Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
With Burn Notice over and Homeland confined to premium viewing only, basic cable’s best hope for a weekly spy drama fix may be TNT’s new series Legends. Un-gripping title aside, this new Sean Bean vehicle shows surprising promise. Although it follows the cliché template for every crime drama of the last ten years (eccentric male expert and his younger female law enforcement handler), the format is elevated by familiar actors and an intriguing added premise.
Based on Robert Littell’s Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation, Legends the series follows Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Patriot Games, National Treasure, GoldenEye, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sharpe series) as undercover FBI agent Martin Odum, the “most naturally gifted undercover operative” in the US arsenal. Bean himself seems naturally gifted for the role, easing eerily between his “legend,” or cover identity, and his real self, donning accents, hairstyles, and costumes with Mission Impossible-style finesse. But the ultimate deception may be on Odum himself–according to a shadowy figure with Manchurian Candidate overtones, Odum may not really be Odum. Martin’s “real” life may be nothing more than just another legend.
Bean’s performance is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, including Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), Steve Harris (Awake, Minority Report), and Tina Majorino (True Blood, Veronica Mars, Corinna, Corinna, Waterworld, Andre), although we’re hoping Larter and Majorino aren’t getting typecast–Larter already stripping as she did in Heroes and Majorino as the same tech nerd we’ve seen her play so well and so often.
TNT has scheduled ten episodes, with presumably more to come, and has been hitting the “Sean Bean returns to TV” angle hard with their promotion of the series. The Wednesday night slot (before raunchy comedy Franklin & Bash) seems a strange fit, and their last buddy cop effort, King & Maxwell, didn’t pan out despite a fun premise and a strong, appealing cast. Legends is darker, but not unrelentingly so, and if they keep to a “bad guys of the week” rhythm–showing Bean in multiple undercover roles, instead of holding one plotline through the whole season–it will make for a new fix worth tuning into.
Legends airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Central on TNT.