The daughter of David Clarke, Emily Thorne was only a little girl when she was ripped away from her father and forced into a series of institutions. Inheriting a massive fortune from one of her father's associates and discovering her father's innocence, she proceeds to change her name and return to the Hamptons to gain revenge.
Action Girl: She is a black belt in karate, and quite proficient at kicking ass.
Anti-Hero: Although her motives are understandable and sympathetic, she is far from a morally upstanding protagonist.
Badass: Not necessarily a good one, but one nevertheless.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She's the main character in a story entirely about her getting revenge. What keeps the audience from associating her with more negative examples of the trope is the fact that everyone she's targeting in her plans has done worse.
Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: A not so rare protagonist version. She does occasionally demonstrate a softer side, having shown affection for Nolan, Jack, Charlotte, and Amanda in the past (not that she wouldn't risk putting all of them but Jack into danger in order to further her aims)
Kill It with Fire: Is implied to be a pyromaniac, or at least favour using arson to eliminate evidence.
Manipulative Bitch: The entire show is about how she manipulates the Hamptonites that were involved in framing her father. Victoria is the only one that doesn't fall for it and believes Emily is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing from the beginning.
Meaningful Name: Emily Thorne, which is lampshaded by Nolan. Emily itself comes from the latin word "aemulus" which means "Rival" while her birth name Amanda means "loved" or "worthy of love". Both names fit perfectly. Amanda who was loved by her father and the name she adopts Emily, as she takes on those who destroyed her family. Word of God has confirmed both these names and meanings were intentional.
A mobile phone billionaire who made his fortune due to sponsorship from David Clarke, Nolan Ross gained an everlasting hatred for the Graysons and other Hamptonites when they turned against his patron. Nolan is interested in supporting Emily's revenge but tries to convince her to minimize the fallout.
A Friend in Need: Nolan is the only friend of Amanda's father who does not abandon him. When Amanda turns 18 he comes to her and tells her of her father's innocence and gives her her father's 49% worth of shares of Nolan's company (worth billions of dollars) since her father was Nolan's first investor and Nolan believes he would not have succeeded without him. He also is determined to help Emily in her quest for vengeance, even when she doesn't want him to.
In a more present sense of the word, Nolan is more than willing to help Jack out, though like Emily, Jack doesn't want him to.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Weird, socially awkward and eccentric. He's also a computer genius who has more money than God.
Color Contrast: The first time we see Nolan is in the flash-forward to the Fire and Ice Ball five months in the future; the dress code is red for women and white for men, with Victoria specifying that the color theme represents the love between a man and a woman. Nolan is the only guest at the party wearing both colors, possibly an early hint as to his bisexuality.
Cowardly Sidekick: Has shades of this with the decidedly badass Emily. While he is willing to put himself in danger indirectly and risk his safety for the sake of his own morals, he is beyond terrible at physical/hand-to-hand combat. If he senses any threat of immediate violence, his standard reaction to freeze, curl up in terror, and beg not to be hurt.
The Dandy: Is consistently decked out in loud, rather bizarre fashion statements.
Friendship Moment: Has a few surprisingly sweet ones with Ashley, despite the fact that they generally despise each other. Nothing says "bonding experience" like finding out that the guy you both slept with is a psychotic murderer.
Hollywood Hacking: And how. Can apparently access any website with a few clicks of his keyboard.
Idle Rich: Possibly a deconstruction of this trope; he possesses insane amounts of money, but is still lonely, awkward, and socially inept.
Like Brother and Sister: With Emily, in an odd, rather codependently unhealthy way. (He is simultaneously terrified of her and desperate for her approval and friendship, while she claims not to need him while calling in favors from him every five minutes.) At the same time, the two of them are probably the only people in the world who know each others' secrets, and they share some moments of genuine affection.
Mood Whiplash: Makes frequent and startling swings from intimidating to flippant, from determined to panicked, from cold to emotional, etc., at the drop of a hat. His loyalty to Emily and David keeps him on board with the revenge plan, but how committed and involved he is varies from day to day based on his personal reactions to Emily's methods.
Morality Pet: Despite his cold, snarky persona, he manages to be this for Emily when her actions cross lines that he isn't willing to condone.
Never Hurt an Innocent: He's all for taking people down but doesn't like going after others who weren't involved. Sadly, Emily does not share this view.
Paper-Thin Disguise: His "Burt the cable guy" costume in the season finale; a uniform, beanie, and rather wispy mustache are his only concessions to concealing his identity. It doesn't work.
Poisonous Friend: Nolan is an inversion of this: while he is fanatically loyal to Emily/Amanda and assists her in her revenge scheme, he also points out that she would probably be happier if she just dropped the whole thing and went off somewhere to enjoy her wealth.
Sacrificial Lamb: Though this occurred sporadically to him throughout Season 1, his status as this reaches a figurative height when Emily, Aidan, and Daniel's machinations in the first half of Season 2 set Nolan up to lose control of his company and hand it over to Grayson Global. Nolan is more than willing to allow this to happen though, if it means 'helping the closest thing to family he's had'.
Later on, it seems he's very aware of his place as this, as he enters an episode saying this:
Nolan: Mm... Sacrificial lamb, reporting for the slaughter...
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Normally uses a rainbow of a vocabulary to describe situations. Often drops this when he's panicking about something.
Shipper on Deck: For Jack and Emily. Considering his close friendship with Emily and considerable amount of HoYay with Jack, this veers into OT3 territory for some fans.
Spoiled Sweet: Despite being a Deadpan Snarker, and the richest character in the series, he is incredibly empathetic, often looking in the best interest of Jack, Declan, and Emily.
Stealth Parody: His hilariously over-the-top preppy outfits could be, particularly when you take into account Nolan's sarcastic personality and hatred of the Hamptonites, and that he dresses much more casually in flashbacks.
Sugar and Ice Personality: Snarky and awkward on the outside, sweet and kind-hearted on the inside. In Nolan's case, it may be justifiable to protect himself from people who would use that against him.
Technical Pacifist: Aids Emily in her plans to ruin the lives of those who destroyed David Clarke, but dislikes violence and is terrible at any sort of physical combat, preferring to wage war from behind the screen of his iPad.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Nolan's relationship with his father is revealed to be an inversion of this: while he apparently became estranged from his father after the latter kicked him out for refusing to go back to college, after his father's death Nolan discovers that his dad was proud enough of him to have collected every article ever written about Nolan, as well as keeping a massive box of early business documents from the beginning of NolCorp's founding. As Nolan says in his typically Deadpan Snarker way, "turns out he loved me."
Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler)
The son of a local bar owner and later owner, Jack Porter was childhood friends with Amanda Clarke and adopted her dog after she was taken away by social services. Jack Porter remembers her fondly as a reminder of better times and named his boat after her. Nolan Ross encourages him to try and date Emily Porter as a means of salvaging her soul.
A Boy and His X: Is pretty much inseparable from Sammy, the dog Amanda bequeathed on him years before.
Break the Cutie: Holy crap does the second season screw him hard. His father's involvement in a murder years ago comes back to ruin his life when the Ryan brothers show up to try and take over Jack's bar as a means of avenging their father. Nate Ryan's later conversation with Conrad Grayson leads to the death of fake Amanda during their honeymoon. Jack's attempt to get revenge for this leads to Conrad's attempt to assassinate Jack in the form of a bombing. The bombing takes Declan's life instead. After all that, can you really blame him for the inevitable?
Hair-Trigger Temper: After Amanda's death, his temper becomes so bad that it's arguable who's got a worse rein on his anger between him and Daniel. After the aforementioned event, he's shown to be increasingly irritable towards Nolan and Emily for their secrets as well as whatever involvement they had in the events between the current summer and the previous one.
Nice Guy: Could be the poster boy for this trope, especially in comparison to the other characters...
Parental Abandonment: Jack and Declan Porter's mother abandoned her family when the boys were very young and they were raised by their father.
Perpetual Poverty: By the time the show begins, all the Porters have left to their name is the bar their father owns and Jack's boat. The boat is sold to Nolan in season one, though because Nolan understands what the boat means to Jack, he does return it eventually. The bar gets enough for the Porters to get by, but their conditions never improve, so maintenance problems with the bar is enough to make them panic. Nolan and Emily are willing to support them whenever the situation becomes too drastic, though Jack's pride keeps him from accepting help from either of them. In Season 2, Jack and Declan's inability to manage the bar pushes them into debt with another pair of brothers that have a score to settle with Jack's now deceased father.
Promotion to Parent: When their father dies from a heart attack, the adult Jack becomes Declan's guardian.
Revenge: After a season and a half of decidedly attempting to stay away from the Graysons, Amanda's death puts him on the same warpath that Emily's been on for most of her life. His amateur attempts at joining the revenge game ends up ruining his life further than solving anything. Declan's death drives him to the brink of executing an assassination on Conrad, to the point where it takes Emily revealing her true identity to him to stop him.
Secret Keeper: Emily revealed that she was really Amanda Clarke to Jack in the Season 2 finale to keep him from assassinating Conrad. It worked, but come Season 3, he's realized that everything that's happened, including Declan's death, was as a result of Emily's actions. That said, he's given Emily a deadline to finish her business in the Hamptons and then disappear, and threatens to reveal her identity to everyone if she doesn't.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Amanda's death has him out for Grayson blood, but his disdain isn't entirely aimed at them; he begins to openly show contempt towards anyone that might be involved during the incident and makes it very clear that he's sick of Emily and Nolan for keeping secrets from him and trying to keep him out of the way of the Graysons' sights.
A child of the foster system and institutionalized for most of her life, her life changed by becoming cellmates with (the real) Amanda Clarke. Emily Thorne traded names with her after befriending her. Having become a stripper after her release, she is intrigued by the life her cellmate has created for it.
Defeat Means Friendship: When Amanda first met the real Emily in juvie, they got into a brief but brutal fight; now, they seem rather close, enough for Emily being willing to switch identities.
I Just Want to Be Loved: She's crazy, but still intently devoted to anyone gives her love and acceptance. She panics at the thought that Emily doesn't love her, and briefly sides with Tyler when he plays with this doubt of hers.
Red Oni: She is quite manic, especially when compared to her composed Emily/Amanda counterpart.
Undying Loyalty: To Emily/the real Amanda. To the point where she panics at the thought that Emily might not be as loyal to her. She briefly sides with Tyler in an attempt to try and fix her connection with Emily.
Yandere: She has shades of this in regards to Emily/Amanda.
Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe)
Victoria Grayson is the wife of Conrad Grayson and "Queen of the Hamptons." She is the master of the socialite circle, richer than God, and seemingly possesses a perfect life. This mask hides a scheming and vindictive manipulator who is willing to destroy anyone who stands in her way.
Arch-Enemy: Victoria is Emily's, although the former doesn't know about it yet.
The Atoner: Victoria, of all people, starts coming off as this in the last few episodes of the season, as she dedicates herself to taking down Conrad for what happened to David Clarke, no matter the cost. Though there is at least some question as to whether this is because of a genuine desire to atone or because the whole affair is a convenient weapon to use against Conrad (Victoria was careful to secure immunity for herself and separate her assets from his before she said anything.)
Despite helping to destroy David Clarke, she appears to have genuinely loved him and even refused to let Conrad sell or bulldoze the beachhouse for several years, as it was her one last connection to the man she loved.
Parental Favoritism: Obviously prefers Daniel to Charlotte, and now seems to prefer Patrick to both of them.
Really Gets Around: Has three biological children by three separate fathers—one out of wedlock long before her marriage, one with her husband, and one as the result of an affair.
Revenge Myopia: Wants payback against Emily for having her locked up in the asylum, even though it was retribution for the very thing she herself did to Emily that ruined the lattter's childhood and left her a broken young lady.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: As a young teenager she was pursued by her mother's suitors. When her stepfather molested her, her mother threw her out of the house.
The Sociopath: While Emily has traits of one, Victoria is pretty much much this.
The patriarch of the Grayson family, Conrad is a hedge fund manager with billions to his name. Unfortunately, he is deeply unhappy with his current life and living in a sham of a marriage. Conrad Grayson, along with a vertible army of conspirators, arranged for the arrest and conviction of David Clarke.
Arch-Enemy: He and Jack seem to have become this after season 2.
The Charmer: Despite the nepotism which gave him his title, he has had his way with many women and can make a good first impression.
Graceful Loser: Surprisingly enough, he's quite cordial to Emily after she exposes his crimes and gets him thrown into federal prison, and wishes her good luck with the rest of her plan. It helps that she's now focused entirely on Victoria, who he despises.
The son of Conrad and Victoria Grayson, Daniel is the over-privileged "Prince of the Hamptons." Daniel was only a boy when David Clarke was arrested for treason but has bought completely into his parents lies about the man. A former party animal and recovering alcoholic, he has his own secrets.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Subverted. Conrad argues that Daniel wouldn't go anywhere in the world without the Grayson name, which might have been true if his parents' machinations didn't place him as the CEO of Grayson Global. Now, Daniel's just concerned with not becoming the nightmare that he's fully aware his parents became a long time ago.
Hypocrite: Invoked when after a little pressure joins his father's company, after spending months telling Emily that he didn't want that.
Lonely at the Top: He is one of the youngest CE Os and lost his girlfriend for his decision. He also alienated his sister and his family with his actions.
Mood-Swinger: As his world falls apart he goes from mood to mood.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Joining his father, hitting his mother, being cold to his fiance within a few episodes. Gets worse in the second season. Oh, and let's not forget shooting Emily in the stomach.
Charlotte Grayson is the daughter of Conrad and Victoria Grayson except not biologically on Conrad's part. The Spoiled Sweet seventeen-year-old "Princess of the Hamptons", she is bored with her rich Hamptonite boyfriends and intrigued with young Declan Porter.
Big Brother Worship: Charlotte seems to adore Daniel, turning to him rather than her parents when she gets in trouble.
Break the Cutie: Though not directly involved or targeted by Emily, an impressive amount of crap has happened to her over the course of the series (attempting to commit suicide, losing her boyfriend and baby, and being kidnapped to further Emily's plans just to name a few).
Butt Monkey: If they want anything bad to happen to any character it's usually her.
The Conscience: Her crimes are little things in compared to her families and is arguably the most conscience one in the set.
Daddy's Girl: Before the revelation that David Clarke is her biological father. Once she gets over this, she becomes Genre Savvy enough to use her status as this to Conrad to manipulate his decisions, on behalf of her mother or brother (whichever one of them is manipulating her that week).
Ashley Davenport is the party planner and reluctant (unofficial) personal assistant of Victoria Grayson. Ashley Davenport wishes desperately to be a part of Hamptonite social life but doesn't have the money or connections to truly belong. Ashley is also, seemingly, best friends with Emily Thorne.
The Danza: One of three (see also Emily Thorne and young Emily).
The Resenter: To Emily. In good humour at first, but turns ugly as their friendship is left behind in the wake of the plot.
She's Got Legs: This also applies to other female characters on the show, but no one symbolises this trope here as much as Ashley.
Tyler Barrol (Ashton Holmes)
The Harvard Business roommate of Daniel Grayson, Tyler Barrol shows up soon after Emily Thorne to spend the summer with his old friend. It quickly becomes apparent he is not what he seems.
Depraved Bisexual: He dates Ashley and tugs on his former connection with Daniel to get closer to the Graysons, but sleeps with Nolan on the side. Needless to say, there's nobody he won't manipulate to get where he wants to be.
Jerkass Has a Point: His advice to Ashley about not letting herself be a doormat for Victoria is actually rather sage. He was also technically right about Emily.
Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart)
An Intrepid Reporter who wanted to prove David Clarke innocent with a tell-all book. Unfortunately, Greed betrayed him and he made a fortune backing up the Grayson's lies about him. This makes him a target for Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne.
Back for the Dead: Subverted. Victoria starts to visit Mason in jail to find out what he knows, and Mason blackmails Emily into getting him out. The next day, Mason "dies" in his jail cell, making it seem like Emily orchestrated the whole thing so he wouldn't tell anyone what he knows. By the end of the episode it's revealed that Emily was responsible - for slipping an herb into Mason's salve that simulated death for 12 hours so that Nolan could drive him out to the airport.
Secret Keeper: As per Penance, he is fully aware of Emily's identity, and is allied with her... but in a way that is completely in Emily's control.
Spanner in the Works: Actively tries to be this to both Victoria and Emily in the series, partially for his own gain, but mostly For the Lulz. To his credit, goading Emily actually works out well for him, which is more than what can be said for most of her other victims.
"It's a small price to pay for the regain of my soul".
The Unfettered: Will do anything to get the truth and be the one to report it.
The White-Haired Man
A figure who terrifies Conrad Grayson, the White-Haired Man is a contract killer and saboteur with ties to the American Initiative. The White-Haired Man is later revealed to to have killed David Clarke and to have married Kara Clarke.
Morality Pet: To everyone, but mainly towards Charlotte. Her interactions with him keep her from going down the Graysons' path of moral darkness earlier than she needs to. Jack's concern for Declan also keeps him from getting involved with anything too dangerous before he gets killed.
Odd Friendship: With Nolan - they both share a fierce protectiveness towards Jack.
Parental Abandonment: Jack and Declan's mother abandoned her family when the boys were very young and they were raised by their father.
Promotion to Parent: He and Charlotte are the ones that take care of baby Carl Porter when Jack and Amanda are unable to, which happens more often when Amanda dies and Jack goes after the Graysons. Ironic, considering that Jack had to do the same thing for him when their father passed away.
Uptown Girl: Is attracted to Charlotte for most of the series despite their differing economic levels.
Amanda Clarke's dog when she was a child. It was taken by Jack Porter when she was institutionalized.
A student of Takeda and a former lover of Amanda Clarke. Aiden Mathis joins the group in Season 2, trying to assist Amanda in gaining her revenge while pursuing his own agenda. He remains largely mysterious in his motivations.
Break the Badass: Watching Emily return to Daniel while Aiden's still very much in love with Emily (despite the knowledge that she's in love with Aiden and is only using Daniel for appearance's sake) isn't sitting well with him. Finding out his sister's really been dead all these years gave him a BSOD that made him leave Emily on her own for a while. His realization that revenge doesn't bring any sort of fulfillment causes him to try and redirect Emily off the path of revenge, but she refuses his offer to run away with him. He's forced to kill Takeda, who was raising him and Emily to fight against the Initiative. He also might have been killed by Daniel in the season 2 finale... except he wasn't. He did, however, get killed by Daniel's mom in the season 3 finale.
Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Introduced as one of Emily's co-conspirators and fellow disciples of Takeda. Gets a job with Grayson Global as a mole for Emily, then reveals he has his own agenda and ends up working against everyone for a bit. Currently both Victoria and Conrad believe him to be a double agent for themselves and each other, but he's actually still on Emily's side.
The Dragon: To Takeda and to a lesser extent Emily.
Dragon with an Agenda: No one really knows which side he is on. As of the penultimate episode of the second season, he is revealed to have been on Emily's side the entire time, going so far as to kill Takeda.
Heel...er...Face...? Realization: Him being neither a complete hero nor a complete villain makes him hard to classify what this is, but after killing Trask, Aiden realizes there's no fulfillment after revenge and thus tries to push Emily towards abandoning her vendetta to save her from the emptiness that he himself is feeling.
Idiot Ball: Hitting the button that releases Carrion onto the city that cements his place as another fallguy for the Graysons/The Initiative and leads to him and Nolan getting arrested definitely qualifies as this...
In Season 3, knowingly entering into a relationship with Takeda's daughter, despite being the man responsible for her father's death, was an incredibly foolish move on his part.
Tall, Dark and Handsome: Taller than Daniel or Jack and definitely morally darker than Jack (and he's arguably morally as dark if not darker than Daniel too, but that's debatable). And where he stands on the handsome scale... That's really on a scale of personal subjectivity given the amount of beautiful men in the series...
Kara Wilkins Clarke Murphy
Put on a Bus: After being told the truth about her ex-husband, she's convinced to leave the Hamptons without exacting the revenge she planned on taking on the Graysons.
Bastard Bastard: Every bit as ruthless as his mother, if trying to kill his stepfather is any indication.
Bi the Way: Was previously married, and is Nolan's love interest as of Season 3.
Fish out of Water: Being abandoned by Victoria as a baby means that he doesn't share any of the grudges that his mother and her family have towards other people in the Hamptons. As a result, he has absolutely no idea as to what he's walking into when Victoria invites him to move into Grayson manor.