At the end of the first aired episode of Firefly, Mal kicks The Dragon (already defeated) into the ship's engine rather than bother arguing when he swears revenge on him.
A deeper one from the same episode is when he gives back the medicine he robbed from a train after finding out how badly it was needed.
Also, in the same episode:
Drunk: The Independents were a bunch of inbred cowardly pisspots should have been killed offa every world spinning. Mal: Say that to my face. Drunk: I said, you're a coward and a pisspot. So what are you going to do about it? Mal: Nothing. I just wanted you to face me so she could get behind you. [And * WHACK!* Zoe lays the drunk out with the butt of her mare's leg.]
Niska's introduction in the same episode is one long lampshade of the trope.
Mal: You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me, and you'll be armed.
Firefly also pulls a fake example with Simon in the (intended) pilot: the first shot of him is all sinister, including Scary Shiny Glasses, setting him up as the number one suspect to be the Alliance agent aboard ship. Needless to say, he isn't, though the cold, "almost reptilian" behavior would indicate his drive to protect his sister.
His real ECM comes later, along with his sister's.
In the film, Serenity, the Operative's first scene is him killing the doctor who let Simon and River escape, citing the Roman practice of having generals fall on their sword. Using a Pressure Point technique, he gives the doctor a little help, and comforts him as he dies. And when the doc's assistant starts to run for help, he stops her with a word and asks for help getting some more records. We know he's dangerous, practical, and has an odd sense of honor. The Oner which follows introduces the uninitiated to Serenity's crew in a similar fashion.
The Austinand Ally pilot gives us, Trish announcing her newest job..and how incompetent she is, Ally inforcing store rules, Dez clumsily filming, and Austin playing drums..with corndogs.
In the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles attempts to remind Buffy of her duties, she sneers, "Blah, blah, I've heard it okay?" Cements her character pretty solidly, but she has many much cooler moments.
Darla's very first scene is the first scene of the first episode. Well, you know the plot, so it isn't a spoiler that the cute blonde in the Catholic schoolgirl outfit being led astray by the tough guy in the biker jacket is not an innocent. It's Darla, luring him into a place where she can rip his throat out. Not only an ECM for Darla but a defining moment for the show and a scene with a gigantic HSQ for the unprepared.
The pilot episode has Xander babbling incoherently when confronted with a pretty girl (Buffy), Cordelia seeming nice until she's confronted with shy, nerdy Willow, and Willow herself eating lunch alone and offering to move when someone comes to sit in her spot.
More specifically, Willow talks about losing her Barbie doll as a child and when Buffy asks if she got it back, Willow replies happily "Most of it" as if this was a positive. Saying the line that way got Alyson Hannigan the role and it establishes the character for the first three seasons.
Riley's friend Forrest seemed nice enough until he suggested that they use Buffy as bait to lure Spike.
Richard Wilkins asking the deputy mayor to show his hands.
Mr. Trick greets a drive-in guy then eats him.
Faith casually beating up a vamp while greeting Buffy.
Adam asking a boy what he is then killing him.
When we first see Giles, Buffy asks him about books (she means school books) and he gleefully slams a thick tome with the title "Vampyr" in front of her. It's clear from there on that Giles will be a constant source of supernatural booksmarts for the slayer.
Spike roughs up the Anointed One's minions but then an Ominous Music Box Tune rises and everyone turns to see this spooky woman in white. Drusilla has arrived.
In Mash, during Charles Emerson Winchester's first episode, he spends a lot of time showing his spoiled upper class roots. But at the end of that episode, he actually turns one of Hawkeye's jokes back on him. Hawkeye isn't pleased, but all Winchester does is say "Please. Mozart." This made it clear he was going to be a much more complex character than Burns.
In the first few episodes of The Big Bang Theory they manage to firmly establish each characters personality fairly well.
In the pilot we learn everything we needed to know about Sheldon when Penny accidentally stole "his spot".
Sheldon: Um Penny...that's where I sit. Penny: [flirtingly] Sit next to me. Sheldon:[clueless] ...no, I sit there. Penny: What's the difference? Sheldon: "What's the difference?" Leonard: Here we go. Sheldon: In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it's directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I've made my point.
Leonard's moment is basically the entire pilot, his friendly demeanor leads him to invite the pretty girl to lunch but his desire to get close to her also leads him to do stupid things to get on her good side.
Howard's first scene has him awkwardly hitting on Penny in multiple languages and trying to act suave and cool even while offering her a juice box.
Penny's moment comes in the second episode when she gets outraged that Sheldon cleaned up her apartment when she was sleeping using their spare key, but after some time to cool down and work it out she freely forgave them.
Raj's moment also comes in the second episode when he manages to have an entire conversation with Penny without him saying a word, also including his mind wandering off while Penny kept on talking.
Bernadette's key scene came in her second episode when Howard tries to apologize for his rude behavior by doing this over-the-top declaration of love while playing the keyboard at the restaurant she worked at. Penny responded with a Face Palm but Bernadette smiled brightly and considered it the most romantic thing anyone has done for her.
During the Supernatural pilot, Dean was this snarky, flirty, junk-food-loving badass and the fans loved him for it but when it came to "I can't do this alone." "Yes you can." "Yeah, well, I don't want to," his fate as a complicated woobie was sealed.
While remaining still quite whiny and closed off, Sam's first defining moment as the snarky little brother came with this line in the pilot: "You smell like a toilet."
Castiel's first scene. He walks serenely into the barn where Dean and Bobby are waiting while they shoot him, the barn shakes, and the lights explode overhead (the last two are direct results of his presence). Despite the chaos, he never flinches or even blinks, and he never takes his eyes off Dean.
Which isn't so much Ho Yay as it is foreshadowing his tenure as Dean's guide angel.
Death, often considered by the fans to be the best entrance in the history of television.
As each incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who is often vastly different, each of them have at least one Establishing Character Moment in their respective first appearances. For example, the First Doctor persistently acting like a senile old man to the two teachers in "An Unearthly Child", or the Fourth Doctor's bizarre choices for new outfits in "Robot". The Ninth Doctor's first line is "Run!", which pretty much sums up the entire show in a single word. Endured a heavy Lampshade Hanging in "The Christmas Invasion", as the Tenth Doctor wonders who he is, eventually receiving his own Moment as he kills the Sycorax leader, remarking "No second chances. I'm that sort of man". (Of course, before that in his very first appearance, his first reaction was to be intrigued and confused by his new teeth, which established another factor of his personality quite well — there's a Ditz somewhere in there.)
Note that, as well as showing what makes their Doctor different, each regeneration also needs a moment where they establish themselves as still essentially being the Doctor. This will normally be the moment where they step up to save the day with a brilliant, improvised plan and declare themselves as humanity's (and the universe's) protector. For example, the Eleventh Doctor's now legendary speech to the Atraxi in which he literally takes his place among the other regenerations:
Similarly, each incarnation of the Master receives their own Establishing Character Moment, though due more to the length of time between appearances than the disparity of the portrayals. Examples include Roger Delgado's immortal line "I am usually referred to as the Master. Universally.", while John Simm had the less immortal but no less impressive "Why don't we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don't think!". Anthony Ainley's ECM doesn't even involve lines - it's his signature sinister cackle during "Logopolis".
Jack Harkness's first line in the new series is "Excellent bottom." ... While staring at Rose Tyler's ass through binoculars, who is dangling thousands of feet in the air from a rope tied to a barrage balloon. His fellow soldier thinks the line is aimed at him, to which Jack responds by patting the guy's bottom before setting out to go rescue Rose.
Donna Noble, interrupting the very end of the tear-jerking season 2 finale "Doomsday" while the Doctor splutters in confusion: "Who are you? Where am I?! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLACE??!"
"EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" That one word sums up the Daleks in a nutshell.
The eponymous Sherlock has a show-stopping one when he first meets John in A Study in Pink. It is, naturally, a startlingly accurate analysis of John and his background after having known the man for all of two minutes. Watch the epicness here.
John: Is that it?
Sherlock: Is that what?
John: We've only just met, and we're gonna go look at a flat?
John: We don't know a thing about each other. I don't know where we're meeting, I don't even know your name.
Sherlock: I know you're an army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan; I know you've got a brother who's worried about you but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him; possibly because he's an alcoholic - more likely because he recently walked out on his wife, and I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic; quite correctly, I'm afraid. That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?
Moriarty gets two. His appearance has him masquerade as "Jim from IT", the obviously gay boyfriend of Molly (which retrospectively shows how capable he is at being Hidden in Plain Sight), while his second appearance has him introduce himself while holding John hostage with a suicide-vest, being alternatively affable and menancing, in addition to establishing him as a complete sociopath and Sherlock's Evil Counterpart.
In fact, one could consider the entire first series of Sherlock to be one long ECM for Moriarty, being the Bigger Bad who was secretly pulling the strings of the villains in the first two episodes, even executing the second when they nearly gave up his name.
Irene Adler gets an particularly memorable one. The audience sees her debating a variety of dresses to wear for her eventual run-in with Sherlock, only to be sitting completely naked when he finally does show up. In addition to establishing her as The Tease, it shows her as smart enough to realise that by giving him absolutely nothing to read, she could completely throw off his Sherlock Scan altogether. Furthermore, when they're later held hostage and Sherlock is forced to figure out the code her safe at gunpoint, he does so because she knew that he'd size her up, the code being her measurements.
Every single person on 24 gets one of these, to the extent that Television Without Pity has started timing how many seconds it takes a new castmember to establish their character. (The record is Morris O'Brien, at 4.)
Throwing almost all Power Rangers cliches out the window, the opening of Power Rangers in Space had the Red Ranger Andros infiltrating the Council of Evil wearing a concealing cloak. He was working to get information on this "Grand Plan" being set up by the council. After being discovered, he fought his way out and escaped. No prior Ranger was this devious or bold as to try something like that. Said cloak later becomes his Iconic Outfit in both teamup episodes he appears in.
House manages to have a few of these in the pilot, showing off his assholishness ("Brain tumor, she's gonna die, boring"), his pride ("Patients don't want a sick doctor") and his need to butt into other people's lives. But what really stands out for most people is this little bit of conversation:
Rebecca (patient of the week): Did you think you were dying [when you had the infection]? House: I hoped I was dying. Rebecca: So you hide in your office, refuse to see patients because you don't like the way people look at you. You feel cheated by life so now you're gonna get even with the world. You want me to fight this. Why? What makes you think I'm so much better then you? House: When you're scared, you'll turn into me. Rebecca: I just want to die with a little dignity. House: There's no such thing! Our bodies break down, sometimes when we're 90, sometimes before we're even born, but it always happens and there's never any dignity in it. I don't care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass. It's always ugly, always. [Pause] You can live with dignity, we can't die with it.
Wilson too in the pilot, when he lies to House about the patient being his cousin so that House can get out of his funk of the moment and start seeing regular patients again. This set up his "Trying to do good by being a Manipulative Bastard" side.
House established himself pretty well to a clinic full of patients early in the first season with this little number:
"Hello, sick people and their loved ones! In the interest of saving time and avoiding a lot of boring chitchat later, I'm Doctor Gregory House; you can call me Greg. I'm one of three doctors staffing this clinic this morning. This ray of sunshine is Doctor Lisa Cuddy. Dr. Cuddy runs this whole hospital, so unfortunately she's far too busy to deal with you. I am a bored...certified diagnostician with a double specialty of infectious disease and nephrology. I am also the only doctor currently employed at this clinic who is forced to be here against his will. But not to worry, because for most of you, this job could be done by a monkey with a bottle of Motrin. Speaking of which, if you're particularly annoying, you may see me reach for this. This is Vicodin. It's mine. You can't have any. And no, I do not have a pain-management problem; I have a pain problem. But who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm too stoned to tell...Now, who wants me?"
Jeeves and Wooster managed to use this trope on top of its own inversion. When Jeeves first shows up, he very calmly tidies up Bertie's room in what seems to be a matter of seconds and whips him up a hangover antidote, completely unfazed by the fact that his new employer is so preposterously hung over that he can't even form any semblance of coherent speech. Bertie doesn't act like himself for the full first 5 minutes of the show. He doesn't even talk.
That said, once Bertie sobers up and does talk, he quickly proves himself to be an Upper-Class Twit surrounded by more Upper Class Twits, the difference being that good ol' Wooster is slightly better adjusted. On his good days, at least.
Captain Picard appears in silhouette through the window of the Enterprise-D, making a captain's log entry. The first appearance of a remarkably different captain to Kirk.
And then there's his speech to Q. There's a reason he's the Trope Namer there, folks. Plus the moment when he commands them to take an untested starship on its maiden voyage to well-beyond-regulation-safety-limits.
Commander Riker boards the Enterprise and immediately has a talk with Captain Picard about his previous service. Picard brings up a time when Riker refused to let a previous CO beam down to a planet (which becomes a running theme between the two of them in the later series). Picard gruffly asks if Riker has any respect for a Captain's rank. Riker, without being either defensive or smug, says that a Captain's life means more. Picard suddenly smiles and says "Welcome aboard the Enterprise." This scene is more or less sums up how their relationship is going to go for the rest of their time serving together.
Data gets confused by a human figure of speech—and upon discovering its meaning, immediately reels off various synonyms like the walking encyclopedia he is.
And then there's a little later in the episode when Riker finds him trying to whistle in the holodeck (he finds how easily humans can do it amazing) and makes the statement:
"I am superior [to humans], sir, in many ways. But I would gladly give it up to be human."
Geordi's establishing shot was probably during his check up in sick bay, where we get a pan across the VISOR - the means by which he sees - and Geordi offers the Doctor an explanation for its purpose:
Geordi: A remarkable piece of bioelectronic engineering by which I quote "see" much of the EM spectrum ranging from simple heat and infrared through radio waves etcetera etcetera and forgive me if I've said and listened to this a hundred times before.
After harassing the crew, Q appears on the Enterprise's main viewer. Worf draws a gun and is ready to shoot, prompting Picard to ask him if he want to put a hole in the main screen. The Son Of Mogh may be a little hot-headed, like all Klingons, but damned if he's gonna back down from people screwing with his Captain and his ship.
Worf is re-established on Deep Space Nine when he arrives on the station and promptly walks up to a jerkass Klingon who's being all loud and rude in Quark's bar, and proceeds to knock his ass clean out.
Q's first appearance—as a middle ages Sea Captain taking in iambic pentameter, is almost jocular (Soundtrack Dissonance aside)—but a few seconds later he's freezing a crewman solid with a glimpse. Enter...chaos.
Tasha's impassioned speech about how much the Federation did for her and how much of a mockery Q's "Court and Jury" setting was established her attitude, and hinted heavily at her background.
The first thing Deanna Troi does on screen is start sensing things and recounting what she's feeling. Then later she talks right into Will's head via a kind of telepathy, establishing their romantic history.
The first thing Dr. Pulaski does in the second season is not report for duty. She's in the bar at the time, talking with Deanna. As Worf says, "Not the best way to meet your captain." Most of the more notable moments she has in the rest of her first episode involve insulting Data repeatedly, even though he can't be insulted, which just comes off as pure spitefulness rather than the ribbing McCoy would give Spock.
In Parks and Recreation, the episode that introduces Chris and Ben has one for each. First, Chris's talking head segment in which he explains that he does everything necessary to be healthy and that he plans on becoming the first human being to live to 150 years. Then Ben finally opens up to Leslie about his reasons for trying to be so responsible and serious. The second they are introduced also has a much smaller example. Leslie claims that Chris is so positive that making eye contact with him is like staring at the sun, and Ben's first few words make him Chris's scape goat as he explains that they intend to reduce everything by 50%.
Rome is full of all kinds of Character Development, but the opening scene with main character LuciusVorenus is fairly defining of his character. He suggests, under duress, that the best way to find a thief among the conquered tribes would be to crucify members of each clan one by one until they talk. He shows no pleasure at this, even slightly pained by their screams, but still does it, but when one gives him the information, he orders all of them to be taken down (while lamenting his own situation - pretty rich for a guy at the foot of a currently occupied cross). This sets up the moral overtones of most of the series, and shows how honorbound Vorenus is.
Mark Antony's ECM has to be the bit where he's shagging a random shepardess under a tree with his entire personal escort watching.
Incorrect. That was a moment, but his actual first scene did more to establish his character: strolling in to Caesar's tent covered in blood, bantering with Brutus, and then, when given a mission to accomplish on a strict budget, unabashedly stealing half the money anyway.
Both subverted and played straight in Scrubs. In the pilot episode, Kelso is set up as a nice father figure and Cox as a bad one. By the end of that episode, the roles are more or less reversed. The episode "My Two Dads" serves to establish the characters' motivations further, particularly the golfing scene.
In the pilot of Thirty Rock, Liz "buying all the hot dogs" and the tour de force that is Jack's first scene.
Samantha Carter's first scene in Stargate SG-1 is well remembered...for its cringe-inducing hilarity, including the so-not-cheesy line "just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside doesn't mean I can't handle whatever you can handle". Thankfully, she improved after her actress, Amanda Tapping, pointed out that she should just contribute to the team without constantly going "Hey, I'm a girl! Girls rock!" The "reproductive organs" line was mocked twice in later seasons.
Nonetheless, her early defensiveness is not so strange if you consider her position in two male dominated fields. She's probably gotten plenty of crap before coming to the SGC.
Naturally, the cringeworthy line was completely removed in the 10th Anniversary Children of the Gods Re Cut. Instead, Carter's ECM is winning the argument by matching her male colleagues with combat experience and wit, responding to Kawalsky's claim that Gate travel to being like pulling out of a combat dive at plus-8G by mentioning that she had done that several times before, in addition to logging over 100 hours of flight time over enemy airspace during the Gulf War.
Carter: Is that tough enough for you? Or are we going to have to arm wrestle?
See Daniel and Jack's memorable introductions in The Movie in the appropriate section.
Teal'c had a good ECM in Stargate SG-1 as the leader of a Jaffa raiding party into what turned out to be a nearly deserted top-secret storage facility. His men mop the floor with the guards, abduct one and leave. Teal'c is clearly a particularly Bad AssProud Warrior Race Guy... but as you can tell from his facial expressions throughout this scene, he's really not happy about this. He gets another one in the second part, when he finally performs his Heel-Face Turn to help them escape.
O'Neill: I can save these people, help me! Help me!
Teal'c: Many have said that... *Shoots the guard next to him* But you are the first I believe can do it!
The subsequent episode has O'Neill admit that he considers the above to be Teal'c's ECM as far as he's concerned.
O'Neill: Teal'c, I saw you stand up to a god. You refused to kill. I saw you make that decision... In that moment I learned everything I needed to know to trust you.
This Is Wonderland: Alice is introduced waiting outside the courthouse for someone who isn't coming. Nancy shows up, says he isn't coming, and then leaves, because her job is done. Zona is trying to keep multiple phone conversations going simultaneously but still has time to help Alice, if only a little. Elliot is some scruffy weirdo who knows his way around the courtroom and checks out Alice's legs. James - the guy who didn't show up - doesn't show up, and when he does, he's wearing no pants under his desk. And Judge Frasier wears running shoes into court, sings to himself, and calls Alice "kiddo".
Rachel Menken's two scenes in the pilot episode of Mad Men establish her character wonderfully. But if you have to pick just one moment, it would have to be when she puts out her cigarette in the cocktail shrimp.
Don Draper's is when he drives home from the train station at the end of the episode - after we've seen him having sex with his mistress - and arrives at a home, where we realize he has a wife and children.
One possible ECM for Joan Holloway's is the moment from the pilot, where she tells Peggy to "go home and put a paper bag over your head", but a case can be made for the stunningly perfect meta-shot in "Babylon" where she bends over a table facing away from what she knows to be two-way glass, letting all the execs get a nice, long look at her ass.
Peggy Olsen's has to be when she lets Pete into her apartment in the pilot; she knows she shouldn't be sleeping with a drunken, soon-to-be-married man, but does it anyway because she thinks she's grown-up enough to handle it.
Roger Sterling, in "Red in the Face", having hit on Betty Draper in front of Don: "At some point, we've all parked in the wrong garage."
The first scene of Monk has him at a crime scene in a woman's home, when he says "the stove". A policeman points him to it, and he responds "No. The one at home. I think I left it on".
Silk gives nearly all of its main characters an ECM, but the best one is probably Nick Slade, extending a hand to the other trainee lawyer, who happens to be the daughter of a judge. She informs him that "barristers don't really shake hands."
Throughout the entirety of the series, he's either made fun of for his background or having to compensate for the lack of cash and know-how that goes with it.
In the very first episode of Noah's Arc, Ricky has two. The opening scene has him flirting up and getting a number from a guy on the beach. The thid or so scene that we see him in next hes in his store having sex with his employee.
The West Wing has President Bartlet enter a meeting with Religious Right representatives quoting, "I am the Lord your god; thou shalt worship no other god before me!" He then blows right through the demands they were making of his staff (they were wanting compensation for being publicly insulted by Josh), relays a story of an implied death threat being sent to his 12-year-old granddaughter by an extremist Christian group, and then demands that they publicly denounce said group — "...and until you do, you can all get your fat asses out of my White House. CJ, show these people out." Not only was it an Establishing Character Moment, it made the character; before then, the plan was to focus mainly on the White House staff with the president only appearing about four times a season, but Martin Sheen turned in such an impressive performance that they made Bartlet a regular.
Toby grumpily complaining to stewardesses while showing detailed knowledge of the aircraft and refusing to shut his cell phone off.
Sam sarcastically dismissing a journalist, while catching an attractive woman's eye...
Josh in trouble for speaking too candidly to a right-winger. And Donna's reaction to Josh's problem, being supportive yet sassing him for his faux pas.
CJ at the gym, talking about her busy life and seeming to have it all together—and then falling off the treadmill.
The 7-minute walk-and-talk at the beginning of the pilot is Leo's, showing his competence, prickly nature, and the affection he holds for both the job and the people he works with.
There's also an argument to be made for his calling out Bartlet in "A Proportional Response":
"So, my friend, if you want to start using American military strength as the arm of the Lord, you can do that. We're the only superpower left. You can conquer the world, like Charlemagne! But you better be prepared to kill everyone. And you better start with me, because I will raise up an army against you and I will beat you!"
Some minor characters also get some very notable ones including Lord John Marbury ("Geraaaaaaaaaaaald?"), Ainsley Hayes (a smart and loquacious blonde Republican sex kitten) and Lionel Tribbey.
Her flirting with John showed she operated differently than Ahnold.
Criminal Minds pilot episode "Extreme Aggressor" gives us a few ECM's. Gideon has two, first when he has a bit of Sensory Overload and completes the profile hours before anyone else, and second, when he takes on the Footpath Killer completely unarmed. Morgan's is his flirting with the FBI trainees. Reid's is his rattling off of his eidetic memory, IQ level, and the fact that he can read 20,000 words a minute and concluding with a deadpan "yes, I'm a genius". Hotch's is when he confesses to Gideon that the reason he keeps shooting down Haley's choices for baby names is because they're all first names of well-known serial killers. Elle's is her startling transformation from Innocent Bystander to Action Girl when she gets the UnSub to walk into a house with her, then cuffs him before he can flee. Garcia's is her phone banter with Morgan:
Morgan: I thought I was calling the Office of Supreme Genius. Garcia: Well, gorgeous, you've been re-routed to the Office of Too-Frickin'-Bad.
Emily Prentiss joins the team in "The Last Word", but doesn't get hers until "Lessons Learned", when she proves her usefulness to the team by speaking flawless Arabic and allowing them to realize the next suicide attack is set for the next crescent moon.
David Rossi's very first scene, in "About Face", establishes that he's the anti-Gideon: he shoots down a bird (something always associated with Gideon).
In the first episode of The Wire, narcotics cop Shakime "Kima" Greggs is part of an operation to arrest some drugdealers in possession. Which they do. Carver pulls a pistol out of the car, when Kima casually walks to the car and pulls out a shotgun. "Two guns."
Also the introduction of Ziggy Sobotka in season 2. "You're not getting your dick out in here again!". Cue Male Frontal Nudity.
In Marlo Stanfield's first appearance, we see Bubbles and Johnny have a gun pulled on the both of them. Marlo enters and asks what's going on. When told, he simply says "Either do it or don't, but I've got someplace to be." Characterizing him as someone who, in all honesty, doesn't give a fuck about human life if it doesn't affect him.
"These are for you, McNulty. This one is going up your narrow fucking Irish ass. And this one is in your fucking eye." Rawls introductory scene is nothing if not memorable, and it establishes his adversarial relationship with McNulty right from the get go. "You have my attention, Detective."
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the first thing we see of Kira Nerys is her shouting match with a member of the provisional government. Although her character softens over the course of the series—and we find out why she is the way she is—she never loses that fire. Or, for that matter, her contempt for most of the provisional government.
Kira: Yes? Sisko: (smiles) I'm Benjamin Sisko. Kira: I suppose you want the office. Sisko: Well, I thought I'd say hello first...(smile gains the tiniest hint of malevolence) and then take the office. But we can do it in any order you like.
The seventh episode of the series really establishes what kind of commanding officer Sisko is in comparison to the then standard, Picard. When confronted by Q, the first thing that Sisko does is knock his ass to the floor with one punch.
Bashir is first introduced ineptly flirting with Jadzia, and putting his foot in his mouth by expressing his enthusiasm for 'frontier medicine' to Kira, demonstrating his high-energy idealistic personality along with a naive inexperience dealing with reality. Also foreshadows the show's darker tone than previous installments in the franchise and the inevitable conflict between Bajoran traditionalism and Starfleet's heavy-handed approach to the situation.
Ashes to Ashes had three of the same characters from Life On Mars, but manages to give them each an ECM for those members of the audience who weren't familiar with LOM. Gene Hunt's tour-de-force entrance - "Today, my friend, your diary entry will read, 'Took a prozzie hostage and was shot by three armed bastards.'" - Ray bouncing Markham's head off the Quattro, and Chris's insistent "I'm not nervous. I'm just cautious.". For the new characters, Shaz's is her dancing to the Walkman, and Alex's know-it-all use of finger quotes when she talks to Gene, calling him a construct.
When Keats joins the cast in Season 3, his ECM is his combination Face-Heel Turn / "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Gene, where his darker nature is revealed after an episode of seeming as if he's just a harmless by-the-book pencil pusher from D&C.
The pilot for LOST is full of these. For example, in the very first scene, Jack wakes up in the jungle, stumbles onto the beach, takes in the carnage before him, and immediately begins running around saving people's lives. And the first time we see Boone, he is trying to do the same thing and failing miserably at it.
In Season 8 of Degrassi Clare and Alli are given an effective moment, based on the comparison between the two, setting their roles in the series. Clare is with Darcy (Clare's older sister), who is telling Clare to be more normal 'like Sav's sister.' Due to Clare's wearing her old private school uniform to a public school and spouting off random facts as Darcy comments on how different they are. On the other side, we see Sav trying to tell Alli to stop wearing clothes that are so evocative, as their parents won't approve. Due to Alli's desire to be seen and popular. While Clare had appeared in an earlier season, this defined her character a lot more.
A good introduction episode does this with the main cast. While they get more 'real' moments later, Space Cases actually gets credit for the shortest version ever. Each main cast member gives a single line, in some cases, but it gives an impression of their personality.
Guinevere's introduction in the BBC series Merlin was particularly sweet and understated. While Merlin is put in the stocks for assaulting Arthur, she introduces herself and playfully banters with him but assures him that what he did was heroic. Especially lovely is the fact that she dismisses Arthur as "a bully" and later says to Merlin (about Morgana): "Some people are just born to be queen! Not that I'd want to be her. I mean, who'd want to marry Arthur?" Oh delicious irony.
Gwaine in season 3 appeared throwing the first punch in a bar fight (it originally had nothing to do with him) and he joined in for the fun of it. He later took a hit for Arthur despite not even knowing him.
From his first appearance in the last episode of season 3, we hardly know anything about Percival other than he arrived with Lancelot to help save Camelot. The first episode of Season 4 shows him endangering his own life to save three frightened children by carrying them to safety and abandoning his only means of a weapon.
The first we see of Michael Westen is him being cut off by the titular notice in the middle of making a payment to a warlord. Since he can no longer come up with the money, the warlord promptly orders him killed. Mike lures his captors into the bathroom, uses his signature Combat Pragmatist ways to take them out, then escapes on a nearby motorbike. Then he lures the warlord's men, who are chasing him in a car, into crashing in the middle of a marketplace, which causes everyone there to point guns at them while Michael makes his way to the airport. Cool head in a crisis, a good fighter, a gift for improvisation, and a Batman-Gambit that lures his stronger foes into a vulnerable position: Michael Westen, ladies and gents.
Madeline doesn't even have to be onscreen for hers - Fiona tells Michael his mother knows he's in Miami, and all you see is Michael's terrified reaction, as well as his voiceover admission that Maddie should have been a communications specialist for the NSA. She later shows up to nag Michael into taking her to the hospital for imaginary medical problems and nag him about never spending any time at home.
Jesse shooting his way out of an ambush after he was sold out by his handler showed he wasn't just some desk jockey.
Vila: Blake, Kerr Avon. When it comes to computers, he's the number two man in all Federated Worlds.
Nova: Who's number one?
Vila: The guy who caught him. [To Avon] You've got nothing to be ashamed of. D'you know, he came close to stealing five million credits out of the Federation Banking System.
Blake: What went wrong?
Avon: I relied on other people.
In Babylon 5, Londo gets one for not only himself, but the entire Centauri Republic in the pilot movie.
There was a time when this whole quadrant belonged to us! What are we now? Twelve worlds and a thousand monuments to past glories. Living off memories and stories, and selling trinkets. My god, man! We've become a tourist attraction. "See the great Centauri Republic - open 9 to 5 - Earth time."
The first 10 minutes of the pilot of Skins show Tony working out, coolly covering for his little sister, and calling Sid to promise to get him laid. Sets him up as the bastard he is, and also shows his soft spot for Effy.
Jerri: Hello, I'm Jerri Blank and... and I'm an alcoholic. I'm also addicted to amphetamines, as well as main line narcotics. Some people say I have a sex addiction, but I think all those years of prostitution was just a means to feed my ravenous hunger for heroin. It's kinda like the chicken or the nugget. The point is, I'm addicted to gambling. Thank you. (pauses) Oh, and... my daddy's in a coma.
Castle is at a party where he is signing the breasts of an attractive woman. His teenage daughter and his mother are both present: doing her homework and scouting for singles, respectively. As Castle mentions his boredom of the celebrity life to his daughter, someone taps on his shoulder. He turns around, and immediately likes what he sees. He asks her where she'd like her signature...and Beckett flashes her badge and drags him down to the precinct. Thus begins a beautiful partnership.
In the first season, John Crichton hadn't quite developed into the Crazy Awesome character he became in series 2, but season 1 episode "Exodus From Genesis" did give the audience a preview: it involved commandeering a unit of clones produced by a gigantic Hive Queen alien to defeat the squad of Peacekeeper commandoes attacking the ship, ultimately fooling them into thinking that humans can clone themselves.
Another side of John Crichton's personality is firmly established when he fixes the damaged DRD at the end of the premiere.
Zhaan gets a good one in "Throne For A Loss": after having to keep watch on a drug-addicted prisoner, she decides to help when the man begins showing signs of a very painful withdrawal. The man almost immediately attacks her in a frenzy, only for Zhaan to very calmly fling him aside; then, after quickly mixing a few chemicals, she applies the makeshift potion to her lips, and administers it to the prisoner by kissing him.
Aeryn got one in her very first episode; after awakening to find herself in a cell with Crichton, she ignores his attempt to introduce himself by kicking the crap out of him, pinning him to the ground, and demanding to know his rank, regiment and the reason for him being out of uniform.
After a long introductory episode, in which she's gone out of her way to kick, kiss and cry her way out of any danger that comes her way, Chiana is asked if she was the one who killed Sallis, her jailer. Chiana just grins. Possibly more telling is that after John leaves, the smile becomes a look of pain and regret.
Scorpius gets one in his first episode, too: already introduced as a mysterious, leather-clad figure that even the base commander fears, the truenature of his character are revealed when he passes Crichton in one of the base hallways, glances at him for a moment, and without raising his voice, promptly announces, "That man is an impostor. Seize him."
Veronica Mars begins with Veronica's monologue while she's spying on a couple. The kind of character Veronica is becomes especially clear when she says "$40 an hour is cheap compared to the long-term financial security sordid photography can secure you...your offspring...your new lover." Cynical, jaded, witty, and sexy. Veronica in a nutshell.
Angel tries to chat up a girl he believes is in danger but fails showing his sexy, brooding isn't gonna work on city girls.
The opening scene of Gilmore Girls, which takes place in Luke's Diner, firmly establishes Lorelai and Rory's unique mother-daughter relationship, as well as a glimpse into grumpy Luke. It also contains many trademark Gilmore features, such as the girls' caffeine addiction, the rapid fire dialogue, and pop culture references.
The very first Friday night dinner does this for Richard and Emily, too. Richard nonchalantly handing a newspaper to Rory as he reads his became representative of his character and appears in the opening.
Future!Ted makes his kids sit down and listen to him talk, telling them they're gonna be sitting there for a long time.
Marshall anxiously but earnestly practicing his marriage proposal to Lily on Ted.
Barney's first line: "You know how I've always had a thing for half-Asian girls?" Also, he says this on the phone while getting a shave at a ritzy salon.
Lily brassily gives a cab driver TMI on her and Marshall's sex life. Also, an establishing moment for the Lily/Marshall relationship: when the cab driver thinks Lily's black eye is from Marshall hitting her, they both burst into hysterics.
Robin rhapsodizes at length (in the form of a montage) about loving scotch, dogs, The Ghostbusters, etc.
Past!Ted steals the blue french horn Robin was admiring during their date from under the restaurant owner's nose, and presents it to Robin while standing in the street under her window.
The Mother's first appearance is helping a stranger on the train, trying to comfort them.
Rube from Dead Like Me had a memorable one when he took George to her own autopsy and compared her corpse to a ruined peach cobbler, establishing his interest in food.
Grandma Phyl inspecting her daughter's roof. She meant it when she said she's not gonna lend Joy money if she doesn't inspect the roof herself.
The first episode of Life begins with a series of clips talking about how Detective Charlie Crews was imprisoned for murdering his best friend and said friend's family after the friend was skimming money from the bar they owned together. After serving twelve years and being treated horrifically for being a cop in jail, he was released, sued the police department and got his job back (along with millions of dollars). Then we see Charlie in action: he spends several seconds staring at the sun, looks at the crime scene, ignores his partner and finally asks if anyone talked to the victim's dog. For a few seconds, it looks like he'll stab the dog (who got shot) and then he digs into the dirt, revealing that the dog bit off the man's finger. Crews in a nutshell: eccentric, headstrong, intuitive and generally refuses to follow anyone else's path but his own.
His partner, Dani Reese, also gets her ECM: The first few scenes show her acting like the average cop who's got a crazy partner, after she informs Crews that she didn't ask to be partnered with him and that he needs to follow her lead. He asks her what she did to get him as a partner, thus clueing the audience in that while Dani seems capable and good at her job, she evidently did something wrong to get stuck with him.
Another example is Ted Early, who is interviewed and explains that he was arrested and convicted for white-collar crime, met Crews in jail and came to him for help when he got out, being left with nowhere else to go. He now lives with Crews and manages his finances. The interviewer asks pointedly if it's true that Ted lives in Crews' garage, and Ted corrects him, saying that he lives above the garage. Ted, we can see, is someone who's proud, but not too proud to ask for help or admit the truth, and who obviously isn't that bad, given that Charlie trusts him.
Detective Carl Ames was one of the lead investigators of the murder case Crews was convicted for. He goes over the details of the case in a voice that suggests that he's seen a lot of things like it, and says that 'no DNA is gonna tell me we got the wrong guy'. This clues in the audience that while Ames is a good cop and one who will fight for justice, he isn't willing to believe that things could have happened differently (and possibly that he refuses to move with the times, since the case happened before DNA testing became a thing and when it became a thing, it was made perfectly obvious that none of the DNA belonged to Crews.)
In the first episode of Wizards of Waverly Place Alex is introduced by having her convince her dad to do what she wants with puppy dog eyes. That was just the beginning.
Draco had an impressive one before he got demoted to joke character. He fights to the death a subordinate who failed him while nonchalantly issuing his orders to his lackey.
Black Books opens with Bernard ignoring a customer while on the phone to his accountant. When the customer tries to get his attention, he writes "On phone" on a post-it note and sticks it on his forehead. He then proceeds to make fun of the customers admittedly strange request ("I need to know if they're real leather because they have to go with a sofa.") to the point of outright preventing a sale. "Sorry, I need leather bound pounds or they won't go with my wallet". Next, Manny enters searching for The Little Book Of Calm and Bernard proceeds to agitate him as much as he can. Then, to cap the scene off, he kicks everyone out of the shop to close up in the early afternoon and visit his accountant.
This scene also establishes Bernard's love of books as he refuses to sell the man Charles Dickens books when he is only interested in their appearance.
Joey: This guy says "hi" it makes me want to kill myself.
Then Rachel appears in her wedding dress recounting how she ran away from Barry.
The Pilot as a whole counts: You've got Monica taking care of everyone while dealing with her own problems, Joey telling Ross to experience more women and forgetting the name of his dates, Chandler remembering all their names and personal details, Rachel asking if everyone 'has these job things', Phoebe trying to cheer people up by singing the sound of music and Ross getting over Carol leaving.
In Season 5 after Monica and Chandler get together the writers commentary talks about how they had an establishing relationship moment. After making up from a fight, Monica walks away and Chandler starts his infamous Happy Dance. Without turning around Monica quip's 'Don't do the dance' and he looks sheepish. In a second you've got their friendship and integral understanding of each other.
Misfits gives all five of the main characters their ECM in the introduction of the first episode, while being given a pep talk by their probation worker: Nathan interrupts the speech with some of his trademarked sarcasm and gets into an argument with another young offender; Alisha gets a phone call and answers it, ignoring the probation worker's demands that she hang up; Curtis requests to be transferred to a different group, declaring that he doesn't belong here; Kelly demands to know why Curtis thinks that he's better than the rest of them, and gets offended when the others can't understand her accent; finally, Simon remains completely silent throughout the introduction, looking completely terrified in the process.
In Alphas, nearly all the main characters get one. Nina uses her powers to get out of a speeding ticket, Bill uses his to shove a van out of the way, and Gary flips through electromagnetic wavelengths while measuring out the precise amount of milk for his cereal.
Buck Compton getting reprimanded for gambling and getting overly chummy with his men.
Captain Sobel revoking an entire company's weekend passes for a couple of minor offenses.
Janovec fraternizing with a German girl.
Due South provides a beautiful two-part introduction to Benton Fraser. First, having established that he's chasing down a criminal on a dogsled in a horrendous blizzard (and that his coworkers think he's crazy), the door bursts open to reveal Fraser, fresh from the blizzard with the fugitive slung over his shoulder, delivering the immortal first line: "That's the last time he'll fish over the limit." However, once that's had a minute to establish itself in everyone's minds, he politely explains to his apoplectic boss that the man was in fact dynamiting the streams with plastic explosive and nitroglycerin, which Frasier has confiscated. Oh yes, and he's donated the resultant four-and-a-half tons of fish to the nearest Native village, who are very happy with the police force about now. Benton Fraser: completely insane, but a hell of a cop.
In Legend of the Seeker, the first we see of Richard is him building a bridge, and being friendly and helpful to a kid who comes to use it — showing him to be a cheerful, down-to-earth Nice Guy. The first we see of Kahlan is her escaping from enemy soldiers through cool action stunts and dazzling magic, and being forced to leave her sister behind to die to escape and continue with their mission — showing her to be a romantic Hurting Hero who puts the greater good first. And then there's Zedd's naked-and-talking-to-a-chicken scene...
Emma in Once Upon a Time shows up as a Lady in Red and under the guise of an internet date, she confronts a married embezzler who tries to get away. She chases him through busy traffic and wearing heels to get to his car, which she had already booted. When he smarts off to her, she slams his head against the steering wheel.
In Cora's first unmasked scene, she critiques her daughter's horseback riding. When the daughter walks away mid-argument, Cora uses magic force her to apologize. And claims she'd "helping" her. Sums up her insanity, power, and evil behavior pretty well. This also serves as a good establishing moment for her daughter, Regina, who we know becomes the Evil Queen. Cora establishes Regina's past and demonstrates how Regina became the person she is.
Snow White, upon seeing the Evil Queen interrupting her wedding, immediately pulled out Prince Charming's sword and threatened the Queen with it.
Malcolm Tucker in The Thickof It with the first line he speaks in the series ("As useless as a marzipan dildo."), and his first action: first reassuring Cliff Lawton that the Prime Minister doesn't want him to resign after a less-than-stellar run... and then comes "That's what makes it so difficult..."
Battlestar Galactica Blood And Chrome: In the very first scene, Bill Adama's in a dogfight with two Raiders. When he gets his Viper's windscreen damaged destroying one, he jettisons it despite the radiation hazard and uses his handgun to destroy the other. It also foreshadows/Calls Forward to his mature self's tolerance of Starbuck's antics.
JAG: The resolution of the Pilot Movie is where Harmon Rabb, Jr. is firmly established as the self-confident heroic figure that would remain throughout the rest of the series. When Harm saves the CAG’s life in an F-14 Tomcat he gets redemption from the dishonor of having been forced to turn in his wings, despite the diagnosed night blindness, and proving that he’s still a capable aviator, just as his father once was. From the CAG's perspective, it's the son of the man he couldn't save who now saved him.
Thomas' first line in Downton Abbey : "You're late when I say you're late."
Also Mary's first reaction to finding out that her cousin (and sort-of fiance) has died on the Titanic was to ask if she had to be in full mourning.
JD messing around with shaving cream ("I get a little goofy when I'm nervous") and then being completely overwhelmed when he walks into the hospital.
Turk: "Dude, be whiter."
Carla calling out Elliot for being judgmental about her hooking up with Turk, as well as rescuing JD and calling him "Bambi" for the first time.
Doctor Kelso seems like a sweet old man to be there for his staff, but at the end of the episode he reveals himself to be concerned only with money with no care for any sort of human emotion.
Dr Dorian, do you not understand you are nothing but a large pair of scrubs to me?
Similarly, Dr Cox's moment appears to be when he forbids JD from talking in his presence, but it actually comes later when he walks in after Dr Kelso's ECM:
JD': "So if he's the villain, who's the good guy?" *enter Dr. Cox*
Having a fairly important cast, it is a requirement in Game of Thrones to have the characters being quickly and firmly established in their first scene or episode. Some of the most memorable moments are :
For Ser Gregor Clegane, beheading his horse after losing a joust, and then trying to murder his opponent, in front of the king.
For King Stannis Baratheon, insisting that his brother Robert is just called "my brother" and not "my beloved brother" ("A harmless courtesy, your grace." "A lie. Take it out."), and in the same letter, insisting Jaime Lannister is both called "Kingslayer" and "Ser", because...
Stannis : Make it SER Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer. Whatever else he is, the man's still a knight.
Tyrion indulging in the Winterfell brothel, having headed straight there instead of greeting everyone else. Then when he finally shows up to the feast, it's immediately clear that his nephew and niece adore him, showing the audience that despite being a Lannister, he's one of the good guys.
Arya sneaking out of needlework, stealing a bow and landing a perfect bullseye that her brother Bran had repeatedly failed to hit, from further away.
Nucky Thompson tells a story to the Temperance League about how he had to catch rats for his family to eat because his alcoholic father couldn't support them. Just afterward, he tells his driver it was all a lie: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."
In season 3, Gyp Rosetti and his boys are stuck in the middle of nowhere trying and failing to change a flat tire. A good samaritan stops and offers some "3-in-1" to help them get the lugnuts off. When Rosetti doesn't know what that is, and the man comments that obviously it's a kind of oil, Rosetti is so offended by this seeming disrespect that he kills the man. And then steals his little dog, cementing his status as easily offended, psychotic, and bizarrely eccentric.
Leverage gives all of the main characters one in the first episode:
Nate starts off as a downtrodden man drinking in a bar with another man who's pleading with him to recover stolen property. Nate refuses to take the job, even when he realises that the people his client has hired to work on the job will need someone skilled to co-ordinate them. Nate repeatedly insists that he's not a thief, but an honest man (and continually states this), but when the client tells him that the people who stole his property had links to the people who killed Nate's son, Nate agrees to work on the job. We also get a flashback to Nate's son Sam dying, wherein Nate practically knocks down the door to get into the hospital room, and tries to revive Sam's lifeless body. Throughout the job, he's calm, effective and unfazed, a skilled leader despite his alcohol problem.
Sophie is initially shown as one of the worst actresses you will ever see. A flashback shows that she forged art (and she and Nate once shot each other). All of this clues in the audience that while she's a terrible actor, Nate wouldn't have approached her unless she had some useful skill, and she's not afraid to get rough. She then immediately turns around and gives an amazing performance as a grifter, despite being unable to act. As Nate tells Eliot, "She can only act, when it's an act".
Eliot's ECM is a flashback, where he walks into a building, looking very calm and non-threatening (especially with his glasses), and calmly states that he's there for the merchandise. Almost all of the men in the room pull guns on him. Cue a huge gunfight, and when we see the room next, all of the men who drew guns on him are dead, Eliot doesn't have a mark on him and his coffee is unspilled. The last remaining man calmly gives him the merchandise- a baseball card. This combined with his intro, where he playfully banters with Hardison, shows the audience that Eliot's very dangerous, very deadly, but won't go off at the drop of a hat. He's willing to fetch small things, can outlive the worst situations, and really likes coffee.
Hardison is first shown as the arrogant, playful hacker, who shows off his much more up-to-the-minute technology and constantly snarks with Eliot. His flashback shows that he managed to hack into a hotel's computers to make it look like Mick Jagger was staying in his rooms, and he hired women to have a scantily-clad lightsaber fight. Major geek.
Parker's intro shows her abruptly hanging upside down from above Hardison and Eliot to ask if she can have one of their comm units. She perches above them, smiling happily. Her subtitles, unlike those of the others, fail to sugar-coat her profession and simply put 'Thief'. Then we get her flashback, where her foster father hits her foster mother, mocks her for thinking that he wouldn't find her toy bunny, and tells her to be a good girl 'or, I don't know, a better thief'. Then she walks out of the house with her bunny... and it blows up.
Cheers, Diane is stopping in at a bar in the opening segment of the first episode. Temporarily abandoned, she hears the phone ringing, answers it, and then Sam walks in. His mouth is full, so he uses body language to tell her how to handle the caller. When Diane hangs up, Sam asks her what the message is. "You're a magnificent pagan beast." "Thanks. What's the message?" The next few seasons of "Cheers" were built from that.
Proving you can do this before the show even airs, is Ed O' Neil's audition for one Al Bundy. Upon walking through the door, he was supposed to read his line. But he added a small something beforehand. A weary sigh indicating Al wasn't happy to be home. He locked the part up.
The episode featuring Monster A Go-Go featured Tom Servo's as, when Gypsy tries to get Tom's goat by telling him "I don't get you.", he replies "Nobody does! I'm the wind, baby!" and leaves off humming.
On , the very first scene Mulder and Scully have together perfectly showcases both their personalities and firmly establishes the believer vs. skeptic dynamic.