Literature: The Millennium Trilogy
The Millennium Trilogy
is a series of crime fiction/psychological thrillers/dark conspiracy
books by the late Swedish
author Stieg Larsson, has won several awards and international acclaim — but it was not meant to be a trilogy. Larsson died
before the first book saw publication, and he had completed two more books at that time. Rumors say he planned as many as ten books with the characters from the trilogy. These books became bestsellers in their home country, due in part to their international attention.
The first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo note
(2005) begins with middle-aged reporter Mikael Blomkvist sentenced to prison for libel. While Blomkvist waits to serve his term, famous industrialist Henrik Vanger hires him to investigate a forty-year-old cold case: the disappearance and presumed murder of his then-sixteen-year-old grandniece, Harriet. Blomkvist's investigation brings him into contact with Lisbeth Salander
, the antisocial, borderline-disturbed, and brilliant researcher who Vanger hired as a private investigator to do a security check on Blomkvist. Salander dislikes authority and violently opposes any form of abuse against women, and when Blomkvist comes to her for help in his investigation, she becomes his unlikely aide as they zero in on the truth behind Harriet's disappearance, which appears to involve a serial killer and rapist...
The second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire
(2006), has Blomkvist aiding two intrepid researchers the Swedish sex trafficking industry, which is linked to a mysterious criminal boogeyman known as "Zala". After the researchers begin digging more deeply into Zala's identity, they are found slain in their home, with Salander's prints on the murder weapon. While Blomkvist tries to track her down and discover the truth, Lisbeth herself begins a campaign against Zala, intent on revenge for more than just the researchers...
In the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest note
(2007), Blomkvist discovers that a shadowy faction within the Swedish Security Service have manipulated the traumatic events of Lisbeth's past, including her history with the mysterious "Zala," and will stop at nothing to hide their decades-old deeds. Lisbeth's latest actions threaten to bust the conspiracy wide open, so the faction moves to clean up all evidence of their misdeeds - including Lisbeth herself...
The publisher has now hired author David Lagercrantz to write more books in the series, which will be entirely his own invention without any inspiration from Larsson's plans.
The (Swedish) Films Of The Books
, released starting in 2009, became huge successes in several European countries; with an all-star cast and a Danish director, Men Who Hate Women
became the most-viewed Swedish film ever
in several countries. (All three films eventually came into the United States via DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and all three featured their English-language titles.)
An American adaptation of Dragon Tattoo
saw release in 2011; David Fincher
directed, Steven Zallan wrote the screenplay, and the team of Trent Reznor
and Atticus Ross handled the music. The cast for the film included Rooney Mara
as Lisbeth and current James Bond Daniel Craig
as Mikael. Despite the film's modest box office performance, Mara and Craig will return to their roles for Played with Fire
(though it remains unclear if Fincher will return to direct). Several rumors say Played with Fire
and Kicked the Hornet's Nest
will film simultaneously, though these rumors remain unconfirmed.
This series of books and films is not be confused
with the various other works named Millennium
The Millennium Trilogy contains examples of the following tropes:
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As a series
- All Men Are Perverts: The Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, wasn't lying. Every major antagonist of the books is male, and most of them are guilty of rape, child sex abuse and/or murder. The closest any female character comes to an antagonist is Isabelle Vanger, a callous and neglectful parent at her worst.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Mikael.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Lisbeth. Mikael, on the subject of her photographic memory, pattern recognition skills, general brilliance and absolute sociality, thinks to himself, "Asperger's syndrome, or something like that." He then goes on to state that for every trait that Asperger's would explain about Lisbeth, there are symptoms that don't fit at all - while Asperger's has a high memory rate for obsessions, that only applies to obsessions, and high-functioning Aspies tend to tune out a lot of stimulus. And her propensity towards what her boxing partner calls "Terminator Mode" (seemingly total passivity right until an arbitrary point is breached, followed by focused and unrelenting violence), sounds a lot like PTSD - again except the "passive" stage. In a stable environment Lisbeth would have eventually grown up to be... a damned good spy.
- Anti-Hero: Lisbeth is a Type IV. Mikael is a Type II. While being a compassionate idealist, he doesn't shy away from bending several laws to expose corruption.
- And That's Terrible: Every few pages, leading the reader to wonder how everyone in Sweden isn't jaded beyond the point of no return.
- Author Avatar: Intrepid journalist and activist Mikael Blomkvist is a fairly obvious one for author Stieg Larsson, who was an intrepid journalist and activist. He's also a handsome playboy who women constantly fall for. Go figure.
- Ax-Crazy: Lisbeth tossed a Molotov cocktail on her father when she was 12, and her absolute refusal to cooperate with anyone in the mental health profession lead them to classify her as this. When she's also portrayed this way by the media during the manhunt to find her in Played With Fire, she decides to make the most of it and interrogates a john while wearing an all-black outfit and seriously fucked-up face paint, just to mess with him. Becomes literally Ax-Crazy in the second book's conclusion when she bludgeons her father in the face and leg with an axe after she is shot and buried alive.
- Badass Family: Lisbeth, her brother and father are all incredibly dangerous people. And it doesn't help they each have their own psychosis as well.
- Berserk Button: Lisbeth only has a few people she really cares about, but attacking one of them presses this. Shooting yourself in the head will usually be less painful than what she'll do to you. And if you abuse a woman or child and Lisbeth finds out about it, she'll do everything in her power to ruin your life. And mentioning the name "Lisbeth Salander" to one particular guy named Zalachenko guarantees a lot of fucked up shit will happen just so he can try and get revenge on her.
- Bi the Way: Lisbeth has two lovers she treats seriously, and one of them is a woman.
- Black and Grey Morality: Even the likeable characters come dangerously close to being Well Intentioned Extremists at times, especially Lisbeth. However, the way the good guys are portrayed in the book makes it clear that Larsson sees them more of an example of...
- Black and White Morality: ...good guys who've been mistreated (or are on the side of those who've been mistreated) taking revenge against their abusers.
- Lisbeth in particular possesses a very strong moral code (briefly: "Pay Evil unto Evil, leave everyone else alone") and has lines that she will not cross. Most people think she's batshit crazy (her tactics do tend to be... unsubtle), but those who know her well have realized that she's actually The Fettered, and vouch for her integrity without question.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The English translation takes huge liberties with the text, and only a few can be explained by Hanlon's Razor.
- Boom, Headshot: Averted. Lisbeth is shot in the head, but survives. However, the doctors speculate that if the round had been bigger than a .22, she wouldn't have.
- Bondage Is Bad: They make it clear that the narrator, and Lisbeth, both approve of light bondage, but "sadism" is used to roughly mean the same thing as "rape."
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: One of the first things we learn about Lisbeth is that she once turned in a client report to Armansky that began with pages and pages of relatively normal stuff before, without changing tone at all, revealing him to be a pedophile. With pictures of him meeting a child prostitute. And an interview with her.
- Break the Cutie: Happens to both Lisbeth and Mikael a lot.
- Broken Bird: Bordering on Ax-Crazy Sociopathic Hero; Lisbeth is fairly attractive, but to say that she has issues is putting it extremely mildly.
- Bump Into Confrontation: Lisbeth gets into a rather nasty fight with street hooligans in a subway after she bumps into them.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lisbeth is given an extremely wide amount of leeway on her eccentric behavior due to getting results. She dresses completely inappropriately for an office, shows up when she wants, takes only cases that interest her, and generally breaks every role of professional etiquette.
- Buried Alive: Lisbeth just before the climax of the second book.
- Cold-Blooded Torture:
- Gottfried and Martin Vanger's modus operandi when killing women is straight out of verses from Leviticus.
- Lisbeth isn't above it to get information she wants out of bad guys.
- Combat Pragmatist: Lisbeth, not that she has much choice at 4'11" and 95 pounds.
- Completely Different Title: To make sure all the titles could apply to Lisbeth, as only The Girl Who Played With Fire was that in the original Swedish, Men Who Hate Women became The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English (most languages went for The Men Who Didn't Love Women instead) and The Air Castle That Was Blown Up was The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (which had some adaptations such as The Queen of the Air Castle in Spanish\Portuguese, The Queen of the Castle of Cards in Italian... and another fitting example, Justice in Dutch). In German it's even worse: Verblendung, Verdammnis and Vergebung - Blindness, Doom and Pardon.
- Crapsaccharine World: Sweden is portrayed as this in a subtle but chilling way. A seemingly sweet, nice and ultra-liberal society filled with lots of hidden abuse.
- Creepy Child: Lisbeth was teased and bullied in school for acting like one.
- Da Chief: Ekström, as the prosecutor who is assigned Salander's case, is the one who gives orders to Bublanski and his team, and the one who demands results. Bublanski, as the leader of the investigation, also shows traits of this trope.
- Dark Action Girl: Lisbeth is definitely dark, and she's fully capable of the action.
- Darker and Edgier: Larsson said the character of Lisbeth was his version of a modern-day, grown-up Pippi Longstocking, which accounts for her determination, anarchist spirit and red hair (she dyes it black). Sadly, her absent father is not a jolly pirate. It also gets lampshaded in Dragon Tattoo when Armansky, Frode and Lisbeth are discussing Mikael and his nickname of "Kalle Blomkvist" comes up. Lisbeth says she understands why he hates the name and that she would punch anyone who ever referred to her as "Pippi Longstocking", causing Armansky to squirm because he's thought of her that way before.
- Double subverted with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest; while not as violently graphic as the other two books/movies, the themes are still considerably dark, if not darker.
- Dead Man Switch: Lisbeth sets up one on counselor Bjurman.
- Death Glare: Lisbeth uses this a lot.
- Description Porn: Exaggerated. Larsson feels compelled to describe in detail the looks of each character, height, weight, the appearance, brand and exact model of their clothes, their cars, homes, mobile phones...
- Determinator: If you attack Lisbeth, she will attack you back. If you knock her down, she'll get back up. If you BURY HER ALIVE, she will dig herself out. It doesn't matter how physically outmatched she is, she literally will not stop trying unless she's too badly beaten to move, and then she'll just come back and even the score after healing up.
- Defrosting the Ice Queen: Lisbeth is cold and anti-social at the start of the series. She falls for Mikael and begins to open up but freezes again after witnessing him with Erika. However by the end of the third book she eventually opens up and comes to appreciate Mikael and all the others in her life. In the film series she defrosts much slower and is still rather socially challenged at the end.
- Depraved Bisexual: Lisbeth is a rare sympathetic example.
- Disability Superpower: Lisbeth's brain is a tangled mess. She is asocial to the point of being considered mentally incompetent well into her twenties. However, she has a photographic memory and a keen eye for detail, making her an exceptional investigator.
- Does Not Know How To Say Thanks: Lisbeth. But she finally figures it out. After the person she's thanking has driven off. She does not learn this in the film series and Armansky calls her out on this. She eventually begrudgingly comes to appreciate others.
- Door Stopper: All three books are in excess of 500 pages. In paperback, they run over 600.
- Double Standard:
- Lisbeth is labelled a prostitute because she's been to a park late at with a man. Later, the media go into a frenzy over her lesbianism. Erika Berger is absolutely terrified of having her sex life exposed. At the same time, Mikael Blomkvist leads a very active sex life with multiple partners without giving it much thought - and no one seems to care. This is probably deliberate, given the books' strong anti-misogynist overtones.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Kalle Blomkvist", the protagonist in a series of children's mystery novels by Astrid Lindgrennote . Lisbeth calls him this whenever she wants to tease him or he's annoying her, and she's the only one he lets get away with it. As an answer, however, Mikael sometimes uses "Pippi Longstocking" to refer to her.
- Ethical Slut: One of the main themes of the books. Lisbeth and Mikael both have a very open and relaxed view of sexuality. Lisbeth has many sexual partners and Mikael enjoys the fruits of an open relationship. They stand in contrast to the aggression of rapists and sexual deviants.
- Everyone Has Lots of Sex: When publishing the first book, Larsson's editor asked him to put more sex scenes to appeal the audience. It shows. By the third volume, he didn't have to do this anymore. Thankfully, the slightly more tasteful film adaptations leave a couple unnecessary ones out.
- Expy - Word of God said that the initial inspiration for Lisbeth was "What would Pippi Longstocking be like as an adult?".
- Feel No Pain: The blond giant of Played with Fire has a congenital condition. Played for Drama when he corners two trained martial artists (one in kickboxing, the other professional boxing) and he curb-stomps them because they simply cannot slow him down.
- Fiery Redhead: Lisbeth has red hair but dyes it black.
- Film Noir: The entire series emphasizes a dark and existentialist viewpoint, along with corruption running rampant, dirty city streets, and hard-boiled heroes.
- Friends with Benefits: Lisbeth and Miriam Wu. This is also how Mikael and Erika treat their relationship.
- Fun T-Shirt:
- Lisbeth is fond of wearing shirts with snarky slogans on them. One proclaims: "Armageddon was yesterday - today we have a serious problem."
- In the American film version of Tattoo, the shirt she's wearing when Blomkvist confronts her in her apartment and asks for her help says "Fuck you you fucking fucks".
- Genre-Busting: A lot. The first volume, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is essentially a murder mystery. The second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, is a psychological horror-thriller. The third one, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, is a political conspiracy thriller. A planned future volume was supposed to venture into science-fiction.
- Good People Have Good Sex: The sheer amount of women that hop in bed with Blomkvist, not to mention his steady relationship with a married woman that is fine with all parties concerned, must mean he's a perfect gentleman in a world full of woman-hating rapists. That, and he and Lisbeth have perfectly good sex after working together for only a few days, just because she likes him.
- Government Conspiracy: Alexander Zalachenko, a KGB turncoat, lives in Sweden on the government's dime for his Cold War assistance. He cannot be arrested without an international fiasco, so he's allowed to beat and rape as he pleases. When his daughter nearly kills him, she's shipped off to a madhouse with instructions to make her belong there.
- Harmful to Minors: Lisbeth grew up watching her mother get constantly beaten by her father. It made an impression, let's put it that way.
- Hollywood Hacking: Mostly averted by Lisbeth and her fellow hackers; for the most part it's extremely accurate. All of the members of Hacker Nation are good with computers, Lisbeth particularly. And not in the "take them out of the box and set them up" way, more in the "give her a high-level PC and a couple days and she'll get you the Pentagon's secret files" way.
- I Am Not Pretty: Lisbeth is mentioned as being convinced that her extreme skinniness makes her "repulsive".
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Not outlandishly tacky, but Lisbeth doesn't really care about things like "style" or "coordinating". Her selection of clothing is described as "sloppy and rather tasteless."
- Improbable Weapon User: A golf club, house keys, a shovel, a crate, a tattoo gun...
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Lisbeth is brilliant when it comes to mathematics, computer hacking, and a general ability to figuring things out. She even has photographic memory, which means everything she ever learns, she remembers. But she is completely asocial and has very few friends or acquaintances. Her lack of communication is the main reason that she is declared incompetent by psychologists.
- In the second volume when Lisbeth is suspected of murder, Mirium Wu, Armansky and Blomkvist all describe Lisbeth as one of the most intelligent people they know, to the surprise of Bublanksi and the other police officers.
- I Work Alone: Lisbeth pretty much always. As an investigator for Milton Security she never comes into the office, or chats with her colleagues.
- In the second volume Blomkvist repeatedly offers help when she becomes a suspect in a murder investigation and she denies him, because she chooses to look out for herself and accept help from no one else as well as being hurt and angry over seeing him with Erika Berger and therefore finding it too painful to be near him. This leads to her confronting Zalachenko and Niedermann alone, getting shot in the head and buried alive. She manages to climb out of her grave and is found nearly unconscious by Blomkvist, who calls an ambulance, which saves her life.
- Master of Disguise: Lisbeth. It doesn't hurt that she can fake accents and method act.
- Must Have Caffeine: Just about all the characters, particularly the journalists and police officers (which is probably Truth in Television).
- Mysterious Past: Lisbeth usually clams up whenever someone asks her about her childhood. Mikael also has things that he won't discuss, in particular some of what really happened while he was working for Henrik Vanger.
- No Woman's Land: How a lot of Sweden is portrayed, except for the "good guy" characters such as Mikael, Bublanski, Palmgren, etc...
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Deconstructed with Lisbeth. She acts like this around the police or psychiatrists, but only because experience has taught her that they're not going to listen to anything she says, so why bother?
- Off the Record: Happens several times during Blomkvist's investigations. The greatest example is when at the end of Dragon Tattoo, he decides not to publish anything about what he uncovered about the Vanger family.
- Older Than They Look: Again, Lisbeth. At 25, she looks barely fifteen.
- Online Alias: Lisbeth goes by the hacker name "Wasp," which becomes a plot point as Mikael is able to track her down using it.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lisbeth, who is described as looking vaguely Asian in the books. In the films, she's played by a Pale Skinned Brunette actress.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Lisbeth's basic modus operandi. The tagline on the teaser posters for the American version of Tattoo is a variant on the trope name.
- Photographic Memory: One of Lisbeth's talents. She gets upset when anyone calls attention to it, because she thinks it makes her weird.
- Police Are Useless: Not so much all police; most of them are shown to be conscientious and dedicated to their jobs. But there are several who have prejudices and hang-ups that make them useless at best and dangerous at worst. Officer Faste in Played With Fire and Inspector Paulsson of Hornet's Nest are perhaps the two worst offenders.
- Police Brutality: Oh, God. This series has one of the most disturbing examples ever put to paper, because it's not physical violence. It was partly this brutality that made the borderline insane Lisbeth the way she is.
- Private Detective: Lisbeth, who's so good that Armansky gives her all the tough assignments and only keeps one other PI on staff to run ordinary background checks and the like. Mikael is forced into the duties of one when investigating Harriet's disappearance.
- The Rainman: Lisbeth is unapologetically asocial, and if other people think she acts weird, she views this as their problem. The government even classifies her as insane and schizophrenic because she steadfastly refuses to cooperate with any of the tests they give her. They're so wrong it isn't even funny, but she is still introverted to an reclusive level and emotionally detached.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Pretty much all the good guys are of the opinion that rape is worse than murder. Given Larsson's history, this is probably a case of Author On Board.
- "Reason You Suck" Speech: Many characters are fond of this. Lisbeth uses on in the first film to defend herself when Mikael questions her about Martin's death. and why he deserved to die. In the second film, Armansky gives one to Lisbeth when she says she didn't know why she never said goodbye. "You don't care about anyone, you treat your friends like dirt. It's as simple as that." Which she is unable to disagree with.
- Rebellious Spirit: Lisbeth has pretty major issues with authority. It bites her in the ass a lot, most often at times when it's least convenient. Mikael even notes in Hornet's Nest that many of her problems are related to this.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Lisbeth has it to an extent. She hacks into people's computers and, if necessary, reports them to the authorities for their illegal actions (this is her justification). She hacks into everybody's computers and pretty much lives on her computer, so even if she isn't going after someone she'll still be hacking people.
- Mikael has this attitude much more strongly.
- Self-Insert Fic: Compare Larsson and Blomkvist: both are middle-aged Swedish journalists and both founded magazines devoted towards investigative reporting (albeit with different emphasis). Blomkvist, although a somewhat flawed character that goes through hell a few times, has a strong wish fulfillment element in him: he constantly gets good looking women with little to no effort and he's a respected journalist who's on top of his profession and has accomplished stuff akin to legends.
- Sex Is Evil: Could be assumed, considering the high amount of rape in the first (they get considerably toned down in the later books/movies.)
- All three books have homages to Swedish children's books, especially Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking and Kalle Blomkvist. The first one also has lots of homages to Agatha Christie, and name-checks Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton.
- The girl's name in the first book, Harriet Vanger, seems like a Shout-Out to Harriet Vane, of Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Whimsey novels.
- "Frederik Clinton". Sir Frederick Clinton is head of the Department in Anthony Price's spy thrillers.
- Sociopathic Hero: Lisbeth, see really enjoys watching people suffer, in the first movie she watching with a smile on her face as Martin burns. However she does these things to avenge herself or others.
- The Stoic: Unless it involves someone she cares about, Lisbeth tends to be very matter-of-fact about any given situation.
- Tranquil Fury: Outside of a harsh glare, Lisbeth rarely gives any indication that she's mad, even when she's contemplating stabbing people.
- Two-Part Trilogy: Played With Fire takes place after a Time Skip of almost a year, and both it and Hornet's Nest concern the "All The Evil" incident that had such a formative impact on young Lisbeth. They make almost no reference to anything in Dragon Tattoo, and only one supporting character from it ever appears again.
- Unfortunate Name: The killer blonde giant is not given a name until late in the second book, at which point it's revealed to be the very unintimidating "Ronald Niedermann." (In German, his mother-tongue, his surname literally means "lower man".)
- Waif-Fu: She's no ninja warrior; as a fighter, Lisbeth is best at avoiding getting hit. When forced to actually fight, she usually gets the upper hand on her attackers because of four things: 1, her size causes her opponents to underestimate her; 2, she's quick; 3, she fights dirty; and 4, she really fights dirty.
- Part of the problem is that Larsson's father and brother are attacking his will, and Eva Gabrielsson, who is "only" his girlfriend, has almost no rights to his estate under Swedish law. (They remained unwed because both of them were targets to Neo-Nazis and other radical conservatives, and Swedish law would have required them to publish their address if they married.)
- You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry: Lisbeth, given her Berserk Button as mentioned above. Palmgren remarks to Blomkvist to never get into a fight with Lisbeth, since she'll always win.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
- A-Cup Angst: Lisbeth is a twenty-four year old woman with the bustline of a ten-year old girl. She's not too thrilled with that. In Played With Fire, she solves this problem by getting a boob job.
- Abusive Parents: Most of the Vangers qualify, with husbands beating their wives and fathers raping their daughters and sons and training the sons as serial killers.
- Alone with the Psycho: In the book, Mikael makes the incredibly stupid mistake of trying to go over to confront Martin Vanger when Mikael starts getting suspicious. Only a Big Damn Heroes moment by Lisbeth gets him out alive. In the Swedish movie, Mikael's not as stupid - he is completely unaware of what Martin really is, until the tranquilizer syringe gets jammed into his neck. And Martin was seemingly going to let him go and probably try to pin everything on Harald, had not Mikael made a slip in conversation.
- Then the American movie plays it straight again, playing the scene almost exactly as in the book, then making it even worse when Mikael actually manages to get out of the house, then comes back in when Martin offers him a drink. Martin himself points out Mikael's foolishness.
- Asshole Victim: Wennerström. Among his many crimes (most notably, profiting from drug trade and gun running) was forcing a woman whom he got pregnant to have an abortion by half-drowning her until she agreed.
- Ass Shove: Lisbeth does this to her social worker when she rapes him, as payback for what he did to her. In both films, she even kicks the toy up there.
- Badass Bookworm: Mikael is definitely this.
- Big Damn Heroes: Lisbeth's rescue of Mikael at the hands of Martin Vanger.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Vanger dynasty. Most of them were either corrupt executives, perverts or Nazis. It's easier to list the Vangers who are not evil: Henrik, Martin, Cecilia, Anita and Harriet. Then in the last chapters of the book, we find out that the most evil of them all was Martin.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lisbeth realizes she's fallen in love with Mikael, and decides to tell him. She buys him a Christmas present, and on the way to give it to him, sees him on the way to his apartment with his part-time lover Erika. She then walks away and tosses the present in a dumpster, berating herself for being so foolish as to fall in love. On the other hand, a horrible serial murderer and rapist has been brought to justice and a long-suffering uncle has been reunited with the niece he thought was dead for thirty years. Also, Wennerström will never be a threat to anyone else again and Lisbeth is now a multi-millionaire.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Martin and Harriet.
- Cat Scare: Very subtly done. Upon returning to the cottage after spending the weekend back in Stockholm, Mikael finds the stray cat he's been feeding wandering around and wonders aloud how it got into the house, seeing as he left all the doors and windows locked, thus implying that someone's been snooping around. Later, when the cat is brutally murdered and left outside the house, it's clearly meant as a warning to him
- Clear My Name: Mikael's reason for taking the Vanger job; Henrik claims he'll give Mikael evidence that proves his innocence if he does.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Wennerström, whose international corporate empire is based on very bad things, like third-world drug cartels.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Happens to Lisbeth toward the end. At least until the Ship Sinking moment.
- Distressed Dude: Mikael Blomkvist is captured by the mass murderer, locked in an underground torture room, chained, stripped naked, humiliated and explicitly threatened with rape, when Salander breaks in to save him, chase and destroy the villain. A precise gender mirror image of the classic Distressed Damsel tropes.
- Faux Affably Evil: Martin Vanger seems like a nice guy. At first. Then you find out what's in his basement...
- Friendly Enemies: Martin Vanger, like every good murder-mystery villain, comes across as affable because he goes out of his way to help Mikael hunt down Harriet's killer. Of course, this is a subversion, because he's not her killer, and genuinely hopes Blomkvist can figure out what happened to her.
- Glasses Pull: Mikael does a pretty good one in the American version of the film, when looking at the parade photos and realizing that Harriet saw something that frightened her.
- Guile Heroes: Lisbeth is good at getting ridiculous amounts of info and getting the drop on people. Mikael is good at organizing and has his own respected media outlet to put her info in. When they team up to expose Wennerström, the combination proves unbeatable.
- Hackette: Lisbeth.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Blomkvist becomes this due to retribution from Wennestrom.
- Hidden Villain: The serial killer Martin Vanger.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. That poor kitty. . .
- Intergenerational Friendship: Mikael and Lisbeth, who have an Intergenerational Friendship with benefits.
- Also Lisbeth and her legal guardian, Holder Palmgren, with a dash of adopted-dad for seasoning.
- Karmic Death: Gottfried Vanger, drowned by Harriet, the girl he'd been raping for several years. Martin gets this in the movie, when Lisbeth walks away and leaves him to burn. This ties into his comment about how all his victims thought he would spare them, only to have their hopes brutally crushed. In short, he's denied the same mercy he denied his victims.
- Kick the Dog: Blomkvist's pet cat is discarded at his front door by the killer, beheaded and dismembered.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Lisbeth's treatment of Bjurman is so harsh that it borders on Moral Event Horizon. But it was so precise and ingenious that it could qualify as a Crowning Moment of Awesome: rather than killing the man, Lisbeth opted to make Bjurman suffer the exact same abuse he put her through, up to every little detail, including the rape and the blackmail, just to make him realize how it felt. However, leaving Bjurman alive left him free to make new plans against her, which might have ended very badly.
- In the second book, Lisbeth proved to be aware of this by hacking into Bjurman' email. Of course if she hadn't threatened him with his gun, said gun wouldn't have had her DNA on it in the first place.
- Locked Room Mystery: The mystery of Harriet Vanger's death in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is approached like a very large example. The night of the Vanger family dinner, the bridge connecting Hedeby Island to the mainland was completely blocked by a spectacular auto accident.
- May-December Romance: Mikael and Lisbeth's short-lived relationship.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Investigating disappearance of one rich heiress -> Family of serial killers
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Lisbeth protests that Harriet's case is given preference over the many other foreign-born murder victims.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Lisbeth pulls this one twice; first when Mikael shows up at her apartment, and again when she decides to sleep with him.
- Nazi Nobleman: Three of Henrik Vanger's older brothers are this - Richard volunteered for the Nazis in the war and got killed, Harald is a demented old racist living in a huge mansion full of Nazi regalia, and Greger was connected with a politically ineffectual Nazi group. In addition, Richard's son Gottfried was a washed-up former Hitler Jugend member who repeatedly raped his children.
- Not Staying for Breakfast: Classic subversion; when Lisbeth wanders out of the bedroom, Mikael is cooking.
- Not What It Looks Like: In the novel, the previously-friendly owner of the Hedeby cafe becomes noticeably cool to Mikael after Lisbeth comes to town, and he realizes it's because it looks like a 40ish guy is shacking up with a teenager. The movie takes it even farther, with a muckraking reporter for the local newspaper trying to stir up controversy by focusing on the same thing.
- Oh, Crap: Lisbeth's reaction after seeing Mikael, who knows that she hacked his computer, at her house. However, Mikael isn't looking for any kind of payback, but for her help instead.
- Parental Incest: Gottfried to Martin and Harriet.
- Polar Opposite Twins: Lisbeth's twin sister Camilla was a "normal" teenager, pretty much the antithesis of Lisbeth in every way (however, she seems to have taken the side of the father who badly abused her mother). She never actually appears onstage in the existing three books, and Lisbeth makes no effort to trace her. It seems likely that Larsson had in mind a role for her (possibly an unpleasant one) in one of the books he died before writing.
- Rape and Revenge: Lisbeth's advocate Nils Bjurman lures her to his apartment, where he sodomizes her with a sex toy, rapes and tortures her, then orders her to come back a week later. She does so, but stunguns, ties up and sodomizes him, then tattoos "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist" on his chest and stomach. She also tells him that she recorded his assault of her, and that he will be doing exactly what she says from now on, or he'll be going to jail for a very long time.
- Rape as Drama: Happens to both Harriet Vanger and Lisbeth.
- The Reveal: Anita Cochran, CEO of a large Australian conglomerate, is actually Harriet Vanger under an assumed identity.
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: When Lisbeth rescues Mikael from Martin.
- Sadistic Choice: A rare example of one being presented by the good guys. After Lisbeth and Blomkvist get to the bottom of Martin's activities and uncover Harriet, they're asked not to go public. This will spare Harriet the media circus, but also deny justice and closure to Gottfried and Martin's (many other) victims. It also represents Blomkvist selling out and committing a Treachery Cover Up, so he still feels dirty even after Lisbeth negotiates a Third Option.
- Scars Are Forever:
- Mikael doubts that the scar he got on his neck while being almost hanged by Martin will ever fade, and it's mentioned as still being visible during Hornet's Nest almost two years later.
- Variant when Lisbeth gets a tattoo band where a ligature bruise from her rape is still visible as a "reminder."
- Secretly Wealthy: Lisbeth manipulates Wennerström's holdings as his empire crumbles, and ends up stealing several billion kronor (several hundred million dollars). The authorities know that someone did it, but only Mikael realizes who it was.
- Serial Killer: Martin Vanger.
- Shower of Angst: Subverted by Lisbeth. While she does take a shower after being raped by Bjurman, she is not in any actual despair but instead is enraged and meticulously planning her revenge against him.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Used to great effect in the American film, with Martin playing 'Orinoco Flow' by Enya as he prepares to torture, rape and kill Mikael.
- Stepford Smiler: Martin Vanger
- Tangled Family Tree: The Vangers. Lampshaded in the American film when Henrik is explaining to Blomkvist where each member of the family is and their relationship with each other. Blomkvist has a little trouble keeping up.
- Title Drop: For the Swedish title, near the end of the book.
- Toplessness from the Back: Lisbeth shows this off in the film versions, complete with a dragon tattoo that covers most of her back. Albeit, in the American version the first time we see it is distinctly un-sexy, being during a shower scene immediately after she returns home from being raped by Bjurman.
- Torture Cellar: One of the most frightening examples ever, used by Martin. It even has a TV corner, flowers in vases, and a cozy kitchen (with a vivisection table).
- Villain with Good Publicity: Wennerström and Martin Vanger.
- Writer on Board: Larsson's views on a variety of subjects are pretty plainly represented in the text. For example, he's clearly against prostitution. All prostitutes in the series are depicted as unwilling sexual slaves who are victims of human trafficking. Blomkvist states that all of their clients are equivalent to rapists.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Discussed by Lisbeth in relation to Harriet choosing to run away. To Lisbeth's mind, refusing to solve your own problems makes you a Dirty Coward.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Justified in this case, as these bikers are trying to actually join the Hells Angels.
- An Axeto Grind: Lisbeth buries an axe in her father's head.
- Artistic License – Biology: Niedermann's muscular frame is justified, as is his insensitivity to pain. Problem is, when Lisbeth shocks him with a stungun, the electricity through his muscles should have immobilized him regardless of whether he felt it or not.
- As Himself: Former WBC International Welterweight and Inter-Continental Welterweight champion Paolo Roberto, both in the novel and the film.
- Asshole Victim: Bjurman, who sexually assaulted Lisbeth twice,
- Badass: Paolo Roberto, who witnesses a kidnapping, tails the kidnappers, and then rescues the victim. And almost gets beaten to death for his trouble.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Faste is a Lawful Stupid version.
- Big Bad: Alexander Zalachenko, former top-level Soviet intelligence operative that defected to Sweden when he got in trouble with his bosses.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Zalachenko's henchman Ronald Niedermann.
- Break the Cutie: Teleborian tried to do this to Lisbeth while she was under his care in the psychiatric hospital.
- The Brute: Niedermann is well over six feet tall and in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds, most of it pure muscle. (Picture Brock Lesnar with a German accent) And he can't feel pain. And is also Lisbeth's half-brother.
- Buried Alive: This happens to Lisbeth Salander, after she was shot in the fucking head. She digs her way out with a cigarette case and then shoves an axe through the face of the man who put her there.
- Call Back: When communicating with Lisbeth on his hacked computer, Mikael calls her "Sally".
- Chekhov's Boomerang: The DVD of Bjurman raping Salander. Starts as a MacGuffin when Bjurman wants the DVD out of Salander's hands and asks "Zala" to retrieve it. The plot ensues.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Niedermann's paranoid hallucinations.
- The cigarette case Lisbeth uses to dig herself out while Buried Alive.
- Chekhov's Skill: Blomkvist's army skills come in handy when incapacitating Niederman.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: A very mild version for Lisbeth at the beginning of the book, which must be taken in context to how she normally acts. She appears to mature and consider how her behaviour (such as abandoning Palmgren and not contacting Miriam) made her appear selfish. The old Salander swings back into play the moment she finds out about Zala. Some readers find this a bad thing, as they think it changes Lisbeth from being a strong female character to a male appeaser.
- Disproportionate Retribution: When Lisbeth goes shopping for an apartment (with enough money to afford anything), her appearance causes a real estate agent to condescendingly dismiss her out of hand and pretty much shove her out of his office. She retaliates by hacking into his computer, finding a bunch of undeclared income, and reporting him to the tax authorities.
- Disability Superpower: Niedermann has congenital analgesia, a genetic disorder that means he can't feel pain. In the book, Roberto only manages to momentarily stun him by hitting him in the back of the head with a two-by-four; after Miriam kicked him in the groin.
- Downer Ending: Lisbeth has been shot three times and is near death, while still being the main suspect in three murders.
- Not really: Bubblanski and the task force assigned with finding Salander have Bjork's report which reveals the coverup, while Holger Palmgren and Armansky plan to help Salander.
- The Dragon: Niederman for Zalachenko.
- Fanservice/Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: The only full sex scene in The Film of the Book (leaving out a rape and a Mikael / Erika morning after bit) is an extended sequence of Lisbeth and Miriam.
- Figure It Out Yourself: Lisbeth tells only cryptic clues to Mikael while he is trying to investigate the murders she is accused of.
- A Friend in Need / I Owe You My Life: Mikael invokes this hard when Lisbeth is named the primary suspect in three murders. After she gives her word that she didn't do it, he devotes all of Millennium's resources to helping clear her name. Of course, she did save him from a very nasty death, so he owed her something...
- Government Conspiracy: It turns out that Lisbeth's entire crappy teen and adult life was engineered by a couple of Corrupt Bureaucrats and some Secret Police to make sure she kept quiet about their deal with Zalachenko. It works for a surprisingly long time, until Bjurman, trying to get free of Lisbeth's control, contacts his old buddy Zalachenko, which leads to Lisbeth's being framed for Bjurman, Dag and Mia's murders. Then she finds out about Bjurman's involvement in the Conspiracy and gets angry. Then Lisbeth finds out that Miriam Wu, one of the few people she truly cares for, is being savaged in the press, and was kidnapped and almost killed by Niedermann. Then she attacks.
- Hallucinations: Niedermann's Achilles' Heel. Sometimes he sees things that aren't there, or his imagination takes things that are there and runs with them.
- Handicapped Badass: Niedermann.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Faste was this to an annoying degree. He also hates gay people.
- Hidden Villain: The reclusive mob boss, Alexander Zalachenko.
- Inspector Javert: Jan Bublanski.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Lisbeth does it to a john, involving a stungun and a noose around his neck. Pretty much on the edge of the Moral Event Horizon.
- Jerkass: Oi, where to begin? First, there's Officer Faste, who believes Lisbeth's nuts and refuses to accept any possibility of her innocence, because he's got issues with lesbians and thinks she is one. Then, Milton Security employee Hedstrom, who despises her for threatening to expose him for defrauding a client. Nils Bjurman, who sexually assaulted and threatened her, Dr. Teleborian, who had the 12 year-old Lisbeth tied up in the mental hospital whenever she defied him, and so this will stay a relatively short list, Prosecutor Ekström, who plays up the media frenzy surrounding her just because he likes being in the spotlight. Oh, and Lisbeth
- Karmic Death: Nils Bjurman, who is killed by Niederman, the man he thought was going to help him.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Although he doesn't use a golf club, Blumkvist manages to repay his debt to Salander by deducing where she went, using military skills to take down a terrified Niederman and finding an unconscious Salander in time to call for help. Kalle Blomkvist does not fool around when he's determined.
- The Mafiya: Zalachenko is the boss of an Estonian crime ring who specialize in trafficking underage prostitutes.
- Mama Bear: Inverted in Lisbeth's case; after witnessing Zalachenko beat up her mother on a regular basis, she becomes murderously protective of her mother. After one beating left her mother unconscious, she got herself committed thanks to a Molotov cocktail aimed into Zalachenko's car window.
- The Man Behind the Man: Zalachenko behind Niedermann.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Triple homicide -> International sex trafficking conspiracy, a high-ranking Soviet defector, decades long cover-up.
- Pint Sized Power House: Lisbeth proves to be this. And Zalachenko before his accident.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Again, in The Film of the Book most of the important plot points are covered, while leaving out several minor subplots. There's no mention of Mikael and Harriet's relationship or Erika's job offer from SMP, Lisbeth's attempted kidnapping by Lundin and Niemenen is gone, most of the police's scut work in investigating Dag, Mia and Bjurman's murders isn't shown, a lot of foreshadowing about the depth of the Zalachenko conspiracy is left out and the ending is arbitrarily changed from a creepy nighttime sequence to happening in the full light of day.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Averted with the murders of Bjurman, Dag and Mia, all of whom are shot in the head with a Colt 1911 .45 pistol. When he finds Dag's body, Mikael realizes he's standing in brain. Played more or less straight at the end; Lisbeth is shot in the head, but by a .22, with the bullet lodging in her brain.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Niedermann's bizarrely high pitched voice, cherubic face and utter disinterest in sex hint towards him having never actually reached puberty. He also has crippling hallucinations which grow more powerful when he is alone or under stress.
- Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Paolo Roberto, real-life WBC boxing champion, versus a giant mob enforcer whose disease renders him unable to feel pain. Makes for one hell of a match.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Officer Bublanski, the cop in charge of Lisbeth's case. He's aware that there are things which don't add up, and when he's presented with the truth, he works to help clear her name.
- Dragan Armansky, Lisbeth's former boss, and Holger Palmgren, her former guardian - both of them try to act as father figures to her. Both tell her off when she really needs it but still go to extremes for her. Lisbeth counts them both among the few people she respects, and takes the initiative of visiting.
- The Reveal: Zalachenko is Lisbeth's father.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Miriam is rescued, Lisbeth basically says "fuck it" and heads off to finish things with Zalachenko once and for all. Lampshaded as well, when Mikael realizes that Miriam's ordeal was "one provocation too many."
- Russian Guy Suffers Most: But he totally deserved it.
- Sanity Slippage: Niedermann.
- Rule Of Threes: Lisbeth zaps three men with her trusty stungun but the third man is immune to its effects despite being hit in the groin.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: This is the bulk of Zalachenko's attitude when Lisbeth confronts him. Really, it's what his entire speech boils down to.
- Shadow Archetype: Niedermann to Salander. She's tiny, he's huge. He's immune to pain, she's very vulnerable. He suffers hallucinations, whereas she describes herself as lacking imagination. They are both The Terminator—Roberto even describes her as entering "Terminator Mode" when she Turns Red.
- Show Within a Show: There is an excerpt of Blomkvist's book The Knights Templar.
- Superpower Lottery: Won by Niedermann - he not only feels no pain, he has a gene which gives him an insanely muscular frame which keeps him from killing himself by accident. The first condition should have killed him in his twenties, the second is so rare only a handful of subjects have been identified. The two together essentially make him The Terminator.
- Taser Tag Weakness: Within the film, Lisbeth uses her taser repeatedly to even the odds between herself and her larger opponents. It has no effect on Niedermann, probably being handwaved as due to his inability to feel pain, notwithstanding that tasers work by shorting out the electrical impulses to the muscles, not working through pain.
- Things That Go Bump in the Night: Ironically, Niedermann can fight until he literally is too injured to move (and since he's Made of Iron, that virtually never happens) but he's got some major psychological issues and sees shadow creatures and demons whenever he's alone.
- This Is Going To Suck: Blomkvist has this reaction when hearing how Paolo Roberto met Salander, namely after Roberto laughed at her for wanting to take boxing lessons with him. It's probably for the best that Roberto apologized and started sparring with her, given other men who've made her angry were less fortunate.
- Two-Part Trilogy: The first book was a self-contained Locked Room Mystery involving a (believed to be) murdered heiress, bookended with an almost-MacGuffin-like investigation into a corrupt financier. This novel is about a Revealing Coverup, with the next revolving around dismantling the people behind it.
- Unstoppable Rage: "Terminator Mode." Lisbeth will hurt you if you hurt anyone she cares about. You've got a gun? She'll get a bigger one.
- Wham Line: "Zalachenko is her father." It's not quite the same, but for those who don't see it coming, this line has an impact comparable to a certain revelation in The Empire Strikes Back.
- The Worf Effect: Niedermann beating the living shit out of real-life boxer Paolo Roberto has shades of this. The novel, at least, justifies it by having Roberto narrate it out of his career's worth of experience at fisticuffs.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
- Amazon Chaser: When Monica asks Mikael if he is displeased by a woman of her build, Mikael replies that her well-toned body makes her sexier.
- Asshole Victim: Zalachenko.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Inspector Paulsson, again, the Lawful Stupid version.
- Better as Friends: By the end of the book, Lisbeth realizes that she no longer loves Mikael, but decides they should continue their friendship.
- Break the Haughty: Teleborian's last testimony ought to qualify.
- Call Back: Lisbeth contacts Erika to tell her something, and when Erika demands that Lisbeth verify who she is, Lisbeth says that she knows how Mikael got the scar on his neck in Dragon Tattoo.
- CIA Evil, FBI Good: A roughly analogous situation, as the Constitutional Protection unit responsible for investigating constitutional violations are the good guys, while the CIA-esque "Section" are evil. Amusingly enough, though, they're both part of the Security Police.
- Character Development: Lisbeth at the very end of the novel. She who vowed never to compromise accepts that, because she's finally achieved her legal majority, she can no longer be a Woman Child and has to make a little compromise.
- Not So Different: When she has her confrontation with Niedermann. He obviously deserves to die, but she realizes she can't be the one to do it because she'd forfeit the rest of her life. She then thinks back to Harriet, whom she once castigated for refusing to solve her own problems, and realizes that this judgment was unfair.
- Crazy-Prepared: The Säpo branch called The Section for Special Analysis, which has access to government files and resources, extremely talented operatives, and a total willingness to use any means necessary to protect their own asses. Or the country. But mostly their own asses.
- Dysfunctional Family: The snarking, punning inhabitants of Hacker Nation, the online community that comprises most of the people Lisbeth considers friends.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The notoriously private Lisbeth has to reveal every detail of her personal life just to have a chance to do so.
- Epic Fail: The Section launch an ambitious and well-thought out plan to silence Zalachenko, steal the evidence that proves Lisbeth's story, get her locked up in a mental institution for life, and murder Mikael after destroying his credibility by planting drugs and money in his apartment. And in the end, they all end up arrested on a laundry list of charges because they didn't realize that Mikael and his allies were even more Crazy Prepared than them.
- Fair Cop: SIS Inspector Monica Figuerola, who except for having short hair is the stereotypical Swedish blonde, albeit with a badge and a gun.
- Gambit Pileup: Pretty much the bulk of the third volume, as all of The Section's actions and manipulations of the Zalachenko affair going back twenty-some years are revealed. Invoked in the other books to a lesser extent, but it's in this one that Larsson really went all out.
- Hidden Villain: The heads of The Section, Evert Gullberg and Fredrik Clinton.
- Internal Affairs: the Section. Founded during the Cold War to find Dirty Communist Deep Cover Agents, it has since degenerated into a Who Watches the Watchmen? situation.
- Karmic Death: Alexander Zalachenko, who tries to bully his way out of trouble one time too many. And Neidermann, killed by the members of Svavelsjö MC that he betrayed.
- Lampshade Hanging: Edklinth is discussing the Section with Figuerola, sharing information he received from Armansky. As happens many times, the credibility of a source that can't be divulged is questioned, and Figuerola comments "It all sounds a bit...I don't know. Improbable?" to which Edklinth replies "I know. It's the stuff of a spy novel."
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Dragon Tattoo was 90% narrated by Salander and Blomkvist, but the trilogy begins piling on Narrators as the scope of the plot expands, culminating here with six or eight different ones.
- The Man Behind the Man: Remember how Zalachenko is this to Niedermann? Turns out that Fredrik Clinton is this to Zalachenko. Taking it even further: although Clinton is the main orchestrator behind Hornet's Nest's events, he is loyally following orders set about by his old boss, Evert Gullberg, who starts things off by putting a bullet in Zalachenko and then himself, leaving Clinton to take over.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Teleborian, who, while undeniably talented (he had at one point helped talk a spy out of suicide and into becoming a double agent), also made horrendously irresponsible conclusions about Lisbeth's mental state based on the fact that she refused to acknowledge his authority over her. He was also drafted by The Section to oversee her care because they knew his view fitted with theirs.
- There is little, if not nothing, ambiguous about a corrupt pedophile who tortures his patients.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: The reason of why all of Monica's relationships failed. Averted once she hooks up with Mikael, who rather likes her athletic physique.
- No Such Agency: the Section may once have reported to the civilian government, but it doesn't anymore. Their entire organization consists of a few full-time employees, a larger stable of part-timers whom they "borrow" from other Säpo departments, and the help (and head-turning) of the head of personnel and the head of budget.
- Not So Different: rare goodguy-to-goodguy usage. Lisbeth's lawyer, Annika Giannini, sees much of herself in Lisbeth's somewhat checkered past, and uses this to attack the Double Standard around Lisbeth's treatment.
- Out of Focus: despite appearing in the second book and being intimately involved with the running of Millennium magazine, Harriet Vanger is not present in this one and is mentioned maybe once.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Dag and Mia, the slain journalists who kick off the previous novel's plot, are also mentioned maybe five times.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Once more, most of the important plot points are intact, with only a few minor subplots cut for the sake of time or clarity. Erika's never left Millennium (and has no stalker), Trinity and the rest of Hacker Nation are reduced to just Plague, and Wadensjöö's battle with Clinton for control of The Section is missing. However, there are a couple of head-scratching moment differences. Christer Malm inexplicably loses his nerve as it pertains to Millennium's work, Niedermann is reduced to just a Giant Mook that shows up every half-hour or so to hurt or kill people (even at one point attemping to attack Lisbeth while she's at the hospital), much of Annika's amazing legal work is gone, and the ending changes Lisbeth and Mikael's renewed friendship into an awkward "Um...okay...bye." deal.
- Precision F-Strike: Just before Gullberg shoots Zalachenko, he says "You motherfucker."
- Prosecutors Fallacy: Prosecuter Ekström is guilty of this to an appalling degree, both from his disbelief that anyone in the government could have done what Lisbeth and Blomkvist accuse them of, and from being fed incorrect information by The Section because they're trying to use him to cover the whole thing up.
- Ret Irony: The editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper SMP is about to retire. Before this, he decides to work together his successor Erika Berger for two months. He dies after a few days.
- The Reveal: Ekström and Teleborian categorically deny that Bjurman ever mistreated Salander, with Teleborian going so far as to say its just a fantasy. Then Gianinni plays the DVD Salander made of Bjurman's raping, sodomizing and torturing her. This does not go over well with them.
- Running Gag: Lisbeth has a habit of referring to Mikael as "Kalle Blomkvist" because she knows he hates it. So when he smuggles her Palm into her hospital room, he sets up the password as "Pippi", to her amusement.
- Secret Police: The Section, which Blomkvist terms the "Zalachenko club" inside Säpo (the Swedish equivalent to the American CIA or British MI-6). Säpo is a known government entitity, subject to rules and oversight, but "The Section" is a seperate autonomous division that is outside of and above Säpo control. They were the ones who helped Zalachenko and screwed Lisbeth's life up to keep him safe.
- Sequel Hook: Lisbeth learns that her father's assets are to be divided equally between her and her twin sister Camilla, whom no one has seen in a decade. This was to set up the plot for the fourth novel which was three-quarters finished when Larsson died.
- Thanatos Gambit: Gullbert uses it in his efforts to keep the Section secret.
- Too Dumb to Live: Niederman becomes this, as his complete and utter lack of common sense and self-control is what leads to his well deserved Karmic Death.
- In the third book, Inspector Paulsson. Blomkvist walks up to them and gives them his weapon, telling them that a big damn fight occurred and Lisbeth got shot in the head. They arrest him for possession of an illegal weapon before they call the ambulance. He then tells them where Niedermann, an extremely dangerous super-strong, pain-immune sociopath is restrained... and they send two fat drunk handlers to pick him up. When they bother to send more people to check on them, an hour later, one of them has been beaten within an inch of his life, and the other is dead with a broken neck. Blomkvist first points out "I Warned You this guy is a monster", then repeatedly calls the arresting officer an imbecile. When actually-competent police arrive on the scene, they agree with his assessment.
- The Unfettered: Lisbeth by the end of the book, legally a regular adult for the first time in her life. Really unfettered due to the several hundred million bucks she stole.
- Villainous Breakdown: Teleborian suffers this after Gianinni rips his testimony to shreds. At the start he's rather smug, but when Gianinni not only refuses to blindly heed him but actively discredits him, Teleborian loses his cool and starts stammering. By the time the police drag him away in Court for possessing child porn, he can't even speak.
- You Are Not Alone: Mikael puts a lot of effort into getting Lisbeth to realize this, and he finally succeeds. On the last page of the last book.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Evert Gullberg does this to Zalachenko, and then even on himself, as stated above.
Unique to the movies
- Aborted Arc: The rare case of this happening in a film. In the Swedish version Janne Dahlmann, one of the Millennium editors, takes a payoff to feed info to Wennerström. When Malin discovers it, she and Erika decide to keep him on in order to feed disinformation. Except they never actually do it, and it's not mentioned again until Erika fires him at the end.
- It receives similar treatment in the book. The disinformation campaign is mentioned about twice, and Dahlmann's actual firing (which all this is building up to) is never shown.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Both versions depict Harriet as a blonde, while the book has her as a brunette who dyes her hair blonde when she goes into hiding.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: There was some complaint that, the couple times Blomkvist is shot at, he doesn't panic or lose his nerve the way a civilian would. But, as the books mention, Sweden has compulsive military service (or had; it was abolished in 2010), and Blomkvist has some military training.
- Age Lift: Besides Daniel Craig, all actors who portrayed Mikael and Lisbeth were older than the written version's age.
- Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Casting Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander obviously made things a lot easier for the costume department and the writers. Although finding a grown woman with all of Lisbeth's physical traits would be next to impossible, they got lucky in several regards. Noomi, like Lisbeth, is very small-breasted as well as dark-eyed with a naturally pale complexion, and in her late teens had numerous ear and facial piercings that she readily got repierced for the role. However, she's not as short as Lisbeth at 5'5" compared to 4'11.
- Bondage Is Bad: Changed between books and films; it's bad in Dragon Tattoo when Bjurman ties Lisbeth up and rapes her, but Lisbeth freely lets Miriam tie her up gently when they meet in Played With Fire. In the Played With Fire movie, Lisbeth all but states that you would only be into bondage as a top if you were a sadistic pig and a rapist, but at the time she is talking to a rapist, so it all evens out.
- Casting Gag: For the American adaptation, David Fincher cast Daniel Craig as Mikael. The gag doesn't pay off until the third in the trilogy, when Mikael spends the entire novel playing spy games vs. "The Section."
- This trope is subverted in the movie adaptation. In the books, Mikael's sex life is no big deal. In the films, it is apparently front page material for not only tabloids but rival newspapers.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The U.S. film's opening credits. So, so much.
- Eye Scream: The opening credits of the American film include a lit match falling onto Daniel Craig's eye, and later a fly hatching out of it.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Not a classic example in that there's no wailing or screaming, but in the film Lisbeth is very audibly enjoying herself the first time she and Mikael have sex.
- In-Joke: In the American version of the film, all the characters say Lisbeth's name with English pronunciation, "Liz-bith" or "Liz-beth". But toward the end of the movie when Martin learns her name, he says it with Swedish pronunciation as "Leez-bit," which makes sense seeing as Martin is played by Stellan Skarsgård, the only actual Swede to have a major role in the movie.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Daniel Craig in the American film, the only actor to make no attempt at a Swedish accent.
- Not Using the Zed Word: David Fincher refused to use the term "serial killer," though he did allow one "serial murderer."
- Daniel Craig (the current James Bond) as well; though Blomkvist has Bond's tenacity, intelligence and charm with women, comparing his combat ability to Bond's would be like comparing Bit Cloud's to InuYasha - when the monstrous serial killer and rapist Martin Vanger captures and tortures him, Lisbeth has to rescue him.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Many of the characters have been changed from the books to the films for the sake of brevity. In addition many subplots were cut. For example in the book Lisbeth leaves Mikael because she catches him with Erika and is heartbroken. In the Swedish films Erika and Mikael do not have a physical relationship, instead Lisbeth simply leaves Sweden because she is afraid of falling in love. This happens less in the first American film, which is a few minutes longer (Mikael and Erika's physical relationship has been restored, for example), but still appears occasionally. The Mikael-Erika relationship does appear in the uncut TV version, though.
- The Film of the Book hits most of the high notes, but simplifies a few matters for the sake of streamlining the plot. Henrik's offer to give Mikael evidence about Wennerström and his buying a stake in Millennium are left out, as is Mikael's daughter being the one who figures out the "Leviticus" references, and Anita is killed off instead of being Harriet's helper. Some events in the timeline are shifted around as well, and the various Millennium employees have maybe five minutes total screen time.
- The David Fincher adaptation is a much stronger example of this, retaining much more of the novel's depth and detail while running only six minutes longer than the Swedish film. Notably included in this version but cut from the previous one are the bulk of the Wennerstrom subplot, Blomkvist's daughter, the original Vanger family configuration, and a fair amount of screen time for Erika Berger. Anita's still dead though.
- The change to ultimate fates of Anita and Harriet were done mainly so that the producers of both films could avoid the extra expense of going to Australia just to shoot two scenes.
- Product Placement:
- The movie is filled with this for Swedish companies, including an almost gratuitous promoting of SVT, the public service channel. There's a rather perverse Values Dissonance to it since Larsson was a noted communist and it's highly unlikely he'd have approved. There's also a bit of a Take That to SVT in the book, when Mikael buys a small TV with a rabbit-ear antenna (to pick up the broadcast channel SVT) for his stay in Hedeby. His neighbors invite him over to their house if he ever wants to watch anything on real TV.
- The American version features the characters' MacBooks quite prominently—though really it would feature whichever brand of computer they used prominently given the nature of the story. McDonalds is also plainly visible.
- For the nerdier types, the actual placement of Macs in the Fincher film is rather strange. The exact timeline of the film isn't clear, but it's either a present-day OS (Tiger, circa 2005) running on computers from the future (the unibody MacBook Pros from 2008, which came with Leopard), or computers of today running an OS from several years before they came out.
- In the American version Lisbeth enjoys chowing down on Happy Meals, even while staying at a posh luxury hotel.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: In-universe in the American film, as Martin likes putting on Enya during his murders on Daniel Craig's suggestion. "Sail away, sail away, sail awaaaay..."
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
- While the original books have Blomkvist and Salander as equal protagonists, the Swedish movies go out of their way to make Salander the star. Her weaknesses are cut back (most notably her social awkwardness), portraying her as less of a flawed human and more of an invincible force of nature. Blomkvist suffers in that his intelligence and journalistic competence are lowered in order to make Salander more intelligent by comparison.
- Notably averted with the American films, which in keeping with the books put the two protagonists on a more equal footing.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The second trailer for the US film is a loose summary of the entire story with the exception of the two really big plot twists (Martin and Harriet).
- Translation Convention: Played oddly in the English film with visible text, which will be in English when it's relevant (e-mails, newspapers, the tattoo that Lisbeth draws on Bjurman) but in Swedish when it's not.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Employed to rather distressing effect after Bjurman forces Lisbeth to give him oral sex for money.