point. I’m left thinking ‘Okay, got it. And….?’
The series is also based on a novel, but not a series of novels, leading to the ever-burning question: where are they going with this? It’s a ten episode order – lawd help us if they try and stretch the mystery into a second season, not because it couldn’t sustain that long, but because that would mean they’d be thinking third season. And whatever is going on with Legends I would be stunned to see it hold together that long.
The possible answers to ‘And?’ are quite intriguing. If the show revealed that Odum is actually losing it, that would be a fascinating darker arc. If there’s some sort of layers upon layers conspiracy, that’s catnip to the sort of person who watches these sort of shows.2 Buuuuut I wasn’t even left with any questions by pilot’s end. I was just sort of… left. I’ll undoubtedly tune in through at least episode four3 and I’d suggest waiting to hear how things shake out (I mean, it’s always possible they just kill Sean Bean in episode two) before making the commitment.