Legends ep 2

Oh dear.

After last week’s disappointing start, I did give Legends another chance, but it’s just not worth the tv time, you guys.

The case of the week this time – about the kidnap of a scientist and his family – was secondary to the mystery of Martin, obviously, but neither was very interesting. The fact that the dialogue was banal and the plotting cliched would be bad enough on its own, but the show’s main problem is that the lead role was clearly written (and styled – look at that slick leather jacket) with someone like Josh Holloway in mind; an actor with a lighter touch who can make the smirking flirtatiousness and cheeky confidence that Martin is supposed to have seem natural and often charming. Contrast that with the moment this week where the therapist asked if Martin’s sexual function was normal and he said it was “Exceptional😉” – that seemed neither natural nor charming. I was embarrassed to be alive.

That type of cheesiness coupled with the performances of the rest of the cast (Ali Larter in particular, who has the most screentime with Sean Bean and yet is the most spectacularly mismatched with his style) suggest that the show wants to be a snazzy companion piece to Holloway’s recent (and cancelled) Intelligence. But instead they’ve (mis)cast Sean Bean, an excellent actor whom I like a lot and want good things for, but one who is just too serious and gritty for this role and this writing. It’s as if they gave Daniel Day-Lewis a spot in Hawaii Five-0. Awkward, ill-fitting and not something I’d want to see again any time soon.

Legends ep 1

Sean Bean is Martin Odum (or IS HE?), an FBI agent deep undercover in some mad militia group. Martin has been undercover so long, however, that the lines between his “legend” – the back story invented for his cover – and his real identity (or IS IT?) are becoming a little bit blurred. This may just mean he needs to take some annual leave. Or it may mean he ISN’T WHO HE THINKS HE IS AT ALL!!!! …. if you listen to the persistent man in the hoodie who keeps following Sean about and making shifty faces at him, that is.

This potential identity crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time, though, since Sean is still trying to prevent the mad militia from bombing something while juggling an unhappy ex-wife, an oddly relaxed and unresentful (for this type of show) son, and a boss/handler who thinks he’s a liability. (Or DOES SHE?) Sean thinks it’s because she fancies him. Which makes it all the more “hilarious” when he smirkingly hoodwinks her into giving him an unnecessary lapdance to “preserve his cover” – because sexual harassment of co-workers is always good for the lolz, eh, fellas?

Argh. Anyway, moving swiftly along from this week’s particular excuse for Ali Larter to writhe around in her underwear, the most striking thing about Legends is that it’s as confused about its identity as Martin supposedly is. On the one hand, we have Sean Bean, shuffling around being all Sean Bean-y: craggy, gruff, intense and dealing with serious, gritty stuff. On the other, our hero Sean is apparently supported in his serious, gritty endeavours by the glamorous Ali and her team of polished young techie types with shiny teeth and salon hair whose collective superpower is to type things onto the Internet really fast. It’s like watching two different shows at once: Ali and the techie types are in a glossy, empty US procedural, a sort of Secret Agents of Shield, where they’re supposed to impress us with their super-computer stunts every week, while Sean has wandered in from Game of Spies.

This odd clash of concepts and styles not only makes watching this first episode a completely baffling experience but it also gives us some absolutely mortifying moments; the lap dance is awful, but the scene where Sean “flirtatiously” suggests Ali is angry with him because she missed him is almost as cringe-inducing in its own way. There is zero chemistry there. Zero.

All of which is a bit of a shame, because I think Sean Bean’s a brilliant actor, I love a conflicted secret agent show and I really wanted to like Legends. For those reasons, I’m going to give it another chance – maybe it just needs a little time to sort out mood and tone, maybe it’ll settle into a more coherent drama after a week or two – and try another ep or so. But if I’m to stick around for the whole season, it’s not just poor Martin Odum who has to establish his true identity – the show itself needs to do exactly the same thing.