November 3, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Legends”


LEGENDS:  Monday 10PM on TNT

The first season of TNT’s LEGENDS was notable mostly for wasting the talents of its star Sean Bean.  The show’s concept, based on a novel by Robert Littell, concerned federal agent Martin Odum (Bean), who had taken on many “legends” or fake identities over the years, and who discovered over the course of the season that his memory had been wiped by conspiracies unknown and that what he considered his “real life” was as much a legend as his undercover personas.  That sounded promising, but in practice, the show was a completely routine thriller that mostly had Odum playing an ersatz arms dealer.  The ratings were as unimpressive as the drama, but a new regime came in at TNT that decided to redevelop the show on the fly with new showrunner Ken Biller in charge rather than canceling it, and tonight Version 2.0 was unveiled.

The new Legends is grittier, less hackneyed and more serialized than Season 1 had been, clearly modeled after Homeland, with which it shares its creator Howard Gordon.  The challenge of preserving some portion of the original plot, however, along with introducing two new storylines (one set mostly in present-day London, the other in 2001 Prague–plus flashbacks to a 1975 British public school), made for an opening hour that was disjointed and lacked a gripping center.

The present-day story mostly had Martin skulking around London as he attempted to avoid arrest for the murder of the FBI Director for which he’d been framed in Season 1, while still trying to track down his actual history with the help of DC cop Tony Rice (Morris Chestnut, now a guest star).  We also followed Kate Crawford (Aisling Franciosi), a teen who was attracted by the Chechen Muslim heritage her mother Ilyana (Klara Issova) kept hidden, and who was too dumb to realize she was being recruited by what is almost certainly a terrorist cell.  This will all turn out to tie into the Prague story (perhaps Kate will even be Martin’s daughter?), since Martin was there impersonating a Russian gangster while Ilyana was involved with a local leader at the time.

The only story that was really engaging here was the one about Kate, and that one seems to be going in an obvious direction.  The show, despite its overhaul, still isn’t giving Bean anything very interesting to do, either in the present or past tense, and none of the other new characters introduced in the premiere are terribly distinctive.  Director Jamie Payne made good use of actual European locations to give the show a much more cinematic look than Season 1 had, but the drama is still lacking.

The premiere of Legends may have been scheduled to sync with the arrival of the new James Bond epic Spectre, which has everyone spy-conscious for the week, but comparisons aren’t going to do Legends any good.  A spy thriller that can’t supply spectacle needs to be genuinely original to make an impact these days; the somewhat trashy Quantico, with its mix of soap and espionage, may not be high art, but it’s odd enough to set itself apart–not to mention that unlike Legends, it makes the most of its breakout star Priyanka Chopra.  Legends, while more accomplished than it was before, still feels too familiar.  The series survived the cut the first time around, but it may be running out of new identities.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."