Recap: Legends, “Lords of War” (1×03)

I have been accused of being a little hard on Legends. ‘It’s fine,’ I’m told. ‘It’s not all that bad, really.’ And to be fair to it, it isn’t all that bad. It brings Sean Bean to my television and for that, I am grateful. But my gratitude is short lived each and every week.

This week, I felt like I could see the white board in the writers’ room when the episode began. Be sure to remind the viewers:

– Crystal doesn’t trust Odum

– Chemistry Dad is being held against his will to manufacture a chemical weapon

– The Russians are happy to kill his family to get what they want.

– Odum is really good at his job.

The “Previously on” covers all of these points, and then they’re all hit squarely on the head again before the title sequence even rolls.

The episode opens on the Russian chemical lab – Chemistry Dad hard at work and looking a little squirrelly. Boom – he knocks out his guard after an explosion and runs out to find his family. Did I underestimate Chemistry Dad last week? Nope. The Russians catch up and “If you run again, your family dies.” You keep saying that, Colonel Bad Guy. If I followed through with my two year old as often as you do with your threats, he’d be eating candy while standing on the dining room table right now.

Crystal is still worried about Odum’s health and fitness for duty, she continues to remind us. But never mind that, we’re introduced to the plan. Odum has three days to find the chemical weapon and the family before the weapon is ready to be deployed. Otherwise, terror.

Lord of War, Odum’s current legend, is an arms dealer with slicked back hair and a cocky attitude. He meets up with an old contact and secures a meeting with the mysterious Paulanos – who turns out to be a rather beautiful woman. LoW easily swoons his way into business with Paulanos – or at least the rest of dinner.

We’re briefly reminded, again, that the Russians will really kill Chemistry Dad’s family if he doesn’t make the gas.

LoW tracks down Paulanos’s current buyer for the gas – and convinces him via a hot iron to the lower back – that he really isn’t interested in purchasing the gas after all. The buyer cancels and opens the path for LoW to act as the buyer instead.

Rice is still nipping at Odum’s heals about the murder on the subway platform but doesn’t make any headway today. Gates ends up threatening Rice to back down or else. And to remind him just what is at stake, Rice’s daughter is conveniently up out of bed. They make serious faces at each other before the scene cuts.

Odum’s sense of self is considerably frayed. He shows up at his wife’s house asking her how he proposed. He can’t remember, is sure it was on a beach. His wife reminds him that it was on Easter, in his parents’ backyard. Odum is more confused than ever – but gets his head back in the game as LoW enough to set a meet with Paulanos.

We get a shade of back story for Paulanos – she was rescued from a Chechen orphanage by Colonel Bad Guy. She meets LoW for drinks while her team checks out his apartment. LoW and Paulanos retire to his apartment to consummate the deal after LoW explains that he is separated from his wife (tellingly using the story of proposing on the beach).

Paulanos sets a meet with Colonel Bad Guy. While they’re on the way, Crystal and the team find and advance on the warehouse where the chemical weapon was made. They kill a bunch of faceless bad guys, rescue the family but no nerve agent in sight. As Crystal reminds us, “It’s up to Odum now.”

LoW is driven around with a bag over his head for a while and then he finally meets Colonel Bad Guy face to face. Posturing back and forth ensues, with each man suggesting the other one is the one not to be trusted. Insisting it is required to gain his trust, Colonel Bad Guy forces LoW to kill a random captive by putting weapons-grade chemicals into his eye. Showing he’s fully immersed in his legend, LoW doesn’t blink as he kills the man. The episode cuts and we’re left until next week to see if the team and LoW can find the chemical weapon before its too late.

Kirsten Leigh has a rule. She gives new series three episodes. Pilots are hard – they have a lot of work to do. Second episodes have to keep that momentum going and prepare the audience for what to expect week in and week out. Third episodes should hit a groove. You should be able to tell the kind of show you’re dealing with and get a good sense of how much you’re going to enjoy it.

The groove for Legends is simple. They laid out the story lines in the pilot and week-to-week they are intent to simply remind the audience what they are without actually moving them ahead. Rice is no closer to threatening Odum’s liberty with his investigation. Odum is no closer to understanding who he really is than he was in the last minute of the pilot. And Crystal is no closer to trusting Odum to be a useful part of the team.

And unfortunately, I am no closer to enjoying this series. The promise of the pilot lay not in the structure of the storytelling but in Bean’s performance. The glacial pace of each of the story lines – a result of a 3-part story for episodes 2-4 – bogs down the enjoyment of watching Bean shift in and out of legends. Who is Martin Odum? Turns out, I don’t care.

Legends continues weekly on Wednesdays at 9:00pm on TNT. Recaps here, however, shall not.