[[caption-width-right:350: The Cold Case investigators and their boxes.]]

->'''Vera:''' ''An '83 job can wait, Lilly. Come on.''\\
'''Lilly:''' ''No, it can't. It's waited long enough.''
-->-- "Gleen"

A cold case is a criminal investigation that has been rendered inactive and unsolved due to a lack of evidence, witnesses, or suspects to form a solid lead. When new evidence ''does'' show up, it's a long, difficult, and painful process to peel back the layers of dust covering it and try to put the new lead into context with what's already known about the case, and where that may lead, no one knows.

This is the basis of ''Cold Case'' (2003-2010), a Creator/JerryBruckheimer-created crime drama that forms one corner of his crime drama trifecta (along with ''Series/{{CSI}}'' and ''Series/WithoutATrace'', both of which had crossovers with the show). Far less science or legalese-absorbed than the other Bruckheimer-verse installments, ''Cold Case'' instead focuses on the human aspect of a crime, and how the victims, witnesses, and criminals are affected by the crime both at the time of its commission and in the years afterwards.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show was that each episode played out as a PeriodPiece , as the bulk of the story is told through flashbacks strongly reflecting the time when the crime was committed and the culture surrounding those involved. For instance, the FlashbackEffects are InTheStyleOf a prominent cinematic and audio style of each period- the story of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks in the 70's resembles a [[ExploitationFilm grindhouse flick]], the story of a conflicted teen in the 80's recalls the look and sound of ''Series/DegrassiJuniorHigh''. The music for each episode was of course a NothingButHits medley of that period's music (though credit is due for scrounging up some obscure hits from time to time). {{Timeshifted Actor}}s are employed to strong effect, juxtaposed with their future/present-day selves, showing how the effects of a crime can ripple through decades and generations. Also expect a bit of a history lesson with each episode, as a great many of the cases have something to do with something historically significant at the time (for instance, one of the oldest cases deals with women's suffrage). It's also brutal about "The Good Old Days", blatantly showing them to be every bit as bad (or worse) than present day. Expect at least two or three episodes a season to deal with themes of racism or homophobia.

The emotionally-driven nature of the show means that it will most likely not interest those interested in the "hard science" of crime solving. However, it is, in general, well done and more suited to those looking for something more [[TearJerker emotionally-involving]].

Based on the A&E reality show ''Cold Case Files'' and many suspect also the Canadian series, ''Series/ColdSquad''. In 2016 a remake titled ''Cold Case: Shinjitsu no Tobira" aired in Japan, with each episode based directly on episodes from the original American show. [[labelnote:Specifically]]"Blank Generation", "Fly Away", "Discretion", "Mind Hunters", "The Plan", "The Sleepover", "The Letter", "Resolutions" and "Boy In The Box".[[/labelnote]]
!!This show provides examples of:


[[folder:# - D]]
* AbortedArc: The seventh season set up a whole smattering of interesting-sounding plotlines, including new love interests for Lilly, Kat, Vera, and Stillman, Lilly receiving a job offer from the FBI, and [[spoiler:Scotty's quest for justice for his robbed and raped mother ultimately leading to his becoming accessory to the murder of the perpetrator]], none of which were resolved due to the show being canceled with that season.
* AccidentalMurder: A number of cases, but, for one, the killer in "Stealing Home" swung his bat in a fit of rage and accidentally hit the victim.
** Ditto for the killer in "The Key".
* AccompliceByInaction: A number of characters are arrested because they witnessed the murder and did nothing.
** [[spoiler:Edie]] from "The Red And The Blue" saw [[spoiler:Dusty]] shooting Truck but did not report [[spoiler:him]] to the police.
** [[spoiler:Celeste]] from "Stand Up And Holler" [[spoiler:let Rainey die from a drug overdose without calling an ambulance]].
** [[spoiler:Manny]] from "That Woman". While he never physically harmed Carrie, he [[spoiler:accompanied the rest of the club to corner her in the woods and watched them kill her]].
* AcquittedTooLate:
** In "Death Penalty: Final Appeal", the murderer is caught one day after the innocent man is executed.
** Narrowly averted in "Thrill Kill", where one of the people wrongfully convicted ultimately has to hang himself in prison to get the police to reopen the case.
** Happens in "The River". The man arrested for the murder is acquitted more than twenty years later... unfortunately, he's died in prison two months after being arrested.
** The victim in "Flashover" has been arrested for starting a fire in his house and murdering his kids. The detectives reopen his case and acquit him... except he's been murdered in prison already.
* AdultsAreUseless: As seen in the two-parter "The Thin Blue Line/Into The Blue", as well as stupid, misogynistic and corrupt. The victim, the lone female cadet at a military school, is continously harassed by her fellow cadets, instructors and even a ''parent'' of a boy who was rejected for the school. The latter example is the most shameful; while the students and teachers had a right to be there and would (and did) protect their own by looking the other way, the father was a visitor who would come by ''daily'' in his drunken travels just to pointlessly bitch at her ''to her face'' and personally blame her for his son not getting in during the flag ceremony practice. Whereas she wasn't able to speak up for herself or even react to his acrimonious behavior, school officials could have easily kicked the asshole out and have him banned from coming onto the premises.
* AdaptationalHeroism: While ''Heroism'' might be overstating things a bit, the victim [[spoiler: turned SerialKiller]] Martha in "Lonely Hearts" is based on the very real [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Fernandez_and_Martha_Beck Martha Beck]]. Whilst the things this Martha did were [[MoralEventHorizon cold and savage]] she did actually feel bad about her actions and even tried to make up for them [[spoiler: unfortunately this got her [[HeelFaceDoorSlam killed]]]]. The real Martha on the other hand had absolutely no remorse for her actions which were arguably ''worse'' since [[WouldHurtAChild she drowned one of her victims two year old daughter]]. With that in mind ''this'' Martha comes away looking relatively innocent.
* AgeAppropriateAngst: Highlighted when they confront the killer in "Honor". The man claims that he understood his victim's actions (He was a Vietnam POW [[spoiler: who took early release and let the killer's father behind to die]]) but the detectives point out that that is the perspective of a mature adult, which he very much wasn't at the time of the murder.
* AgeCut: The viewer is frequently treated to flashes between the younger and older versions of the characters.
* AllBikersAreHellsAngels: In "Jackals", the cold case team investigates the 30-year old murder of an honor student who fell in with a notorious biker gang called the Jackals.
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Deconstructed in "Running Around". Anna thinks the leather-clad, TallDarkAndHandsome Vince is her JerkWithAHeartOfGold PrinceCharming. [[spoiler: He's actually exactly as dangerous as he looks, being a date-rapist]].
* AllJustADream: [[spoiler: "Into the Blue"; borderline DyingDream]]
* AlphaBitch: "Stand Up and Holler", "Boy Crazy", "The Sleepover", "That Woman". This show usually has the AlphaBitch be a nicer person in the present, or at least have them recognize how bitchy she was.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: "Pin Up Girl" has a group singing "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" in a bar. If you don't know that the Music/TheyMightBeGiants version is a cover, this would give you pause.
* AlwaysMurder: Sort of necessary, given the format, since murder is one of the few crimes with no StatuteOfLimitations. However, there have been a few aversions:
** [[spoiler: "Fireflies". The victim never actually died, she was just kidnapped and due to the bullet the kidnapper shot into her head forgot who she was. She was put in the adoption system as a runaway and eventually is reuinited with her real parents (and gets her memory back) thirty years later.]]
** [[spoiler: "Ghost of My Child"]]. Much like the above example, the victim was [[spoiler: kidnapped and presumed dead.]]
** In [[spoiler: “The River” and "The Good Death", it was the result of a MercyKill rather than a cold-blooded murder]].
** [[spoiler:"Fly Away"]] and [[spoiler:"Best Friends"]] were supposed to be ''double'' suicides that went awry and only one person died.
** In [[spoiler:"Two Weddings"]] the victim jumped to his death [[spoiler: the night before his wedding, after hearing that his first wife, who he was still in love with, died after being in a coma for 8 years.]]
* AmoralAttorney: ADA Danner in "Death Penalty: Final Appeal", who [[spoiler: knowingly sent an innocent man to the lethal injection to pretty up his numbers]]. In the closing montage, he gets disbarred.
* AnswerCut: Customarily subverted; often, someone involved in a case will allude to information, just before a flashback containing it.
* ArcWords:
** "The woods" in the George Marks two-parter.
** "Nobody cares" in the Paul Shepard two-parter.
** "The Republican Hotel" in "Wings".
** "Together we stand" in "GloryDays".
* ArmoredClosetGay:
** The killer in "The Brush Man" killed the victim when the latter confronted him about [[spoiler:beating his son when the boy saw him getting his knob slobbed by another guy at the park]].
** One of the Heart's Wait members in "That Woman".
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: How Lilly defeats George Marks in "The Woods". After forcing her to relive one of her worst memories (her mother sent her out to get alcohol which resulted in Lilly getting attacked and beaten by a mugger) she finally realizes why George is so interested (as well as the double meaning of his taunts about how she was "betrayed by those you thought you loved most").
--> "Who sold you out, George?"
* ArtisticLicenseAstronomy: Not only is the moon in the wrong phase on the date in "One Small Step", the moon in that phase could not be in the position it is in the sky during the events of that episode.
* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The headmistress of the school for the deaf is used as an interpreter in "Andy in C Minor". Leaving aside the fact that the Philadelphia Police Department probably either has one on staff already or could easily find a sign language interpreter, is it ''really'' advisable to use a possible suspect as an interpreter?
* AssholeVictim:
%%** [[spoiler: "The Plan", "Blackout", "Justice", "Greed", just to name a few]].
** George Marks's mother was revealed to be [[spoiler: an abusive bitch who kept her son locked in the attic and blamed him for everything wrong with her life, calling him "the darkness"; he killed her when he was still a little boy, after she [[KickTheDog told a burglar to rape him instead of her]].]]
** The JerkJock rapists in "Rampage". Their killers ''would'' have been [[SympatheticMurderer sympathetic]]... [[TheresNoKillLikeOverkill if they'd just stopped with the jocks]].
** The victims in "Justice" and "The Plan" were a rapist and a child molester respectively.
** While the main victim in "A Perfect Day" was a sympathetic little girl, the episode reveals that [[spoiler: her father]], the man who killed her, was murdered himself a few years later. No one sheds any tears.
*** A similar situation with the sex offenders murdered by the victim's father in "Offender".
* TheAtoner:
** Many of the more sympathetic killers try to turn to this, living exemplary lives to make up for what they did, or living crappy lives as a means of punishing themselves.
** The victim in "The Brush Man", who had accidentally killed a DomesticAbuser in a bar fight years before, and after serving his manslaughter sentence began giving money to the dead man's widow (who was nevertheless relieved to be rid of him).
* AwesomeMcCoolname: Two episodes feature (as victims) singers named ''Truck Sugar'' and ''Bingo Zohar''. Judging by the fact that these names appear on their boxes, they apparently aren't stage names.
* AxCrazy:
** The older brother in "One Small Step".
** The mastermind in "That Woman". [[spoiler:While the killing itself was planned with the others, it still had that crime of passion element with each of them showing genuine guilt for their actions. The leader of the group, however, not only did plan the whole thing, the [[TranquilFury expression]] never left her face. Add to this that she seems to be a CloudCuckoolander who can’t tell reality from fiction.]]
* BadSamaritan: The killer in "Offender", who lured the victim into his garage under the pretense of helping him patch up his knee (he'd fallen and cut it) and offering him a soda.
* BadassGrandpa: John Stillman, especially in "The Woods".
* TheBadGuyWins: A mild version in [[spoiler:"Red Glare"]], as the killer essentially accomplished everything he wanted and got away with his crime for ''fifty years'', and although he's caught in the end it's strongly implied that he's too old to be given a severe punishment for his actions.
** [[spoiler:George Marks in "Mind Hunters", though he's brought down in "The Woods"]].
** [[spoiler:[[BlackWidow Caroline Hargreave AKA Mandy Mae Smith]] in "The Runaway Bunny"]].
* BaitAndSwitch: In "Saving Patrick Bubley", Miguel Maldonado and Patrick's older brother, Vaughn, fight over Patrick's scooter. Miguel lets Vaughn think he's won the tussle, then catches him off guard and shoots him to death.
--> '''Miguel''': You win, dawg...[[SuddenlyShouting HERE'S YOUR PRIZE!]]
* BalletEpisode: "Shuffle, Ball Change"
* BankRobbery: "Dog Day Afternoon".
* BaseballEpisode: ''Cold Case'' has three baseball episodes:
** "A Time to Hate" about a gay college baseball player beaten to death in 1964.
** "Colors", where the team re-opens the 1945 case of an African-American baseball player who was beaten to death with his own bat.
** "Stealing Home", where the team looks into the 1999 murder of a former Cuban baseball star who escaped to the U.S. to provide for his family after the Cuban government fired him for talking to a U.S. sports agent. It also features the annual softball game against the fire department.
* BatterUp: "A Time to Hate", "Colors" and "Stealing Home". All three are {{Baseball Episode}}s.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Done in a weird way in "It's Raining Men"; the studly, ReallyGetsAround-type gay man who is revealed to have been giving other men [=AIDs=] ForTheEvulz has aged much worse that the straight-laced key witness who was the victim's totally-devoted partner... but he's also [[OlderAndWiser become a much better person with age]].
* BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor:
** The killer in "Pin-Up Girl" finally got to be in front of the camera.
** [[AvertedTrope Averted]] in "Bad Reputation". The son of the victim wanted to be just like his father. To nip that in the bud his father pulled on a JerkassFacade.
** [[spoiler:Crumbs]] in "Colors" would have given anything for one good swing and in a fit of rage, he took it... killing his friend in the process.
* BeenThereShapedHistory: A few minor examples with the side characters. The victim in "Colors" was ''almost'' the first man to break the race barrier in baseball, but then he was killed and the honor went, as per history, to Jackie Robinson. There have also been a couple fictional politicians and a fictional first woman to break the sound barrier (it was actually [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Cochran Jacqueline Cochran]]).
* BeingGoodSucks: The victim in "Bad Reputation" found this out the hard way.
* BenevolentBoss: Monty in "Pin-Up Girl". [[spoiler:Not only was he willing to accept Rita's quitting from modelling to go into photo journalism after seeing her shots, but he was also willing to publish her shots himself due to her being, as he tells the detectives in the present day, "even more talented behind the camera than in front of it." As if to confirm his goodness, he's the one who gets to see Rita's ghost in the ending montage while developing her old photos.]]
* BerserkButton:
** ALL of the detectives react very badly while interrogating George Marks, when rather than caving in and confessing, he instead taunts them about traumatic events in their life--Scotty's schizophrenic girlfriend, Vera mishandling the abovementioned rape case (in fact, Vera needs to be restrained from attacking him), the death of Jeffries' wife (George implies he was the one who killed her, though he wasn't, Jeffries stays calm in the interview but loses it later), Stillman's failed marriage and Lilly's childhood mugging.
** Scotty Valens:
*** Suspended in an episode after beating the crap out of an inmate that said suicide is cowardly and a result of the loved ones failing to do their work. His childhood love had recently committed suicide.
*** Beats the crap out of a ''non''-child-molesting-pedophile when the man refuses to stop hanging around a playground, even after Scotty has warned him off. [[FreudianExcuse In a later episode, we learn that when they were kids, Scotty's brother was molested by their boxing coach.]]
** Vera:
*** Used to react very badly to comments about his failed marriage.
*** Was so obsessed with solving the case of a serial rapist who had murdered his latest victim that he relentlessly browbeat two suspects (despite the fact that one of them cooperated fully) to the point where the DA had to explicitly tell him to stay away from each man. Five years later not only does the warning still stand, both men are still afraid of him.
*** He ''really'' seems to hate rapists in general, possibly due to the effect the above case had on him.
** Jeffries:
*** Beats the crap out the crooked DA whose obstruction resulted in an innocent man getting executed (and violently forces the real killer against the wall).
*** It's not wise, if you're a minority suspect, to pull the "I was only arrested because all police are racist" card in front of Jeffries.
*** It's reckless drivers, due to his wife’s death on a hit and run accident, as seen in "Bad Night". He did eventually realize he was being too hard on the victim of that case because of it.
** Stillman: just about anything having to do with the armed forces--disrespect, ill-treatment--is this, having been in the service himself. His contempt for a man who falsely claimed to have been a POW (like the victim) is greater than that for the killer himself.
** Lilly: it's bad mothers, to the point where she acts extremely cold to two women who were genuinely trying to improve as parents. ItsPersonal for her.
** Many of the victims get killed because they trip on the killer's button. For example, the victim in ''Beautiful Little Fool'' is killed because she called the killer "lowly".
* BettyAndVeronica: "Soul" had Chandra the church girl and Beatrice, a girl with a reputation who is secretary to a record producer. [[spoiler: It turns out to be a BettyAndVeronicaSwitch--the victim ends up having a son with the latter and gets killed by the former because she's a {{Yandere}}]].
* BigBrotherBully: There were two in "One Small Step". Granted, one was a lot more AxCrazy than the other, an ordinary mean older sister.
* BiggerBad: [[spoiler:The unseen head of the mental hospital in "Committed" turns out to have been the one behind the murder, but had died years before so unfortunately the only ones the detectives could arrest were his very sympathetic subordinates who were forced to carry out the crime]].
* BillyElliotPlot: "Shuffle, Ball Change". [[spoiler: Subverted - the father accepted his younger son's dance aspirations once he saw him actually perform. The BigBrotherBully was the killer.]]
* BitchInSheepsClothing: Anybody from the killer to the [[AssholeVictim victim]] to [[TheScrappy any suspect in between]].
** The killer in [[spoiler: "Gleen". Being a retired firefighter and caring father makes for fine sheep clothing. But underneath, he's a controlling, overbearing monster who scared off his last two wives and [[DivorceRequiresDeath killed his third wife, the victim]], with a bomb he planted.]]
** In [[SpoilerTitle Episode 9 of Season 1]], we have [[spoiler: Sherry Fox. Outside: A beautiful, caring young woman who loved her boyfriend. Inside:[[BreadMilkEggsSquick Con-Artist, Gold-digger, Murderer]].]]
** [[StealthPun In "Justice"]], we have the victim Mike Delaney, a handsome college student with good grades, [[TheCasanova a 'Casanova']], made valedictorian at graduation, and a charitable member of the meals on wheels. But [[BrokenPedestal all that goes out the window]] once you learn he was a [[AssholeVictim serial rapist in life]].
** Almost literally with the killer in "Churchgoing People". [[spoiler:All flashbacks of her show her as a prim, modestly dressed and coifed woman. Until her son finally confesses that she was actually a violent and abusive drunk who regularly beat his father and finally killed him in a rage upon learning of his infidelity]].
** "Slipping" gives us [[spoiler: the victim's husband, her own killer. He throws off the audience by claiming he wrote his poem as a dedication to his wife. But once you learn he actually stole that poem from her before killing her, it becomes clear he only married her to be [[GreenEyedMonster close to the competition]].]]
** The homeless man in “A Dollar, A Dream”. At first, he was nothing but warm and kind to the victim, inviting her to live in the park with him and sharing a lottery ticket with her. But upon discovering the ticket was only worth $25, he [[spoiler:ruthlessly shot her]].
*** This one is more a case of ''crazy'' in sheep's clothing. It's not that he was angry about the ticket's value, it's that when she told him it was a "winner", he thought she meant they won the grand prize and got stuck on that thought; he literally couldn't comprehend that it was a small win, not a jackpot hit.
** [[spoiler:The professor]] in "Hubris". When we meet [[spoiler:him, he's a broken man whose marriage and career were ruined by the murder suspicions and the fact that not only had he had an affair with the victim, she wasn't his first dalliance. Despite his cheating, it's easy to have a little sympathy for him given that he regrets his behavior and just wants to clear his name and get his life back]]. Until the end of the episode where we learn that [[spoiler:he IS the killer and that ''every single thing'' that happened to him was fully deserved and that he's actually an arrogant bastard who isn't the least bit sorry for what he did. Indeed, he felt completely entitled to seduce his female students and to kill the one girl who dared break up with him rather than him be the one to dump her, to the point where he outright stated, "It's her fault. She made me fall in love with her."]]
** In "Who's your Daddy", Brad Atwater is this to an extent. Although the foreman is earlier described as an unfair boss to his employees, he's initially introduced as a [[AffablyEvil friendly sort]] who [[EvenEvilHasLovedOnes has a family of four, and an ailing wife he cares about]]. But later, it's revealed that not only is he [[YourCheatingHeart unfaithful]] to said-wife, he makes the wives of his Asian employees service him sexually by licking his boots. And later, when the wife offers some evidence, Atwater [[JerkWithAHeartOfJerk denounces her as crazy and even claims her illness is probably 'made up'.]]
* BittersweetEnding: Every episode. The flashbacks spend a lot of time developing the victim's character, allowing the audience to get to know him or her, often making them so nice that it's easy to forget that he/she is already dead. Even their killer finally being arrested can't take away the sting of this person being gone forever—especially since the killer themselves is often depicted as being genuinely horrified by their actions. And in the case of the occasional AssholeVictim, it bites that someone's being arrested for killing someone who probably got what he or she deserved.
** "The Runaway Bunny" has one of these. The doer is caught and the victim gets justice. Great! Unfortunately [[spoiler:the doer was just a henchman, and they don't have enough evidence to charge the real villain]].
** "Chinatown". Literally ''everything'' could have been prevented had one specific cop just arrested the local Chinese mob leader, but he didn't because he figured [[MeetTheNewBoss someone else just as bad would replace him]]. Even all three villains - the cop, the mob boss, and the killer - getting theirs at the end doesn't seem to balance out the fact that two innocent lives were lost and several more ruined all due to the [[SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids cynicism]] of one man.
%%** Daniel Patterson from "Slipping".
%%** The Lelands from "Spiders".
%%** The Beaudries
%%** The [[spoiler:chastity club president]] in "That Woman".
* BlackSheep: Christina Rush. Though in a way [[DysfunctionalFamily every Rush]] save Lilly is a Black Sheep, which would then make her a WhiteSheep.
* BlackWidow: The killer in [[spoiler:"Gleen"]] is a Black Widow''er'', as is the accomplice in [[spoiler:"Start-up"]], which is how he knew what poison to give to the killer to commit the dirty deed.
%%** "The Runaway Bunny".
* TheBlueBeard: "Lonely Hearts" and to a lesser extent "Gleen". The husband in the former episode was initially just a con artist until his girlfriend convinced him to marry several women just so they can kill them and get the insurance money and in the end, had ''five'' dead wives. The husband in the latter episode is more of a subversion; he kills the victim who was the wife he had a daughter with, but didn't get the chance to kill the other women he was to marry because they either left him after he got too possessive or in the case of his current fiancee, he was arrested the weekend they were to get married.
* {{Bookends}}: "It Takes A Village" starts with the victim bidding farewell to his grandmother as she's sitting on the porch (this was the last time she saw him alive). It ends with her in the same place, listening to his iPod, looking up to see his spirit standing there before he smiles and fades away as he turns to head down the steps just as he did in the beginning.
%%* BootCampEpisode: The two part season 6 finale.
* BottleEpisode:
** The flashbacks in "Blood on the Tracks" are all in the same house, over the same few days.
** Used in "Blackout", where the flashbacks were in the same house over a matter of hours.
** Used in "Almost Paradise", depicting the victim's prom night.
%%* TheBoxingEpisode: "Yo Adrian".
* BringMyBrownPants: Mike Delaney ("Justice") actually pissed himself when his victims confronted him.
* BreakingSpeech:
** John Smith tries this on Lilly in "The Road". [[spoiler: Then he takes it too far and Lilly's Kensington background proves vital to the case.]]
** George Marks uses it on everyone in both the episodes he's in.
%%* BrokenBird: Seems to be Scotty's type. {{Lampshaded}} by ADA Thomas.
* BrokenRecord: A literal version in "Static", wherein a gunshot causes a record player in immediate range to be covered in blood.
* BromanticFoil: The killer in "Iced" is pretty much the stereotypical lovable loser best friend of the main character. He becomes resentful that his friend has distanced himself from him so he can concentrate on being a good hockey player so he gets back at him [[spoiler:by raping and impregnating his girlfriend.]]
%%* BrotherSisterIncest: "Late Returns".
%%* BuriedAlive: "One Night".
* ButNotTooBlack: The victim in "Libertyville" was half black and half white but looked completely white.
* BystanderSyndrome: Occasionally, a murder will happen because someone who isn't involved in the crime let it happen either due to ignorance or apathy. A disturbing example came from "Triple Threat" where a witness took the purse off of a young woman found in a subway. Even though in the present day, he defended himself to the detectives by saying she was already dying by the time he got there and became a nurse to atone for what happened, it still doesn't excuse the fact that he ''stole'' from someone who was dying instead of trying to call for help and kept the purse for 20 years instead of turning it in.
* ByTheBookCop: Stillman to a T. He's the only one of the main characters who never flirts with [[DirtyCop dirtiness]] at any point in the show.
* CainAndAbel: A few times including [[spoiler:"Shuffle, Ball, Change".]]
* CallBack:
** In the episode "Bad Night" Jeffries tells a suspect about how he'd kill the hit and run truck driver that killed his wife if he ever got the chance. The suspect counters that he wouldn't, because he'd realize in the end that it was an accident. A season later Jeffries finds out the identity of his wife's killer, goes to confront him...[[spoiler: but doesn't kill him, because he realized it wouldn't bring his wife back.]]
** The Season 2 premiere, "The Badlands", has the detectives re-investigating the triple murder Lily was heading over to investigate at the beginning of the pilot episode.
* CannotKeepASecret: Tina Bream told her sister and drug attic brother in law about her husband’s bearer-bonds. She later told him about the police sting operation. Both of these caused her son’s kidnapping as well as prevented them from retrieving him.
* CannotTellALie: [[spoiler: The only witness in "Saving Sammy" is a boy with UsefulNotes/HighFunctioningAutism. He regresses for several years, making it hard for him to even speak, much less tell the truth.]]
* CategoryTraitor: "Discretion" had a Hispanic detective and prosecutor (the latter is the episode's main victim) working a MissingWhiteWomanSyndrome case being seen as this by their community, since the prime suspect was Hispanic as well.
* CardCarryingVillain: Some episodes feature characters who are ObviouslyEvil (and played by big name actors) as a way mislead the viewers into believing they are the killers.
* CelebrityParadox:
** "Creatures of the Night" has ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow'' star Creator/BarryBostwick as a serial killer, in an episode about the murder of a ''The Rocky Horror Picture Show'' fan.
** "One Fall" has [[Wrestling/RoddyPiper "Rowdy" Roddy Piper]] as a fictional wrestler.
* CentralTheme: Some episodes have their own.
** "Thrill Kill": WhatYouAreInTheDark.
** "Glory Days": What do you do if you find out that [[BrokenPedestal the person you idolize isn't as good as you thought they were?]]
** "Boy Crazy": Abandonment.
** "Running Around": YouCantGoHomeAgain, or can you?
** "Saving Patrick Bubley" is partly about a family's attempt to rise above poverty and achieve success, whether by legitimate or illicit means. An idealistic person who has become jaded can easily be pushed from one side to the other.
* CharacterNameAlias: In "One Small Step", a witness who hands in a piece of evidence related to a murder that took place on the day of the first moon landing uses the alias 'Michael Collins', the name of the third astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission.
* TheCharmer: Dex Collins, the victim in "Street Money" has an uncanny ability to turn enemies to allies. [[spoiler:This gets him killed by an irate shopkeeper when he found out Dex cut a deal with a corrupt city councilman]].
* ChekhovsGun: At some point in the many flashbacks, sometimes even from the very first one, something is said or done that proves relevant not only to the victim's murder, but to the identity of their killer.
** Sometimes in the present-day scenes as well-- in "Sandhogs", a unique cigarette lighter owned by one of the suspects turns out to have been a gift given to the victim, thus revealing him to be the murderer.
** "Wilkommen" deals with a murder that took place during a play, thus limiting the suspects to the cast and crew. Early on, the music director briefly mentions that the equipment in his booth lets him hear everything in the theater easily, a point that's dropped fairly quickly. At the end of the episodes, the suspects have been narrowed down to two, both of whom planned to scare the victim the night of the show, and each flips on the other, leaving the cops with no case. Stillman seems like he's about to reluctantly [[NotProven let the case die for lack of evidence]], before Lilly remembers that if the music director had been in the booth at the time, he'd have heard the plan too. [[spoiler: Yup, he did it]].
* ChekhovsGunman: "Stalker", one of the few episodes where the killer turned out to be none of the episode's pool of suspects. Who was it? [[spoiler: The male nurse who'd only been in one scene at the very beginning]].
* ChildhoodFriendRomance: Scotty has known his [[spoiler: ill-fated]] fiancee since they were kids.
* ChildrenAreInnocent: The victim in "Glued" is a little boy that doesn't understand the pressures of being raised by a single mother or the racist tension in his neighborhood. He is killed by someone who claimed something like [[spoiler:"he betrayed his race", again something he didn't understand]].
* ChocolateBaby: Played with in "Libertyville"; the victim was afraid of this because he was hiding his race.
* ChronicHeroSyndrome: The victim in "The Brush Man" spent hard time for [[spoiler: [[WifeBasherBasher killing a man who was beating his wife]], and later tracks down the wife to give her money on a regular basis as an apology for doing so.]] He gets killed when, having started a new life as a successful traveling salesman, [[spoiler: he intervenes in ''another'' domestic abuse scenario involving one of his customers' kids.]]
* CircusEpisode: In "Metamorphosis" the team investigates the death of a teenage circus aerialist.
%%* ClearMyName: "Hubris", "It's Raining Men", "Frank's Best", "Death Penalty: Final Appeal", "Thrill Kill", "Iced", "Two Weddings", "Flashover", "Bad Night".
* ColorMotif: The flashback scenes in "Spiders" are terribly drab but the color red is quite vivid.
* ColorWash:
** Almost every episode. It is used to distinguish the scenes in the past from those in the present. For instance, scenes taking place in the seventies will have vivid warm colors, scenes taking place in the early nineties are black, white, and grey, while the present-day scenes will have a 'normal'/slightly blue-tinged colour scheme.
** Taken a step further in a flashback in the episode "Volunteers", set in 1969. A character mentions she was "tripping", and the resulting flashback has a rather odd and slanted look.
%%* {{Confessional}}
* ConspiracyTheorist:
** One of the suspects in "One Small Step" believes that the moon landings were faked. The murder they are investigating occurred on the day of the first moon landing, and the events of that day may have fueled his later delusion.
** A witness in "Glued" believed the murder was the first step in an extremely elaborate real estate scam. [[spoiler: He's right about who did it, but the motive was rather more mundane.]]
%%* CoolOldGuy: The victim in "Officer Down".
* CoolOldLady: Audrey Abruzzi, the last surviving witness in "Torn", is very elderly, very quirky, and very helpful to the case.
%%* TheCoroner: Frannie Ching.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: Such a person is an accomplice in "Breaking News". To his credit, he ''probably'' didn't intend anyone to actually ''die'', but that still doesn't save him from the slammer.
* CorruptPolitician: Councilman Avery in "The Promise" is secretly [[spoiler: a rapist]].
%%** Councilman Boone in "Street Money". The detectives were extremely disappointed that he turned out to be innocent.
%%* {{Cult}}: "Blank Generation".
* CrazyPrepared: The victim in "Witness Protection" videotaped his deposition so that even if he was killed the crime boss would go to jail.
* CreepyMonotone: [[TyrantTakesTheHelm Deputy Commissioner Doherty]] talks like this.
* CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass: In "Shore Leave". One suspect, a former [[SemperFi Marine]], lied about his age to fight in UsefulNotes/TheKoreanWar, but became the ButtMonkey of his platoon and attracted the DrillSergeantNasty because of his ineptitude. He ended up saving the lives of his comrades by responding quickly to a [[UsefulNotes/ChineseWithChopperSupport P.L.A. ambush]] on the front lines and was awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Years later, even with proof of his heroism, his old Sergeant ''still'' thinks he was only one step up from a total washout.
%%** Curtis Bell, the ADA introduced in "Street Money".
* CrossOver: When blood found at a scene on this show matched NYPD Detective Stella Bonasera's, one of the detectives traveled to ''Series/{{CSI NY}}'' to solve it, adding to the whole TheVerse thing, with the CSI shows and ''Series/WithoutATrace''.
* CruelAndUnusualDeath: Many victims.
%%** Anyone who was drowned.
** Carrie Swett, who was stoned for being promiscuous in a scene right out of Old Testament times.
** Steve Jablonski, who was BuriedAlive.
** Carlos Espinosa, who had ''spray paint'' pored down his throat.
** Fans generally agree, though, that John Smith's victims, who were starved to death, were the most bloodcurdling of all.
* CruelMercy: One of the suspects in "Thick as Thieves" planned on doing this to the AssholeVictim. Instead of [[RevengeBeforeReason killing her in a fit of rage]], he wanted to get her sent to jail. Given that she spent all of her life running away from her trailer park past getting exposed as a con artist would have been a fate worse than death for her.
* CruelToBeKind: Somewhat in [[spoiler: "Strange Fruit". The victim's friend visits him in jail and acts cold-hearted and mean for finding out her husband raped their maid. She pays his bail, but not before snidely prompting them to go to Washington. ...Except, she did that so the victim wouldn't stick around to be killed by the husband if the latter found out about their secret friendship.]]
%%* CycleOfRevenge: "Saving Patrick Bubley". Tragically so.
* DaddyDidntShow: Subverted in "Static". [[spoiler: Apparently, Daddy took too long to show. His wife was pissed off, and shot him when he tried to apologize.]]
* DaddyHadAGoodReasonForAbandoningYou:
** Lilly's dad -- [[spoiler: he was an alcoholic like mom, but when he became sober, mom threw him out and cut him off from Lilly and Christina.]]
** The episode "Family". The father was a senior in high school who was [[spoiler: killed by his principal after he decided to not give his daughter to him because he wanted to actually raise her.]]
** The victim of "Cargo" was killed before he could buy his surrogate daughter's freedom, and since his killer lied to her about his motives, she spent all that time thinking he had simply abandoned her.
* DangerousDeserter: How the killer in "Free Love" saw the victim.
* DarkSecret: Often the motive for many of the crimes, but special mention goes to "That Woman", where the victim [[ContrivedCoincidence somehow]] manages stumble into the secrets of ''every single member'' of her chastity club. [[spoiler: [[EverybodyDidIt It's what gets her killed.]]]]
* DeadpanSnarker:
** Most of the main cast has their moments, but special mention goes to Detective Nick Vera.
--->(from "The Promise") "He's cute. [[MakesSenseInContext French]] [[FrenchMaid maids]] do it for me too."
** This often occurs whenever a suspect tries to direct the detectives' sympathies from the victims and onto themselves. Consider this exchange from "Hubris":
--->'''Roy Minard:''' My unfortunate role was as the prime suspect.
--->'''Lilly Rush:''' Who had the unfortunate role of the victim?
** This one from "One Fall":
--->'''Sil Tavern:''' In [[ProfessionalWrestling our business]] if you make it to fifty you're doing well.
--->'''Lilly Rush:''' Mick didn't make it to thirty.
* DeadPersonImpersonation:
** The dead woman from "Committed" was using the identity of a murder victim.
** [[spoiler: The killer from "Blood on the Tracks" took the identity of one her victims. As it turns out, this was easy to do as they bore a strong resemblance to each other]].
** [[spoiler: "The Hen House", the murderer was a Nazi guard at Auschwitz who stole the name of a young man killed at the camp, both to escape and in an attempt to redeem himself. With the rest of the family also having died at the camp, he easily passed without much question, even going so far as to join the man's living family members in the US (who didn't have a way of knowing it was a impostor, having likely never met) and lived among them for over sixty years. He was only caught thanks to a investigation into the murder he committed in the 40's, both to prevent from being exposed and being half-enraged/half-heartbroken that his victim (whom he'd fallen in love with) rejected him after finding out what he'd done.]]
* DeathByFallingOver: Multiple episodes feature the VictimOfTheWeek dying after being shoved (down a flight of stairs, off a balcony, on to a curbstone, etc.) by the killer.
* DeathOfAChild: A handful of episodes have featured this.
* {{Deconstruction}}:
** Many episodes serve as deconstructions of entire ''time periods'', or people's attitudes toward "the good old days" in general.
** "Running Around" features a {{deconstruction}} of the AllGirlsWantBadBoys trope as a major plot element. Turns out the [[MrFanservice dreamy]], leather-clad drug dealer with a seeming heart of gold really is just a knob.
* DefeatMeansFriendship: The victim from "Read Between The Lines" beats a guy in a freestyle rap battle and he becomes her mentor.
* DefiledForever: How the sisters in St. Mary (an American Magdalene laundry) wanted the girls to think of themselves in "The Goodbye Room". The victim actually defies this:
--> '''Hilary West:''' How could I be bad and make an angel like her? ''(looks adoringly at her baby)''
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: The whole show ''runs'' on it. Expect at least five episodes a season to rub in the audiences' face just how cruel, repressive, and dangerous the past was for anyone who was "different" or who stepped out of the incredibly rigid lines of "polite" society. Most of the time, the ''era'' is the true monster of the case, and not the murderer.
* DepartmentOfChildDisservices: The episodes [[spoiler: "Fly Away", "The Woods", and "Ghost of My Child"]] have the child service workers being a pedophile, a burglar, and a child kidnapper, respectively.
* DepravedBisexual:
** How many shows have one of these in the ''first episode''? It was in the form of a jailed, somewhat effete pederast.
** Seen in [[spoiler: "Greed" where the manipulative stockbroker tells young men they can get ahead if they sleep with him, and sleeps with a mother and a son to get the mother to invest money]].
* DevelopingDoomedCharacters: The VictimOfTheWeek is fleshed out in numerous flashbacks that keep him/her onscreen throughout the entire episode. As such, it is often very easy to forget that these persons are already dead despite their death having been established within the first five minutes, making the final scenes that depict their murder and the person responsible quite gut-wrenching.
%%* DiabolusExMachina: Many of the murders are played this way. "Shuffle, Ball Change", "Triple Threat", "The Letter", and "Almost Paradise" were all rather cruel, but the most bloodcurdling one of all was probably "A Perfect Day".
* DidIMentionItsChristmas: "Frank's Best" is set right around Christmastime.
* DiesWideOpen: How many bodies are found.
* DirtyCop: Plenty, including...
** The killer in "A Perfect Day", who used his police connections to cover up his own DomesticAbuse.
** The killer in "Bad Reputation", who, cleaned out by his ex-wife in their divorce, began using his informants to commit crimes for him.
** The finale reveals [[spoiler: Deputy Commissioner Doherty]] was actually crooked, rather than just [[SmugSnake sleazy]], albeit for idealistic reasons, [[spoiler: fudging his druggie son's criminal record to omit manslaughter to enable him to rebuild his life]].
** The protagonists, bar Stillman, flirt with this in "Justice" by [[spoiler: letting a man who killed a serial rapist walk]].
** "Forever Blue" features two examples:
*** The victim's partner turns out to be this, albeit out of desperation.
*** Lt. [=McCree=], who took kickbacks from Philly's heroin kingpin at the time [[spoiler: and cold-bloodedly shot a fellow officer [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain for being gay]]]].
** The victim in "The Runaway Bunny" was a former Philadelphia cop who was fired from the force for being on the take. He became a very disreputable private investigator but [[spoiler: eventually performed a HeelFaceTurn that resulted in his death when he realized what his BlackWidow client was up to.]]
* DirtyCoward:
** When you sum up everything she did, the killer in "Blood on the Tracks" is this - they even admit to it when confronted by Lilly.
** The [[AssholeVictim victim]] in "Justice" is a serial date rapist who exploited the lax laws regarding date rape to repeatedly perpetuate the crimes, peed himself when several of his former victims confronted him at gunpoint, and then acted unapologetic and unrepentant about his actions once they left. [[spoiler:The detectives become so repulsed by what they learned of him that they actually tell the killer what to say in court to defend himself.]]
** The spoiled rich kid [[spoiler:and one of the killers]] in "8:03 AM". While [[spoiler:the other killer]] could be seen as somewhat sympathetic, he was nothing more than a SmugSnake who felt that, because his father was rich, he could get away with anything. Yet, he started bawling the moment he found out that that wasn’t the case.
* DisabledLoveInterest: Vicki in "Bad Night", who has no less than three suitors throughout the episode, including the victim [[spoiler: and the killer]].
* DisposableSexWorker:
** Straight example in "Hubris" - the old case is reopened because a prostitute is murdered in the same way as the other victim in the modern day... yet this new victim is almost not investigated at all, and she does not appear in "ghost form" when her killer is caught at the end, while the old victim does.
** The case "The Letter" goes cold in the first place ''because'' the victims were mistaken as prostitutes, so the cops didn't put any effort in searching for the killer.
* DisproportionateRetribution:
%%** The killers from "Rampage" and "Sabotage" respectively.
** "Thrill Kill". [[spoiler:The guy killed his son and his friends because of a harmless prank they pulled on him.]]
** None of these hold a candle to the guy from "Disco Inferno", who murdered 23 people over an insult to his dancing skills and displays not one iota of remorse and said insult was only given after he had just attacked the victim in the hopes that [[spoiler:he could break the guys legs or damage them enough so he couldn't win the dance contest.]] The Victim was (understandably) ticked off at having been assaulted.
%%** "Fireflies". A white girl defends her black friend from a racist boy. Said boy is humiliated and breaks into her house and attempts to kill her.
%%*** It wasn't just that. The boy was being beaten-up daily by his father because of a situation that started when the white girl befriended the black girl. He shot at them to scare both into breaking their friendship, but thought he had accidentally murdered one... and then went to kill the other so she couldn't tell anyone. [[spoiler:Luckily, the girl survived.]]
** The serial killer from "The Last Drive-in"/"Bullet" targeted the people he blamed for his father's suicide, and later for his own business failing. Most of them were nothing more than [[ShootTheMessenger innocent bearers of bad news]].
%%* DomesticAbuse: Several but most notably in "A Perfect Day", "Churchgoing People" and "The Brush Man".
* DoubleStandardAbuseFemaleOnMale: Played with the first suspect in "The Red and the Blue", a woman who shot her husband after she caught him cheating. She was sent to jail and was presented as AxCrazy. Throughout her interrogation, not only did she hint that she was cheating on him as well (in addition to admitting she was his former mistress) but she sent the cops after him. However, at the end of the episode the two reconciled and embraced each other.
%%* DrillSergeantNasty: The murderer in "Shore Leave".
%%* DrugsAreBad: "The Red and the Blue".
%%* DropTheHammer: "Spiders".
%%* [[TheDutifulSon The Dutiful Daughter]]: Lilly

[[folder:E - K]]
* {{Eagleland}}: "Devil Music" is a {{deconstruction}} of Type 1, in a similar vein to ''Film/{{Pleasantville}}''. It's set in a seemingly-idyllic ''Series/LeaveItToBeaver''-style community, but over the course of the episode, the victim, an Music/ElvisPresley {{Expy}}, starts discovering and bringing to light dirty little secrets about the town, such as its incredibly-restrictive racism and sexism. He's ultimately killed by [[spoiler:his cousin, who had bought into the facade completely and blamed the victim for taking his utopian life away from him (but, of course, it was ''never'' utopian to begin with and the cousin was CompletelyMissingThePoint)]].
* EasilyForgiven: Ken Bream from ''Revenge'' spent his entire life being blamed by his wife for their son’s death as well as blaming himself. Yet when the police discover that she was solely at fault he never once called her out.
%%* [[EducationMama Education Papa]]: "Knuckle Up" has one.
* EnhanceButton: Played with - the detectives move up close to the screen. Though Vera laments that their station is too poor to have [[BuffySpeak one of those zoomer things]].
* EnfantTerrible: Averted; most young killers are very sympathetic. The one exception was apparently John Smith, and even he would only start committing his murders as an adult (though he did ''let'' someone die as a kid).
* EpicFail: The low point for the three guys in "Kensington" was when they tried and failed to steal a chandelier from an empty house.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: At times, it's the point of the prologue. It helps to introduce the characters of the week to the audience.
** In "Strange Fruit, this father is put-off by how a gelatin dish was brought to the BBQ by an African family and tries to discourage his daughter from having some. He even tries to convince her to have cake, despite that she voices she doesn't like cake.
* EvenEvilHasStandards:
** The killer's brother in "Strange Fruit" may be a [[RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil rapist]] and a MorallyBankruptBanker, but [[spoiler:lynching a man and [[HarmfulToMinors making a child watch]]]] brings even ''him'' to tears.
** Mac in "Wishing" may have been a major Jerkass, but even he was disgusted by the victim's "friend" Josh’s actions.
** The rapist in "Offender" considered his own son off-limits.
** The racist prison guard in "Family 8108" admits that he left the victim alone after witnessing the full extent of his fucked up family life (his marriage is falling apart, his wife's pregnant, his son is rebelling, he's trying to remain [[StepfordSmiler sunny and upbeat]] despite the situation) simply because he just didn't have it in him to pick on someone that miserable.
* EverybodyDidIt: [[spoiler:"That Woman"]]. The killers are all [[spoiler: members of a high school chastity club that kill one of their own for accidentally learning about all of their dark secrets.]]
%%* EverybodyIsSingle
* EvilCannotComprehendGood:
** None of the smugglers in "Cargo" could understand why the victim was going out of his way to save a single girl.
** The killer in "Stalker" honestly seems to not understand why killing someone entire's family wouldn’t send them rushing into his arms.
** No one could understand why the victim in "Bad Reputation" would want to go straight.
* EvilCounterpart: Some of the killers are this to the victim or someone else involved.
** The killer in [[spoiler:"Witness Protection"]] to the victim. They both made mistakes that they were trying to make amends for and had difficult family lives because of this. But while the victim was getting his life together and realized he couldn’t let his family pay for his mistakes, the killer wanted to hold on to what he had with an iron fist.
** The gang leader in "The Badlands" is this to Jeffries. Both grew up in the titular neighborhood, the roughest part of Philly, and both aspired to be in the gangs. Jeffries, however, met the right people, who straightened him out, while the positive influences in the gangster's life, the episode's victims, were killed. Jeffries using this fact to empathize with the gangster, pointing out that he'd likely have ended up the exact same way in the same situation, scores him some critical testimony.
* EvilMatriarch: Many:
** The victim in "Blackout" is an ex-beauty queen who needs to feel sexually attractive to men -- [[spoiler:''all'' men, including her own son and ''grandson'' (which is what gets her killed after her neglected "plain Jane" daughter catches on).]]
** The killer's mother in "Spiders" is a sweet, '50s-style mom [[spoiler:who runs a neo-Nazi coven in her basement and emotionally railroads the ''other'' killer into committing his crime]].
* EvilOldFolks:
** Several perps are quite elderly in the present, though with the mitigating factor that they were young when they actually committed their crimes.
** Special mention goes to the ''nonagenarian, Alzheimers-afflicted'' guy from [[spoiler:"World's End"]], who'd gotten away with his crime for almost ''seventy years''. They still lock up the poor old guy, too, arguably a KickTheDog for the main characters.
* EvilTeacher: Several.
** The guy in "True Calling" who forced his students to run drugs.
** The coach in "Family", who molested one of his students in the locker room and apparently planned to do the same to the girl's now-grown daughter, who he may or may not have believed was also ''his'' daughter from said rape (she's not, the girl's boyfriend was the father). The actual killer was also a teacher, but played more sympathetically than the coach.
** The AssholeVictim in "The Plan", a swimming coach who was shown to relentlessly bully and browbeat his students. As if this wasn't bad enough, the investigation reveals that he was also a pedophile.
** The GreenEyedMonster of a music teacher [[spoiler:(and murderer)]] in "Triple Threat".
** The coach and booster of the football team in "Glory Days", who dosed their players with steroids without their consent, ruining the academic and athletic careers of at least one.
** The ephebophilic assistant principal in "Almost Paradise", who forcibly kissed [[spoiler:and then murdered the victim]].
* {{Expy}}: The victim Julian Bellowes in "Libertyville" has a lot in common with [[Film/ItsAWonderfulLife George Bailey]], right down to a similar name.
* ExtremeDoormat: Bobby in "One Small Step" just follows around the guy with the most confidence.
* ExtremelyColdCase: In "Torn", Lilly and her team investigate their oldest case yet, the murder of a woman who was killed in 1919. They soon learn that she may have been murdered because of her activism for woman rights. The only person from the original investigation still alive was a young child at the time of the murder.
* FaceHeelTurn: Far too often in this show, the killer us the victim's loved one--a friend/relative/spouse--who turns bad.
* FairCop: Particularly Lilly, who many characters consider extremely attractive. More than once somebody's wondered if she got her position by sleeping with someone (she didn't).
* FamousLastWords: Several victims have had pretty awesome things to say to their killers at the end:
** "You mean ''your boss''? I'll tell him. I'll tell everyone!" in "Strange Fruit".
** "[[FacingTheBulletsOneLiner You don't exist.]]" in "Who's Your Daddy?"
** "My son was more of an American than you will ever be!" in "Family 8108".
** "You're as bad as Bartleby!" in "Beautiful Little Fool".
** "I'm a good man. What are you?" in "Bad Reputation".
** The victim in "Knuckle Up" is offered a deal to [[spoiler:cover up the murder of an innocent man.]] His answer?
---> '''James Hoffman:''' Sorry, [[spoiler:Mr. Lennox]]. You can take your money and ''shove it''.
* FanDisservice:
** The seduction scene in "Blackout". Donna Mills in a backless swimsuit going after a younger guy in a jacuzzi. Hot, right? Well, [[spoiler: by "younger" we mean "thirteen years old and also her grandson"]] so no, not really.
** The locker room scene in "Stand Up and Holler", where two cheerleaders are forced to kiss by their AlphaBitch team captain. Two [[GirlOnGirlIsHot cute]] [[AllGuysWantCheerleaders cheerleaders]] kissing is just dandy, except for when one girl really does ''not'' want to and it's clearly a form of humiliation and emotional abuse by the entire team of football players in the locker room who ''demand'' that they do it with greater intensity.
%%* FashionHurts: Quincy Bubley's cornrows.
* FatBastard: Brad Atwater, the doer in "Who's Your Daddy": he's a pretty hefty guy himself, and he had a history of abusing and degrading his illegal workers, from taking a cut of their paychecks for himself, to degrading women and having them lick his boots and service him sexually.
%%** Jim Larkin, the doer in "Lovers' Lane", is both the heftiest perp seen on the show and one of the evilest.
* FatalFlaw: The victims are usually killed because of their own best qualities.
** "Bombers" - The victim's obsession with honoring, later avenging, his friend.
** "The Runaway Bunny" - The victim can't help being a DeadpanSnarker even when his life is in danger.
** "The Brush Man" - The victim's hate towards abusive husbands and fathers.
** "Street Money" - The victim's devotion to being a completely honest politician, despite everyone from his campaign manager to his opponent telling him [[HonorBeforeReason this is unrealistic]].
* FateWorseThanDeath: The victim from "Thick as Thieves" receives this. Even as an [[AssholeVictim unlikable victim]] (while still being the one of the ''better'' of these types of victims, she may have been a thief who made her son participate in her crimes, but she wasn't a murderer or a rapist), she was shot at point blank range but didn't die. Instead, she ended up in a [[AndIMustScream coma for]] ''[[AndIMustScream twenty years.]]''
* AFatherToHisMen: Lt. Brown from "The Red and The Blue" is even more of an example. His detectives all call him "Big Daddy" and Rush and Valens are encouraged to as well. They are initially hesitant to do so, but later he addresses Rush as "Little Sister" and she calls him "Big Daddy" without missing a beat.
%%** John Stillman, the BenevolentBoss.
* FinallyFoundTheBody: The break needed when it was a missing person case that went cold, rather than a murder. Even though the audience has seen the victim's body at the beginning of the episode and knows that he/she is dead.
* FingerInTheMail: A coyote (smuggler of humans along the US-Mexico boarder) would kidnap the children of families that missed payments, cut off their ear and mail it to the family, then kill the child if there was still no payment received.
* {{Fingore}}:
** The signature of the serial killer from "It Takes a Village" was to cut one of his victims' fingers off.
** "The House" also had a scene where the corrupt warden broke two of an inmate's fingers with something that looked like a pair of pliers.
* FiveFiveFive: 215-555-0196, on "Saving Sammy". [[spoiler: The number flashes on the doer's cell phone, putting him at the crime scene.]]
* FishEyeLens: The flashbacks in "The Hitchhiker" are mostly shot like this.
* {{Flashback}}: The show ''runs'' on this trope in order to portray events in the past as told by people who knew or encountered the VictimOfTheWeek.
* FlashbackEffects:
** Flashback scenes imitate the style and appearance of actual footage from that time period, including DeliberatelyMonochrome for really old cases, spots on the film, and what have you.
** An episode where the crime happened at a party in 2004 had flashback footage looking like it was filmed with a camera phone.
** An episode set in 1990 looked as though it were filmed on home video.
** Episode 3x01, "Family", is set in 1988. They use a pop art style with four windows in one screen, and colors exaggerated.
** "The Woods", set in 1972, has flashbacks that appear to have been filmed with low-quality Super-8 home movie film, giving the scenes a desaturated quality that adds to the nightmarish atmosphere of the story.
%%* AFoolAndHisNewMoneyAreSoonParted: "Lotto Fever".
* ForcedToWatch:
** [[spoiler: The killer's nine-year-old niece in "Strange Fruit". The killer was a real piece of work, as you can probably tell]].
** In "A Perfect Day" Cindy's abusive husband at one point threatens "to take away what she loves the most". One of the women who runs the battered women shelter translates this as: he'd murder their children and make her watch him do it. [[SarcasmMode Nice guy]]. [[spoiler:He does in fact murder one of their children in front of her, but she is able to save the other]].
* ForcefulKiss: In [[spoiler: "Superstar", "Roller Girl" and "Almost Paradise"]]. Doesn't end well for the girls.
* ForegoneConclusion: We already know someone's going to die--the very first minutes of each episode depicts this. The flashbacks and investigations serve to reveal the identity and motive of whoever is responsible.
* ForeignWrestlingHeel: One of the wrestlers interviewed in "One Fall" played an angry Communist Russian character.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: The opening scenes often drop hints as to what lead to the victim's murder.
%%* ForensicDrama
* FunHatingConfiscatingAdult: In "The Brush Man", one of the suspects is a reclusive Vietnam veteran who keeps any toy who lands on his property. When the police search his home, they find a huge stash of bikes and balls.
* FutureLoser
** A special yet recurrent variant is to show people that were beautiful or hot in the past (and exploiting it for their benefit) to be "fugly" or having aged way worse than others in the present, even if they weren't really bad people back then. Examples include the rival male dancer in "Disco Inferno", the football player in "Stand Up and Holler", the GoldDigger in "The Runaway Bunny", the gorgeous blonde in "Justice", and the former prom king in "Almost Paradise"
** None are hit as hard as the dumb babysitter in "Baby Blues", which in the modern day is still dumb, really ugly and now... "works" in the street.
** Notably averted in "Debut" - all of the young, beautiful high-society debutantes (male and female) are still fairly attractive (for their age) 40 years later. Wealth and privilege can have that effect though.
** "Almost Paradise" also had an ''inversion''; the victim's mousy, [[NerdGlasses bespectacled]] HopelessSuitor grew up to be a tough martial arts instructor, albeit still one who uses an inhaler.
%%* TheGamblingAddict: Explored in "The River".
* GangBangers: All of the suspects in "Saving Patrick Bubley".
* GasLighting: The killer in "Slipping" [[spoiler:tried to drive his wife to suicide by making her believe the ghost of her mother (who had killed herself) was after her, while maintaining the facade of a caring husband to her face]].
* GayAesop: The whole show is this, even during episodes where a gay person is ''not'' the VictimOfTheWeek. However, it also crosses into being a BrokenAesop due to the tremendous amount of crap that the gay victim/relative/non-victim/etc. goes through during the episode.
* {{Gayngst}}: The surviving partners in "Forever Blue" and "Best Friends", who are still closeted and mourning their one true love when the team comes to investigate decades later.
* GayngstInducedSuicide: In the episode "Best Friends", a butch lesbian dies and her girlfriend lives after they try to commit suicide by driving off a bridge, while being chased by her homophobic brother.
* GeniusBruiser: Michael [=McShane=], the victim in "Glory Days", turned out to be smarter than he himself thought and could have had a future away from football.
* GentleGiant: "Metamorphosis" has [[spoiler:a subversion, as it is discovered that Lester is in reality a very mean SmugSnake that [[ObfuscatingStupidity plays dumb]] to draw suspicions off him. He is OutGambitted and tricked to confess the crime.]]
%%** Detective Vera is a straight version.
* GhostReunionEnding: The series almost always ends with somebody seeing the victim. Often they were seen by a detective but it was a loved one a lot too (especially in the later seasons).
* GilliganCut: In "Saving Sammy", Valens and Vera go to interview a witness who is has autism. Valens tells Vera to take off his yellow tie as the witness does not like the colour yellow. Vera refuses. The next shot has them walking into the room of the boy with autism. Vera is not wearing his tie.
* GirlOnGirlIsHot: In "Stand Up and Holler", this is the obvious in-universe intent behind the tradition of having two newly-inducted [[AllGuysWantCheerleaders high school cheerleaders]] kiss each other on the lips, as exemplified by the entire team of football players demanding they use tongue. Hot for the football players, [[FanDisservice not so much for the audience.]]
* AGodAmI: Played with in "The Woods".
-->'''BigBad''': ''I AM GOD IN THESE WOODS!!''
-->'''Lilly''': ''No, you're not... you're a scared little boy... whose mother didn't love him.''
* GodIsEvil: George Marks believes that "God's a sociopath."
* GoldDigger: Johanna showed signs of this in "Blood on the Tracks". The only reason [[spoiler:she killed her husband]] was because his confessing would have ruined her life of wealth.
%%** "Lotto Fever".
* GoodCannotComprehendEvil:
** The target in "Sabotage" couldn’t comprehend the fact that his brother was trying to kill him. It reached the point of WeirdnessCensor, forcing the police to sit him down and make him see reason.
** Or apparently crazy, as was the case of the victim in "A Dollar, A Dream". After she and her daughters wound up homeless due to her husband and the sole breadwinner's death from cancer, they all end up living in their car and she befriends a fellow homeless man who ends up killing her due to his belief that she was holding out on a lottery ticket that was worth a lot of money. She did win, but it was only enough for pocket change for him and enough to buy a birthday cake for her younger daughter. Unfortunately, she had no idea how unstable the man was (or obviously, much in the way of financial planning and saving.)
* GoodCopBadCop: {{Averted|Trope}}. The characters usually go with the no sympathy route with suspects.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion:
** The agenda of a suspect in season 3 opener "Family". She's a {{school nurse}} who talks kids out of getting their pregnancies "taken care of" because "murder is never easy." The show doesn't push the issue, as the character is a radical who has been arrested on multiple occasions in the process of pushing her cause, usually violently.
--->'''Suspect''': "I wanted him to see what goes on at the killing mills!"
--->'''Vera''': "Bite me."
** Averted in Season One's "Volunteers". The victims were helping run an abortion clinic in the 60's, and are even presented heroically because of this. One girl says they probably saved her life, and there's no judgment passed on her or anyone else who had to recur to them.
* GoodBadGirl: The victim in "That Woman". While she may have been promosicious and very lewd, she generally tried to be a decent person and even joined her high school's chastity club in order to reform herself. [[spoiler: Too bad her fellow members ended up killing her...]]
* GorgeousGeorge: One of the wrestlers interviewed in "One Fall" played an effete, feather boa-clad {{heel}} character. [[spoiler: He wasn't the killer, but he witnessed the crime and did nothing, and so was arrested as AccompliceByInaction]].
* TheGreatestStoryNeverTold: Most victims are genuinely heroic people, which is usually why they get murdered, but the details of all the good things they'd done are only revealed as the investigation proceeds.
* GreenEyedMonster: The killer in "One Small Step". [[spoiler:He was a rich kid who only recruited the victim because of the boy's technical know-how. Unfortunately, as time passed, his flunkies looked towards the victim as the leader after the kid faced down and injured the psychopathic older brother of one of them and managed to talk the curmudgeonly junk yard dealer into giving them rocket fuel. When the killer failed to make a jump due to fear, the victim tries to save his life; this causes the killer to snap and lash out in shame. It's so strong that even 40 years later the team is able to goad him into confessing by exploiting that jealousy.]]
* GuiltRiddenAccomplice: Several.
** The victim in "Blood on the Tracks" was killed because he himself was one and wanted to go to the police.
** In "Forever Blue" [[spoiler:the victim's father, a police sergeant, hired another cop to beat the homosexuality out of his son; unfortunately the guy was completely AxeCrazy and shot him instead. He kept this a secret well into his twilight years, until the detectives persuaded him to tearfully give up himself and the killer]].
** All the members of the [[spoiler:chastity club]], barring the [[AlphaBitch captain]], in "That Woman".
%%* HangingJudge: "Jurisprudence".
* HateSink: The episodes with a SympatheticMurderer typically also include a genuinely-vile secondary character so the audience has ''someone'' to root against - the pedophile in "Fly Away", the date-rapist club owner in "Roller Girl", the slimeball who sold a machine pistol to a kid in "Time to Crime", and so on. Sometimes this character is even [[AssholeVictim the victim]] themselves.
* HaveYouToldAnyoneElse: a variation is occasionally used where the key piece of evidence is a prized possession of the victim's that had mysteriously gone missing; usually, this item turning up in the hands of one of the suspects is all the detectives need to close the case.
* HeelFaceDoorSlam
** [[spoiler:The victim (and SerialKiller partner) in "Lonely Hearts", thinking she's [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlived her usefulness]], attempts to join forces with another woman he's conned and kill him. Unfortunately, the woman is in love with the killer still, and ends up shooting the other woman InTheBack.]]
** The murdered suffragette in "Torn" betrayed her friends and decided to try to rejoin them. She is instead [[spoiler:accidentally killed by her mother]].
** The killer from "Boy Crazy" [[spoiler:abandoned the victim, a girl who looks like a boy, after she kissed him, because he didn't want anyone to think he was gay. He tried to break her out of a mental institution but he was too late; they had already tampered with her brain, leaving her half-dead. All he could do was finish her off.]]
* HeelRealization:
** The father in "Superstar" realizing he’s been neglecting his youngest daughter all these years by obsessing over his oldest daughter’s death and her lost career.
** The guy who hired someone to steal his car for the insurance in "Resolutions" after coming this close to going down for murder due how much of a {{Jerkass}} he is to the point that that he became TheAtoner.
* HeKnowsTooMuch:
** Part of the reason why the teacher in "True Calling" was murdered was because [[spoiler: she knew a fellow teacher was using drugs and forcing her student to bring them to him.]]
** "Blood on the Tracks", where one of the victims wanted to confess to the police about a crime that he and the other suspects had all been involved in--only to be killed before he could.
** "That Woman", in which the victim is killed after she's unfortunate enough to discover the DarkSecret of [[spoiler:[[EverybodyDidIt everyone in her chastity club.]]]]
** The killer in "One Small Step" killed his victim because he saw him scared.
* HeroicBSOD / HeroicWillpower: The father in "Family 8108" went through this after his son died. It's made all the more obvious due to the fact that he endured all of the hardships of a World War II-era Japanese citizens, but he couldn't cope with knowing that his son died while they were still mad at each other. He bounced right back up the moment he found out that that wasn’t true.
* HiddenDepths: Every suspect, victim and people involved in the crimes have one. The Killer and eponymous [[StalkerWithACrush stalker]] in ''Stalker'' [[spoiler: in addition to being a trained nurse was also an EMT before [[LoveMakesYouCrazy love made him crazy]].]] Showing that he was capable of doing good things for people. Its also strongly implied that he from an [[FreudianExcuse abusive home]]. None of this is ever really explored.
%%* HisNameIs: "Yo, Adrian".
* HoistByHisOwnPetard:
** "Hubris": [[spoiler:The killer frames someone else for the crime and then asks the police to reopen the case, hoping to get that person convicted so the victim's family would get off his back. Unfortunately, the detectives were smarter than he thought and his intended patsy cooperated fully with them, allowing the case to lead right back to him]]. Oops.
** In "Strange Fruit" [[spoiler:the killer [[WouldHurtAChild punishes his little niece]] [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain for befriending a black man]] by [[ForcedToWatch making her watch the murder]]]]. Guess whose testimony is what puts him away in the end?
** The boyfriend and killer in [[spoiler:"Saving Sammy"]] killed his girlfriend’s parents when he found out that they were moving, hoping that would allow her to stay. However, she ended up so distraught over their death that she broke up with him.
* HollywoodLaw: The detectives will occasionally badger a suspect into not calling their lawyer, something very much not allowed in real life.
* HollywoodOld:
** Actors who are only in their 60's are frequently hired to play characters in their 70's, 80's, or even 90's.
** Particularly noticeable in "Family 8108", where two characters old enough to have teenage children in the 1940s don't look a day past a very well-aged 70 in the present, and in fact a friend and peer of one of said children actually looks ''older'' than them. One of the two (ostensibly) older characters also picked up an accent with age somehow.
* HomelessPigeonPerson: There was a one-shot character who had known and mentored the victim of the week and was your typical pigeon keeper. [[spoiler: He's like this due to depression caused by a mistake in his airplane design [[MyGreatestFailure leading to several accidental deaths]].]]
* HonestJohnsDealership: Such a dealership and its almost universally sleazy sales force are central to events in "The Dealer".
* HonorRelatedAbuse: Explored as a possible motive in "Chinatown", as the boyfriend and girlfriend victims were Chinese and Vietnamese respectively and their relationship was thus looked down upon by the community. [[spoiler: This turned out not to be the case; they were killed because they got caught up in a feud involving the local Tong boss]].
%%* HotForPreacher: The [[spoiler:chastity club president]] in "That Woman".
* HotGuyUglyWife: The handsome lothario in "Lonely Hearts" liked to court unattractive women, mostly because he knew they were so desperate they'd put up with his crap and therefore be easy to scam. But when his latest victim calls him out and instead of turning him in, suggests working with him and ratcheting up their schemes to include ''murder'', he seems downright turned on. When she herself is killed (not by him, ironically), he's so despondent that he never takes up with another partner and years later finally kills himself while watching a videotape that she made, implying that he genuinely fell in love with her.
* HowWeGotHere: The flashbacks that fill in the gap between when we first meet the victim and when they were murdered. Occasionally, they even fill in the blanks from ''before'' the introduction.
* HuntingTheMostDangerousGame: The character of George Marks, played by John Billingsley, is shown hunting his victims in forests, much like the real-life serial killer Robert Hansen.
* {{Hypocrite}}: Ellie in "Revolution" regularly seemed to [[MoralMyopia justify her actions while condemning others for theirs]].
* ICouldaBeenAContender: Many of the victims died before they reached their full potential.
%%* IfICantHaveYou: The killer in "November 22nd".
* IJustShotMarvinInTheFace: All over the place in "Time to Crime", with the same MAC-10. Two kids are playing with guns in a hallway, and an adult is horrified to learn that one of the guns is real and fully loaded. Two college kids get their hands on the gun, and decide to randomly shoot some geese. They also end up hitting a nearby horse. [[spoiler:Most heartrendingly, the killer of the episode shot at a crowded park and not only missed his target, but also killed his little sister.]]
* IJustWantToBeNormal: Lampshaded, during the episode "Thick as Thieves", by the victim's son, [[spoiler: who turned out to be the one who planned her death]]. Considering he had been on the road with his mother since he was 6, it's not surprising he'd feel that way.
* IKnowMortalKombat: The victim in "Stealing Home" used his skill as a baseball player to get into the country.
* ILied: Rare heroic example, believe it or not. In "Jurisprudence" Scotty makes a deal with a corrupt judge who knows the killer's identity: the judge gives up the murderer, and in return Scotty doesn't expose his bribery scheme to the feds. The judge does so... and during the ending montage, we see Scotty called the feds anyway.
%%* IWasQuiteALooker
%%* TheIllegal:
%%** The Eastern European women in "Cargo".
%%** The victims in "Who's Your Daddy?"
* ImColdSoCold: When a villain flashes back to his first kill (inadvertent, as he merely let the woman die rather than outright harming her), he remember a woman trapped in a well, frantically treading water and babbling, "Cold. . .so cold".
* ImpoverishedPatrician: "Beautiful Little Fool" involved a formerly rich family who lost everything in the Stock Market Crash. By the present day, the only surviving member of the family is an old woman who was but a child in 1929. She still lives in her family's faded mansion. She does however mention that while the family lost a lot at first, they essentially survived the Crash and didn't fall as hard as others, which makes it all the sadder, since [[spoiler: they could've taken in her brother's baby daughter]].
* ImprovisedWeapon: Since a lot of the murders are spur-of-the-moment, lots of different objects have been used. Some examples include a clock, a metronome, a phone, a crutch, and a skateboard.
* IncriminatingIndifference: Vera became suspicious of the victim's boyfriend in "Our Boy Is Back" after noticing that the man was rude and hostile when being questioned and refused to cooperate by taking a DNA test. While not illegal, it's in Stark contrast to how a grieving boyfriend would act. Ironically, the man was innocent.
* IneffectualSympatheticVillain: The killer in "The Hitchhiker" doesn't really have any noteworthy redeeming qualities, but he can be considered rather pitiable due to what an utter failure he is.
* INeverSaidItWasPoison:
** How they trip up the doer in "Red Glare" - he knew something about the victim he could've only known if he'd been the last one to see him alive.
** Played with in "The Hitchhiker". The prime first suspect, a violent-tempered truck driver, seems to slip up this way when he denies killing "that hitchhiker". The detectives never told him the victim was hitching at the time of his death. As it turns out, he didn't kill the episode's victim. He did however kill two ''other'' hitchhikers the cops were trying to nail him for.
** The killer in "8:03 AM" gives himself away by correctly identifying the type of gun used in the murder without being told.
** One of the Neo-Nazis in "Spiders", when told a witness put her at the scene of a murder, replies: "That's impossible; [[TooDumbToLive it was pitch-dark!]]"
** The killer in "Breaking News" knew about an interview he couldn't have known about unless he was involved with the murder.
** The killer in "Fireflies" said the name of the witness who saw him before the cops even mentioned it.
** The killer in "The Dealer" denies both killing the victim and stealing her bonus. The detectives had only mentioned her ''money'' being stolen, not the source of that money.
* InterserviceRivalry: Turns up in the episode "Shore Leave". A marine bound for the Korean War was murdered while on furlough in Philadelphia. He was known to have rubbed several sailors up the wrong, and beaten the navy champion in a shipboard boxing match, so the cold case team wonder if his murder could have been a case of interservice rivalry getting out of hand, especially after they learn he ventured into a navy bar. However, a flashback reveals that the sailors did resent his presence there and would have beaten him up, only he was threatened by a civilian, which caused all of the sailors to rally behind him.
* InWithTheInCrowd: "Stand Up And Holler". One of the teachers who used to be unpopular in his day covered up the rapes because he was still desperately trying to be in with the cool kids.
%%** The AlphaBitch murdered the victim because the latter had found out her friend was gang-raped as the final part of her initiation into the cheerleading squad. [[spoiler:The friend could have saved her but didn't because she wanted to be popular. Actually, the AlphaBitch didn't actually intend to murder the victim - she forced beer down her throat without knowing it was drugged [[spoiler:by the victim's best friend.]] And she did not attack the victim because the victim knew anything - she was angry because the victim wanted to leave the cheerleading squad herself.
* {{Irony}}: Two in "Witness Protection":
** The ex-con trying to get his life together was the one who killed a federal witness.
** He killed the witness because he wouldn’t tell him where his son was who he thought was with his daughter. The moment he killed him his daughter called.
* ISeeDeadPeople:
** At the end of most episodes the ghost of victim is seen by the officers and/or by someone who is they were close to (family, friend etc.) Occasionally the killer will also see the victim.
** Subverted in two episodes in which the victim is not seen; the first because the case wasn't closed, and the second, because the victim was only a infant at the time of death. And then, there was the one where [[spoiler: it turned out the victim wasn't dead]].
%%* ItsAllAboutMe: Sharon in "November 22nd"
* ItsPersonal
%%** "Officer Down"
** A variation of it in "Honor". When he learns that their victim was a Vietnam POW, Stillman (a veteran himself) orders the detectives to treat it like it was one of their own.
** In "Bad Night", Jeffries' flashback to arriving at the scene of his wife's accident. Watch the state trooper's visible change in demeanor when he realizes that he's not just speaking to a bereaved husband, but to a fellow officer.
* JackieRobinsonStory: "Colors". In fact, a good portion of the victims fall into this category, given that their murder is related to the social issues of the time.
* {{Jerkass}}:
** Lilly's racist first partner Detective Fulcrum, seen in flashback in "Saving Patrick Bubley"; it's implied rather strongly he wrote off pretty much all of his cases where the victim was poor and black as "public service murders" and made no effort to solve them.
** In "Our Boy Is Back": the boyfriend of a rape victim who refused to give a DNA sample because it would have proven that he had ''never'' slept with the victim.
* JerkassBall: Vera tends to catch this whenever the writers need to make a point. He's made misogynistic statements, expressed belief in the "no humans involved" principle (that criminals killed by criminals aren't worth the police's time), and even made a ''pro-rape'' comment at one point, which is especially weird since in other episodes he's the one most disgusted by rapists.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold:
%%** The junkyard owner in "One Small Step".
** Vera offered to pay the hospital bills of a mother who he had mouthed off to earlier.
** The victim's tutor in "Glory Days"; after years of working his ass off while watching DumbJock get a free ride, became very jaded and started to see the jocks as a means to an end. But once he saw that the victim not only took school very seriously but was also very intelligent they became fast friends. It also helps that the victim was a LovableJock.
** The dance instructor in "Shuffle, Ball Change" combines this with DrillSergeantNasty. At first he comes off as a complete asshole towards the victim, but he recognizes talent when he sees it. Knowing the victim is unable to leave his job at the family supermarket to take lessons, he makes it a point to visit the market daily and teach the victim on the sly.
* JerkassFacade: The father in "Bad Reputation" did this to his son so that he wouldn’t end up like him.
* JerkWithAHeartOfJerk:
** Vince Patrielli in "Running Around". There are implications that he may have had some affection for the victim (he actually speaks respectfully of her when asked about her, and goes from smug to somewhat hurt when accused of murdering her), but it's also clear he has no regrets about raping and impregnating her best friend (he even seems to consider the kid "lucky" for having parents that will raise him).
** ''All'' of the rapists on this show are considered this.
** Charles Danville, the AssholeVictim of the episode "Greed". He has no qualms about screwing people over for money, but, when one of his mentees falls in love with him, it looks like he might have held genuine affection for him. Well, if he had, it didn't stop him from stealing from the kid's mother, and telling him as much without a shred of regret. [[spoiler:This particular act of callousness is what gets him killed in the end.]]
** JerkWithAHeartOfJerk: Tina Bream ''Revenge'' is a MyBelovedSmother who blames her husband for their son getting kidnapped because he let him go to the dressing room by himself. She’s also believes PoliceAreUseless so when the ransom failed she blamed him again for trusting them. It turns out the kidnapping was entirely her fault because she told her drug attic brother in law about money that was supposed to be kept secret and then told him about the police sting operation tipping him off. What truly makes her this after finding out that their son was dead she manipulated her husband into killing the one they thought was responsible and afterwards she continued to blame him.
* JustOneLittleMistake:
** "The Road" has probably the best example in the series. Guy gets pulled over for speeding. Traffic cop notices blood in his car. Detectives are called in to investigate. Investigation reveals guy is actually a brutal SerialKiller.
** Several other episodes (including "Debut" and "Sandhogs") have the villains' {{greed}} get the better of them and steal a prized possession of the victim off the body.
** One suspect in "Devil Music", in his first interview, sings a few lines of a song written by the victim. Later on, however, another witness claims that she was the only one the victim had told about the song. Adding to the fact that the first guy turned out to have lied about his alibi, this makes the case a slam-dunk.
** Speaking of alibis, the villain in "Iced" contracting out his snowplow job to his underage cousin turns out to be what does him in, as the plow company's records are able to confirm it was the cousin behind the wheel that night.
** In "The Dealer", the killer is caught because he stripped the victim's car for parts and added them to his own. The detectives actually point out that if he had just refrained from doing this, he almost certainly would've gotten away with it.
** In "November 22nd", the culprit made the mistake of writing a letter to the victim's last rival, calling him the nickname she called him.
* KarmaHoudini:
** Although George dies in "The Woods", it's SuicideByCop that happens on his own terms (at the hand of the one person he felt was worthy of ending his life).
** In "Death Penalty: Final Appeal" the crooked DA who got an innocent man executed simply loses his job (although it was also in the paper so to be fair his reputation was also irreversibly damaged).[[note]]In RealLife, what he did would get him disbarred and possibly even sent to prison. It's not unreasonable to think the same happened here, just simply off-screen.[[/note]]
** Scotty never suffers any consequences for engineering the death of his mother's rapist, nor for beating up the would-be pedophile (though Scotty's assessment of him was correct, the man had technically not done anything illegal and as such, there was no reason for Scotty's assault on him). Ironic, since throughout the series he ''is'' reprimanded for other mistakes that he's made. In all fairness, the first one may have been because the show ended with the next episode.
** In "Stand Up and Holler", while the AlphaBitch who organized the rape of the WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds killer is arrested, neither the JerkJock who actually committed the crime nor the slimy loser gym teacher who covered it up in a desperate attempt to get all the {{Jerk Jock}}s and {{Alpha Bitch}}es to like him are ever seen facing charges, though as statute of limitations hadn't expired, it is feasible that the killer flipped on them to get a deal off-screen or something.
** "Running Around", that case of the murdered Amish girl. Her friend had been raped and impregnated but she refused to press charges because it would wreck her family.
** Subverted with the killers, who've been able to live a normal life for any number of years, even if they're finally arrested in the end. [[spoiler: Subverted with Chuck Pierce. It's revealed that all of his attempts to achieve success ultimately fell short, and that he spent 40 years very much aware that his victim was better.]]
** The guy in "Red Glare" qualifies to an extent. The cops arrest him, but he [[SmugSnake smugly]] notes that given his age (the crime took place fifty years ago and he was at least thirty then) he's likely to be let off with a slap on the wrist. By extension, this may also be true of similarly aged villains such as in "Sandhogs", "WASP", "Family 8108", "Factory Girls", and maybe "Shore Leave".
** [[DownplayedTrope Downplayed]] in both "The House" and "Late Returns", where a legal loophole leaves the detectives unable to arrest the killer, but '''a.)''' the death was accidental (though the "killer" still didn't report it, which was definitely wrong), and '''b.)''' both episodes include a [[HateSink genuinely evil character]] who ''is'' sent to jail (the one in ''Late Returns'' was arguably responsible for the death anyway, and was also a murderer on her own time).
** A lot of people in the series - while not committing the actual murder - did play a big part in it and would have gone down for at least manslaughter in real life. Geraldine the secretary in "Start Up" is a good example. She knew her boss had poisoned the victim with his own medication, and she even covered it up by refilling the boss's prescription. That'd be at least an accessory to first-degree murder charge in real life, but the detectives let her off, implicitly due to the fact that she's absolutely terrified of her boss.
** The ex-partner from "Disco Inferno" said she would sleep with the killer if he broke the victim's leg to ruin her rival's chances: not only did she get off scott-free (she hired someone to commit a crime and someone was killed in the process of said crime), she was able to get out of the fire unscarred, yet her rival had the entire right side of her body burned.
** Leah in "Wishing": lying and filing sexual charges heightened the stress of the victim‘s mother and made it so that he could never be put in a proper facility, making the killer desperate enough to do what he did.
** The wife in "Witness Protection" cheated on her husband with the agent who assigned them. He ended up madder at the agent than at his wife.
** The Cold Case team actively aided the killer in "Justice" evade prosecution because he is [[spoiler: the brother of one of the rape victims and was a child at the time]].
** The guy that organized, and participated in, the brutal rape of the victim in "The Letter" died peacefully of old age, surrounded by family. The fact that he was a rapist was completely unknown for almost seventy years, by which point he was already dead. Compare the actual killer, who was much more sympathetic and is still alive, but who they still arrest.
** This started to happen less and less as the series went on with second and even third parties being shown to get their comeuppance.
* KavorkaMan: Det. Vera. Even though he NEVER stays with any of the women he hooks up with, it boggles the mind how someone as uncouth as he is always tends to get them.
* KidsAreCruel: "The Sleepover". [[spoiler: The victim, a mousey teen named Rita, is invited to a sleepover where popular girls mock her appearance and weight. One of them end up killing her when Rita tries to save her from her abusive parents.]]
* KillAndReplace: One case was about a couple killed in a gas explosion in their home. [[spoiler: The husband had revealed to their friends that he was going to turn themselves in for the accidental death of another friend. So the wife convinced her ex-lover to make a homemade bomb which she used to kill her husband and a friend of theirs who no one knew was staying on longer. She then stole said friend's identity because they bore a strong resemblance to each other and she had no family or friends who would have noticed the difference]].
%%* KnifeThrowingAct: "Metamorphosis".
* KickTheDog: It's not hard to see the detectives as doing this at the end of "World's End" when they [[spoiler: arrest the ancient, Alzheimer's-afflicted Felton Metz all the while the man's son (who, it's implied, has independently figured out his father was the killer) is ''begging'' them to let him live out his final days in peace]].
* KnightOfCerebus: The FBI agents from "Red Glare". Everything turns black & white when they come around.

[[folder:L - R]]
%%* LadyDrunk: Ellen Rush.
* LaserGuidedKarma: Because of his claustrophobia and the nature of his crimes, merely being caught is this for the killer in "The Road", as it means he’ll spend the rest of his life locked in a cell.
* LeftTheBackgroundMusicOn: The music playing during flashbacks or the end are occasionally shown to be playing in-universe. In "8 Years", "Glory Days" is playing on a jukebox in a bar, in "Wednesday's Women", "This Little Light of Mine" is a lullaby Kat Miller is singing to her daughter, and in "Shore Leave", "Taps" is being played on the bugle at the Marine's funeral.
* LighterAndSofter: As far as cop shows go, anyway. {{Karma Houdini}}s are rare, the victims are usually genuinely good people, and the detectives often manage to solve several other people's problems by solving the case. Granted, there's still plenty of rape, murder, and misery to go around, but compared to, say, ''Series/{{CSI}}'' (where the victims and killers are frequently equally scummy and the perp gets away with it much more often), there is a much greater sense of hope in ''Cold Case''.
* LivesInAVan: In "A Dollar, A Dream", a car is found at the bottom of a lake with the remains of a woman missing since 1999 inside. The detectives learn the woman had endured dire financial straits after her husband's death and was forced to live in the car with her two young daughters.
* LonelyAtTheTop: The prom queen victim in "Almost Paradise". As the episode progresses she makes peace with everyone she's alienated and pissed off with her popularity, [[DiabolusExMachina only to be murdered over something completely unrelated that same night]].
* LovableJock: The victim and his best friend in "Glory Days". [[spoiler:The coach and sponsor of the team had been slipping them steroids against their will, the side effects of which cause the friend to lose his scholarship. When the victim confronts the sponsor, the sponsor murders him]].
%%* LoveMakesYouEvil: [[spoiler: "Lonely Hearts", "Resolutions", "Saving Sammy", "Soul".]]
* LyingToThePerp: Done by almost every detective at least once, and especially recurrent in the case of Vera.
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: The "apparitions" that appear at the end of every episode.
%%* MadBomber: "Sabotage".
%%* MadLove: "Love Conquers Al".
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: "Blood on the Tracks". The explosion that killed the two victims was thought to be due to an accidental gas leak. 20-something years later, evidence surfaced revealing that it was the result of a bomb. A handful of other deaths as well were initially thought to be accidental, suicide, or even natural causes.
%%* MamaBear: Several of the SympatheticMurderer characters.
* ManChild: "Stand Up And Holler". The victim's friend was gang-raped as the final part of her initiation into the cheerleading squad. One of the teachers who used to be unpopular in his day covered up the rapes because he was still desperately trying to be in with the cool kids.
** The killer in "Who's your Daddy" is this to an extent. [[spoiler: When he accidentally shoots the male victim in an attempt to get the female victim to service him, he snivels and whimpers because now he's "gotta kill [her] too". Almost akin to a child who dropped his ice cream, so now he'll have to throw it away.]]
* ManipulativeBastard: Mel Davis, the killer in "Resolutions". Jealous of his best friend, Greg Cardiff, and his family, [[spoiler: he kills him by [[PoisonIsEvil poisoning him]]. He then [[ComfortingTheWidow marries Greg's widow]], Susan, leaving his own wife high and dry. He allows two innocent people to take the fall for his crime (as they thought they killed him by striking Greg with their car, even though he was already dead when he was hit). After it's eventually discovered to be a murder instead of an accident some years later, he then tries to pin his death on his second wife/Greg's widow. When that fails and as the detectives discover he's the real killer and close in on him, he kills himself to avoid arrest, preventing any real justice to be found in the case and leaving his wife a widow and stepson fatherless for the second time.]]
* ManipulativeBitch: Many of the female killers, but the killer from "Blood on the Tracks" stands out--her ex even calls her this during one of the earlier flashbacks, never realizing how right he is--within 24 hours after this confrontation, she's able to entice him into killing her husband with the promise of them rekindling their relationship and going on the run together. She has no intention of doing this, of course. Instead, she leaves her husband [[spoiler:and her friend]] to die, assumes [[spoiler:her friend's identity (they looked very much alike)]] and spends the next 20-something years living the life of [[spoiler:her friend]] while her ex suffers for years thinking that [[spoiler:he killed ''her'']] and knowing that he can't turn her in if he ever figures out what really happened, as he'll be turning himself in as well.
* ManlyGay: The closeted cops in "Forever Blue".
* MarriedToTheJob:
** Led to the divorces of John Stillman, and is the reason for some of Lilly's failed relationships.
** Subverted in Vera's case. Yes, like with Stillman, his job was very important to him, but it's seen and implied many times that he was unfaithful to her and was unable to get her pregnant, all of this culminating in her leaving him.
* MaternallyChallenged: The victim's mother in "Maternal Instincts". She admitted that she never wanted children, was cold and distant to her throughout her childhood and even when she learned of her daughter's death or that her killer was arrested after fifteen years, she wasn't too bothered by it.
* MeaningfulName :
** [[spoiler: Deconstructed when you have a pedophilic social worker named Josh ''Freely'' who [[StealthPun freely]] abuses his power over single mothers and their daughters.]]
** [[spoiler: Not surprising that woman named Sherry [[CunningLikeAFox Fox]] would turn out to be a con-artist.]]
* MedleyExit: Done in each episode when the full story comes out and the perp is identified, showing [[WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue where are they now]] after the case is solved.
* MenActWomenAre: The wife in "Joseph" was a drug rehab counselor who molested one of her students, and when he killed a witness she threatened the person who was going to testify against him. Yet it turns out it was the husband who was the killer. [[UngratefulBastard To make matters worse the wife is shown not to be the least bit grateful as she still kept the affair behind her husband's back afterwards]].
* MercyKill: In [[spoiler: "The Letter", where a man suffocated his lover while she was being gang-raped by his drunken friends.]]
** [[spoiler: "Boy Crazy". A teen kills his friend after her mind is destroyed during electroshock therapy.]]
** "The Good Death" featured an Angel of Death-type serial killer as a character, who put several patients not scheduled to die out of their misery. Ironically, he wasn't the "killer", [[spoiler: the victim's wife was.]]
* MilesGloriosus: "Honor" has a downplayed example where Ken claimed he was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, despite he had a nervous breakdown before he even had a chance to go. Deconstructed when he borrows Carl's identity as a POW. RealityEnsues when Stillman not only finds out, but [[ReasonWhyYouSuckSpeech shames him]] for his lies.
* MindScrew: "Into the Blue". [[spoiler:The entire episode, apart from the very beginning and very end, and including all Lilly's efforts to solve the case therein, is a DyingDream. Granted, the final montage shows that she turned out to be right in her dream-deductions]].
* MinorCrimeRevealsMajorPlot: A frequent device used to get evidence to reopen a case or even close it at last. Situations have included the following:
** The victim's prized possession turning up in the hands of someone who would be very unlikely to have it unless they were involved.
** Something "not quite right" being noticed in a suspect's finances.
** The murder weapon, by sheer coincidence, being turned in or seized in an unrelated incident.
** Most prominent in "Spiders": The arrest of four neo nazis and the solving of the disappearance of a Latino woman is originally kicked off by investigating another victim's abusive father as a suspect after he was arrested for beating his stepdaughter into a coma.
* MiscarriageOfJustice: You could consider just about every episode as an example of this, considering how long someone has been able to get away with murder, even if they are finally caught at the end.
%%** This is the central plot of [[spoiler: "Death Penalty: Final Appeal"]]
* MisplacedRetribution::
** The killer in "It Takes a Village". Horrifically abused while in a group home, he is now killing innocent boys who have the misfortune of reminding him of his tormentors, instead of, you know, those who ''actually bullied him'', or those who let it happen.
** Tanner in "Knuckle Up" [[spoiler:killed a random stranger who happened to remind him of his father.]]
** Cops is considered a blanket term with the homicide detectives always being blamed for missing persons or earlier detectives not doing their jobs.
** "Sabotage":
*** The killer's brother was one of the people he blamed for his daughter's death.
*** A lot of the people he targeted were people just doing their job. His first victim even mentioned that it would cause less to throw away a radio he was trying to return and buy a new one then to try and replace it.
** In order to stop his daughter from running off, the killer in "Witness Protection" killed the boyfriend’s father.
%%** This was the reason the victim in "Libertyville" was killed.
* MissingWhiteWomanSyndrome:
** Invoked in "8:03 AM", when the grandfather of a murdered black teen thinks the police are only reopening the case because a white girl was killed at the same time. He is actually wrong.
** Several (innocent) suspects admit that they fled from or refused to cooperate with the police because they knew they would be the prime suspect, simply for having been a black man in the mere vicinity of the dead white victim. One in particular, in [[spoiler:"True Calling"]] was completely aware of who the murderer was--he saw the whole thing happen--but never said anything because he knew no one would believe him due to his race, class, and background.
** "It Takes a Village". Race is never mentioned, but it's obvious that the grieving relatives of the victims suspect that the cops would have paid more attention to the cases had they not been black boys from a poor section of Philadelphia.
** It's a plot point in "Discretion" where the prime suspect in the murder of a pretty white college student is a dimwitted Barrio kid; not only did many people believe he was framed, but the prosecutor and arresting officer, both Latino themselves, were seen as traitors by the community. [[spoiler: The kid actually was framed, but not for that reason]].
** Averted in "A Dollar, A Dream". The victim, an attractive white woman, went missing for over seven years until her body was found. Judging by the comments of the main cast, the case appears not to have been particularly noteworthy at the time. Played straight in that the victim was homeless, and the trope most frequently applies to the upper-middle class (or higher).
* MisterSandmanSequence: The flashbacks will often feature a nearly perfect representation of the era in question--hair, clothes, fads, music, social issues--the whole works.
* MistakenForGay: The girl murdered in 1919 was thought to be this after a letter from her maid talking about their "shared passion", which is being suffragettes.
%%* MomentKiller: The events mentioned under BrokenRecord are broadcast on the radio and spoil a makeout session.
* MoonLandingHoax: One of the suspects in "One Small Step" believes that the moon landings were faked. The murder they are investigating occurred on the day of the first moon landing, and the events of that day may have fueled his later delusion.
* MotiveRant: This is the main way to get convictions, since, in many of the cases, any physical evidence has degraded beyond use.
* MoralityPet: The abandoned baby Vera found and took care of until services came to get him. He later applied to adopt the child
* MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate: Jack Galton from "Mind Games"; in addition to being mentally ill himself, knowingly kept a mentally ill man insane by denying him medication, and he played on the guy's own schizophrenia to cover his tracks.
* MoralMyopia:
** The victim in "Lonely Hearts", in an effort to keep her con-artist boyfriend, gave him the idea of [[spoiler:becoming a [[TheBluebeard Blue Beard]]]]. While she was freaked out [[spoiler:by the murders]], she only seemed to realize he was a bad guy when she thought she had [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlived her usefulness.]]
** The first suspect in "The Red and the Blue" didn’t mind the fact that she was her husband's mistress when they were dating, but shot him when she found out he was cheating on her after they got married. Made worse by the fact that she hinted that she was cheating on him as well.
** The victim in "Blackout" had the gall to call her ex-husband a pedophile for cheating on her with a younger woman when she has been [[spoiler: molesting her son for years and was killed for attempting to molest her grandson]].
** The serial killer in "Sabotage" would rather kill his young niece than destroy the place his father built.
** The wife in "Witness Protection" yelling at her husband about relocating then having an affair with the agent assigned to them.
* MrFanservice: Anton the hunky orderly in "Committed". [[spoiler:It doesn't end well for him; he's blackmailed into murdering someone with a threat of being framed for attempted rape, when in reality the women were very, very happy to partake in his hotness]].
* MrsRobinson:
** Played for horror in "Blackout". Being seduced by a hot older woman isn't nearly as sexy [[spoiler: when you're only thirteen and ''related'' to her]].
** In "Joseph", when the older woman's behavior is seen for what it is, the actions of a deeply disturbed person.
* MsFanservice:
** Rita, the title character in "Pin-Up Girl", fittingly for her profession essentially looks like a live-action [[Film/WhoFramedRogerRabbit Jessica Rabbit]]. [[HiddenDepths She's not entirely content to keep modeling forever, though]].
** Carrie, the victim from "That Woman".
%%* MurderTheHypotenuse: [[spoiler:"Resolutions".]]
* MusicalEpisode: "Creatures of the Night", "Triple Threat" and "Wilkommen" showed off the guest actors' singing.
* MusicalNod: "Get Together" by the Youngbloods is the ending song for first season episode "Volunteers"; the song shows up again in the final season episode "Free Love". Both cases occur in the year 1969.
%%* MusicVideoSyndrome
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone:
** The look on many of the perpetrators' faces, right after they've committed the murder.
** Jeffries in "Death Penalty: Final Appeal", when he realizes the convicted man [[spoiler:wasn't lying]].
** This is a common interpretation to even some of the victims, particularly the [[AssholeVictim less-sympathetic ones]]: the victims in "Maternal Instincts" (ashamed that she [[spoiler: kidnapped a baby before she was murdered]]), "Blackout" (her [[spoiler: pedophilia]] leading to her death) and "Greed" (the killer, a corrupt, manipulative executive, sheepishly thanking Lilly for solving his murder.)
* MyGreatestSecondChance: "Forensics" uses this trope in an appropriately twisted fashion fit for a murder mystery. [[spoiler: The victim was a high school debate prodigy who was seen as this by his teacher, who had himself been an apt debater in high school before, so he tells it, his partner made an embarrassing mistake that cost him the national title. It's eventually discovered that ''he'' got the team disqualified by going apeshit on his opponent and was in denial about it, and what's more murdered his student [[EvilIsPetty when he decided to quit the team]].]]
%%* NaziGrandpa: "The Hen House".
* NeverFoundTheBody: Subverted in [[spoiler: "Blood on the Tracks"]] and [[spoiler: "Joseph"]], where bodies where found, but their mangled state thanks to the method of killing [[spoiler: (explosion in the first case, shotgun blast to the face in the second)]] lead to them being misidentified.
** "Fireflies". [[spoiler: The victim never actually died, she was kidnapped and lost her memory of who she was.]]
* NeverMyFault:
** The mother in "Revenge" blamed her husband for years about their son's kidnapping; yet, he was only kidnapped because she told her brother in law about their money when she wasn’t supposed to.
** Josh in "Wishing" had just been brought in after the police found out he viciously beat his only friend, taunted him about his mother's death, and threatened his life. The first words out of his mouth are that they’re trying to blame the weird guy again.
** The teacher in "8:03 AM" said one of the victims couldn’t cut the academic life. However, her flashback showed her insulting and belittling him in front of the other students, forcing him to read far above his level out loud while openly stating that he would never become anything but a dealer.
** The eldest daughter in "A Dollar, A Dream" left her younger sister in the car alone, only for it to get towed while she was away. When they finally found the little girl, the first words out of the older one's mouth involved yelling at her mom about how the mom's irresponsibility nearly got the little girl killed.
** The killer in "It Takes a Village" was horrifically abused while in a group home, and he is now killing innocent boys who have the misfortune of reminding him of his tormentors. However he was only horrifically abused because he purposefully goaded his SadistTeacher every chance he got. And since the teacher had IWillPunishYourFriendForYourFailure mentality everyone had to be punished along with him. The other kids, tired of being punished for something they didn’t do, eventually attacked him cutting off finger.
%%* NeverSuicide: Averted in a handful of episodes, such as [[spoiler: "Two Weddings" and "Daniela"]].
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed:
%%-->'''Will Jeffries:''' ''A white boy that played black music in the '50s? [[LampshadeHanging Reminds me of]] [[Music/ElvisPresley Elvis]]''.
** In "One Fall", the two chief suspects are totally not [[Wrestling/VinceMcMahon Vince [=McMahon=]]] and Wrestling/RicFlair. Possibly a TakeThat since WWE exists in the ''Cold Case'' universe.
** "Soul" is clearly based off of Music/MarvinGaye; a young and gifted Black musician with substance abuse issues clashing with both a powerful and egotistical record producer and his strict reverend father who disapproves of his genre of music/lifestyle and with a brother in the UsefulNotes/VietnamWar.
* NoGoodDeedGoesUnpunished: A lot of the victims ended up being killed just because they tried to do the right thing and it ended up biting them in the butt. Not only does it get them killed but it also has a detrimental affect on their personal lives beforehand.
** The victim in "Cargo" was killed for trying to save a girl from a smuggling/prostitution ring, going so far as attempting to raise her as his own daughter.
** The security guard in "Rampage", who repaid the two disturbed shooters for treating him with respect by hanging out with them in the camera room. They repaid him by shooting him in the gut.
** If Rita from "The Sleepover" had just gone home and not tried to save one of the girls at the sleepover from her abusive parents, she wouldn't have been killed by[[spoiler: her.]]
** The victim in "Blood on the Tracks" who wanted to confess to his role in the death of a friend. If only he hadn't been so vocal and insistent about this to several people who were just as adamant that he keep his mouth shut...
* NoNameGiven:
** The serial rapist from season seven, despite having what was essentially a multi-episode side arc in which he [[ItsPersonal raped Scotty's mother]]. Later averted, his name was given in a later episode as Jimmy Mota.
** John Smith's real name is never uncovered, since the guy was pretty much a ghost (always paid in cash, drove stolen cars and fake licenses, had no fingerprints or DNA on file). As one of the team put - "John Smith? More like John Doe."
* NostalgiaAintLikeItUsedToBe: This show exposed the unseemly sides of every time period, showing there's no such thing as "the good old days".
* NothingButHits: Each episode almost exclusively used chart-toppers from the year of the episode's case during the {{Flashback}}s. The most Crowning Music Of Awesome episodes are the ones where they feature a single artist. The episode featuring Music/BruceSpringsteen's songs from each decade is the most awesome one.
* NothingIsTheSameAnymore: The CentralTheme of the show is how the death of the victim changes the lives of everyone involved and how its consequences still reverberate through the years.
* NotProven:
** One episode ends with a [[spoiler:prominent politician]] admitting to Valens, off the record, that he committed the murder years ago. Unfortunately, [[spoiler:his sister]], in a misguided show of loyalty, has already confessed to everything, and there's no evidence to contradict her claims.
** One episode has Cullen Masters, a disgraced hockey player who got banned from playing after being arrested for the murder of a rival. The cops had nothing against Masters other than the fact he hated the victim but that was enough for them to try (and fail) to force a confession out of him. While he was released, the league was so sure of his guilt they wouldn't allow him to play hockey again and, years later, this was held as a reason to ban ''his son'' from joining the league. The last part motivated Masters to investigate on his own and ask the police to reopen the case.
* NoTrueScotsman:
** Jeffries grew up in the poorest part of Philadelphia and wanted to be a GangBanger as a kid, until he was straightened out by his football coach and his first boss and became a cop instead. As such, a good way to [[BerserkButton piss him off]] is to suggest he "sold out" by doing so. In "Wunderkind", a [[SmugSnake slimy witness]] insinuating he's forgotten "his people" leads to Jeffries almost ''strangling'' the guy.
** In "Fireflies", a suspect tries to curry Jeffries' favor by reminding him how bad black people had it in the '70s. Jeffries simply responds that ''he'' lived through the '50s and '60s.
* NotSoDifferent:
** [[spoiler: Serial killer George Marks]] used this straight on Lilly in "The Woods".
** The victims in the episodes of "Hoodrats" and "Read Between the Lines" play this straight as both were trying using their respective talents for monetary gain to create better lives for their brother and sister respectively.
%%** The reason the victim tried to help the Ukrainian girl in "Cargo".
* ObfuscatingDisability:
** The killer in "Metamorphosis" [[spoiler:pretended to suffer from cereberal gigantism and uses the fact that people expect him to be mentally retarded to conceal his true intelligence]].
** The killer in "Shuffle, Ball Change" [[spoiler: faked a career-ending knee injury in order to drop out of wrestling without disappointing his father. One of his crutches turned out to be the murder weapon.]]
* ObliviousToLove: The victim in "Soul" [[spoiler: thought his killer was angry for abandoning her to start his own record label. She was actually in love with him]].
* OffingTheOffspring: A few times, such as in [[spoiler: "Torn"]]
%%* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: A marine in the episode "Shore Leave" did this. It made the killer go through a villain breakdown when he found out.
* [[OffWithHisHead Off With Her Head!]]: "Mind Hunters". The killer chased the victim through the woods before [[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill shooting her in the head and decapitating her.]]
%%* OldMaid:
%%** The killer in "Wings".
%%** The innocent frenemy of the victim in "Factory Girls" at all of 22, thanks to the standards of when the episode is set.
%%* OhCrap: This is how several suspects react to the detectives.
* OneDialogueTwoConversations: In "Stand up and Holler", we have one of those rare examples where it's not PlayedForLaughs. A flashback shows two girls, Celeste and Rainey, are ordered to kiss each other as part of a hazing ritual into the cheerleading squad. Celeste encourages Rainey they should go ahead with it, since it would be "Stoopid" (slang term for [[MakesSenseInContext cool]]). Rainey responds "Exactly", in the sense she thinks it would be "stupid". Needless to say, [[PoorCommunicationKills the miscommunication]] prompts Celeste to go ahead with kissing her friend.
* OneSteveLimit: Averted. For example, one of the suspects the doer in "The Letter" is Nathan Jones, and the accomplice in "Metamorphosis" is ''Nathaniel'' Jones (incidentally, neither of them are [[Characters/WWERuthlessAggression pro wrestler Nathan Jones]]). There are also two characters named Rudy Tanner, though one never actually appears on-screen.
* OneWomanWail: The cold opening cuts to a single female voice sliding into a high note which starts off the lyric-less theme song.
* OnlyAFleshWound: Played all over the place in the episode "Stalker". The criminal is shot, with a ''sniper-rifle'', through the shoulder, but seems relatively unaffected and is able to carry on until he finally fatally wounded in the episode's climax. Meanwhile, he shoots Stillman in the shoulder and despite concern that he's going into shock, he's merely patched up by EMS and is apparently well enough to sit in the hospital waiting room with the others as they wait for word on Lily, who has also been shot in the shoulder, but is rushed to the hospital for treatment and nearly dies from her wounds, the only one of the three to have her injury taken seriously. Even then, her lingering trauma is emotional rather than physical.
* OnlyBadGuysCallTheirLawyers: Related to the HollywoodLaw entry above--in several instances, a suspect's explicit request for a lawyer is blatantly ignored while the interrogation continues (although one puts his foot down and staunchly refuses to answer anymore questions until his attorney arrives). Another has Vera convinced that a suspect is guilty because the man refused to talk with them or offer a DNA sample. Both of these are perfectly within his rights, yet Vera sees them as proof of guilt and justification for continuing to hound the man. The occasional [[DeadpanSnarker snarky "Why, got something to hide?"]] can probably be written off as simple PerpSweating, but there are times it goes much further than that.
* OnlySaneMan: The victim in "Family 8108". He knew that letting himself be goaded, consumed by rage and letting HonorBeforeReason dictate his actions would only make a bad situation worse, and was just trying to make the best out of a bad situation in order to get out as soon as he could.
%%* OutlawCouple: [[spoiler: "Lonely Hearts"]].
* PacManFever: In the episode "It Takes a Village", the central clue to catching the killer is an arcade game called ''Defector 3''. They describe it as a 'Role Playing Game' despite the fact that the on-screen action is akin to the fighting game ''MortalKombat''. Great job, guys.
* ParentalAbandonment: Lilly was raised (sorta) by her alcoholic mother alone.
* ParentalIncest: The reason the victim was killed in [[spoiler:"Blackout".]]
* ParentsAsPeople: It bounces between played straight and subverted. Any episode that has a teenage suspect who turns out not to be the killer depicts them as believing that this doesn’t exist: the daughter in "Stalker" attempted suicide because both her parents were going through depression: the father because he had become recently unemployed and the mother for having to take on the load of being the primary bread winner.
* PartingWordsRegret:
** The father of the murder victim the detectives investigate in the "Disco Inferno" episode confesses to this: When the victim decides to defy him on his choice for future life career path, the father said [[PunctuatedForEmphasis "I... renounce... you."]] before leaving, barely hours before the son dies.
** The same thing happened in "Superstar": the father chastised the victim for wanting a life of her own outside of tennis.
** Similarly in "Soul": the father of the victim slapped him after learning he was leaving home and told him "They took the wrong son" (in reference to his brother's death). The victim stormed off.
--->'''Billy:''' You judge me. Your preaching is as empty as your soul.
** Similarly, in "Forever Blue", the father of the victim renounced him [[spoiler:for being gay]]. [[spoiler:And then sent him to his death [[GuiltRiddenAccomplice without meaning to.]]]] He's still haunted by that more than thirty years later.
** In the episode "Shuffle, Ball Change", the victim and his brother got into a shoving match that resulted in the brother injuring his knee, possibly derailing his wrestling career. Their infuriated father told the victim, "God help you, Maurice". The boy disappeared soon afterwards, leaving the father thoroughly haunted by the thought that his son had run away from home thinking that his father hated him, and even more torn up when he learned that his son had in fact been murdered, and that either way, those were the last words that he said to him.
** The last time the father saw his daughter in "Into the Blue" he had left an award ceremony without honoring her.
** In "The Key", the daughter of the victim said she hated her mother one night before she died. The next day, she rejected her mother's attempt to patch up things between her. That's probably why, twenty-odd years later, she's the one still trying to find out who killer her mother.
* PassFail: "Libertyville" and "Colors" both have characters who are half black and half white, but look completely white, struggling with whether they should accept their identity or bury it.
* PapaWolf:
** Played with in "Cargo", as even though she wasn’t his child, the victim saw her as family and did everything he could to save her, even selling his own home to by her freedom.
** The younger brother of the killer in "Sabotage". The police had to physically hold him back when he thought his brother had killed his wife and daughter.
** Both the killer and the victim in [[spoiler:"Witness Protection"]]. The victim was killed because he wouldn't let the PapaWolf killer anywhere near his son while he was like that.
%%* ThePerfectCrime:
%%** [[spoiler: "Mind Hunters"]], featuring a DownerEnding.
%%** [[spoiler: "The Runaway Bunny"]], though it isn't the episode's main case.
* PerpWalk:
** Frequently played straight. Even the only episode where they couldn't break the killer ("Mind Hunters") has a perp walk... but with the perp walking as a free man.
** Averted a few times.
*** In "A Perfect Day" the killer is already dead. Stillman has his picture taken down from the bar he frequented though.
*** In the episode with the case from 1919, the perp, and everyone involved except the eight year old daughter of the maid, was long dead, so all they could do was write "CLOSED" on the case box.
* PetTheDog: Often occurs in the closing montage with characters who were {{Jerkass}}es or criminals but not pure evil.
** "It's Raining Men" had a character who was a DepravedHomosexual who deliberately gave other men HIV in 1983 become a kindly pet shop owner by 2004, who is ''literally'' seen playing with puppies in the ending montage.
** In "Ravaged", the victim's sexually harassing FatBastard boss is revealed to have kept her dog after she died.
** In "Daniela", the promiscuous and morally-bankrupt first suspect is seen finally turning down the advances of a prostitute.
** The drug dealer in "Discretion" participates in a sting operation to help the cops bust the initial murderers; the main victim had been killed [[HeKnowsTooMuch after discovering the man arrested for that crime had been framed]].
** The DirtyCoward fight club leader in "Knuckle Up" visits the oil drum the victim was found in to pay his respects.
* PhonyVeteran: The victim's wife's boyfriend in "Honor", who pretended to be the victim while he was a [=POW=]. Fellow Vietnam vet Stillman gives a guy a TranquilFury MomentOfAwesome by ordering him to lie to people about being a race car driver or a brain surgeon, [[UnacceptableTargets but]] ''[[UnacceptableTargets never]]'' [[UnacceptableTargets a veteran]].
* PlayingTheVictimCard: Played with, Tina Bream really is a victim. It’s just that she blames everyone from the police to her husband for her son’s kidnapping and death. It’s telling that when everyone found out that it was entirely her fault her response to the cops calling her out when the cops found out that she was told who kidnapped her husband. Her response was that she didn’t have a lot of reasons to trust the police.
** Sandra Riley from the same episode uses being a HotGuyUglyWife ignoring her husband molesting her child as kidnapping other children to molest.
%%* PlotHole: The ''entire plot'' of ''Torn'' essentially hinges on one of these, which might hamper the enjoyability of the episode.%%
* PoliticallyCorrectHistory: Averted. The episodes that flashback far enough don't shy away from the racism or sexism that was prominent at the time. DeliberateValuesDissonance is in full effect. Even the more cases set in later years don't ignore how prevalent discrimination still is--in 2001/2004, a landlord blithely admits that she would never rent to a black tenant nor even allow black people in her building, while a (innocent) black murder suspect admits that he ran from the police because he knew he'd be the prime suspect simply for being a black man in the vicinity of a dead white woman and her child.
* PoliticallyIncorrectVillain:
** The killers in "Glued", "Spiders", and in "Family 8108" (though, for the latter, it's implied that at this point he's only clinging to it in order to live with the guilt for [[spoiler:betraying his friend]]...)
** Subverted with [[spoiler: Jim Horn]] in "Wednesday's Women". He joined the Ku Klux Klan, but mostly just because [[InWithTheInCrowd everyone else was doing it]] and killed the victim, a white civil-rights activist, not out of racism but because she embarrassed him in front of his much-more-racist friends.
* PosthumousCharacter: With only a few exceptions, the victim of the week, whose death is established in the opening sequence, yet remain onscreen throughout the episode, fleshed out via flashbacks with the information provided by friends, family members, etc. Occasionally, some of those tertiary characters themselves fit this trope, depending on how long ago the murder took place (1919, 1929, etc.)
%%* PrettyFlyForAWhiteGuy: The initial suspect in "Saving Sammy".
%%* PrisonEpisode: "The House".
* ProfessionalKiller: Hector in "Sanctuary". [[spoiler: He killed the victim too, but not because she was one of his targets; he just wanted the drugs she was muling]].
* PromBaby: "Family". The cheerleading captain gives birth to the popular kid's baby on prom night. [[ParenalNeglect She leaves it in a trash can and it's eventually put up for adoption. The dad is killed.
* ProWrestlingEpisode: "One Fall", which got DanBrowned: The victim, a dock worker who moonlighted as a wrestler until he was shot in 1986, complained to the promoter about going through a table. This was '''NOT''' common in pro wrestling in 1986.[[note]]Wrestling/RandySavage had piledriven Ricky [=Morton=] through one in Memphis in 1984. Yes, Wrestling/TerryFunk did the same to Wrestling/RicFlair in 1989, but it would take Wrestling/{{Sabu}} and Wrestling/{{ECW}} to really popularize the use of tables.[[/note]]
* PsychopathicManchild:
** The killer from "Forensics" who turned out to be [[spoiler: the victim's debate coach who had once been a debating prodigy until he lost his temper in the finals. He had turned his back on a promising legal career to teach debate and find someone to avenge his loss. He killed the victim when the latter decided to quit to take care of his suicidal father.]]
** Since she was 12, Ariel from "The Sleepover" has spent her life trying to please the popular AlphaBitch.
** The killer from "Iced" who turned out to be [[spoiler:the victim's best friend who drugged and raped the victim's girlfriend. He showed up at the ice rink to explain himself, stating "chicks like guys who step up and pull the trigger" and calling her a "sporty little slut". When the victim punches him down and insults him, he beats him to death with a hockey stick.]]
* PsychoPsychologist: The killer in "Mind Games" [[spoiler: was a respected psychiatrist who was secretly mentally ill himself and in denial about it. When he was diagnosed and prescribed medication by one of his subordinates, the hit to his ego was such that he not only killed her, but [[ManipulativeBastard tricked her favorite patient]] into disposing of the evidence for him]].
* PunnyName: One of the suspects in "Daniela" is a man named John who frequently hires prostitutes.
* PutOnABus:
** The mostly forgotten detectives Chris Lassing (Lilly's first partner) and Josie Sutton.
%%** Saccardo goes through this twice.
** There is Scotty's girlfriend Elisa, who was PutOnABusToHell: [[spoiler: To an asylum after suffering a mental breakdown, despite Scotty had promised her she wouldn't be interned.]] And ''then'' suffered a BusCrash: [[spoiler: By jumping off a bridge some time after she had been discharged.]] All this happened off-screen.
%%* QuipToBlack: Frequently, and usually Lily.
%%* RailroadTracksOfDoom: "Wishing".
* RealityEnsues:
** The ending of "Roller Girl" involves [[spoiler: the victim and her best guy-friend, who has a crush on her, in a scene straight out of a romantic movie, so [[WrongGenreSavvy he kisses her]] on an impulse... and she's confused and revolted, and in the ensuing tussle falls to her death]].
** In "Cargo", a decent man tries his best to save a smuggled Ukrainian girl who he saw as a kindred spirit. Sadly he was killed in a fit of rage because he couldn’t save everyone.
** "Yo, Adrian", an in-universe parody of the movie ''Film/{{Rocky}}'', shows just what would happen if a man is mercilessly beat of for 15 rounds (well, 14).
* RealLifeWritesThePlot: One of the story arcs in season seven is the department suffering severe budget cuts, which coincides with CBS also doing budget cuts on the series. Possible TakeThat involved in the fact that the guy forcing those cuts is a new Deputy Commissioner that Stillman despises.
* ReallySeventeenYearsOld: One episode has a subplot involving a witness who' an army recruit who lied about his age.
%%* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: The magazine manager in "Pin-Up Girl".
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech:
** Often happens during the interrogation that leads to the perpetrator's confession and just before TheReveal of the actual murder scene.
** Stillman gives a particularly vicious one in "Chinatown" to another cop who had been discovered to be in bed with the Tongs, the Chinese mob. The guy was completely aware of who the local Tong boss was and could have arrested him at any time, which would have prevented the murders, but didn't because he felt there was no point, as someone else would just take over. Stillman... was not amused.
** The victim in "Officer Down" gave an epic one to the punk who was trying to shake him down.
* RecycledInSpace: "Disco Inferno" is ''Film/TheJazzSinger'', in TheSeventies.
* RecycledPremise: Though the majority of the premises are different, there are a few examples:
** "Family" and "Almost Paradise" have strikingly similar endings because [[spoiler: both involve a faculty member or teacher asking a favor from a student during a late 1980's high school senior party, both have the student refusing to comply, and both have student killed by faculty member running him or her over with a automobile]].
** "Glory Days" and "Forensics" also end rather similarly, with [[spoiler: a student being murdered by a teacher after confronting them with both their own wrongdoing and the fact that their [[TitleDrop glory days]] at school were in reality anything but]].
** The victims in both the "The Plan" and "Blackout" are both killed in the same manner and for mostly the same reason, [[spoiler: both get drowned in a swimming pool for being a pedophile.]]
** "Static" and "November 22nd" are about [[spoiler: money-broke men getting shot by a sentimentally-involved woman because they wanted to spend more time with their estranged daughters.]]
** "Daniela" and "Boy Crazy" both end with [[spoiler:a boy coming too late to save the girl they love.]]
** The victims of "Shuffle, Ball Change" and "Wunderkind" are both killed by [[spoiler:their brothers who they tried to help chase their dream.]]
** "Fly Away" and "Baby Blues" are both about [[spoiler:mothers who try to kill themselves and their child, and are only half successful.]]
** The victims of "A Time to Hate", "Colors", and "Stealing Home" were all baseball players who got killed with their own bats.
** The victims of "Beautiful Lttle Fool" and "Street Money" were killed because [[spoiler:they refused to blackmail a public figure.]]
** Both "Hubris" and "Triple Threat" deal with teacher student romances.
** Both "Family 8108" and "Bad Reputation" dealt with fathers in a horrible situation who had sons that felt they were cowards for not making the situation worse than it had to be.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: The reason the victims were killed in "Blood on the Tracks". They wanted to turn in their friend group (including themselves) to the police for an accidental murder they all committed ten years previously.
* RedHerring:
** In "Offender", one of the prime suspects is the Goth-like teenage boy who often bullied the victim and his friend. When the victim's bicycle, which he was riding when he went missing, is found buried in his backyard, his status as the killer seems certain. Only for his lame excuses--having stolen the bike from the boy in yet another bullying incident and buried it when he heard the boy was dead, knowing that police would naturally assume he was responsible--to be true and for him to be innocent. Ironically, he was still indirectly responsible--the boy was injured during the melee and hobbled off to his friend's house to get patched up--where he encountered his murderer.
** The man who outright threatens to harm the victim's girlfriend in "Sandhogs" ultimately had nothing to do with the murder.
** Remarkably averted in at least two episodes where the person presented as the prime suspect was in fact the killer.
** Subverted in most other cases--all suspects are presented with motives and opportunities before the guilty one is determined. Rarely has it turned out that the most innocent seeming person is in fact the murderer they've been looking for.
** Everything up to and including the title of the episode in "Colors" wants you to think [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain race]] was the motive. [[spoiler: The killer is the only non-racist white character in the episode]].
** In cases that involve the team reopening a case because of newly-discovered evidence, it's not uncommon for said evidence to end up being completely irrelevant, serving the sole purpose of giving the detectives a reason to reexamine that particular case.
*** In "Debut", a woman asks the Cold Case squad to re-investigate her daughter's death (she fell down a flight of stairs) after finding out that a man who was present on the night of the murder had a wife who died in a fall down the stairs. It turns out that [[spoiler:said suspect was in fact guilty, but his wife's death was a legitimate accident. It was complete coincidence she died the same way as the girl he killed.]]
*** In "Blank Generation", the team is asked to re-investigate the apparent suicide of a cult member after the man his family hired to "deprogram" him is found culpable in the death of another subject. He turns out to be completely innocent in the original victim's death, but the investigation up to that point is enough for the detectives to determine it was a murder, not a suicide.
*** The two cases in "8:03 AM" turn out to be completely unrelated, although the investigation does reveal that the victims knew each other.
*** In "Who's Your Daddy?", the case is reopened after the victims' daughter, by sheer coincidence, finds a unique bracelet owned by her mother on an online auction site. The theft of the bracelet and the murder turn out to be completely unrelated.
%%* RedScare: "Red Glare"
* ReformedButRejected:
** The victim in "Bad Reputation", who was just trying to clean up his act and be a good father to his estranged son after getting out of jail. Played with due to the fact that he was specifically rejected because he had reformed.
** The victim in "Lonely Hearts" was the former partner [[spoiler:of a SerialKiller]] who tried to make things right after realizing [[spoiler:she'd [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlived her usefulness]] and was next on his list. She got killed in the process.]]
* RefugeInAudacity: It's implied that this is how the serial rapist from "Lovers' Lane" was able to stay under the radar for so long, as his methods were so outlandish that any victim who reported him ran the risk of having their accusation dismissed as a wild story or else [[VictimBlaming blamed themselves]] for getting into such a strange situation in the first place.
* RelativeError: "Thick As Thieves". The detectives investigate the past of the victim Margot and her boyfriend Spencer, eventually discovering that Margot and Spencer were con artists and they weren't a couple, as an informant tells them:
-->Boyfriend? Is that what you believe? No, Spencer wasn't Margot's boyfriend. He was her son.
%%* RescueRomance: "Bad Night".
* RevisitingTheColdCase: The premise of the series.
* RiddleForTheAges: We never find out whether Elisa, Scotty's [[ChildhoodFriendRomance childhood sweetheart]], was murdered or committed suicide. Evidence is offered both ways, but nothing is stated for certain.
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: A number of episodes are based on real life cases, and many others, while not referencing a specific case, do reference the hot-button social issues of the time -- the [=AIDs=] crisis, the Vietnam War, Women's liberation, the dot-com bubble, UsefulNotes/TheSpaceRace and so on. [[RippedFromTheHeadlines/ColdCase Has its own page.]]
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: "Offender". A man starts killing pedophiles and won't stop until the team solves his young son's 1987 rape and murder.

[[folder:S - Z]]
* SadisticChoice: In "Who's your Daddy", one of the two victims was given a choice between accepting visas from another family (and basically condemning them) and allowing himself and his family to be deported (the same as a death sentence).
** "The Perfect Day", and how! [[spoiler: In a fit of IfICan'tHaveYou, an abusive husband forces his wife to choose which of their twin daughters she'll save, and which one he'll throw off the bridge. You can guess [[TearJerker what happens next]].]]
%%* SanitySlippage: The victims in "Bombers" and "Slipping".
* SaveOurStudents: "True Calling". [[spoiler:The victim is killed by another teacher who's basically a jaded, older version of her, when she tries to get him to confess to drug use to save the future of the student he forced to carry for him. The student in question feels so responsible for her death that he descends into the life of crime he would've had without her intervention, despite his obvious talent as a writer]].
* SchoolNurse: A suspect in season 3 opener "Family". She's a school nurse who talks kids out of getting their pregnancies [[GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion "taken care of"]] because "murder is never easy."
* ScoobyDooHoax: "Slipping" features an extremely cruel one performed on the victim by the killer, in an attempt to drive her to suicide. When this gambit fails, [[spoiler:he does the deed himself.]]
* ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules: Screw the Political Power, I Have Rules!: This gets the victim in "Street Money" killed. [[spoiler:He was an up-and-coming city council candidate who refused to use blackmail against the powerful incumbent and thus probably sacrificed any chance of beating him. When one of his campaign staff, who viewed the victim as the last hope for the neighborhood, finds out, he shoots him]].
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: The brothers Todd and Eric in ''Look Again'' were initially not arrested based on this.
* SealedRoomInTheMiddleOfNowhere: MO of the serial killer from "The Road".
* SelectiveObliviousness: Sandra Riley ignored the fact that her husband was molesting her son as well as the fact that he kidnapped another boy to kidnap because she enjoyed HotGuyUglyWife
* SelfMadeOrphan: Some of the killers are this, either because the parents are AbusiveParents or because the children have problems of their own. [[spoiler:Season 7's "Dead Heat" is a good example of the latter.]]
%%* SerialKiller: "Creatures of the Night", "It Takes a Village", "The Road", "Mind Hunters/The Woods" and "Last Drive-In/Bullet".
* SeriesContinuityError:
** What Vera was in high school. "Lovers' Lane", one of the earliest episodes, says he was fat and unpopular. "Almost Paradise", one of the last episodes, says he was a football star and prom king (he even has a picture to prove it).
** Jeffries' age seems to change DependingOnTheWriter, as well.
* SeriousBusiness: The killer in "That Woman" took her ''high school chastity club'' so seriously that she never even slept with her husband, costing her her marriage.
* ShaggyDogStory:
** "Yo Adrian", essentially. An elderly boxing referee on his deathbed confesses that he was paid to rig a match, which resulted in the death of a boxer, but [[HisNameIs dies before he can tell the detectives who paid him]]. It's ultimately revealed that [[spoiler: the match was fixed ''in the victim's favor''... and the victim himself fixed it back in the other direction in order to prove he could win without his opponent taking a dive. As it turned out, he couldn't, and he died]], so ultimately the investigation was entirely unnecessary.
** Several other episodes had the murder take place so long ago--1919, 1929, etc.--that an investigation seemed utterly pointless, as the killer was now dead.
%%* ShellShockedVeteran: "Revolution", "Honor", "War at Home", "Family 8108", "The Brush Man", "The Good Soldier".
%%* ShesAllGrownUp: "Roller Girl".
* ShootTheMessenger:
** The two successful kills in "Sabotage". The intended victims who had genuinely wronged the killer (at least in his opinion) both survive.
** In "The Last Drive-In"/"Bullet" only the second victim had actually done something wrong; everyone else was either this or collateral damage.
* ShroudedInMyth: The fate of the victim in "World's End" had become a local urban legend.
%%* ShutUpHannibal: Occasionally occurs during interrogation scenes with the eventual perpetrator.
%%** Most notably via Stillman in both "Fireflies" and "Forever Blue".
%%** With Valens in "8:03 A.M." and "Slipping" (though he also does one on a child abductor who was not the main doer in "Revenge").
* SilentSnarker: Andy and Carlos from "Andy In C Minor".
* SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids: Numerous killers and accomplices express views similar to this, but special mention goes to [[DirtyCop Detective Bianchi]] in "Chinatown". Assigned to investigate Philly's chapter of the Chinese mob, he quickly discovers who the local boss is and could've arrested him at any time, but instead opts to help him, feeling that someone even worse would just take his place, and better the devil you know... Both victims would still be alive if Bianchi had just done his job, [[spoiler: and the closing montage strongly implies he will finally testify, then still get the book thrown at him]].
* SkewedPriorities: Quite a few killers demonstrate these, particularly in the episodes about sports. Victims have been killed for the [[FelonyMisdemeanor terrible]] crime of wanting to leave a sports team to provide for their pregnant girlfriend ("The Lost Soul of Herman Lester"), save their family ("Stealing Home", "Forensics"), marry the love of their life ("Colors"), or expose wrongdoing done by the coach ("Glory Days"). The victims will usually give a "sports isn't everything" speech to the killers, [[ShutUpKirk swiftly answered]] by a bullet between the eyes/bat upside the head/whatever.
* SlapSlapKiss: How we find out the cops from "Forever Blue" are gay.
* SlutShaming:
** "That Woman". [[spoiler:The members of the school's "Abstinence-only" club [[EvilCannotComprehendGood can't comprehend the fact]] that the "slut" was actually a much better person than they are, and so murder her]].
** Abounds in "The Goodbye Room", in an institution driven by nuns for pregnant unwed girls in [[DeliberateValuesDissonance 1964]].
* SmugSnake:
%%** Moe Kitchener, and most serial killers and rapists.
** A particularly notable example is Linda Boyka, the BigBad in "Cargo". At first, she seems to be quite the MagnificentBitch, never losing her cool during her interrogation while freely admitting to her crimes because, according to her, it doesn't matter, as she calmly states that by the time the case is over, the team will have no evidence against her, she will go free, and TheDragon, who flipped on her, will be dead before he ever gets the chance to testify (even though he's already in prison). By the end of the episode [[spoiler:exactly none of this has happened, showing she really was just full of hot air]].
** The accountant in "Lotto Fever" who makes his living off of ripping off lotto winners:
--->'''Kat Miller:''' Do you even... feel anything? Hosing a guy like that?
--->'''Roger Weaver:''' [[LackOfEmpathy Let's be honest, Detective, it wasn't like he earned it.]]
** Leah’s father in "Wishing": while his anger is understandable, threatening to sue a cancer-ridden single mother is a {{Jerkass}} move.
* TheSmurfettePrinciple: In the early seasons Lilly was not just the only female member of the Cold Case squad, but it was stated several times that she was the only female detective in Philadelphia. Or at least, the only female ''homicide'' detective in Philadelphia. Female detectives from other parts of Philadelphia are introduced after the second season, and in later seasons Kat joined the squad.
%%* SnowMeansDeath, "Glued", "Ravaged", [[spoiler:"Baby Blues"]], "Committed".
* SociopathicSoldier: The killer in "Revolution" [[spoiler: murdered his sister when she found out he had committed war crimes in Vietnam and was going to leave him behind to go to Canada with her lover]].
* SoftWater:
** Subverted in "A Perfect Day". The victim's skeleton is shown to have multiple fractures as a result of her [[spoiler: being thrown off a bridge by her father. Well, besides the broken arm he already gave her. ]]
** Averted in "War at Home". The victim falls off a bridge into the water and never surfaces.
%%* SomeoneToRememberHimBy: "The Lost Soul of Herman Lester", "Soul", "Sandhogs" and "Shore Leave". GenderFlipped in "The Goodbye Room".
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent: "Officer Down" deals with a current homicide that was solved within a few hours instead of a cold case.
* SoundOnlyDeath: Occurred only rarely, as in "Jackals", "Wishing" and "Libertyville". We see the aftermath with their bodies being discovered, but do not actually see their last moments alive (although the former was [[NightmareFuel quite haunting]], as we can still hear her loud, anguished screams as she's being stabbed.)
* SpoiledBrat: The dumb babysitter in "Baby Blues" believes that her daddy can get her out of any problems.
* StacysMom: Used in an extremely twisted fashion in "Blackout". The victim, a middle-aged former supermodel, actively tries to get this reaction out of others, [[spoiler: including her own relatives]].
* StandardCopBackstory: Lilly's father abandoned the family when she was young. She grew up on welfare with an alcoholic mother and an irresponsible younger sister. She has a history of failed romances and, outside of these failed romances, no personal life.
* StarCrossedLovers: Naturally when the show regularly has a long dead victim who had a partner we run into this trope. ''Best Friends'', ''A Time to Hate'', ''Boy Crazy'', ''Daniela'' and ''Andy in C minor'' are just a handful of examples.
* StepfordSmiler:
** Jakob in "Running Around". He talks about how he hates the Amish world and is happy in the English world, he's actually deeply screwed up, and wants to go back. Unfortunately, because he's addicted to drugs they refuse to let him back. [[spoiler:He ultimately murders the victim because she refused to help him go back (having decided to tough Rumspringa out in order to make a more informed choice), and because he resented her having a supporting family waiting at home.]]
** "Torn": the murdered suffragette was accidentally killed [[spoiler:by her mother]] after she asks [[ArmorPiercingQuestion "Are you happy?"]]
* StylisticSuck: "Creatures of the Night", where the lighting in the flashbacks is more intrusive than usual, and everyone in the flashbacks is acting fairly hammy.
* StealthPun: "Beautiful Little Fool" opens with the 1929 New Year party in a mansion. In the next scene, one of the attendants is dead. [[spoiler: TheButlerDidIt]].
* StrawMisogynist: Played with in "The Long Blue Line" and "Into the Blue" while at first it seemed played completely straight with none of the cadets liking the victim because she was a girl, it turned out that that was mostly a mentality held by the teachers. In an effort to prove that she was just as good she unintentionally shut herself off, accidentally coming off as a SmugSnake, something she was rectifying when she got killed. Even then she was killed due to the fact that the other cadets were going to embrace her and not her killer.
* StrictlyFormula: (Like most CBS Procedurals...) Mundane scene in the past that introduces us to the victim, his or her loved ones and sometimes even a few hints as to why they'll be murdered. Then, said murder. Case reopened in the modern day due to discovery of new evidence. Interviews. Flashbacks. Case solved. MedleyExit. WhereAreTheyNow. Somebody sees the victim's ghost.
%%* SuicideByCop: Played straight with [[spoiler: George Marks, by Lilly]].
* SuicidePact: In [[spoiler:"Detention"]], three of the kids make one, but two of them back out. [[spoiler:The victim gets killed while trying to keep the one who didn't want to back out from killing himself.]]
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: [[spoiler:Oscar Anderson]] in "The Dealer" denies both killing the victim and stealing her bonus. Thing is, the detectives had only mentioned her ''money'' being stolen, not the source of that money.
* SympatheticMurderer: Basically any episode in which there was an example of:
%%** AssholeVictim: "Blackout", "Justice", "Greed", "The Plan", "Thick As Thieves", etc.
%%*** An AssholeVictim that's not the main victim: "Revenge", "Offender", "A Perfect Day", etc.
%%*** Averted in "Maternal Instincts", which has an AssholeVictim... and an Even Bigger Asshole Killer.
%%** AccidentalMurder: "Baby Blues", "Kensington", [[spoiler:"Late Returns"]], [[spoiler:"Detention"]], etc.
%%** A [[MercyKill mercy killing]], like in "The Good Death", "Boy Crazy", "Wishing", and "The Letter"
%%** A crime of passion, committed in the heat of the moment and almost instantly regretted--"The Sleepover", "Colors", "Fly Away", and "Shuffle, Ball-Change"
** The killer in "The Key" [[spoiler: who was just a lonely teenager whose [[ParentalNeglect parents barely seemed to acknowledge his existence]]. His only friend was his ''fathers mistress'' with whom he's tasked with chauffeuring around. Even she winds up [[DirtyOldWoman using him to make his father jealous]] leaving Jed confused about his feelings for her, which results in his accidently stabbing her]].
** The killer in "It Takes a Village" is clearly the result of the horrific abuse he suffered as a child.
** The father of the victim - and eventual pedophile killer vigilante - in "Offender" had been wrongfully convicted for raping and murdering his own child for 20 years, and had only been freed because the prime evidence was contaminated and as such no real grounds for a new prosecution.
** The killer in "Running Around" is basically exiled from the community and is trapped in a lifestyle of drugs.
** In "Cargo", while the victim was far from an asshole and the killer didn't really have a reason for killing him, the stuff the episode's ''other'' villains put her through was positively heartbreaking.
%%** A similar though less extreme case is found in "Stand Up And Holler".
%%** The [[spoiler:main victim]] in "Lonely Hearts" turns out to have been one [[spoiler:herself]].
** The husband in "World’s End", given the fact that his wife abandoned him and her child to certain death to be with her lover after treating him like crap for getting laid off. Add that to the fact that he had Alzheimer and arresting him does seem like a KickTheDog moment for the cops.
* SympathyForTheDevil: Subverted in the GrandFinale, "Shattered". The killer attempts to court this reaction from Jeffries; he'd committed the murder, which was more or less an accident, as a drug-addicted teenager and had legitimately become a much better person as he got older. Jeffries's response is to look him right in the eyes and coldly tell him the victim's mother suffered worse than he did.
* TakeThat: "The Last Drive-in" contains an arguable dig at ''Series/CriminalMinds'' in a scene where an FBI agent complains that the profilers always give her useless information like the killer's favorite underwear color.
* [[TakingTheBullet Taking the Knife]]: How the victim in [[spoiler:"Kensington"]] dies. One wonders why he bothered, since the guy he saved was a TooDumbToLive UngratefulBastard.
* TakingYouWithMe:
** This exchange from "Knuckle Up". This is followed by the confession that implicated the one making the threat:
--->"If you do this... you're going down."
--->"Then you're coming with me."
** Mitch Hathaway tried to do this with Cliff Burrell before his wife told him to stand down.
** In the pilot episode, "Look Again," [[spoiler:the younger and weaker-willed of the two murderous brothers pulls this. The amoral older brother, who had been the direct killer, decides to throw the cops off his scent and gives a bare-bones statement implicating the younger, who was actually just a GuiltRiddenAccomplice. When Lilly (who doesn't fully believe the older brother) goes to arrest the younger brother, he finally decides to stand up for himself and proceeds to give a ''much'' more detailed confession, including providing blood evidence and the location of the murder weapon, implicating both of them]].
** The ending of "One Fall" follows much the same formula, [[spoiler:with the killer giving a weak testimony in an attempt to pawn the blame off on his accomplice, prompting the accomplice to give a more credible confession even knowing he'll go down, too]].
%%* TallDarkAndHandsome:
%%** Scotty
%%** Saccardo.
* TapOnTheHead: ''Many'' of the victims die this way (to the point that it's the most common way to die after gunshot wounds.) Some of the many items used to kill someone included a hand weight, a beer bottle, a baseball bat ([[RecycledScript three times!]]), a rock, a hockey stick, a metronome and a ''skateboard''.
* {{Taps}}: The episode "Shore Leave" is about a Marine in the 1950s who is murdered. "Taps" is played at the end.
* ThanksgivingEpisode: "Saving Patrick Bubley" shows the Bubleys having Thanksgiving dinner in 1999 and 2003, as well as murders that follow each time.
%%* ThatOneCase:
%%** Nick Vera: "Our Boy is Back", "Triple Threat", "Flashover" [[spoiler: he is suspended]] during the MedleyExit.
%%** John Stillman: "Glued", "Chinatown"
%%** Will Jeffries: "Strange Fruit", "The Key", "Shattered"
%%** Lilly Rush: "Saving Patrick Bubley"
%%** Kat Miller: "8:03 AM"
%%** Scotty Valens: "Sanctuary", "Jurisprudence"
%%** Other, non-main cast detectives: "Churchgoing People", "Spiders", "One Small Step", "The Last Drive-In"/"Bullet"
* ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill:
** "The Runner": [[spoiler: three fatal gunshots to the heart]].
** "Offender": [[spoiler: rape followed by murder]].
** "A Perfect Day": [[spoiler: the victim falls several stories and drowns]].
** "Disco Inferno": [[spoiler: main victim killed and burned [[KillEmAll along with everyone else in the disco]] ]].
* ThoseWackyNazis: Both the originals ([[spoiler:"The Hen House"]]) and the [[FollowTheLeader imitators]] ("Spiders")
* ThrowingOffTheDisability - [[spoiler:The victim's brother]] in "Shuffle, Ball Change". Aided by the fact that he wasn't really hurt in the first place, just looking for a convenient way to get out of a wrestling career he no longer thought he could handle.
* TimeshiftedActor: Used heavily due to the reliance on flashbacks to tell the case's story, with nifty juxtapositions and actor-switching in between, to demonstrate just how much (or little) each person questioned in the case has changed over the years.
* TitleConfusion:
** Contrary to what many fans believe, the main characters are ''not'' a specialized team that works in cold cases only. They are average Homicide detectives that from time to time reopen old cases, and they often talk about recent cases they closed before they went cold (and are rarely shown through the series). If the cold case is recent enough, there is a chance you'll see one of the main characters themselves putting the box on the shelf in the prologue. Lilly, though, seems to have built an informal fame as "cold case investigator" over the years.
** A lot of that confusion comes from the episode "Love Conquers Al" in which Det. Valens is introduced. He complains to Lilly about working in cold cases when he would rather be out solving live ones. Lilly then tells him that she chose it because everyone deserves justice, no matter how long it takes.
* TogetherInDeath: "The Boy in the Box"' and his biological mother [[spoiler: Sister Grace]].
* {{Tomboy}}: A deconstruction of this trope appears in "Boy Crazy". The victim was a high-school girl in the early 60s who choose to dress and act like a boy. Her peers bully her, her crush wants nothing to do with her, and she's been kicked out of several schools. Finally [[spoiler: her father sticks her in a mental ward, where the shock therapy she goes through damages her brain. Her crush, feeling guilty, gives her a MercyKill]].
* TooDumbToLive:
** Two examples from "Stalker":
*** The daughter: after literally being sent a stalker's shrine she responded by saying how romantic it was. When you add to that the repeated threats the guy made on her and her family...
*** Her mother, for using her daughter’s picture in her profile and being the one who was actually writing the stalker.
** The two teenage boys in "Thrill Kill", who didn’t realize that playing for the camera in a murder trial against three children was a bad idea. To make matters worse, after they reopened the case, the surviving one tried to invoke NeverMyFault.
** The pedophile in "Revenge" has a gun pointed at him and feels that that is the right time to taunt the would-be shooter.
** The victim in "Jackals" joined a dangerous biker gang because she was mad at her dad, despite everyone, including them, telling her it was a stupid idea.
%%** The killer in "Officer Down".
** One perp was arrested simply for being this, selling the gun to the person who tried to kill him, who just happened to be a 12 year old boy.
* TragicAIDSStory: There's an episode where the detectives are re-investigating the murder of a gay man in the 1980s. The victim became an AIDS activist after his lover contracted HIV. Flashbacks show him receiving a lot of grief from many gay people who were not yet aware of the seriousness of the situation and thought it was another ploy to destroy the subculture they have build, The present day investigation is complicated by the fact that many of the witnesses have died of AIDS in the meantime. The victim's lover actually survived the disease and went into remission. He is the one who comes to the Cold Case detectives asking for the case to be reopened.
* TheTragicRose:
** Played very very straight in "Daniela". The titular girl is given a rose corsage by her boyfriend. Their love ends up never becoming true, and the corsage ends up in the trash along with her bloodied clothes [[spoiler:after she kills herself.]]
** Rose Collins, in the episode "Best Friends", who is still mourning her one true love seventy years later.
* TransAtlanticEquivalent (''Series/WakingTheDead'' and ''Series/ColdSquad'')
* {{Transgender}}:
** [[spoiler:The titular "Daniela" turns out to be MTF]].
** In "Boy Crazy" the victim would be considered a FTM by today's standards, though he never mentions transitioning.
* TriumphantReprise: A weird version: In Season 3's "Detention", the Ending Montage song is the Smashing Pumpkins' cover of "Landslide". In next season's "Fireflies", [[spoiler:where the victim turns out to have survived]], the Ending Montage song is the original version by Fleetwood Mac.
* TwirlOfLove: In the episode "The Road", when [[spoiler:the victim]] is [[spoiler:reunited with her fiance]] after [[spoiler:she's found alive by Lilly]], he greets her with one of these -- set to the strains of Music/OneRepublic's "Come Home". It's ''adorable''.
* TwoGirlsToATeam: Lilly and Kat.
* TyrantTakesTheHelm: Season 6 introduces Patrick Doherty, a loathsome new Deputy Commissioner who's never worked an actual case in his life and rose to his position by kissing the asses of Philly's crookedest officials. He has a particular axe to grind with Stillman, who sent Doherty's druggie son to prison years before.
* TheUnfairSex:
** In "World's End" where a '''cheating''' wife gets offended by her lover's cheating on his wife. Despite that, you know, '''she''' is cheating on her husband from the get go.
** In "The Key", the victim's husband is incensed that his wife is cheating on him, despite the fact that he's been cheating on her left and right for years. Interestingly enough, he is NOT the murderer.
* TheUnfavorite:
** The victim in "Read Between The Lines" was murdered because she was this. She and her sister were foster kids [[spoiler: and she discovered her foster father was a pedophile. When she applied for emancipation and for custody of her sister, her foster mother, who blatantly favored the younger sister and who was in denial about her husband's true nature, murdered her]].
** The younger daughter, particularly in the present-day, from "Superstar". Even though the pushy StageDad was a JerkAss to his tennis-playing elder daughter during her lifetime, years later, he mourns her death and acts as if she were his only child. It wasn't even until Lilly calls him out on this that he finally gets his act together.
* UglyGuyHotWife:
** The victim's parents in "Revenge", played by Creator/BrentSexton and Brigid Brannagh respectively.
** The victim and her cuckolded (but innocent) husband in "Maternal Instincts". She's so far out of his league that their pairing seems utterly incomprehensible. It doesn't help that he's an ExtremeDoormat when it comes to her--instantly forgiving her for cheating on him, and helping her ''kidnap a baby'' to fulfill her dream of having a child. Not even her immediately abandoning him and running off with said child can make him muster up any real anger to her even years later. (Though one could argue she married him ''because'' she knew how much she could manipulate him.)
** Paul and Claire Shepard in "The Last Drive-in"/"Bullet". He's an overweight, nerdy, infertile SerialKiller. She's a cute-as-a-button [[Literature/HarryPotter Luna Lovegood]] lookalike who seems about half his age and has no knowledge of his... extracurricular activities.
%%* UngratefulBastard:
%%** The victim's family in "Lotto Fever".
%%** The Warrior program in "Glory Days", even though it's averted with the killer who tried to invoke this.
* TheUnreveal: In "Wilkommen", we never learn why Lilly hates musical theatre so much.
* UnusualEuphemism: Using the word "critter" -- a neutral word in the real world -- for black people in place of, uh... more well-known slurs. This is particularly noticeable in the season four episode "Fireflies", where the word is thrown around with HBO-levels of frequency. Even stranger is the fact the the n-word seems to be the ''only'' slur the show won't use; "sp*c," "f*ggot," and "mud-people" have all been said on the show.
* UpperClassTwit: All of the suspects in "Blackout". One of them responds to learning of the Rwandan Genocide with "Isn't that where the gorillas are?"
* UsedToBeASweetKid: Patrick Bubley was scoring in the gifted range on school exams, but after his brothers were murdered, he became preoccupied with avenging them, and began to slack off. By the time that Luther has been killed, Lily discovers that Patrick is flunking out of high school. Once she reminds Patrick that his brothers wanted Patrick to have a better life, [[SubvertedTrope Patrick is able to find a measure of peace, and he renews his commitment to his studies]].
** [[spoiler: the ''killer'' of all people]] in ''it takes a village'' before he became a TragicMonster.
* VehicularSabotage: In "WASP", the murderer switches the fuel and coolant lines in the victim's plane.
* VerbalTic: Several side characters have demonstrated these, and it's often helpful to the case.
** One of the executives at the company the victim was trying to expose in "Breaking News" says "When you drill it down" when summarizing things. [[spoiler: The detectives ID him as the whistleblower who'd been speaking to the victim using this]].
** The college newspaper reporter in "Superstar" tends to call people "Sport." [[spoiler: He's identified as the victim's stalker and ultimately killer using this]].
** The victim's best friend in "Colors" says "Check!" when answering in the affirmative. [[spoiler: He is the killer, but that's not what gives him away]].
* VerySpecialEpisode: Every other episode dealt with some hot button issue.
* VengeanceFeelsEmpty: [[spoiler: Hank Butler when he shoots Moe Kitchener and Scotty after engineering the prison shanking of Jimmy Mota]].
* VictimOfTheWeek: Often with the personality and situation of the victim explored in great detail.
* UnusuallyUninterestingSight: Not once during the episode "Knuckle Up" does anyone mention all of the bruises and cuts a number of students had. This was a BerserkButton for the students who fought like that specifically to get attention.
* UnwittingInstigatorOfDoom:
** A particularly heartbreaking one in "Wishing" gave us a girl who had a crush on the VictimOfTheWeek, who was a mentally-challenged teenager. One day alone in class, she tried to kiss him, and when her [[BastardBoyfriend meathead boyfriend]] walked in she lied and said ''he'' tried to sexually assault ''her'' so that she wouldn't get a "bad reputation". This caused the boy to be beaten up by said boyfriend and his gang of thugs (as well as his only friend, who was embarrassed by him); her parents filed charges against him, and because of his alleged sexual deviance he ended up institutionalized in the worst tier of the facility where the care for the patients was horrifyingly neglectful. In addition to this, the boy's loving mother (and one of only two people at this point who gave a damn about him) was dying of cancer as all of this was occurring, the boy's [[JerkAss father wouldn't take care of him because of his mental status]] and the boy's [[spoiler:caregiver, who was also dating the mother, took him from the institute and [[TearJerker had him ran over by a train rather than let him live a life of loneliness and neglect]].]] In present day, the the now-adult girl tears up in remorse upon realizing that she inadvertently caused the death of an innocent and harmless boy because of a little white lie.
** The teacher/priest in "That Woman". He had an affair with the killer, and when the victim pointed out the hypocrisy the killer (who was already unstable) blamed the victim for what happened and killed her. When interviewed he admits that he transferred largely out of guilt for causing the victim's death.
** The JerkAss in "Pin-Up Girl" who asked the killer out to get close to the victim only to laugh in her face for not realizing that was what he was doing.
** If the wife in "Revenge" hadn't told her brother-in-law about her husband's bearer bonds like she was told to, her son would be alive today.
** Roy Brigham Anthony’s aunt in "Creatures of the Night" was the one who gave him the idea that the voice in his head was god telling him what to do. Before that he believed he was crazy and could have gotten help. This is one of the few instances when the UWID are perfectly aware of it.
** Dr. Breslin in "it takes a village". Had he actually done something about the abuse going on at the foster home, for example the boys being made to ''stand naked for days on end'' [[TragicMonster poor]] [[spoiler: Malik might not have been tipped over the edge by having [[{{Fingore}} his finger cut off]] by the other boys]] and the victims would certainly still be alive. In the present day he does show some regret, though it only took ''twenty one years and four children dying'' for it to sink in that he [[AdultsAreUseless failed]].
** By telling Jerry in "Yo, Adrian" that his fight was fixed his girlfriend started the process that led to his death.
%%* VigilanteExecution: "Revenge", "Offender", "8 Years", "A Perfect Day", and "Justice". In the case of the latter two the victim was so utterly horrible that the detectives actually let the killer walk.
* VillainousBreakdown:
** George Marks suffers this after Lilly resists being completely broken, confronts him about his past, and rips his god complex apart saying that all he is is a frightened little boy whose mommy never loved him. In the span of two minutes, George goes from SmugSnake / ManipulativeBastard to Screaming Lunatic who can only scream "You shut up!" over and over again. After watching him walk away like a smug bastard in "Mind Hunters", watching George lose it felt strangely satisfying.
** John Smith ("The Road") kind of has this too. He's rattled by the fact that his latest victim refuses to give up hope of rescue, leading him to make the mistake that gets him arrested, and he's infuriated that Lily doesn't give up either and instead figures out where the victim is being held in time to save her from starving to death.
** Jim Larkin ("Lover's Lane") starts out as a SmugSnake... until the team reveals they have DNA evidence, at which point he has a FreakOut and rants about how both the victim and his girlfriend should have died that night.
** The killer in "Shore Leave" has a pretty epic one when the detectives inform him that the man he tried to wash out of the military by framing for the theft of an officer's gun went on to become a Navy Cross-winning Marine.
---> '''Hal Chaney:''' ''NEGATIVE!!!''
%%* VillainWithGoodPublicity: Half the killers in the show until they're caught.
%%* WardensAreEvil: Well, probably not ''all'' wardens, but the one in "The House" certainly is. Though as an {{expy}} of [[Film/TheShawshankRedemption Samuel Norton]], could he be anything else?
%%* WasItReallyWorthIt: Many of the victims get killed for reasons thought important at the time.
* WeUsedToBeFriends: The popular girls clique in "The Sleepover" hate each other as grownups.
* WellDoneSonGuy:
%% ** The killer in "One Small Step".
** The victim in "Shuffle, Ball Change" was one. [[spoiler: Subverted in that he actually did get his father's approval, but was killed before he could learn this.]]
** The son of the victim in "Dead Heat" was one. He found out his father really loved him only after he found out the father'd made a life insurance policy on his name. [[spoiler:Shame he'd already killed his old man by then.]]
* WellIntentionedExtremist: The killer in "WASP". She was [[spoiler: a commanding officer in the first-ever brigade of female military pilots in the US. When the victim discovered another female pilot had been killed in a prank GoneHorriblyWrong by a male pilot, she threatened to report it to the brass which the CO knew, the '40s being what they were, would likely result in the women's pilot program being shut down, and so killed her to ensure her silence]]. Even as an old woman in the present she's totally unrepentant, feeling that her actions were all in the name of giving women a chance in the military.
%%* WeddingDay: "Two Weddings".
* WhamEpisode: The end of "Stalker", which has the killer go batshit and take several members of the team hostage, shooting and nearly killing both Lilly and John.
* WhamLine:
** "Rampage":
--->'''[[spoiler:Tina]]:''' "[[PunctuatedForEmphasis Kill. Everyone.]]"
** "Daniela":
--->"What girl? That's my son Edwin."
** "Libertyville":
--->"Of course, I know him. [[MixedAncestry He's my brother."]]
** "Soul":
--->"Don't worry. We'll make another record together someday."
--->[[AnguishedDeclarationOfLove "It's not about the record!"]]
** "The Woods":
--->"Your mother wasn't raped in this house... [[spoiler: you were]]."
** "The Plan":
--->"I wrote it... but I didn't send it." *[[DrivenToSuicide BLAM!]]*
** "Red Glare":
---> "[[INeverSaidItWasPoison Elliott hadn't decided anything that night!]]"
** "Spiders"
---> "[[EvilAllAlong Do you know what those spic mud-people do to good white women like us?]]"
* WhatYouAreInTheDark: It's ultimately what Rush and the detectives sweat out of the suspects (and the killer) after they've hidden it for so many years. Sometimes, it's how the victim's character shines the brightest (when they're not AssholeVictims). And sometimes, it's when you see the killer's weakness in character.
** In ''Sherry Darlin'', [[spoiler: James was the one set up to smother his grandmother to death for her money. Instead, he fluffs her pillow and tries to leave her to sleep peacefully. Sherry, on the other hand...]]
*** Also in the same episode, [[spoiler: James' half-brother was left alone with Sherry for a few minutes, before Sherry started [[UpToEleven flirting]] with him. She offered that they run away together. But as it turns out, the brother had more integrity than Sherry anticipated.]]
** ''Ghost of my Child'', where [[spoiler: a former drug addict named Priscilla Chapman is at a crossroads between staying clean for her baby and giving him up for adoption. Her ex-boyfriend offers her a fix, to mark the end of her drug hiatus. But ultimately, she declines and goes straight home.]]
** ''The Plan'' has a [[spoiler: non-villainous example of failing the SecretTestOfCharacter. Instead of helping the pedophilic swimming coach out of the pool when he's drowning, he allows him to drown once they're alone.]]
* WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue: The present-day situations of each person involved in the case is interposed with shots of what they were like when the case first happened.
* WholePlotReference:
** Many episodes are based on the plot of certain movies--, "Stand Up and Holler" (''Film/MeanGirls''), "Blood On The Tracks" (''Film/TheBigChill''), "Yo, Adrian" (''Film/{{Rocky}}''), "Joseph" (''Literature/{{Laura}}''), "The Dealer" (''Theatre/GlengarryGlenRoss''), and subverted with the "Dangerous Minds" episode; the WPR for that film was actually ''True Calling'', though it's arguably a reference to the "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVF-nirSq5s Nice White Lady]]" [[SaveOurStudents type of dramas]] the film [[FollowTheLeader spawned]]. It's arguably a {{Deconstruction}}; see the SaveOurStudents spoiler above. [[TearJerker Ouch.]]
** "The House" also has many [[ShoutOut Shout Outs]] to ''Film/TheShawshankRedemption'', although the main plot itself isn't lifted from the movie. It also seems to lift some of its story from ''Film/CoolHandLuke''.
** "Disco Inferno" combines this (''Film/SaturdayNightFever'' -- the victim even dresses in a suit identical to John Travolta's) with RippedFromTheHeadlines (the Station nightclub fire)
** In "The Road", John Smith chose his victims after learning about their lives by editing their home videos, precisely how the killer chose his victims in ''Film/RedDragon''.
%%* WholesomeCrossdresser: George Polk, a key witness in "A Time to Hate" and major CoolOldGuy.
%%* WideEyedIdealist: Many victims, sometimes going into HonorBeforeReason territory. The clash of their optimism with cruel reality is often what ultimately gets them killed.
* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds:
** The serial killer from "It Takes a Village" Surely someone who [[WouldHurtAChild tortures, mutilates and murders young boys]] just because they are able to [[WorthyOpponent beat him]] at a ''video game'' couldn't possibly have any sympathetic qualities right? As it turns out [[spoiler: the game is symbolic of a room in a particularly awful foster home where he spent his childhood]]. During which he and five other boys were made to stand naked on a square ''for days at a time'' by his counselor. He attempts a CrowningMomentOfAwesome by standing up to said counselor. [[RealityEnsues Instead of joining in the other boys gang up on him]] [[{{Fingore}} and cut his finger off]]. He targeted boys who reminded him of the ones who attacked him and at times seems to legitimately believe its ''them'', even though its been over twenty years. By the time the detectives catch up to him, he's an [[TalkativeLoon incoherent mess]] who slips in and out of [[ThirdPersonPerson third person]]. He finally comes to his senses long enough [[spoiler: to realize that his latest intended prey is just an innocent little boy who has nothing to do with what happened to him so he lets him go.]] As awful as his crimes were, even the detectives couldn't help but feel a tinge of [[SympathyForTheDevil sympathy]] for him, or at least for the [[UsedToBeASweetKid little boy he was]].
** The killer from "Sabotage".
** The pedophile killer from "Offender" qualifies, given that he had been wrongfully incarcerated for killing his own child for 20 years, was freed largely on a technicality (prime evidence was contaminated) and his own wife abandoned him. By the time he finally confronts the bastard who killed his child and framed him for the deed he's completely lost it.
** Phil, one of the robbers from "Dog Day Afternoons", qualified as such. Despite his cold, almost murderous exterior, he actually had somewhat of a heart, and actually wanted to get out of the robbery business for good, unlike his boss Julius Carver, and tried to warn Roween Ryan about Julius's lying nature as well as his having another accomplice that he seduced to helping him rob the bank. When she decided to have Julius be turned in, Phil also tried to stand up to Julius when he ordered for her to be executed, but unfortunately, he was verbally and emotionally broken by Julius's words, and thus ended up having to kill her anyways. At the end, despite his being the murderer, you actually have to pity him.
** The [[spoiler:Congressman]] in "Late Returns", if you can even call him a "destroyer" at all. As a teenager, he was [[spoiler:taken advantage of by his controlling older sister, and ultimately [[AccidentalMurder kills his girlfriend essentially on a reflex]] when her touch caused him to have flashbacks to his sister abusing him]].
** [[spoiler:Tina]] from "Rampage". She had been [[spoiler: gang-raped in the back room of a mall by some {{Jerk Jock}}s, and lost her best friend immediately afterward due to a misunderstanding. She ends up walking up to two disturbed teenagers who work at the mall and telling them point-blank "[[PunctuatedForEmphasis Kill. Everyone.]]" Which they do. Quite messily. And not just the jocks but ''literally'' everyone, including children. When she gets arrested at the end, it almost feels like the detectives are [[KickTheDog kicking the dog]]]].
** Paul Shepard from "The Last Drive-in"/"Bullet" had a pretty rough life, too. His father lost his business due to a minor clerical error by his accountant's secretary, then lost most of his property due to being unable to keep up payments and ultimately AteHisGun. Paul himself settled down with a fellow film geek and opened a video store, but then the home video market crashed and, at the same time, he discovered he couldn't have children, and finally snapped.
* WhosOnFirst: A short version happens in "The Long Blue Line" when Bell asks Miller out to see a band called The Heartless Bastards:
-->'''Miller:''' The who?
-->'''Bell:''' I wish it was The Who, but the venue's a little small.
* WhatTheHellHero: Scotty gets one that lasts for the rest of season 4 and the 1st half of season 5, after he accidentally gives a vigilante murderer evidence needed to work out the identity of his son's murderer (said vigilante nearly throws the murderer off a building as a result.)
* WorthyOpponent: George Marks sees Lilly as this, and such as [[spoiler: ensures that she is the one who kills him]].
%%* WouldHurtAChild:
%%** "Glued", "Thrill Kill".
%%** "The Sleepover", though the impact is a little lessened because the killer [[spoiler:was a child herself.]]
%%** The victim's partner Blondie in "November 22nd".
* WritersCannotDoMath:
** Jeffries is twelve in 1963, a grown adult in 1966, and turns sixty in 2005.
** Stillman's daughter is said to be born in 1980, and then to be eighteen about twenty years ago.
** Don't even try to guess the age of the killer arrested in "World's End" for a crime he committed in 1938.
* [[YouKilledMyFather You Killed My Brother]]: Cedric Bubley does this, but changes his mind about killing.
--> "You ruined our family."
** His ''other'' brothers...
* WritingAroundTrademarks: Because of copyright restrictions, the UsefulNotes/ClosedCaptioning refers to songs used by genre, rather than by name.
* {{Yandere}}: The killer and titular character in ''Stalker'' could not be this more so. [[spoiler: It helps that he was an EMT ''before'' his [[StalkerWithACrush obsession]] got the better of him]].
** [[spoiler: Student journalist Eric Whitt from "Superstar"]] also counts.