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Series / Common Law

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Like Marriage. Only with bullets.

Common Law is an American series following two Los Angeles Police Department homicide detectives, Travis Marks and Wes Mitchell, who can't stand each other. The constant bickering between the two partners prompts their commanding officer, Captain Phil Sutton, to send them to a couple's therapist, Dr. Emma Ryan, in hopes of resolving the situation.

Not to be confused with The Common Law.

Common Law provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Work vs. All Play: Wes is all work, Travis is all play.
  • Amicable Exes: Wes and Alex
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Wes aggressively telling off the "Iceman" when he insults Travis.
  • Big Eater: Travis, as displayed in episode "Odd Couple", who consumed just about everything Wes cooked.
  • Buddy Cop Show
  • By-the-Book Cop: Wes
  • The Casanova: Travis, who has dated almost every woman in the precinct.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: When the guys have to see a different couple's therapist, they are less than thrilled to discover that the guy is going through a bitter, nasty divorce.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Wes makes a habit of complaining about things (especially Travis' carefree lifestyle), but he's always presented as the one who's wrong.
  • Cowboy Cop: Travis
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wes
  • Dirty Cop: The elite SIS unit are all dirty cops who steal evidence, commit robberies and have no qualms about killing another cop.
  • Enhance Button: Averted. When they can't quite make out the face of a suspect in a photograph, they get a police artist to draw a composite sketch based on the features they can see.
  • Erotic Dream: Wes and then Travis for Dr. Ryan.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Travis
    Gay Neo-Nazi:''' You're black, but you have the most amazing green eyes. So, I don't really know what I'm feeling.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Wes. He refers to Alex as his wife, though they've been divorced for over a year. He moved into the hotel where they've spent anniversaries, he still owns half of the house, etc. It's come up in therapy a few times.
  • Freudian Excuse: Travis and his foster care.
  • Game of Chicken: At the end of "Odd Couples", Wes and a criminal drive directly towards each other; she breaks first and swerves away, crashing her car.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Captain Sutton had some serious anger issues before he went to therapy.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: One of the cornerstones of the series.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Only Wes is allowed to trash Travis. Not you.
  • Landmine Goes Click: Wes steps on one in "The T Word". Travis hastily weights it down with some buckets of water and they get mostly out of range before the explosion hits.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In the "Odd Couple" episode, a Hotel employee mistook Wes and Travis to be a gay couple, when Wes goes to explain that they are "not gay", Travis cuts him off by flicking his ear. They decided to use the "gay couple" situation as a cover for spying on their target.
  • Neat Freak: Wes, even in surroundings that he has no ownership of. While Travis is only this when it comes to his own home.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
    • Det. David "Pacman" Paek introduced Travis and Wes to each other and as a result they solved a major case and got promoted to Robbery Homicide Division. Grateful, they help him solve some cases and get noticed by the higher ups in the department. As a result he gets offered a position in an elite undercover unit. A few months later Pacman is murdered by his new Dirty Cop partners.
    • Wes pulled his gun on Travis to stop him from killing a Dirty Cop who murdered their friend. It almost ends Wes's career and allowed a Dirty Cop get away with murder. On top of that Travis never thanked Wes or even acknowledged what really happened.
  • Noodle Incident: The reason Captain Sutton sent Travis and Wes to couples' therapy is because Wes pulled his gun on Travis. The circumstances or reasons behind that event are not revealed until the twelfth episode "Gun!"
  • Not That Kind of Partner: In the pilot, Wes and Travis realize in the middle of their therapy session that the rest of the group thinks that Wes and Travis are domestic partners as opposed to police partners. The fact that it was a couples' therapy group probably had something to do with that assumption.
  • Odd Couple: Wes and Travis. And amusingly enough, episode nine is titled as such.
  • Percussive Maintenance: In a flashback we see a pre-therapy Captain Sutton taking his anger out on a malfunctioning photocopier by taking off his shoe and banging with it on the broken machine.
  • Police Procedural: Obviously.
  • Pun-Based Title: The show's title plays on both the legal concept of common law, as the protagonists are law enforcement officers, and the concept of common-law marriage, with the protagonists acting like an argumentative couple and being forced to attend couple's therapy.
  • Punishment Detail: When they violate the terms of their prior inquiry, Wes and Travis are offered two choices: Go back to their original and less prestigious departments; or remain a team and end up working pawn shops detail.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Wes and Travis. As their chief puts it, without Travis' impulsiveness Wes would overthink every case and never make an arrest; without Wes' caution and meticulousness, Travis would get himself killed. It's the reason he opts for the unorthodox solution of couple's counseling, rather than just splitting them up.
  • Reluctant Gift: Wes is usually quite reluctant to lend anything to Travis, since he doesn't trust him to take good care of it (not even a stapler — Travis already lost five). The short tug-o-war happens once with a pen.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Kendall, for Ellen. Justified by Kendall stating that Ellen transferred out, due to her breakup with Travis in the pilot.
  • Swapped Roles: Wes and Travis are assigned to do this by their therapist; by the end of the episode they've turned it into a competition.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Averted towards the end of the first season when they admit therapy has helped them and even return to sessions despite no longer being forced to do so.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. The two main characters are in therapy. But they don't benefit too much because Therapy Is for the Weak.
  • Through His Stomach: Apparently Travis can be instantly wooed if fed occasionally.
  • What The Hell, Therapy Group?: When Wes told the therapy group that he didn't sleep with a woman that he was dating because he found out that she was engaged, they all act like Wes was being an idiot.
  • Woman Scorned: Jonelle the coroner is holding a grudge against Travis because he didn't call her after sex; in the pilot she and Wes bond over imagining ways to murder Travis.
  • Wunza Plot: One's a street-wise loudmouth with a lengthy list of disgruntled ex-girlfriends. One's a logical former lawyer who's still in love with his ex-wife. Together, they fight crime.