Persons Unknown was a mystery-drama miniseries airing on NBC between June 7, 2010 and August 28th, 2010.Janet Cooper is spending a peaceful day at the park watching her daughter Megan playing. However, after she is distracted by a private eye telling her that she has not paid full charges for him looking for her disappeared husband, she sees someone who seems to have taken off with Megan. Chasing after them, Janet is instead drugged and taken away.Upon waking up, Janet finds herself in a locked hotel room, the only sign of her captors being a camera in the ceiling. After desperately trying to get out of the room, she is broken free by a man named Joe. They both soon learn that they are not alone in the hotel and there are five others in the same predicament. Each one has been taken with no explanation or idea as to why they are being held prisoner. After exploring the hotel, the captives find themselves in a small, pristine, and empty town, which they cannot leave.The occupants/captives of the town are:
Janet Cooper: A day-care owner and single mother, whose husband left her with no explanation.
Joe Tucker: A mysterious man who seems to be taking the role of the leader of the captives. Little is known about his past as he evades the others' questions. He's also The Mole.
Sergeant Graham McNair: A fairly levelheaded Marine soldier who is Muslim. He took payment to go and kill someone whom he thought was an insurgent bomb-maker who killed three of his squadmates. As it turns out, the person he was paid to kill was just an accountant who was going to expose some corrupt dealing involving Private Military Contractors.
Moira Doherty: A rather skittish school counselor who has a knowledge of medications. Or so she claims. It's later revealed she's a psychiatric patient with "truth issues."
Charlie Morse: The CFO of an investment firm who has a wife he describes as emotionally unstable. Well, had - he killed her though it is unclear yet whether it was a mercy killing or just murder. May or may not also have embezzled money from his father-in-law's company.
Tori Fairchild: An entitled young woman who is the daughter of an American ambassador. First of the group to be "eliminated", she takes a taxi in the middle of the night and turns up dead in a fountain in Italy.
Bill Blackham: A car dealer who proves to be suspicious of the others as well as being rather self-absorbed.
Erika Taylor: A mysterious woman who wakes up in the town ( apparently as a "replacement" for Tori, whose dress she's wearing when she first arrives in the town). A former prisoner with multiple tattoos, she has a son in foster care, and was actually on Death Row for un-named crimes, and woke up after being thinking she had been executed. Erika is in fact not her real name; it is the name of her cell mate. Her true name was revealed in "Identity" to be Theresa Randolph.
Other reoccurring characters are:
Mark Renbe: A journalist from San Francisco, he's your intrepid reporter trying to uncover the truth behind, initially, Janet's disappearance.
Kat Damatto: Renbe's boss.
"The Night Manager": Not as creepy as his No Name Given name sounds, he presents himself as... the night manager of the hotel they wake up in. He seems to be in a similar situation as the others, not finding being told he has received a job in a hotel and suddenly waking up there very strange as he has "gotten used to it."
The staff of the Chinese restaurant: A benign group who don't seem to know anything more than anyone else about why they are there and are only meant to make sure the captives are fed.
Sam Edick: A private eye hired by Janet Cooper to find her missing husband.
Tom: Part of the conspiracy along with Joe, he poses as the host of the Chinese restaurant the captives eat at. Speaks pretty horrible Engrish in his role as host.
Liam Ulrich: Middle-management at the conspiracy, and Joe and Tom's boss. Replaces the first night manager after Joe kills him. Has a thing for Janet.
"Madame Director": the director of the conspiracy, and Liam's boss. Quite the Iron Lady.
Tropes used in Persons Unknown include:
Abusive Parents: Janet says that her mother was this. However, upon being interviewed by a reporter, her mother denies this. Though, there was one time where she hit her daughter with a hairbrush until it broke.
She also seems to be passive-aggressive toward her granddaughter.
Tori's father the Ambassador, who effectively pimped her out to prospective clients as a bonus for doing business with him.
Graham's mother, who beat him with a belt until he was fourteen.
Moira's father, who sexually molested her while her mother stood by and did nothing. She admits to Graham that she strangled them both in their sleep.
Also Tori, first in what were thought to be Joe's delusions and then later revealed to be the new Night Manager for the next group abducted by the Program.
Additionally, the Night Manager turns up again after his apparent death as Madame Director's lackey. The same thing happens to Liam Ulrich. Yeah, pretty much everyone that dies in this show turns up again later.
The Bad Guy Wins: Yeah, they didn't succeed in the fight against their kidnappers.
Berserk Button: Reference Megan or her grandmother in front of Janet, and she WILL go Lifetime on your sorry ass.
Don't lie to Kat, Renbe, especially not about your ex-wife Janet.
Don't mess with Janet or Erika will murder you without anyone figuring it out.
Blatant Lies: At the end of every episode they would have a message saying "All your questions will be answered at the end of this season." ... Yeah, the last episode not only left several things unanswered, but only caused more questions.
Ironically, most of the questions you asked yourself in the first episode (Who are these people? Why they are kidnapped and by whom? Where are they?) got answers, but it didn't make the show any less confusing.
Blooper: Janet's "Kill your neighbor and you'll go free" fortune is first shown as one straight line, then two. Later when it's changed to "Kill Joe and you'll go free", the y in you is alternately capitalized, uncapitalized, then capitalized again.
Joe's stubble seems to change back and forth between episodes. Sometimes he looks like a mountain man, sometimes it will be more closer to a trimmed goatee.
Moira lets the peacock scarf blow away (an obvious CG effect) at the end of episode 10, but in the next cut you can clearly see it by her knee.
Briar Patching: An epic example is detailed in the Crowning Moment entry.
Butt Monkey: Bill thinks he's this. In reality, he brings his grief on himself.
Da Editor: Kat, a rare female example of the trope.
Deadly Game: Played completely straight in one episode. All the food was removed from the town, and they were told to kill each other. The only survivor would be released. If they didn't, they would be left to starve.
Depraved Homosexual: Erika is a psychotic knife-wielding man hater who must have done something bad enough to land her getting the death penalty, and her methods of seduction are not unlike that of a wolverine circling its prey.
Gainax Ending: Renbe and Joe awake in another town with a new set of captives and Tori as the new Night Manager. The original group wakes up in what appears to be the original hotel once again but turns out to be "Level 2" of the Program — a barge floating out in the middle of the ocean. Since this is a miniseries there's little chance we'll get any explanation.
Groin Attack: Tori does this to Bill when he gets too touchy-feely. Erika does the same to Charlie for different reasons entirely.
Hates Being Touched: In episode 9, Joe (post-reprogramming) becomes this to an extreme: he tries to kill anyone who touches him. In one case, he succeeds, because no one's around to help the Night Manager.
Here We Go Again: The series starts with people waking up in a hotel. It ends the same way.
Heroic BSOD: Janet is prone to these. Moira has a bit of one when Erika tells her McNair's secret.
Hidden Depths: Steadily being revealed for one person after another.
Hope Spot: Episode 2 has the generator for the Invisible Wall getting zapped by lightning and exploding. They all get into a van and drive away to freedom!...Only to get teleported back to town by a blob of light in the middle of the road.
Kudzu Plot: Mysterious town full of strangers who have mysterious pasts, convoluted conspiracies, a roving journalist exploring South America to find answers, Deadly Game plot lines, moles everywhere, cameras everywhere, plus secret cameras everywhere, people who may or may not be dead, corrupt political figures, and to top it all off one woman just wants to find her daughter. This show was like the plot of fifteen movies going on at once.
The most triumphant example is the 8th episode. Joe is lying in some weird place, talking to a voice, has flashbacks and then sees his body apparently dead. Then he says farewell to Tom. The last shot shows an empty room while a voice calls for Joe. What the hell was that?
The Mole: Joe is revealed as this at the end of ep 4.
Another is the maitre'd of the Chinese restaurant, Tom, who seems to be engineering some of the scenarios.
The Night Manager, though that doesn't really come as a surprise.
Moira's a mental patient. Charlie killed his wife, who may not have been ill in the first place. Joe is a mole. McNair fulfilled a contract killing. The head of the Chinese restaurant staff is putting on an act.
Rule of Symbolism: The "painted lady" butterfly that appears in Tori's room. She lampshades it by speculating that it's a metaphor from her father that "couldn't be any more obvious". It's a reference to how her father used to essentially pimp her out to his clients.
Whether this or Faux Symbolism, but when Janet confronts Joe on the rooftop, she ends up in a classic crucifixion pose. At which point, the fact that her initials are JC becomes notable.
Sadistic Choice: Janet's fortune cookie gives her one: "Kill your neighbor and you'll go free."
The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Tori tries to seduce the night manager to get information about how to leave the town. It doesn't work, since the night manager claims he doesn't know anything.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: My there seems to be an awful lot of people who don't even blink when they see armed men in suits chasing people at top speed while pushing civilians aside...
UST: Janet and Joe, becoming more and more apparent with every new episode.
Viral Marketing: Done rather lazily. Every episode gave an ad about a blog run by a rather unimportant character. The blog was only updated about three times, and most of it short two or three sentence posts in Italian.