YMMV / Cold Case

  • Acceptable Lifestyle Targets: Jocks tend to be depicted as little more than sociopaths.
  • Acceptable Professional Targets:
    • Gym teachers appear on this show as creepy perverts and rapists with a strange regularity.
    • Social workers are portrayed as unprofessional and unafraid to break the law for their own gain or power.
    • The detectives have nothing but bad things to say about private investigators in "The Runaway Bunny," even referring to a cop who became a PI as having "turned to the Dark Side."
    • A notable aversion occurs in It's Raining Men where one of the side characters is a right-wing news reporter who turns out to be closeted. As Cold Case is a left-leaning show you'd expect him to be vilified, but he's portrayed as a perfectly reasonable guy and even hands over some essential evidence with minimal fuss. The worst it gets is another character calling him "crazy," which he responds to with a good-natured chuckle.
  • Acceptable Religious Targets: Some episodes such as "Churchgoing People" and "That Woman" depict Christians rather negatively.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • The killer in The Hen House can be seen as either an attempted Atoner tragically pushed back into doing evil again, or simply a murdering, identity-stealing, Nazi scuzzball through-and-through.
    • The victim in "Boy Crazy" - transgender, or just a tomboy?
  • Anvilicious: In That Woman, we learn the important lesson that suggesting a group of teenagers exercise self-control will turn them all into heartless killers.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: There's a scene in Justice where Vera catches a gigantic Jerkass Ball and starts making rape apologist comments that seems to exist for no reason other than the writers needing someone to sound ignorant to make a point. The scene is never mentioned afterward and everyone goes back to being friends again. Even stranger is the fact that in other episodes dealing with rape, Vera is typically the most disgusted, even more than Rush and Miller, due to his botching a high-profile rape case earlier in his career.
    • He's also inexplicably and relentlessly rude to Josie Sutton when she joins the team, despite her consistently showing herself to be a competent detective. For some strange reason he's adamantly opposed to working with anyone new and determined to think that because she's female and attractive, she's going to cause trouble—much like the above example, when vague references are made to her involvement in a sexual harassment incident, he insinuates that she was the one at fault. He never apologizes for his behavior, yet he never acts this way again—he never treats Lily like this and when Detective Miller joins the staff, has no conflict with her.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The father and the victim in "Knuckle Up." While it is understandable for the father to want whatís best for his son, anyone who has lived with a parent like that - especially the kind who calls you every hour - knows just how frustrating it is. However, as the victim himself eventually realized, going all Blood Knight was an incredibly stupid thing to do.
  • Complete Monster: See CSI Verse.
  • Critical Research Failure: Granted, given this show is more fantasy-driven than fact-based, but some common police procedurals and conduct displayed here are blatantly disregarded and are downright illegal in real life. One very prevalent example was in the sixth episode of the series, Love Conquers Al where the killer's so-called best friend, Will Harrell, constantly stonewalled detectives regarding his knowledge of/involvement in the murder of a teenaged high school track star. At the end of the episode, he was seen still working at the garage as he was before, but in real life, he would have been arrested both for being an accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice.
    • A similar case is the accomplice's secretary in Start Up, who knew for years that her boss had given the killer the poison he used to kill the victim, but kept silent due to her fear of him. The boss is arrested as accessory, but she isn't.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The episodes Wishing, Kensington, Family, Baby Blues, Spiders and The Dealer (to name a few) are examples where the it's only the victim and usually one other person are the only sympathetic characters among a cast of monsters and jerkasses.
  • Designated Hero: Audrey Metz in World's End, who is portrayed as a liberated woman ahead of her time for... cheating on her husband.
    • Scotty Valens, namely in Shattered.
    • Nick Vera, too.
  • Designated Victim: The killer in It Takes A Village, his only real tormentor was his sadist teacher who he purposefully goaded every chance he got. The other kids only attacked him because they were forced to share his punishment over and over again. Yet they were the ones he wanted revenge against and not once did he acknowledge his culpability in the incident.
  • Designated Villain / The So-Called Coward: In universe in both Family and Bad Reputation the fatherís were called cowards by their sons for not letting honor before reason dictate their actions despite the fact that doing so would have made a bad situation far worse.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The mall shooters in Rampage are disturbingly popular.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: A number of the one-off victims have small fanbases of their own, particularly Sean "Coop" Cooper (Forever Blue) and Carrie Swett (That Woman).
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Family can be seen as this. Yes, the killer and the kidnapper do end up being arrested for their crimes, but the fate of the mother and daughter is unlikely to end well; the girl is still damaged from her years of growing up without a father, her knowledge of mother abandoning her at birth (and in a garbage can, no less) and being exposed to the harsh world of foster care (or it was in her case). The mother, on the other hand, lives hand-to-mouth in a group home, virtually has no skills to come by and is seen as still emotionally wrecked by the end of the episode, even with the Hope Spot between the two women reuniting and all.
    • This also applies to the victim's daughter in Gleen. Her mother was viciously murdered when she was only five years old, it still deeply affects her in the present day, twenty years later, and even with a caring and well-rounded supporter at her side (in the form of her father's fiancée), she outright admits to Lilly that she may as well kill herself if it's found out that her father was the one who killed her mother. He did and Lilly does end up arresting him, but out of respect to her, she can't bring herself to put the cuffs on him in front of her.
    • The bastard father from The Brush Man is finally arrested for murdering the salesman who tried to intervene with the abusive situation of the man's family. However, this still does little to undo the 40-plus years of torment he inflicted onto his wife, who's nowadays an alcoholic and his son, who hasn't accomplished much with his life due to all of his underlying issues.
  • Evil Is Cool: Averted. The show goes out of its way to show nearly every killer, including the somewhat sympathetic ones, as a wangsty, pathetic person making threadbare excuses for themselves. Even prolific Serial Killers like George Marks, Paul Shepard and John Smith, who might be Magnificent Bastards in another show, are depicted as ultimately sad, scared little men desperately trying and failing to seem bigger than they really are.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Doing the right thing will often get you killed.
    • A Dollar, A Dream, Stalker, and World's End all revolve around a loved one going through financial problems either losing their job or livelihood somehow/ and their child/wife telling them that they arenít allowed to have problems. The first two involved that loved one getting killed, the last ended up killing his wife. While portrayed sympathetically all of the murders stem from the fact that they couldnít instantly bounce back from a problem despite trying their hardest.
    • To be fair a heaping helping of Laser-Guided Karma was dished out in those episodes. The eldest daughter in A Dollar, A Dream spent the rest of her life as an emotional mess while her sister was adopted by a loving family. The daughter in Stalker had to watch her entire family be killed after attempting a double suicide with her brother (who may or may not have wanted to do it). And the wife was killed after abandoning her husband and child to their death to be with her lover.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Lilly and Scotty, who had a clear Unresolved Sexual Tension in the early seasons (even lampshaded by John Smith, who bluntly asks Scotty, "You get a piece of that? Bet you think about it from time to time.") Lilly and Stillman also have their fans, as do Kat and Vera.
  • Genius Bonus: Episode S4E23 episode is titled The Good Death, which deals with the premature death of a terminally ill man who was later discovered to be mercy killed by his wife, through an act of euthanasia. The term "Euthanasia" originated from the Greek term that means "good death."
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Late Returns was based on the real-life murder of Chandra Levy, an intern to a Congressman whom she was also sleeping with. The public opinion of the time, as well as the episode, pointed the blame at the Congressman, and the scandal ruined his career. Several years after the episode aired, the Congressman was found to be completely innocent.
    • In The Plan, the closing montage shows that the military academy's swim teacher is now a woman. Presumably she was hired because it's been revealed that the last teacher, a man, was a pedophile, but the recent rash of teacher/student sex cases means it isn't really any less likely that she isn't one herself.
      • Not to mention the show acknowledges female pedophiles exist, with the season 4 episode Blackout.
    • Also, in Love Conquers Al (which is based off of the real-life 1995 Texas Cadet murders), the victim based off of the murdered girl, Adrianne Jones, could be seen as unsympathetic because she cheated on a guy with a girlfriend, although her knowledge of if he had a girlfriend when they got together is left ambiguous. As it was revealed in the real-life trial of one of the killers, David Graham, he never slept with her and on top of that, didn't even get a ride home with him that night. He only said that to screw around with his girlfriend's head since she was so paranoid about him cheating on her.
    • Watching season three episode Death Penalty: Final Appeal and season five episode Spiders ends up this due to the actors in the episode (one playing a character who was innocent of the crime he was executed for and the other one playing the younger version of the killer) being accused of murder in real life.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Anytime Biggie says the word "Management" in the episode Metamorphosis is hysterical if you've seen Carnivŗle (where Michael J. Anderson plays virtually the same role and Management is a sinister figure).
    • Anyone who has watched one of D.L. Hughley's stand up special will find Breaking News hilarious.
    • 5 years after Thrill Kill, an episode about a man who went crazy and killed three kids because of a harmless prank, Ugly Americans produced a season finale involving someone going crazy over a harmless prank and killing everyone involved.
  • Hollywood Homely: The main victim, Martha, in Lonely Hearts. We're repeatedly told that she's extremely unattractive and has no chance with men, and even the detectives, in a surprising display of insensitivity, comment that her traditionally-handsome boyfriend "must've had some kind of fetish." In reality, while she's somewhat overweight and by no means supermodel-gorgeous, she comes across as an adorable Manic Pixie Dream Girl type apart from being an accomplice to a Serial Killer, that is and in the scene she first meets her lover she has a flower in her hair and is fairly pretty.
    • Also the victim's daughter and murderer in Blackout, who is continually put down as "plain" by her drop-dead-gorgeous mother. This is what the actress looks like when not made up to look frumpy.
    • Brown hair and drab clothes are apparently enough to make the killer in The Crossing the dowdy, matronly alternative to the glamorous, willowy, red-headed victim, even though they're about the same age.
    • The (innocent) frenemy of the victim in Factory Girls, depicted as pitifully jealous of her popularity at their workplace, as well as her happy marriage, to the point where she blatantly tries to interfere in the relationship by making herself look like the better option. All because she's considered an Old Maid at only 22 (by the standards of when the episode is set) and regarded as a Plain Jane when she is clearly no less attractive than any of the other women seen throughout the episode.
    • The victim in The Sleepover is considered unattractive and nerdy by the other girls who consider her unpopular. In reality, she's adorkable, and quite cute.
  • Ho Yay: The show has many acknowledged gay couples but One Night has an ambiguous relationship between Justin (who was almost a victim) and his friend Valentino that is often interpreted as this.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Alpha Bitch Brandi in The Sleepover. Is it any wonder that she's a bully with parents like that? Her brother Neil, who committed the secondary murder in the episode, is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • The eldest daughter in A Dollar, A Dream comes across as a spoiled Smug Snake that looked down on her mother for being unable to instantly adjust from being a housewife after her husband died. However given that her family ended up homeless and she spent the rest of her life thinking her mother abandoned her and her sister you do feel sorry for her.
  • Magnificent Bitch: Caroline Hargreave from The Runaway Bunny, to the point of being the only non-sympathetic villain in the show to win.
    • In Universe example: Johanna in Blood on the Tracks.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Alessandro from Sabotage is initially very sympathetic, for a Serial Killer... until it's revealed who he sent his final bomb to: his preteen niece, as he wanted his brother, whom he viewed as responsible for the Trauma Conga Line he had endured, to know the pain of losing a child as he had.
    • Considering that the people he targeted were people who were trying to help him the best way they could given the restrictions they were under his first murder was this as well.
      • Especially since his first victim was just a teen doing his job.
    • In Jurisprudence, Doherty having Kat transferred, simply as Revenge by Proxy to spite Stillman.
  • Narm: In Andy in C Minor the tension between deaf and hearing people is about as bad as 1960s racial tension, complete with everyone trying to pull apart two lovers because they belong to different worlds, and the victim having been killed because he wanted to get a cochlear implant.
    • It's hard to take the end montage of Dead Heat seriously when some of the people would flash back to them wearing those ridiculous jockey uniforms.
    • The hurricane of poker puns exchanged between the victim and his mercy-killer in The River causes his death scene to lose a bit of its bite.
    • The victim's utter devotion to disco in Disco Inferno, to the point where he throws away a dental scholarship to be a professional dancer, in light of what eventually happened to that fad.
    • Any episode where moderately old people try and fail to act REALLY old, for instance, Family 8108.
    • The villain in That Woman and her bizarre obsession with her high school chastity club, to the point that she's never had sex at all in ten years, not even with her own husband, which costs her her marriage.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize:
    • The Sleepover Daveigh Chase
    • World's End Ralph Waite
    • The Hen House Peter Graves
    • Red Glare Orson Bean
    • Free Love Dale Dye
    • Creatures of the Night: it's not even a spoiler that Barry Bostwick did it.
    • In Knuckle Up, Robert Picardo did it, and he wasn't even considered a suspect.
    • Soul Loretta Devine.
    • Ronny Cox appears as the victim's husband in Slipping. He's just as evil here.
    • Metamorphosis has an example of this that doubles as a Casting Gag. The direct killer is Carel Struycken, whose crime was then covered up by none other than his former Twin Peaks co-star Michael J. Anderson.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • A pre-fame Summer Glau and Mae Whitman among others have showed up as oneshot victims; Jennifer Lawrence appears as the present-day version of a teenage girl in another episode. TJ Thyne appears as the Asshole Victim's gay lover in as Season 1 episode two years before gaining fame as Dr. Jack Hodgins in Bones. Shailene Woodley makes an appearance in a Season 5 episode as a sister of a Amish murder victim. Kim Coates plays against type in a season five episode.
    • Jackals features a pre-Mike Ehrmantraut Jonathan Banks as John Clark, leader of a brutal biker gang. Yeah, he did it, one of the few episodes where the prime suspect was in fact the culprit.
      • The same episode features a pre-Neal Cassidy Michael Raymond-James as a biker.
    • David Hiney of Wizards of Waverly Place appears in Fireflies as the doer.
  • Rewatch Bonus: This happens frequently as new evidence puts previous flashbacks in a new light.
    • In the opening sequence of Forever Blue, this is said about the Cowboy Cop victim:
    "Isn't is about time he got married?"
    "You gotta go on a second date for that."
    • In that context, it makes him sound like a womanizer. However, once you realize that he's gay, you realize that he never went on a second date, not because he couldn't be satisfied by only one woman but because he couldn't be satisfied by any woman. To make matters worse, he was also secretly in love with his partner who he saw all the time. He probably thought that if he kept going out with women, he could suppress his feelings.
    • There's also the fact that his partner's wife is very cold to him. One thinks it's because he's late, then that it's because that they've been having an affair and she's angry about his sleeping around. Another flashback reveals it's because she walked in on him and her husband kissing.
    • There's also this little tidbit between the victim's partner and father right before the above mentioned exchange, when he arrives looking disheveled and tucking his shirt in:
    "Brawl or Babe?"
    "Brawl. Got a Babe." *cue wife looking very displeased*
    • Again, this makes him sound like a carefree irresponsible womanizer and sort of plays into the idea that he's got an affair with the wife but is possibly double-timing her. Upon rewatching one realizes just why his partner was so sure it was a 'brawl' and more importantly that the 'babe' is the partner himself.
    • Also in "Blood On The Tracks". Johanna's own husband mistakes Sarah for her while they and their friends are reviewing slides from their college days, driving home how much they resemble each other. This is never mentioned again during the episode, but later, after the detectives have figured out that Johanna has been impersonating Sarah for decades, one recalls that we only saw Jack's death, not Johanna's, that Johanna was present in every one of "Sarah's" flashbacks, and that Sarah was always portrayed very negatively in them. It seems odd that someone would present themselves so unflatteringly, until you remember that Sarah was the only one who supported Jack's plan to confess, while Johanna strongly objected.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Frankie Rafferty.
    • Moe Kitchener also seems to have very few fans even for a villain, owing largely to his arc being dragged out.
  • Seasonal Rot: Debatable. However, most long-time viewers agree that Season 7 was the point at which the series went downhill.
    • It did not help that both Lilly and Scotty went out of character and turned rogue against Moe Kitchner and Hector Cruz respectively over several episodes causing Arc Fatigue or that some episodes were merely retellings of older episodes.
    • Some also point to Season 6 with the Scotty-Frankie storyline as another point of decline.
  • Squick: Most of the scenes showing the victims' bodies come off as this.
  • Strawman Has a Point: When Moe Kitchener fills a complaint for harassment against Lilly for stalking him. When you think about it, she has no evidence but a Dying Dream to prove he was the one person that tried to kill her in Into the Blue.
    • When Patrick Doherty points out that Stillman's repetitive actions to protect his team when they keep Jumping Off the Slippery Slope are more counterproductive than anything.
    • Patrick Bubley is portrayed as unreasonable for wanting to perpetuate the Cycle of Revenge against the Latino Gang Bangers that killed his brothers; while this is true, the fact is that the cycle only began in the first place because the cops assumed his brothers were Gang Bangers themselves and put little effort into their cases, and this aspect of the plot goes strangely unaddressed in the episode.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Not that it is very important, but Thomas F. Wilson plays a person of interest in an episode about the 1973 murder of a college student... who was already 'old' in 1973, and died before the investigation was reopened in the mid-2000s.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Several examples throughout the series, including:
    • The killers from The Hitchhiker and Dog Day Afternoons.
    • Brandi, the Alpha Bitch from The Sleepover (and some would say her brother, as well.)
    • Leah, the victim's female "friend" from Wishing.
    • The girlfriend from Family.
    • The fathers from Jackals and Blank Generation. One was imprisoned for a despicable crime (stealing benefit payments from disabled and dead veterans) instead of being on the outside and protecting his daughter and the other was an Insufferable Genius / Jerk Ass whose cold, unloving attitude drove his son to join a dangerous cult.
    • Speaking of fathers, there is also the father from Justice. His 18-year-old daughter was raped and when she came to him and told him what happened, his response was "Nice girls don't invite boys up to their room." As a result of his words, the poor girl ends up eating her gun. It's only then that he's remorseful and says to the (sympathetic and willing to help, but her superiors didn't take the matter seriously) officer, "Why didn't anyone help my little girl?"
    • The so-called best friend from Kensington.
    • Scotty at times. There were so many bad things that happened to the people in his life (his mother's attack, his brother being molested as a kid and being haunted by it and what happened to his fiancee), but these things happened to them instead of him. In addition, a lot of the bad things that occurred in his life, such as his suspension, were of his own doing.
    • Ariel in The Sleepover as well given the fact that not only did she not tell anyone what happened but spent all those years as Brandiís supplier.
    • The eldest daughter in A Dollar, A Dream came across as incredibly spoiled always blaming her mother for not being able to fix the horrible situation they were in. when she found out her mother was killed she changed her stance from her mother abandoned her and her sister to her mother killed herself to get away from them. It can be seen as a form of Laser-Guided Karma that her life turned out completely different from her sister's.
    • The killer in "It Takes A Village" barely avoids this. In fact the only reason he isnít this is that the kids decided to cut off his finger instead of just beating the crap out of him and even then its hard to feel sorry for him given that he kept intentionally goading his teacher, that and his motive rant makes him come across as having a serious god complex.
    • The hypocrisy and sheer patheticness of the killer and victim in Lonely Hearts make them this. Especially since they, not the con artist, were the one who escalated it to that point.
    • Done in universe in Strange Fruit while one of the suspects questioned didnít have anything against the wife of the killer personally, the fact that she was ignorant of the goings on in her own home made him not like her.
    • Pretty much everyone in Knuckle Up: the only thing that saved the victim from this was him realizing just how depraved he was acting. Too bad it took someone dying for that to sink in.
    • Johanna from Blood on the Tracks killed her husband and best friend all so she could keep her wealthy life.
    • The killer in Officer Down do to being Too Dumb to Live.
    • Nick on occasion. The events of Flashover in which a man he wrongfully accused of murdering his children some years ago has been killed in prison and then causes him to go into a downward spiral involving drunk driving, finding out his ex-wife has remarried and had children with someone else and temporarily getting suspended come off as Laser-Guided Karma more than anything else.
  • The Untwist: 8:03 AM. The cases are reopened because it was discovered that the murders took place at exactly the same time on the same day, and Kat hoped that a connection could be discovered. Turns out there was none; it was a total coincidence, although the victims did know each other, something that wasn't apparent in the original investigation.
    • Also occurs in Debut and Hubris, in which the killer turned out to be... exactly who everyone thought was the killer. The only reason the cases become as long and involved as they do is due to the villains' attempts to deflect suspicion off themselves.
    • "The Brush Man": The killer is the only suspect who has nothing positive to say about the victim.
    • Used interestingly in Creatures of the Night. They know who did it from the beginning; the real challenge is proving it before the guy walks due to a ridiculous deal he took when he confessed to prior crimes.
  • Wangst: Many of the doers' confessions and rationale for the stupidity of their actions come off as this. Special mention though goes to Dale Wilson in Fireflies and Gibby Hanes's tearful admission in 8:03 A.M..
    • The killing couple in Love Conquers Al, who apparently believed their high school romance to be one of the all-time greatest love stories in history.
    • Or the guy in Saving Sammy, who thought killing his girlfriend's parents was a good idea.
    • Lyle in Wilkommen, who literally killed to get a part in a musical.
  • What an Idiot: While the revelation of who the doer was in Time to Crime was heartbreaking, to say the least, that doesn't really change the fact that he was a complete and utter moron. Dude buys a gun that he intends to use to kill someone from the same person he intends to kill, then instead of, say, shooting him right there, he waits until the guy is in the middle of a crowded park, then fires randomly into said crowded park, and not only misses his target, but hits his own sister by accident.
    • Perhaps he knew that shooting the guy right then and there would immediately focus suspicion on him, whereas shooting at him via a drive-by might leave the case unsolved? (the guy was well known as a local criminal and there would have been no shortage of suspects). Maybe he had second thoughts about killing the guy and only the realization that he was going to continue to be a problem for him spurred the killing?
    • Most likely as he himself said he was just copying what he saw from a television show. While incredibly intelligent he was still just twelve years old the thought of shooting the guy right then and there probably never entered his mind. Also he was looking for an aliba. He chose that night because both his parents were out but knew he was home.
    • The agent in Witness Protection sleeping with his clientís wife as well as not telling him he was living near one of the people he thought he was testifying against.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/ColdCase