Since 1970, the Federal Witness Protection Program has relocated thousands of witnesses, some criminal, some not, to neighborhoods all across the country. Every one of those individuals shares a unique attribute, distinguishing them from the rest of the general population. And that is, somebody wants them dead.
A Crime and Punishment Series (of sorts), this show features U.S. Marshals Mary Shannon and Marshall Mann (yes, that makes him Marshal Marshall), who work with people in WitSec (Witness Protection). This leads to them sometimes having to uncover crimes, track down killers, work at protecting them, etc., in addition to somewhat nannying their clients.When off-duty, Mary is stuck dealing with her mother Jinx and sister Brandi, both of whom are shacking up at her house. Neither of them work, both have criminal records (and in Brandi's case, a criminal boyfriend pimping her out to sell drugs), and one wonders how Mary came to be such a law-abider with these influences. Her father committed crimes and left the family long ago, leaving Mary to be their "hall monitor." Mom and sister resent the hell out of Mary for this. There's also Mary's off-and-on fuckbuddy/boyfriend, a Minor Leaguer named Raphael, who has more feelings for her than she does for him. Brandi rags on him constantly, yet is desperate to get into his pants.As of the end of Season 2, Brandi is on again/off again with a self made rich guy and taking classes at the local community college, Raphael is working for Brandi's boyfriend, Raphael and Mary are engaged and Mary has told him what she does. Jinx has gone sober (maybe).During the third season, the origins of Mary and Marshall's partnership have been revealed to the audience, among other things. Season 5 (the show's final season) ended in 2012.
Berserk Button: 99% of the time Marshall is a calm as still waters, but threaten one of his witnesses or, God help you, Mary and he'll throw a body block on you at a dead run and choke you out before you know what hit you.
When Marshall mentions that they can't get reception because of the mountains, you know something bad's going to happen.
Played with hilariously in the pilot. When Stan starts to give her orders she doesn't like, Genre Savvy Mary invokes this by holding her phone out the window and yelling that she can't hear him. Equally Genre Savvy Stan knows what she's doing and just calls Marshall. Equally Genre Savvy Marshall pulls the same trick.
Chekhov's Gun: In a Season 1 episode, Mary discusses the two firearms she carries with a witness, and clearly shows the subcompact Glock she carries in an ankle holster. Cut to the season finale two-parter, where that hidden weapon is instrumental in saving her life.
Clear My Name: Pops up in 2x07, "Duplicate Bridge", when the witness, Norman, goes off the reservation to get his boss to confess. And subverted. Norman forces his ex-boss to confess that he built a collapsed bridge with substandard steel, instead of the steel Norman originally specified, but says it shouldn't have caused the collapse. Norman then reveals that it was his incorrect calculations, the ones he realized he'd been making his entire career as an architect, combined with the substandard steel, that caused the collapse. And the other 25 bridges he built will eventually collapse on their own.
Also forms the basis of 2x09, when Brandi gets arrested for possession on the suitcase of meth that caused the Shannon family so much trouble, along with a laundry list of trumped-up charges related to the whole thing, not least of all Mary's kidnapping.
Easy Amnesia: Played with in 2x02, when a witness - who claims to be unable to testify without weed - falls off a cherry picker while toking up. Mary, who had recently informed him that he couldn't testify high, refuses to believe him.
Economy Cast: Nobody but Mary, Marshall, and Stan is ever seen in the large, empty WitSec offices.
Each season after the first adds at least one minor character who hangs out at the office, but none of them have stuck around for more than a year so far. Stan also mentions that he used to have twice as many Inspectors with half as many cases, and it was still too much. When he flashes back in "One Night Stan", only him and his boss are seen.
Similarly, while other Albuquerque cops are seen every oso often, they only seem to end up working with Bobby D. Vaguely acknowledged in an episode where another local police officer has been shot - Mary asks Bobby for information on him, and he asks her if she has any idea how many officers there are in Albuquerque PD.
Epiphany Therapy: Averted in the season 2 opener. Mary does get her badge back, but she's still clearly shaken up by the end of the episode. Also averted with Marshall's later therapy sessions. The doctor does lead him to a moment of realization, but it's made clear that this is only one step in a long process.
Even the Girls Want Her: Ahn Li in "Let's Get it Ahn". Marshall and the lesbian witness are to be expected. Mary, despite how hot she is, not so much.
Flashback: Repeatedly through "When Mary Met Marshall". We find out that Marshall is a fifth-generation Marshall, and Mary used to live out East, used to be in the fugitive-hunting part of the Marshals, and most importantly, wore bangs and a ponytail. It's pretty weird.
It Runs in the Family: Everyone but Mary has been on the wrong side of the law. Marshall is a fifth-generation marshal.
I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Several of Mary McCormack's The West Wing costars have paid the show a visit, most notably Joshua Malina (who played McCormack's boyfriend on the earlier show) in a recurring role. Allison Janney, Richard Schiff and as of the season 4 previews Bradley Whitford have also put in appearances. And the music is by W.G. Snuffy Walden himself.
Jurisdiction Friction: Tricky because Mary cannot reveal that anyone she's asking about is in WitSec (though Bobby D can certainly figure that out for himself, and is frequently annoyed by the fact that Mary and Marshal aren't cooperative).
Just Friends: Mary and Marshall. He seems to have a crush on her, but is well aware that she's a total relationship trainwreck. He tells every client lusting after Mary to steer clear.
Karma Houdini: After the season two finale, Francesca returns to South America as a hero to her people, while Mary only just starts to recover from nearly being killed by Francesca's willful endangerment.
Manly Tears: In the season two finale, this is utterly averted. Marshall, resident stoic, breaks down in tears the second the doctors take Mary from his side. And again, later.
Metallicar Syndrome: Lampshaded after Mary's car is destroyed and she gets a muscle car as a temporary replacement. She wants to keep it permanently but her boss tells her that working for Witness Protection she cannot drive a car that people will notice and remember.
Ms. Fanservice: Brandi. Mary gets to show off a fair bit too, but Brandi's almost always doing it.
Not Good with People: Mary's good with sorting out other people's lives. Her own, not so much. Lampshaded in the pilot.
Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted. Marshall gets shot, and gets back up to help Mary fight off their assailants. Then he collapses. A good portion of the rest of the episode is spent dealing with the wound - which punctured his lung(!) - and he spends a few episodes in a cast.
Point of fact: The bullet did not puncture his lung, only the pleural space (the empty space in the chest not taken up by organs and such). This led to a tension pneumothorax, in which air is pulled into the chest cavity, preventing the lungs from inflating. He explains all this when performing his water seal with a bottle trick.
Mary herself is shot in the season two finale, which turns out to be a life-threatening injury.
Only Sane Man: Mary around her relatives. Mary and Marshal around any bureaucrats. Marshal around Mary. Peter around Mary and her family.
Outrun the Fireball: In 3x05, "Fish or Cut Betta," this is subverted when Mary and the woman she just pulled away from the bomb are hurled across the hood of a car by the blast, right after they get out of the building's door.
Product Placement: Rather cleverly. In one episode, the witness is a rich guy who gave away all his money to the victims of the crime he's testifying against. He is unable to do things as simple as change a tire. Later on, he calls Mary at the office.
Professional Killer: These are shown as both witnesses and bad guys. Deconstructed to an extent in 3x05, "Fish or Cut Betta", when the former hitman client has trouble getting a date without advice from Mary and Marshall because he's only ever slept with prostitutes. And then when the woman rejects him, he tries to blow her up.
Put on a Bus: As season 3 begins, we find that Bobby D has left for a task force in Chicago and Eleanor has been hired by the FBI as an analyst.
Sadistic Choice: Played straight, horribly. The hostages are Mary and Brandi's boyfriend. The baddie is a drug dealer, and offers Brandi the choice of who's gonna die. When she points out that she has the drugs he wants, he barks "wrong answer!" and kills the boyfriend.
Shoot Out the Lock: Averted, subverted, lampshaded, and played straight in one episode, all within about a minute. The lead, Mary, and another cop are trapped in a burning building. The second cop wants to shoot the lock, but Mary informs him that it won't work; the shrapnel would just bounce back. She tries to find the key for the door on the huge bunch of janitor's keys she used to get into the building, gets impatient, and shoots the lock. No shrapnel, but the dents damage the lock enough for them to get outside. She's surprised that it actually works.
Shout-Out: A character mentions Glee in the same episode as the actress who plays a recurring character (Finn's mum) on that show.
Shown Their Work: Frequently. At one point, Mary advises a witness to get into a bathroom and into the tub to avoid gunfire. This was actually done by residents of certain parts of LA during the 80s.
The Teaser: Shows how this week's WitSec client came to join WitSec - committed/witnessed a crime, made a deal, etc.
There Are No Therapists: Averted in the season 2 opening episode, where Mary is both on administrative leave and clearly suffering from PTSD symptoms, including skirting the edge of a Heroic BSOD. Marshall is remarkably knowledgeable about it.
The second episode of S2 involves a therapist being sent in to evaluate Mary. Mary herself is still suffering from residual PTSD. And that same therapist (Dr. Finkel) comes back in subsequent seasons to help Marshal and several witnesses deal with emotional problems.
Too Dumb to Live: Brandi. An ad for season 3 also pointed out that no one in WitSec who's followed the rules has ever been killed.
Trash the Set: After the house is torn apart by drug-seeking FBI agents in the S1 finale, it spends S2 messed up before it's fixed between the finale and S3 premiere.
Wacky Marriage Proposal: Most heartily rejected by Mary, lampshaded with comments later about how Mary hates cutesy proposals.
What the Hell, Hero?: In the season 2 finale, Marshall realizes the reason the witness moved to a dangerous Latin 'hood, nearly getting Mary killed, was because she didn't want her future biographers to find out she stayed in a cushy American mansion while her people launched a revolution.
And it goes the other way, too. The same witness thinks that Mary wouldn't have gotten shot if her hostile (and in the witness' opionion, biased) behavior hadn't raised tensions to begin with.
White Sheep: Mary is a US Marshal despite having a bigamist father with a serious gambling problem who has been a fugitive for decades, a lifelong alcoholic mother (now recovering) and a sister who trafficked drugs for her boyfriend, in Mary's house. Slightly subverted in that Mary is hardly a saint herself, and we are meant to sympathize with Brandi and Jinx despite their largely self-inflicted problems.