Is it possible for everything that you know turned out to be a lie? What happens when you find out that you might not be who you’re supposed to be? What would you do to find out the truth? That’s part of the premise behind the new TNT drama “Legends,” which had one man’s world turned upside down with a major revelation that was still hard to believe. The show has demonstrated some potential with the casting of a few of the leading characters, but its way too familiar premise threatened to derail it before it began.
“Legends” followed Martin Odom (Sean Bean) who was one of the FBI’s greatest undercover operatives in the way that he could inhabit another identity like it was already part of him. He was able to add some realistic layers to a legend that was pure fiction in order to make sure he wasn’t killed during his often dangerous undercover assignments. Unfortunately, Martin’s detailed approach to his legends didn’t extend itself to working well with others. He often didn’t make regular contact with his handler Crystal (Ali Larter) who had a contentious history with Martin in the past. Due to his lack of communication, the ATF nearly blew his cover while he was looking to destroy a group looking to cause some serious damage at a big government event. Martin has been forced by his boss Nelson Gates (Steve Harris) to work with Crystal and her team as a way to build a bridge between Martin and Crystal. Sadly, Martin’s undercover assignments often prevented him from spending time with his son Aiden (Mason Cook), which also cost him his marriage to Aiden’s mother Sonya (Amber Valletta). It also didn’t help that Martin had been having a very hard time shedding his false identities after each assignment. He often signed checks with the wrong name and acted differently than normal. Martin ended up getting the shock of his life when a strange man started following him and told him that he wasn’t really Martin Odum, but it was another legend as well. Before he could get answers, the man ended up murdered as a result. Martin’s inquiries also made him a target for Tony Rice (Morris Chestnut) who was investigating the crime. Will Rice prove to be a valuable ally or another enemy that Martin couldn’t afford in his line of work?
In terms of questions, the show posed a few, but the biggest one involved whether it had the staying power to last due to its weak premise. The show’s weekly cases were pretty generic, and were often resolved pretty quickly. Those cases made the show feel more like a police procedure than a mystery thriller that has only just begun to form. Viewers would rather know Martin’s true identity and who was responsible for his current state. Early signs in the second episode pointed to Harris’ rather vague Gates who could either be a clueless friend or a foe pretending to be an ally. Harris’ character hinted that either could be the case as he warned Martin not to share his suspicions with anyone about his situation. Sure, the plot echoed a lot of elements from “The Bourne Identity,” but the case seemed to sell the familiar plot in a way that it almost didn’t seem too far fetched. Future episodes need to further explore the mystery element of the show without giving too much away. Things can be hinted at without resolving the show’s biggest plot, because the series will be over before it truly begins to get interesting. A possible solution would be for Bean’s Martin to find an ally that he could confide his secrets to that way the story could get off the ground. The likely candidate will be Chestnut’s character who was just as eager for the truth as Odum was. The show also needed to find a way to better weave Martin’s family life into his work life without making them feel like a major distraction. It could help for viewers to get a few more flashbacks of Martin’s personal life to get a better idea as to why his marriage ended in the first place. The show could also give a few of the supporting cast members more to do than being background players to Bean’s character, such as Tina Majorino’s Maggie, because those characters helped to provide some much needed moments of comedic relief. Hopefully, that will happen sooner rather than later.
As for breakout performances, Bean and Larter led the pack due to their very dynamic performances and for the fact that they were featured prominently in the first two episodes. Bean’s Martin proved to be the show’s biggest draw so far because he made Martin to be the ultimate wildcard. No one knew what he was going to do next. He could either hug or kill someone just as easily as flipping a switch. He proved the ghost of a character with a commanding presence that made him worth watching even if he was doing something as mundane as going to the grocery store. Bean easily excelled at doing the big action scenes, but he also proved just as good at exploring Martin’s emotional turmoil with struggling to find his true identity amongst all of the aliases. Bean’s strongest scene was when he was in a standoff with a terrorist holding a trigger for a bomb. Instead of backing away, he got in the man’s face and called his bluff in a way that was justified and frightening at the same time. He also had a decent on-screen rapport with Larter that should remain platonic for the time being. Larter’s Crystal, on the other hand, proved to be a bigger challenge to follow because the character wasn’t as well defined as Bean’s Martin. She was the straight woman to his wildcard, which often gave her little to do other than scold him on-screen. In the second episode, Larter had the chance to explore her character’s emotional side when a colleague of hers was killed during an operation with the Russian mob. She demonstrated both a vulnerable and vengeful side in the same scene. Let’s hope that she gets to explore that in the next episode, which picks up right where that case left off. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
"Legends" premiered on August 13th and airs Wednesdays at 9:00 PM on TNT.
Verdict: Bean and Larter gave strong performances, but the show's overall plots hasn't entirely caught up with them just yet.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)