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Victim of the Week

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In a World… in which Start to Corpse is a statistic vital to drinking games around the globe, it is necessary to have a Victim of the Week. No victim, no corpse. No corpse, no drinking.

Bad outcome.

Even if you are not going to kill the victim, you still need one. Bad guys need to be bad to a person, and when a villain Kicks the Dog, well, somebody needs to be the poor dog in question. Your hero is not going to look very heroic if he just runs around arresting people for stuff like abuse-of-lawnchair. It is important to establish that the lawnchair was being kept by a saintly old widow as a fond reminder of her beloved, deceased husband. The bereaved widow is now bereft of her lawnchair and is inconsolable. Justice must be done. This lawnchair abuser is going down!

Did we say "lawnchair abuser?" Lawnchair terrorist, more like! Pickin' on little old ladies...

The point being that, due to the compressing nature of having only 42 minutes to do the whole thing, a writer has to find a "sympathy" gong for the victim early and hit it hard. Sometimes subtlety may have to go by the wayside.

Common in series that use Monster of the Week or Mystery of the Week. In more supernatural series, having a victim of the week is also a very good way to showcase the special powers or other abilities of this week's monster or villain that the hero must overcome in order to save the day.

It should be noted that often in Mystery of the Week shows, the Victim of the Week is not sympathetic at all. This is due to the fact that there need to be enough suspects wanting the person dead.

If it always seems to be the same person that fills this role (in a non-fatal way, obviouslynote ), then it's a Designated Victim.

If the character is the point-of-view character in the opening, you have Intro-Only Point of View.

Compare Patient of the Week. See also Woobie of the Week and Joggers Find Death.


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Dead Victims

    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed. Even when it's not a murder (which is rare), there's always a kidnapping or robbery (usually leading to murder).
  • If you're in the Fist of the North Star universe and Kenshiro isn't dealing with some Arc Villain or helping you, pray for your luck and stay away from anyone with Mohawks, because you're likely to be bullied, mugged and killed by them.
  • If you're in the Inuyasha universe, you better pray that your occupation isn't "Random Villager". If it is, chances are you're going to have your soul stolen, get aged rapidly, eaten, decapitated, torn to shreds, ritualistically sacrificed or used as a human shield.
  • In Blood-C this is taken to a new extreme with almost each episode, going from a single, unnamed character dying rather quickly to several main characters dying in a single episode.

    Comic Books 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bones almost every week. The victims are described in the episode titles as The (someone) in the (somewhere).
  • See almost any episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • And most episodes of Supernatural.
    • Also the very premise of Angel, who relies on the victim to come and seek his help (or to appear in visions).
  • Criminal Minds usually has someone, be it a young woman, or a whole family, or a couple, or even one of the agents being tortured or in some other way brought close to death by the Monster of the Week ("monster" here meaning "psychopathic killer") and the BAU tracking down the killer and saving them in the nick of time...unless the plot calls for something otherwise.
  • Most Law & Order spinoffs, particularly Criminal Intent, which starts off with the crime.
    • Although a few SVU victims fall into the "aren't dead" category.
  • And, of course...CSI, CSI: Miami, and CSI: NY.
  • Also, Monk.
  • And Columbo.
  • NCIS, obviously (although not always dead victims).
  • Cold Case also has a victim of the week, but tends to focus on them much more than other shows of its genre.
  • Castle features a victim of the week - as is common for any crime procedural or mystery genre show.
  • See every last episode of Six Feet Under.
  • Murder, She Wrote
  • NUMB3RS has a few episodes where many of the victims are dead (although like NCIS, there are living victims).
  • Justice
  • Gunsmoke. At least one commentator has noted that, in the real-life wild-frontier Dodge City, there wouldn't have been enough murders over the course of a few decades to account for one season of Gunsmoke.
  • Raines is an interesting case, as he is a homicide detective who would hallucinate the Victim of the Week.
  • Every episode of Pushing Daisies with the twist that Ned can raise the dead for a minute and thus can question the week's murder victim. Not that they're always all that helpful.
  • Harper's Island's entire premise is that there is at least one victim every week.
  • Most episodes of Dexter follow the titular character around as he dispatches the victim of the week.
  • Almost any episode of any series of Kamen Rider.
  • 666 Park Avenue: So far, every episode's had at least one.
  • In Lessons for a Perfect Detective Story every episode involves at least one death.
  • Ellery Queen
  • Murdoch Mysteries usually starts with a murder, with one (And sometimes more!) happening later on if there wasn't.
  • Midsomer Murders always has at least one, and usually more than one.
  • Agatha Raisin
  • Justified in The Coroner as the coroner only gets involved if there is a death to investigate.
  • Vera: Every episode starts with one murder, however some episodes will have more bodies appearing later on.
  • Each episode of Homicide: Life on the Street had at least two, with the focus being split between the detectives investigating the different murders. It's also played with, as some investigations wind up lasting for multiple episodes.
  • Nearly every episode of Walker, Texas Ranger involves a murder mystery.

    Video Games 
  • The Ace Attorney series. In all of 'em, somebody's gotta get whacked for there to be an intriguing murder case.
    • Subverted in 3-2, where the case in question is actually a theft. Then played straight when a murder actually does occur.
    • Similarly, Investigations has a case involving a kidnapping. Not only does a murder occur, but the kidnap is revealed to have been staged.
  • Criminal Case releases a new chapter every week, and since all their cases deals with murder...
  • Danganronpa: In each Chapter, Monokuma gives the students a motive to commit murder; Soon, someone is killed and the protagonists has to solve whodunnit. This applies to the killers as well, since they're immediately executed after being found guilty.

    Western Animation 
  • Superjail!: In nearly every episode, some inmates do wind up dead partly at the hands of the Warden. Hell, Lord Stingray's wife Mistress Kilda is murdered in "Lord Stingray Crash Party" by Alice.

Living Victims

    Anime & Manga 
  • Many Magical Girl shows use the less fatal variety of this.
    • Sailor Moon is a primary offender: every week a new character with a backstory, an example of how the victim is better than Usagi, and a pure heart to exploit (or whatever the MacGuffin happens to be for that season).
      • Everyone of the Inner Senshi became a victim in season 3. Rei was even the first of the whole season. In Minako's case, it's Played for Laughs because she was jealous that everyone except her got their Pure Heart Crystal stolen once (to her, it meant she didn't have a pure heart). The Outer Senshi Uranus and Neptune also became victims, but in their case, it's very dramatic and the two episodes had completely different mood than the others, except Usagi's two episodes that were more dramatic than Rei's, Makoto's or Ami's.
      • It continues on in Season 4 with Dream Mirrors taking the place of Pure Heart Crystals, and the Inner Senshi once again having an episode with them being a Victim of the Week. Rei is once again the first victim of the Senshi, and Minako's is once again Played for Laughs when she dates two of the villains at the same time and they proceed fight over who gets to look in her dream mirror. Usagi's case is even more dramatic than the last. This time her dream mirror being shattered.
    • Ojamajo Doremi uses this about half the time, with the victims mostly chosen from the Ojamajos' classmates and family. Notably, there are Victims but no Monsters Of The Week; the problems are all emotional ones in which the Ojamajos really have no business interfering.
    • Shugo Chara! does this as well. In just about any episode not dealing with the main villains or overall story, you can count on seeing a kid with an emotional issue or unfulfilled problem, resulting in their Heart's Egg being X'd or ?'d and then cleansed by Amu.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! has people with wilting Heart Flowers turned into Desertrian (the Monster of the Week, combined with an inanimate object) who the Cures need to purify. Notably, both Erika and Itsuki were Victims who then became magical girls themselves.
    • Doki Doki Pretty Cure has a similar concept, where people with selfish hearts called Psyches turn dark and become Jikochuus. Notable, the villains enhance or corrupt the victims' selfishness with force. In contrast to Heartcatch, almost every victim is just a random bystander.
    • HappinessCharge Pretty Cure! takes this even further, where people will imprisoned in mirrors and their positive or negative emotions will turn into Saiarks. The villains can capture multiple victims at once to create one or multiple Saiarks. Two reoccurring characters, a classmate and a major supporting character's younger sister, hold the dubious honor of being the week's victim twice.
    • Go! Princess Pretty Cure in this season, victims are locked away into cages of despair, along with their dreams, to form Zetsuborgs. Major supporting character Yui manages to surpass HappinessCharge Pretty Cure! becoming a victim on three separate occasions.
    • HuGtto! Pretty Cure, victims are targeted when their anger or sadness fills them with negative energy, creating an Oshimaida.
  • Being a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs, Ramen Fighter Miki subverts this trope because the various non-fatal victims of the week that we met at the series are regulars in her Debut Queue (they will not solve their problems) or people who will solve their problems themselves, despite the help the protagonist gives.
  • Ai Enma, the Hell Girl, frequently deals with victims of this type, who have often suffered horribly at the hands of the tormentors that they want sent to Hell.
  • Guardian Fairy Michel has whoever Salome and her gang are antagonizing, or whatever the fairy of the week is affecting adversely. This can range from one person to an entire town.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Burn Notice, the Victim of the Week always gets a caption that says "(Victim Name): THE CLIENT".
  • The clients in Leverage fall into this category, too.
  • The A-Team: Whether it was a person being threatened about the fate of their loved ones if they don't shut up, a small company about to lose their business because of a larger, ruthless competitor, or a woman being forced to marry a Gold Digger, the titular group was on top of it. In some episodes, like "Skins", there was a dead victim as well, but it was much rarer.
    "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A Team."
  • Michael Knight of Knight Rider, as stated in the Series Bible, helps a different person (usually a woman) who is being messed with by bad guys every week.
  • Robin Hood has a guest-star in every episode that Robin has to help; usually an oppressed peasant. In the third season, the show gained a Designated Victim in the form of Kate.
  • A couple of Kamen Rider series have Monsters of the Week spawn from regular humans, which brings in a Victim of the Week aspect:
  • The Fall Guy had Stuntman/Bounty Hunter Colt Seavers help out various people in trouble in every episode, with help from his cousin Howie.
  • About half the time on Person of Interest, the titular person is someone who is going to be the victim of a violent crime and the protagonists have to intervene before that happens (the rest of the time, the person is someone who's going to commit a crime and they need to figure out who the victim is). It has also done every possible variation on these two possible states, everything from a single person being a victim of one crime and a perpetrator of another to a character intentionally gaming the system by ordering a hit on herself.
  • Many but not all episodes of Doctor Who have some variation of this with a dead or living victim, especially the opening segment in the new series.
  • Thunderbirds has an unusual variation of this, as the X of the Week can vary from people in danger, to entire machines like the Fireflash, Sidewinder, Crablogger, and the Skythrust. Most of the time, said machines end up being destroyed.

    Video Games 
  • For the Ace Attorney series, in addition to the dead victim in each case, there's also a falsely accused defendant whose name you have to clear.

     Western Animation