Created By: JusticeReaper on November 29, 2010 Last Edited By: JusticeReaper on December 6, 2010

Eagle Eye Detection

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Used in mystery-themed media, where a detective relies on observation of otherwise-unnoticed clues at a crime scene, or discrepancies in witnesses' or suspects' testimony, in order to solve the mystery.

May be related to Awesomeness by Analysis, but in this case the sleuth does not necessarily have to be of genius-level intellect; he/she just needs to be able to pay keen attention to detail and to be able to sift critical information away from irrelevant or unimportant information. It is usually Taught by Experience, and subverts Your Eyes Can Deceive You if the detective knows to look past what is on the surface and seek out the facts, and only the facts. For this trope, Did Not Do The Research is not a viable option, or else the investigator will come across as incompetent.

Unlike Sherlock Scan, the detective will generally refrain from making (or attempting to make) guesses about a person or situation upon seeing them for the first time; nor can he/she afford to make on-the-spot assumptions about the person, as they may turn out to be false. Instead, if observations are made while interviewing a person, questions may (and in some cases, should) be asked, and checks are then made to confirm or refute the claims that are made.

Also, unlike Hyper Awareness (which is often used only as a humor-themed gag or for one-time plot purposes), Eagle Eye Detection is much more realistic and is a constant trait of skilled detectives and investigators. If Hyper Awareness is present in the work in question, it is toned down to a bare minimum, or at the most reduced to realistic levels, so that the viewer (or player in a video game) can learn at the same pace as the fictional protagonist(s).

Once a clue is sighted that may be crucial to solving the case, though, it is not immediately discarded or let go of; the burden then falls on the detective to compare/contrast that clue with other gathered evidence and see how it relates to a suspect's guilt, in order to make their case.

Compare and contrast Hyper Awareness. Contrast Sherlock Scan.

The trope name comes from the 1993-94 PC game series Eagle Eye Mysteries, a detective-themed Edutainment Game series; in particular, the second game had a feature where the glowing boxes that usually denoted witnesses or clues could be turned off, forcing the player to be that much more observant of the scenery in looking for clues. The series itself also required the player to select the best clues that told the facts, proved or disproved witness statements, and generally painted a plausible picture of what happened and why.

Not related to Eagle Eye, the 2008 movie.


  • In The Pelican Brief (based on the novel of the same name), the titular document was formed due to Darby Shaw's (played by Julia Roberts) investigations based on a theory she came up with regarding the assassination of two Supreme Court judges. To form the brief, she researched the dead judges' case records and kept an eye open for any traits the two men may have had in common.
  • In Sleepy Hollow, this is Ichabod Crane's preferred method of solving the mysterious murders in the titular village. He uses revolutionary (for the time period) methods of investigation, including autopsies of dead bodies, and scoffs at the supernatural explanations the residents come up with (due to his own Harmful to Minors childhood memories of his Sinister Minister father). The supernatural explanations turn out to be true.
  • Used to investigate the Jack the Ripper killings in From Hell.
  • Hot Fuzz: Nicholas Angel uses this to come up with a very wordy but otherwise plausible theory about the murders accidents taking place in Sandford, centering around (he thinks) a lucrative property deal. Turns out the murders are for a much more mundane reason - keeping up Sandford's level of perfection.
  • Plays a role in Detective Spooner's murder investigation in I, Robot.

Live-Action TV
  • Frequently happens in the Law & Order series, especially the first incarnation.
  • CSI and its various incarnations, with the detective work taking place mostly in the crime lab.
  • Happens in every episode of Murder, She Wrote, with each mystery solved by Jessica Fletcher outlining a visual clue that was shown earlier in the episode, and a clip of said visual clue playing back for exposition.
  • Featured during the investigative portions of The Good Wife.
  • Takes place in the lawyer drama series Close To Home.
  • Shown often in The Closer.
  • Without a Trace: Investigations in each episode depend on this.
  • Used in the 1991 series Silk Stalkings to investigate upper-class sex-themed crimes.

Video Games

Board Games
  • A necessary skill in Clue.

Comic Books
  • This is one of The Question's most well-known traits. Next to his wild and crazy conspiracy theories, of course.
  • Batman employs this in his investigation of criminals, doing background research and analyzing clues to get information on the case at hand.
  • In The Flash, during the "Death of Iris Allen" story arc, Barry discovered that the supposed murderer, Clive Yorkin, may not in fact have been responsible for Iris's death, and so he did some crime scene investigating, including examination of security camera footage. Turns out it was Professor Zoom who killed Iris at super-speed while going fast enough to be virtually invisible to recording security cameras and thus frame Yorkin for the deed. (Then it turned out Iris was Not Quite Dead.)
  • The Martian Manhunter did this often in his human guise as a private investigator, when he wasn't using his powers.

  • Agatha Christie's character Hercule Poirot may be the Ur-Example, or a candidate thereof.
  • Plays a role in The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries.
  • The children's book series The Puzzle Club, and the animated series based on it, is about a trio of children who solve mysteries this way.
  • Several Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are solved this way.
  • Sherlock Holmes himself did this in many of his early cases. A Study in Scarlet, for instance, devotes a couple of pages to his careful inspection of the scene of the crime and his picking up on details that didn't catch the attention of the police. Also, the short story Silver Blaze required that he visit the two separate crime scenes to collect evidence in order to make his case.

Web Original
  • Online text-based game Sleuth relies on the player to pay attention to all clues and witness statements using this trope.

Western Animation
  • Velma is well-known for this, in every incarnation of her character.
  • During the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flash and Substance," Wally West is seen in his crime scene lab running tests on a bloodstained shoe, which was cleaned off with dish-washing soap. He informs his supervisor that his investigations have revealed that the soap is the same type as the brand that was found in the murder victim's kitchen.
  • Much earlier, during the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark had to use his investigative reporter skills to collect enough evidence to exonerate an innocent man on death row.
  • There's also Batman: The Animated Series and its tie-in movies. Played especially strongly in Mask Of The Phantasm.

Real Life
  • Crime scene investigators and detectives have to pay attention to every detail of a case, in order to build convincing evidence for/against a suspect. All aspects of the evidence have to make sense and be able to stand up in a court of law. Anyone who has spend enough time in court (as part of their work, that is), will have had enough opportunity to observe trial proceedings and see how different pieces of evidence have to come together to build a case for/against a defendant.
  • On the fun side, this plays a role in murder mystery-themed parties.
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • November 30, 2010
    Happens in Psych to let the audience know that Shawn's picked up on an Important Clue.
  • November 30, 2010
    Several Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are solved this way.
  • November 30, 2010
    Sherlock Holmes himself did this in many of his early cases; A Study in Scarlet for instance devotes a couple pages to his careful inspection of the scene of the crime and his picking up on details that didn't catch the attention of the police.
  • November 30, 2010
    As mentioned in a previous reply, this is essentially the driving plot device behind Psych, as Shawn uses his freakishly good powers of observation and memory to convince people -- particularly the local police -- that he's a psychic detective.
  • November 30, 2010
    This sounds like Sherlock Scan and/or Hyper Awareness, but less so. I'm really not seeing a difference.
  • November 30, 2010
    To Rainy Day Ninja: The trope description does say that the Hyper Awareness is toned down, and there's a difference from Sherlock Scan.
  • November 30, 2010
    BTW, thanks to everyone who has contributed examples so far; the ones that seem to fit the trope description best will be added to the list.
  • December 1, 2010
    Hyper Awareness, definitely. Pretty much how Psych and Monk operate.
  • December 1, 2010
    To nman: Not really. As described on the Hyper Awareness page, that trope frequently happens once or twice as a plot gag, and involves making accurate guesses about people at just a glance. Eagle Eye Detection, on the other hand, is much more realistic analysis and sleuthing (which Psych and Monk...isn't).
  • December 1, 2010
    ^According to that description, I stand by my statement that this is just Hyper Awareness, but less so/but done well. And looking over the examples, a great many of them don't even fit that criterion, and could rightly be added to either Hyper Awareness or Sherlock Scan. Either that or they just boil down to "people noticing important clues," for which I call People Sit On Chairs.
  • December 2, 2010
    To Rainy Day Ninja: Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree, as I still stand by my view that this isn't Hyper Awareness. After all, real detective work doesn't entail making guesses about people based on a quick or casual glance (for example, one may "guess" that a woman is from old money based on the style of jewelry she wears, when in fact it may either be costume jewelry or a gift from a friend or relative and the woman herself isn't rich). And could you elaborate on which of the listed examples don't fit? (Though you could have a point re People Sit On Chairs.)
  • December 2, 2010
    "relies on observation of...discrepancies in witnesses'/suspects' testimony, in order to solve the mystery", "seek out the facts, and only the facts" and "once a clue is sighted that may be crucial to solving the case, though, it is not let go of" all instantly reminded me of Hercule Poirot, who almost seems like the poster boy for this proposed trope, further supported by the fact that he isn't mentioned in Hyper Awareness OR Sherlock Scan.
  • December 2, 2010
    Arguably, the Eagle Eye ability in the Assassins Creed series qualifies as this. The user can not only pick out a target he's never seen from a crowd, instantly locate good hiding-spots, and identify hostiles at a glance, he can also follow the trail of a moving target, see traces of washed-away blood (suggesting that it somehow involves UV-detection) and many other acts of super-observation.
  • December 3, 2010
    You might want to read the trope description again.
  • December 3, 2010
    I HAVE read it, and I'll agree it's on the edge - hence, 'arguably'. It mostly depends on how you interpret the Eagle Eye ability. If it's actually some sort of sixth sense, then no, it doesn't apply. But if it's just the interface's way to show an assassin putting everything together from a multitude of tiny clues from all five senses (detecting an enemy from minute, nervous movements, tracking a moving target by picking out one set of footprints on a crowded plaza, spotting cleaned-off blood-splatter from barely-perceptible residue...) then it DOES count.
  • December 3, 2010
    To Black Dragon: I've never played the Assassins Creed games, admittedly, but what you're describing sounds more like Hyper Awareness than this trope-suggestion.