Legends: Preserve the Cover

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Episode recaps
Photo Credit: threeifbyspace.com

Warning: Spoiler Alert

 Last week we discovered an incredible wrinkle. Whether they are disregarding convention or felt they could better tell the story this way. The show runners behind Legends made it clear, that they are not going to force a given story to fit within the parameters of a single episode. It may not mean much to you now, but I believe this wrinkle will go a long way in allowing them to tell the story they want to tell as opposed to the story they are forced to tell.

We start off with Richard Hubbard, the guy kidnapped last week whose been trying to live a clean new life with a new identity. His old life caught up with him and now he is being forced to create VX Gas for the bad guys. This cold open shows him doing just that. Until he sees an opening, knocks out a guy, fetching his wife and daughter, but finds a dead-end. A small army of Chechens prevent their escape.

First non-cold open scene and I am reminded of my dislike of Ali Larter. She always seems to play the same type of hardened character. However, I think it runs deeper than that. In this scene Gates (the boss) is debriefing the team. He says, “three days…” and Crystal (Larter’s character) jumps in. Like we’d forget she was in the room if she didn’t redirect attention back to her. And do I sense over acting? Everyone else is standing still, why is she walking the room like a Jerry Springer episode? In the end, it could just be that I’m overly harsh on this particular actress.

Introduce Dante Auerbach, Odum’s latest ‘Legend’. Nothing too critical. ‘Auerbach’ is looking to have a lackey broker a meeting to him closer to the Chechens. The beauty of the Legend comes in the next scene. He is to meet Polanos. He walks up to a table with a woman seated alone.

Auerbach: Excuse me, I’m looking for a Mr. Polanos?
Polanos: I’m Polanos…Anna Polanos.
(a sultry pause by Auerbach)
Auerbach: …What a lovely mistake…

Despite her resistance, Auerbach talks his way into keeping her attention. A very nice exchange that brings us more immediately into the characteristics of this particular Legend. He is a smooth talker. In this particular case, it seems like that is what is required.

With the efforts of Auerbach and the team at HQ, they were able to get a lock on Polanos’ cell and everything therein. Including a conversation with another asset to the deal. Auerbach immediately makes the decision to intercept that man and interrogate him. With an iron in place to burn him again, Auerbach convinces this chess piece to sever ties with Polanos. Which he does without hesitation.

A colleague and I had a conversation about this show prior to tonight’s episode. The focus of discussion was on the roles of Rice (Morris Chestnut) and Gates (Steve Harris). The angle that we both seemed to be in a basic agreement on is that the essential role of good guy/bad guy of these two men almost have to be misrepresented through two episodes. Let me add, that it is my opinion that this has been done intentionally by the show runners. At present, Rice is playing the investigator sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong in the greater pursuit of justice and truth. He comes off as a man destined to be a thorn in Odum’s side long-term. While Gates is pinned as the trusting boss who is firmly in the corner of the protagonist. I believe, and it’s only speculation at this point, that both of those statements will prove to be dramatically false and in no way a real representation of their character’s true self. I even used the phrase, “Gates CANNOT be trusted”. There is just a feeling there that is keeping my guard up.

Rice walks in shooting his small talk and Gates is not having it. Gates is short and uncooperative with his answers. Rice eventually turns off the charm and we have ourselves a good old fashion standoff. Not literally of course. You see this often. It is a staple of the show Justified. We cover it with current technology, take away the scenic old west, no revolvers or tumbleweeds, but if you peel back all of the physical superficial background, it is a standoff. And these two men play it beautifully. Neither one willing to give too much or concede their position.

I really do not like Mrs. Odum. That said, this scene is the first real indication of Martin Odum, the man behind the Legends unraveling. He is having a hard time recalling how he proposed to his wife. He is visibly shaky. Something is not right. And just like that, shaken and disoriented, he is able to slip right back into Auerbach in a matter of seconds after noticing Polanos calling his cell.

The “Colonel” who is the big bad we’ve been looking for has been ID’d. Furthermore, we find out that not only are he and Polanos connected, but connected on a very personal level. They have a history dating back to when she was an orphan. A serious daddy-daughter relationship, complete with intense guilt tripping.

Later that night Auerbach meets with Polanos at a swanky rooftop restaurant. They exchange small talk then she chuckles and says, “I’m learning more about you by the moment”. Cut to a couple of goons trying to hack their way into Auerbach’s condo. Naturally the first reaction is negative. The sense of impending doom that Polanos’ people are going to discover that Auerbach is Odum. But remember, this is a top ranking deep cover operative. I currently feel no such sense. Because it’s Odum as Auerbach, you almost have to concede that he’s too good to make such a mistake.

During this restaurant scene, we do get a quick glimpse into the ‘deal’. We are looking at VX Gas. It is a Russian developed process from the 1990s. So far everything stacks up. Keep in mind the end game is to recover the weapon (VX Gas) and save the Hubbards. So far so good. Then Polanos changes the subject. Then this becomes a personal meeting. Auerbach tells a story about proposing and why the marriage didn’t work. The problem with that is he seems to be crossing over stories. The proposal is not accurate to his actual real life, but I get the impression that the reason the marriage fell apart factor is from his real life. And of course, predictable or not, Auerbach sleeps with Polanos.

In a lovely twist I did not see coming, Gates pays a visit to Rice. In Rice’s home. Occasionally, a scene comes along that forces me to consider just how much I want to feed you. Considering the process of creating television, sometimes the art of it cannot be conveyed in text. The text just doesn’t do it justice. It’s the difference between giving a great script to great actors and giving it to a high school theater department. This is one of those scenes. I cannot simply describe what happens because the art is in the nuance.

Both men refusing to back down would be obvious. Both men escalating their threat position without hesitation. The question is, “are both men exactly what they say and how they seem? Or are both of them hiding something? Is just one?” On the surface it seems that Gates is protecting his asset. However, if we look deeper into the season (or even series) arc, there could be something much bigger at work here. What if Martin Odum is not who he thinks he is? Then one would have to deduce that Gates is hiding a lot. And if that is the case, you could further extrapolate that Rice is something different as well. My current hypothesis is that Rice is literally the ‘out for justice at all costs’ kind of agent. And if that is true, all Odum has to do is to prove that his virtue and motivations are sincere and Rice should immediately become an ally while I fear Gates will move steadily in the other direction.

Polanos sets up a meeting for Auerbach. He is placed in a truck with a hood over his head. What ensues was somewhat predictable. The Feds organize a raid on the area thought to be the lab for the VX Gas. Seems pretty obvious when the temperature readings are 500 times what they should be. Crystal (in head to toe riot gear/gas preventative gear) leads the team in. She finds the lab, gets a closer look and gets jumped. By Mr. Richard Hubbard. Next shot is her carrying him out. At the same time we see a Hubbard reunion, we can hear over the radio that they found no VX Gas.
Not surprising to me, 4 minutes and change to wrap up this story line and I seriously doubt it will happen. Some might be frustrated with this concept, but I for one am in love with it.

As it turns out, the intention was to take Auerbach to the Colonel and that location would be far from the lab. The Colonel begins to act sketchy and question if Auerbach is who he says he is. One of his men gets too close and Auerbach disarms him and in an instant, has an assault weapon pointed inches from the Colonel’s face. What follows we have all seen before. The dealer expects the broker (or representative of the buyer) to test the product and in turn kill an unknown man. This both verifies the product and proves to the dealer that the buyer is who he says he is. The fastest example I can think of is the moment in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne stops being a member of the League of Shadows and starts to become Batman.

Let’s cut through any cryptic language. Auerbach does the deed. He drops VX Gas into the strange man’s eye. You can assume the man dies shortly thereafter. The Colonel says, “now we have trust”. That is a telling detail, at least for the immediate future. The bigger issue is one I will forever reference as the “Walter White watching Jane” moment. Anyone who is familiar with Breaking Bad will know exactly what I mean. There comes a time in some stories where the protagonist or even anti-hero is faced with a decision. The result of that decision could very well sway how the viewer perceives him or her. Any time we are dealing with law enforcement or the Feds there seems to be a line in the sand. Feds don’t take drugs, even to maintain their cover (see Graceland). They don’t kill people to maintain their cover. So when one of these characters is faced with a decision to save or not and to cross over that line in the sand, it affects people differently. Do you support Auerbach’s decision to cross the line an maintain his cover for the greater good or is your affection for him forever changed negatively for crossing said line? It is a junction in the story that either diminishes or enhances the story for you on a personal level. I will say that for me, at this moment, it has enhanced my experience with this show. However, I reserve the right to change my mind later.

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