Premiere Date: August 13th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Starring: Sean Bean, Ali Larter, Morris Chestnut, Tina Majorino, Steve Harris, Mason Cook, Amber Valletta, Rob Mayes
MTV debuted a clever TV show back in July, titled Finding Carter, which spoke about identity, where the titular main character found out that the mum she grew up with was in fact her kidnapper and that she had a whole new family that was waiting for her. The rest of the show explores identity, and how Carter tries to find out who she is in light of this revelation. TNT releases another new show this week about a similar theme. Though not about kidnapping, identity is nevertheless equally discussed in Legends, a covert-ops spy drama starring Sean Bean, of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fame. One of the most smartly produced summer series I’ve seen on TNT since Perception a few years ago, Legends, rather than being a story about fairytales, fables and legends as the title of the show suggests, instead gives us a story uniquely similar to the new MTV drama. Centring on Martin Odum (Sean Bean) and his quest to find out who he is amidst revelations of the contrary, we see a story unravel full of twists and turns, and a glimpse inside the FBI Deep Covers Operative Division (a fictional division, the FBI doesn’t have this section in real life).
TNT have always brought to us big productions and powerful stories to the screen, from crime procedurals like Rizzoli and Isles, Perception and The Closer, to apocalyptic dramas Falling Skies and The Last Ship, light hearted comedy-dramas like Franklin and Bash, and drama soaps like Dallas. The introduction of Legends however breaks protocol and takes the adrenaline and excitement stakes to a higher level. Production-wise, this is one of the most ingenious and exciting dramas I’ve watched since BBC America’s Orphan Black. And while I’m always wary of starting a new series on TNT (their track record at renewing TV shows for anything longer than 3 seasons has never been that high- see shows like King and Maxwell, Men of a Certain Age, Hawthorne, Mob City, Monday Mornings and Memphis Beat); Legends will hopefully defy the trend, being as promising as it is, and will be a great show to watch if you enjoy intense action shows like 24, Alias, Falling Skies or Burn Notice.
While the concept about identity, conspiracy, deep cover missions and the like is nothing new in TV show history (see above shows like 24, Alias and Burn Notice for similar themes that ran through each of the series), it is the acting and the characters that make this show shine rather than the storyline. Sean Bean’s performance alone ought to be a good reason for watching the show, or at least the pilot. Regardless of how good a show really is, it is the pilot that will ultimately bring you in or otherwise leave you to shoving the show aside and moving on to the next TV show pilot that interests you a lot more than the one you ditched.
To put the storyline of the new series under a microscope, here’s what happens in the pilot in a nutshell: Legends follows Martin Odum, part of the FBI’s Deep Covers Operatives division. Having the ability to immerse himself in every deep cover role to the point where he himself believes and acts out the cover story he is trying to sell (for the period of time that he is undercover), Martin comes back to real life after the abrupt end of his 6 month undercover work in a cult determined to revolutionise change by threats, bombs, and other weaponry devices in order to further their cause. The pilot delves into the case of the week- Martin and his team of operatives stopping the cult in time before casualties and other collateral damage occurs, while also bringing to light a discovery. Meeting a mysterious man in the subway, Martin is told that whom he once believed to be himself (Martin) is actually a legend (in short- Martin and his life is also a cover story he has believed to be true…remind you of Total Recall anyone?). Legends then sets the story with Martin on a quest for the truth, and not trusting anyone else in the process.
Legends is by far one of the most intriguing action/sci fi shows I’ve seen since Orphan Black. Sean himself as an actor is quite a versatile all-rounder- having possibly one of the most flawless American accents I’ve heard on TV since Jason Isaacs in Awake (isn’t it ironic that both these two shows star Steve Harris as well? … who is indeed the brother of Wood Harris, one of the stars of the 2001 movie Remember the Titans… just fun fact trivia that is interesting to note). While much of the other cast didn’t really have much time to shine with their acting skills on the pilot episode, what they did do complimented Sean’s acting quite nicely. But if I were to be frank, Steve Harris acts just like how he acted in Awake, which isn’t really saying much, and when I see Tina Majorino in Legends, all I can see is her character of Mac in Veronica Mars. While those two observations obviously detract from my overall enjoyment of the show, what will bring me to either loving it or just liking the show will be on Sean’s acting in further episodes.
While his track record at staying on a TV show (or movie) hasn’t been stellar, considering he died in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and perished at the end of Game of Thrones Season 1 (I have not seen GOT, just heard that Sean’s character died at the end of the first season), Sean will hopefully bring the character of Martin Odum (or whomever he really is) to life as we delve into the conspiracy and truth unravelling that’ll hopefully give us some much needed excitement when it comes to first season TV shows during the June/July period this year.
Overall, the first hour of Legends left me with much more intrigue, interest and genuine excitement for myself than how I felt going into the episode, just like how I felt after watching the first double episode of Finding Carter. Yet will the show survive at 9pm on Wednesdays moving forward? It depends. With shows like USA Network’s Suits, WE’s The Divide, A&E’s Duck Dynasty and NBC’s America’s Got Talent as the show’s ‘summer’ competition, it’ll be a few weeks in where it’ll be decided whether the show is a hit or not (usually, pilot episodes have way more viewers than subsequent episodes).
Should you watch the show, regardless of viewers? Yeah, at this point, I think so. Likening to shows like 24, Alias and Burn Notice, I would certainly recommend this show to any action movie/TV show buff, or someone who loves all things TNT, or would just want to see Sean Bean act in something new. While the subject matter of conspiracies and deep cover operative cover-ups can seem like something cliché, Sean’s acting and the intense moments in the first episode (when he immerses himself into his covers, finding out his life isn’t what he thought it was) makes the show compelling enough to want to keep watching.
Did Legends leave a lasting impression on you? Which theme in the first episode spoke to you the most? What elements of the show remind you of something in your everyday life that you may not have paid much attention to prior to watching? Let us know in the comments.
RIYL: 24, Alias, Burn Notice, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Falling Skies
Rating: 4/5 (based on 1 episode)
Legends airs every Wednesday at 9/8c on TNT