'Legends' review: Undercover with a twist

Sean Bean ("Game of Thrones") stars an undercover Sean Bean ("Game of Thrones") stars an undercover FBI agent uncovering domestic terrorism in "Legends," a new drama co-created by Howard Gordon ("24," "Homeland"). Photo Credit: TNT / Richard Foreman

advertisement | advertise on newsday

REVIEW

THE SHOW "Legends"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesdays at 9, TNT

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Based on Robert Littell's "Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation," this is about Martin Odum (Sean Bean) as an undercover operative with the FBI's "Deep Cover Operation." Wednesday night he is about to crack a homegrown terrorist group. Then ... well, no reason to give away everything. But Martin is unusual, and not your everyday "undercover": He has multiple identities that he sometimes confuses with his real one. Naturally, this leaves his other operatives -- Crystal (Ali Larter), Maggie (Tina Majorino) and boss Nelson Gates (Steve Harris) -- reluctant admirers, or skeptical. He's certainly good at what he does -- but what exactly is it that Martin does?

advertisement | advertise on newsday

MY SAY The last time most of us saw Sean Bean, his character's head had been forcibly separated from his body near the end of the first season finale of "Game of Thrones." As such, there's something oddly -- perhaps even subliminally -- comforting about his new character, Martin Odum. Martin may be a head case, but at least his head isn't going anywhere. He's savvy, tough, shrewd, gimlet-eyed and ... absolutely lost in a sea of shifting identities. "Who am I?" he bellows -- plaintively -- in the last scene Wednesday night. In that one little question might well lay an entire series.

This is certainly not "The Bourne Identity," even if Jason Bourne is a cultural force and Martin Odum much less so. But whether Littell or "Legends" fans embrace this adaptation is the least of TNT's concern: How about viewers? There are encouraging signs. Bean is good and so is the cast, while the show-runners are A-listers: Howard Gordon, Jeffrey Nachmanoff ("Hostages") and Littell, who is also writing some episodes. The idea of multiple or false identities -- which is the core of the novel and the one central element the series appears to be lifting from it -- is promising for all sorts of reasons, too.

@Newsday

As in the book, the Cold War is over, and Odum now has to practice his spycraft on lesser targets, while being second-guessed by bureaucrats and pencil pushers. But the pilot's story is a little underwhelming, leaving you -- and maybe Odum -- wishing the Cold War were still in business.

BOTTOM LINE Multiple-personality thriller starts a bit slowly Wednesday night, but early signs still indicate a summer keeper for TNT.

GRADE B+

Coming soon: Newsday's Entertainment newsletter, for the latest on celebs, TV, more.

You also may be interested in: