Legends, TNT’s newest action show, could be a run-of-the-mill spy show, but it has a few saving graces. One is Sean Bean, whose subtle, low-key performance seems to elevate the fairly average writing; the other is the mystery behind the show – who is Martin Odum, Bean’s character? Is he who he thinks he is? And this question will, I hope, carry the show farther than the rest of the plot will.
In the pilot, Martin Odum is the FBI’s most talented, or possibly most psychopathic, deep-cover operative. He’s been undercover for the past six months with the Citizen’s Army of Virginia, a terrorist organization, and is on the brink of meeting and identifying the group’s “Founding Father” (Zeljko Ivanek) when the ATF raids the group’s camp, catching Martin off guard. He is able to salvage his cover, and that of his confidential informant, and returns to the DCO (Deep Cover Operations) headquarters. He goes to see his young son, whom he hasn’t seen for six months, and gives his ex-wife a support check that he has signed with the name of his undercover character, or legend, Lincoln Dittmann. Odum slips in and out of his legend without being quite aware of it. While talking with his young son, he sees a man in a hooded jacket watching him; the man is seen again while Martin is at a Chinese grocery store (where Bean seems to have a different haircut! watch that, continuity).
The DCO team – Steve Harris as Director Nelson Gates and Ali Larter as Crystal McGuire, Odum’s controller, along with several tech support team members – is divided as to whether Odum should have been retired long ago, or whether he’s their best hope of averting a terrorist attack. Odum learns that the “Founding Father” still wants to meet with him, and the team, on the spot, constructs digital background for the legend that “Lincoln Dittmann” has put together. This is highly unbelievable – first, wouldn’t the group have checked Dittmann’s background out some time during the six months he was with them? And how is it that the DCO team is able to create months and years of increasingly radical emails, and a deteriorating credit and work history, quickly enough for the Citizen’s Army to investigate him? And in a later scene, the tech team creates an entire medical history, with a made-up cancer diagnosis and doctor, completely on the fly! The “renderings” in CBS’s spring show Intelligence were more believable.
Martin confronts the hooded man, who tells him that he, Martin, doesn’t know where he begins and where his legend ends. Who are you? the hooded man asks. The mysterious man implies that there is some kind of conspiracy of silence, a brainwashing of agents (Jason Bourne, are you there? and in an interesting bit of programming, the lead-in show to Legends tonight is… The Bourne Identity), and tells Martin that he also doesn’t know who he is. Martin retrieves security camera footage showing the hooded man on an escalator, and brings it to Bobby, one of the young computer techs, and asks him to try to find out who the man is. Not surprisingly, Bobby is killed as he gets closer to identifying the mystery man.
Odum’s meeting with the Founding Father is delayed when the Citizen’s Army becomes suspicious, after torturing and killing Odum’s CI for information. Crystal makes an on-the-fly decision to insert herself into the undercover operation, posing as a stripper, to get the word to Martin that his cover may be blown. Martin creates a story on the spot about having stage 4 cancer, for which the tech team creates a digital background – again, in seconds – and delays the bad guys taking action long enough for them to get online “confirmation” of his story. This leads to the meeting with the Founding Father (Zeljko Ivanek), and the team is able to take him, and his plan to blow up a meeting of world bankers, down.
But as Martin returns home, he gets a phone call from the mysterious man, who insists that Martin rush to meet him in the subway, where he will receive more information about this question of identity. Seconds before Martin reaches him, though, a woman brushes past and stabs the hooded man. He’s able to stay alive just long enough to give Martin a book that he says will provide answers.
So, who is Martin Odum? Who are you when you aren’t who you think you are? This is the question that will carry us through Martin’s many legends, and hopefully carry this show from an average, cliched spy drama to something more interesting.
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Legends on Twitter: @LegendsWriters, @LegendsTNT
Sean Bean tries to figure out how he’ll die in the show on FunnyorDie.com