TNT's ‘Legends’ seems mechanical, thin


TNT is well aware that most television viewers confronted with "Legends" aren’t going to be thinking, oh, a new show about an undercover FBI agent. They’re going to be thinking, oh, Ned Stark’s back! To capitalize on the affection fans feel for Sean Bean, the star of "Legends," TNT is even promoting the hashtag DontKillSeanBean.

It might seem like a stretch to publicize your leading man’s history of meeting violent ends in his previous jobs, most famously as the noble Stark, beheaded in "Game of Thrones" on HBO.

But maybe TNT didn’t feel like it had a whole lot else to go with. "Legends," whose title refers to the elaborate back stories created for undercover identities, is darker and more violent than the channel’s most successful shows, lightweight crime dramas like "Rizzoli & Isles" and "Major Crimes." Presumably "Legends" is meant to seem more serious than those shows and skew more male in its viewership, but it succeeds only in being more mechanical, predictable and thin.

Bean is as capable and sympathetic as always in his portrayal of Martin Odum, a deep-undercover operative who, as the series begins, is emerging from a six-month stint with a far-right militia. Odum is a head case of a type now pretty firmly associated with the producer Howard Gordon, the biggest name attached to "Legends" - the character’s psychological issues make him the ultimate agent, like Jack Bauer in "24" and Carrie Mathison in "Homeland."

While Odum and his team tackle the cases that come along -- by the second episode the militia has been dealt with, but a new threat arises involving Russians and nerve gas -- a long-arc conspiracy is set in motion, suggesting that Martin Odum itself is a legend and that Bean’s character doesn’t know who he really is.

If that kind of plot is like potato chips for you, then you might be willing to sit through the boilerplate dialogue and the superfluous flashbacks recapping events that took place 10 minutes ago. Here’s a test: If it seems perfectly natural that Ali Larter, who co-stars as Odum’s handler, appears as a stripper in the first episode and as a banker wearing a skintight red dress in the second, then "Legends" is probably for you.


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