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Legends - Pilot - Advance Preview

Nicely timed to take off shortly after 24’s season end, the next hot spy series launches on TNT in a week. Legends, starring Sean Bean, premieres Wednesday, August 13, at 9 pm EST. You may remember Bean as the short-lived Stark patriarch on Game of Thrones, or as Boromir, the short-lived son of Denethor from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

In Legends, Bean plays Martin Odum, an FBI agent who jumps from one undercover assignment to another. With each undercover assignment, he assumes a “legend,” or persona. The twist is that he’s been doing this for so long he’s starting to have trouble letting go of these legends. Complicating matters is a mysterious figure who tells him that he’s not really who he thinks he is.

The story, based on novels by Robert Littell, is set up nicely for the case(s) of the week (or longer stretches of time, as the second episode may suggest), in which Odum infiltrates the latest threat, whether that’s a group of domestic terrorists or Chechen mafia operating in the US. His character combines a charismatic cheekiness with a heroic selflessness that borrows from many similar protagonists of other spy dramas. He deflects in his job-mandated visits to the office therapist. His relationship with authority mirrors that of Jack Bauer (24) – meaning the respect is there as long as they don’t tell him to do something he doesn’t want to do. In the background, the mystery of what’s going on – what is truly real – slowly unfolds as Odum uses his spare time to pokes at clues.

While this show has many of the tropes from similar productions – the defensive spy, the sexual tension with the female superior/coworker, the hooded mysterious figure that lurks in shadows, the show is nicely done with quality filming, high action, good pacing, and a terrific cast that also includes Ali Larter and Steve Harris. You might remember Harris from the short-lived series Awake, which had a somewhat similar feel to it, in that the question what was real always had an element of mystery to it.

I’m a sucker for a good spy movie or TV series. I never seem to tire of rewatching the Bond or Borne movies, so this was an easy sell. But what really won me over is how phenomenal Bean is in the role – not just playing Odum, but how seamlessly he merges into whatever legend he is adopting. I’ve had the chance to preview the first two episodes, and have seen him playing several different characters with different accents, and I wouldn’t doubt for a second the authenticity of any of those characters. While the acting is always important in judging a show’s success, this is especially critical in a psychological thriller in which we need to believe that Odum actually starts to think he is that character. While the show raises doubts about Odum’s true identity, there’s a counter-theory given equal weight – and that is that Odum is merely losing his sanity. This leads to a complex character, always transforming into many other characters, and Bean pulls it off.

As I already mentioned, I’m an easy sell for this type of series, but so far I’m thinking that this will be my favorite new series of the summer. I’ll be writing weekly reviews, so please come back after you’ve had a chance to judge for yourself and tell me what you think.