The way Sean Bean’s craggy face commands the screen in the new television crime show, Legends, which premiered on TNT last week, is the show’s best asset.
But the writing needs to level up.
Legends has a ten-episode run on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on TNT. It stars Bean as Martin Odum, a “legendary” FBI undercover agent who creates legends, aka false identifies, and inhabits them with ease. This leads to personality confusion, as when Martin takes on a particularly unhinged legend as a right-wing extremist to infiltrate a group planning a bombing.
But the bombing is only the crime of the week. The pilot teases the real arc of the show: discovering the lost identity hiding under Martin Odum, who apparently is just one more legend. Martin receives several hints about who he really is from a man who is then murdered before he can reveal all, as happens frequently in spy shows.
Editor's Note: There are spoilers for the pilot.
That’s fine, I love undercover spy/police stories, particularly ones that star world-weary cynical main characters. Bean’s Martin fits the bill perfectly. But the show’s dialogue needs work, along with its use of supporting characters.
In a particularly clumsy piece of dialogue, Bean’s accent is explained in an exchange between Martin and Tina Majorino’s Special Agent Maggie Harris with a cutesy exchange about how they’re both military brats, but Harris didn’t live overseas and thus doesn’t have a “cool” accent like Martin.
It’s all silly, especially when the accent could have easily been explained by dual citizenship. We know Sean Bean isn’t American. Trust me, we don’t mind because, hey, Sean Bean. Years ago, The Equalizer starred the very-English Edward Woodward as a former CIA agent, and the explanation was simply his mother was an American. That’s all that's needed in Legends.
Unfortunately, few of the supporting characters are interesting enough to hold the viewer’s attention as Bean does, with the exception of Zeljko Ivanek as the pilot’s villain. Worst is the misuse of Ali Larter as Crystal Quest, Martin’s FBI handler and ex-lover. (I have to wonder if her name isn’t a clue, however.)
Instead of concentrating building her character, the pilot decided to show off Larter’s physical assets. First, of course, she’s Martin’s ex-girlfriend. Second, of course, Martin, in his guise as the right-wing extremist, is taken to a strip club. Third, of course, the plot requires Larter to pose as a stripper to secretly talk to Martin. Fourth, of course, she must give Martin a lap dance.
I’m disappointed. The scene is just another cop show strip club scene. I’d have loved seeing something different for a change, such as a Waffle House meeting with Crystal posing as a sarcastic waitress. At the very least, that would have given Larter something far more interesting to do and perhaps even humanized the extremists.
I also had a twinge of worry at the killing off of two of the three minority characters in the pilot, especially since those two happened to be the most interesting characters besides Crystal. I hope Majorino’s Harris has more to do in following episodes, because someone needs to pick up the slack.
And yet, despite my reservations, I’ll watch the entire season. Bean slides so well into his various identities and when he tries to find himself again, his confusion and sadness are written all over his face.
I only hope Martin doesn’t die at the end of the series. #DontKillSeanBean
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.