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Series / Life (2007)

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Charlie Crews: We have to use his strength against him.
Dani Reese: What's his strength?
Crews: His weakness.
Reese: His weakness is his strength?
Crews: Exactly, it's like the one-handed clap.
Reese: Are you really Zen?
Crews: I'm Zen-ish.

Life is an American crime drama television series.

Officer Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) was Wrongly Accused of murdering his business partner and his family and spent twelve years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Now, back as a detective, he's trying to figure out who actually committed the crime and why he was sent away.

There are a few things notable about Life: in prison, Crews found a copy of The Path to Zen and thus, as a result of long years of (a) being in prison while (b) studying Zen philosophy on his own and (c) having the crap beaten out of him by other inmates, he has come out of prison as The Exotic Detective, a cross between a Cloudcuckoolander, a Defective Detective, and a Cowboy Cop. To top it off, Crews won a huge lawsuit against the police department (which included his reinstatement and promotion to Detective), so he's basically a crime-solving Eccentric Millionaire.

Other characters include Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) his alcoholic, ex-drug addict partner, Ted Earley (Adam Arkin) his financial advisor, roommate, and friend from prison, Constance Griffiths (Brooke Langton) his lawyer and with whom he shares Unresolved Sexual Tension, Karen Davis (Robin Weigert) his captain), Bobby Stark (Brent Sexton) his former partner from before he was convicted and Kevin Tidwell (Donal Logue) as the second season's commanding officer.

Life premiered on September 26, 2007 on NBC. On May 4, 2009, NBC announced its cancellation, a month after the final episode had been aired.

Not to be confused with Discovery Channel/The BBC nature documentary miniseries Life.

This series provides examples of:

  • Accident, Not Murder: A man is found with a bullet hole through the back of his head, but no bullet. Turns out it was a bizarre accident involving an icicle in a vegetable freezer.
  • Action Girl: Dani. Seever as well, to a lesser extent.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Bobby gets an in-universe example in "Hit Me Baby" and "Shelf Life", when Dani leaves for a short-term gig with the FBI. Charlie requests him as a temporary partner until a replacement detective is found. Subverted from an audience perspective, since Bobby ends up not contributing much to the first case and plays a similar role to his usual in the second half of the episode. He's there more in "Shelf Life" but still not as important as Dani.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Subverted. He's poisoned and almost impaled, but ultimately recovers.
  • Agent Mulder: Charlie, sort of. Although he doesn't believe in everything (he's just open to the possibility), he acts very mystic and cryptic most of the time. Interestingly enough, though, Dani isn't an Agent Scully, and is usually willing to play along with Crews, since he gets results.
  • Alliterative Name: Averted - Charlie Crews' two names do NOT start with the same sound.
  • And Starring: "With Donal Logue. And Adam Arkin."
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Charlie can buy pretty much whatever he wants on a whim. Justified, since he earned it as compensation after serving twelve years in prison for murders he didn't commit.
  • Arc Symbol: Boxes in "Find Your Happy Place".
  • Arc Words: "There was six. There is five. There could just as easily be four." It's referring to the number of conspirators, one of whom was murdered to protect the secret.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Deliberately invoked by Crews.
    Tidwell: Are you thinking about what I'm thinking about?
    Crews: Reese in the shower? No.
  • The Atoner: Kyle Hollis, who thought he "got right" and ended up raising the surviving daughter of the family he murdered as her new and devoted father.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: Linda Park's coroner character in "5 Quarts" is constantly eating because she's pregnant.
  • Badass Biker: Double-subverted with William Ford in "I Heart Mom." He's an outlaw biker who wears angora sweaters and runs an antique shop, but is still quite capable of acting the brutal gangster when messed with.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Crews is definitely a badass, and he is almost always dressed in a sharp suit.
  • Bad Boss: Roman Nevikov, who is known to kill his own people when they no longer serve a purpose. Literally no one was sad to see him die.
  • Bad Humor Truck: "Find Your Happy Place" has a drug-dealing ice cream truck.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bobby takes Charlie alone into his garage and pulls out a gun...before happily handing it over, revealing that it's Charlie's old gun and that he's been holding onto all of Charlie's belongings certain in his belief that his friend would be exonerated and released.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Don't make Crews angry. Just don't. It will not end well for you.
  • Big Bad: Roman Nevikov the ruthless Russian mobster Crews is after.
  • The Big Board: Charlie's conspiracy wall.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Canyon Flowers". The killer is caught, but the identity of a serial killer's grandson is leaked to the public turning his life into a media circus and causing his girlfriend to break up with him.
    • In his first appearance, Roman gets away because of his powerful connections with law enforcement and the husband of the woman he killed finds out she never loved him, but at least her fellow "Natasha" is able to leave behind her sordid past life.
  • Book Ends: The first episode ends with Crews surveying an orange grove that he'd recently purchased. The season two finale takes place in that same grove.
    • Also, the first present-day shot of Crews in the first episode is of him staring up at the sun; the final shot of the finale is of him raising his head and smiling up into the sunlight.
  • Broken Ace: Crews is a Chick Magnet and a talented detective with lots of money to burn, but he's obsessed with finding out who framed him and he's still very bitter about his wife having left him.
  • Broken Bird: Reese who used to be a model cop. She became a drug addict after an undercover assignment on a narcotics case, before the series started. She's recovered from it but the trauma remained, and she uses alcohol or sex to help her cope. "Tear Asunder" suggests that she sees self-destructive behavior as a way of punishing herself.
  • Buddy Cop Show:
    • Subverted, as Crews and Reese aren't very close off-duty or on duty. They do grow an increasingly symbiotic relationship over the course of the show, and they clearly take their partnership seriously and are willing to go out on a limb for each other - but as partners more than close friends.
    • Crews and Bobby seemed to have had this kind of partnership in the back-story. He's one of the few people from Charlie's old life who never denounced him (including his wife). As a result, Bobby spent several years as a pariah within the department and may have stalled his career permanently.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Charlie; he acts very weird at times, but his time in prison also made him an extremely good investigator.
    • Seever is a cop who is also a lawyer, which means she often ends up talking about the legal aspects of a case in the middle of the investigation.
  • Buried Alive: In "Dig a Hole", Crews and Reese receive a case where the body of a Zen instructor is found in a construction site. What makes the case more interesting is the fact the body was buried alive.
  • Cain and Abel: Though it isn't revealed until the season 2 finale, Crews and Roman. Crews was being set up so he'd fall in with the conspiracy and become an heir, of sorts. Roman wanted to be the favored son.
  • Call-Back:
  • From the season two finale: "I am not attached to that gun." In the pilot, he was "not attached" to his very expensive car.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: In 'Fill It Up', Charlie decides that his luxury car is too conspicuous, so he offers to give it away to one of the ladies in the car next to him at a stoplight. Once she realizes he's serious, she happily takes him up on the offer.
    "This isn't some trick?"
    "The trick is to not become attached to the car."
  • Catchphrase: "Is that zen?"
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Played with during the first season, as Charlie has no idea how to work a cell phone. He's more proficient during season two, but most investigation-related calls still go to his partner.
  • Character Development: Charlie couldn't seem to complete any interaction without saying something zennishly absurd in the first season, but by the second he could hold well-reasoned, focused conversations. Considering the zen was implied to be a crutch for holding back his darkness, it seems time has allowed him to put some of the darkness behind him. By the end of the series he's genuinely quirky rather than possibly crazy.
  • Christmas Carolers: In one episode a group of carolers are startled and horrified when Charlie hits a suspect dressed as one of Santa's elves with a fruitcake.
  • Christmas Episode: Crews and Reese investigate a mall murder on Black Friday (thus averting the Thanksgiving Episode). Crews actually lampshades how early they are for Christmas.
  • Clear My Name: In a rare example, the accused has already been cleared. Legally, at least. There's still a large number of people who believe he committed the crime.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mentioned above, but here's a classic Lampshading at the wake of a murder victim.
    Charlie: I'd like to come to my own wake.
    Dani: But then you'd be dead.
    Charlie: Except for that part. Just to see who'd show up, see what they'd say. Pretty girls in black dresses...weeping quietly in small groups. Or all by themselves...
    Dani: Lemme know when you touch down.
  • Connect the Deaths: The Serial Killer from the "Find Your Happy Place" episode killed his victims by leaving them to suffocate in steamer trunks. When plotted out on a map, the trunk locations make a smiley face.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: And in real life as well.
  • Creator Provincialism: One episode had characters say that a local mall was the nth largest in the world, with all their suggestions being within the top ten. No American malls were in the top ten largest in the world during the years of the show's run.
  • Cool Car: Charlie starts the series out driving a Bentley. After it gets crushed (by his own tractor) he switches to a Buick Grand National (with a hand-built throttle box!) and it's even cooler. However, Charlie and Dani mostly drive their department-issued Ford 500 everywhere.
  • Cowboy Cop: Charlie again, sort of. He has a tendency to bend rules and go off on his own.
  • Crime Time Soap: Sure, there are cases, but there's also Charlie's and Dani's personal lives.
    • The dinner scene from "Evil... and His Brother Ziggy" may be the most hilarious example.
  • Da Chief: Lieutenant Karen Davis. Replaced in season 2 by Capt. Brian Tidwell. (Slight subversion of the Suspiciously Similar Substitute in that Davis is demoted to Sergeant, but still appears on the show.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Crews and Reese are both good at this, which occasionally leads to Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Death Glare: Crews has a good one, and is not shy about using it to get witnesses to cooperate.
    "You want to help us." "Why?" "Because I'm three seconds away from deciding I don't like you."
  • Death in the Clouds: In "Re-Entry", the team investigates the death of a retired NASA pilot in mid-flight. The suspects are the pilot's son, and the pilot's business partner.
  • Defective Detective: Charlie is pretty messed up from the murder of his business partner's family, as well as being framed for the crime and subsequently spending 12 years in prison.
    • His partner Dani Reese is a recovering alcoholic/drug addict, habits she picked up while working undercover.
  • Dirty Cop: Many police are suspected or actually involved in the conspiracy to frame Charlie. Several FBI agents are on the Russian mob's payroll.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "3 Women". An ex-con is framed for murder because he stopped writing his pen pal after getting out of prison.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Charlie, unless he's on the trail of the people who framed him.
  • Dynamic Entry: In "One", Charlie does this with a car.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Invoked by Reese to get Tidwell to stop seeing her as a Tomboy.
    Reese: [Standing naked in front of Tidwell] Now, I want you to take a good long look. And I want you to think about this next time you feel like calling me "dude".
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: To be fair, given that a large part of the show deals with a conspiracy formed by ex-police officers, just about everyone in the show is fair game.
  • Evil Counterpart: To some extent, Roman for Crews.
    • Kyle Hollis, the man who killed the Seybolts. He and Crews both found some sort of spiritual awakening. Crews wants to clear his name while Hollis is The Atoner.
  • Evil Gloating: Not too often, but the hitman... woman... hitwoman in one episode spends a while describing the course a poison will take, enough time that she's interrupted before she can deliver a killing blow.
  • Faux Documentary: Season 1 had a series of short clips presented as talking-head interviews between various minor supporting characters and an unseen interviewer. They occur less frequently during the second season and end at the beginning of the series finale, when Roman shoots the interviewer dead.
  • Fair Cop:
    • Dani. It's even more noticeable in season 2, where she starts wearing her hair down.
    • Jane Seever, Crews' temporary partner is pretty easy on the eyes and also doubles as a Hello, Attorney!.
    • Crews, as well being a Chick Magnet.
  • Fish out of Water: Crews, having spent the last 12 years in prison, is woefully unprepared for all the newfangled technology that's sprung up.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the pilot, Charlie kept saying he is not attached to his beautiful car. At the end of the episode, Ted runs it over with a tractor.
    • In the season one finale, Mark Rawls says to Crews that it 'feels like earthquake weather'. Next season, in the episode where Rawls next appears, there is an earthquake and everything goes to hell.
    • Ted says he couldn't go back to jail, and Charlie reassures him "no one is going back to jail, Ted". Naturally, by the end of the episode, Ted, naturally is framed and arrested.
  • Found the Killer, Lost the Murderer: The end of season one. They catch the guy who actually killed the Seybolts, but not the people who framed Crews.
  • Fruit of the Loon: Charlie, all the time. As he explains when asked about it, you can't get fresh fruit in prison.
  • Fun-Hating Villain: The serial killer in "Find Your Happy Place", who feels excluded from others' happiness, although given what a Smug Snake he is, this isn't a surprise.
  • Genre Blindness: In one episode, Charlie warns Bobby not to approach the house he's observing until Charlie arrives. Naturally, as soon as the target closes the blinds, he enters the house without Charlie and gets into trouble.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Someone in production seems to have been of this opinion, because pretty much any time the characters end up at a wild party, there's usually a pair or two of girls hooking up somewhere in the background.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Charlie spent a lot of time in solitary confinement. A lot of time, with nobody to talk to but himself and no distractions but an old book on Zen.
    • He outlines it in six-month increments to Hollis in "Fill It Up".
      Charlie: How's it going in there, Kyle? The first six months I was in solitary, I did push-ups every day and I never talked to myself. The next six months, I stopped doing push-ups and I...I confess...I did talk a little to myself. The six months after that...those next six months, Kyle? You don't wanna know what happened then.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: When we meet Arthur Tins in season 1, he's a low-rate con artist whom Crews sends to prison for a parole violation. When we see him again in season 2 after he's escaped, he's a hardened criminal who murders one man, robs an armored car and takes a family hostage.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Constance and Seever are both attractive attorneys.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How do you stop a Professional Killer who kills people using household objects from escaping? Put the diet soda you asked her for in her gas tank. Not to mention the fact that the victim was a hitman himself, who she killed because the economy was bad and she didn't need the competition.
  • Holy Backlight: Often used to highlight Charlie at important moments, with the most dramatic example probably being the season one finale, "Fill It Up." Also pops up again in "Re-Entry".
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: At 6'1, Charlie/Damian stands about 10 inches taller than Dani/Sarah. (However, you really don't want to test the Tiny Girl in this case. Because she could kick your ass in 2 seconds.)
  • Hyper-Awareness: Crews all the time, so much so that Reese comes to rely on him to pick up on minute details; before leaving town temporarily in season two, she apparently told her captain to always remember to ask Crews what he sees at a crime scene.
    Crews: [laying out all of the wedding photos] It's all here. Except the one thing that isn't here.
    Reese: [to nearby officer] Do you know what that means? Does anybody know what that means?
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Ted: What are you thinking about?
    Crews: What I want and what I need.
    Ted: What do you want?
    Crews: A peaceful soul.
    Ted: What do you need?
    Crews: A bigger gun.
    • Debatable, Crews seems to be saying that the reason he needs a bigger gun is more important than having a peaceful soul.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost all episodes with Seever included a number in the title.
  • Impaled Palm: In "Did You Feel That", Ted wakes up on the floor after the earthquake to find a pencil impaled through his palm, which leads to an After-Action Patch-Up from Olivia.
  • Important Haircut: Tidwell starts out with a non-regulation, unkempt hairdo. Reese gives him a tidy haircut after they start sleeping together.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • One case involved them searching for an assassin who killed their targets with whatever was available around the house. The weapons used during the episode include, but are not limited to: a broom handle, cleaning solution, a full bathtub and a plugged-in television, and a can of diet soda (although that last one was used by Crews, not the assassin).
    • In another episode, Crews stops a fleeing suspect by throwing a fruitcake at him.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Crews thinks this about the universe.
    Charlie: It was the universe that makes fun of us all.
    Reese: Why exactly would the universe make fun of us all?
    Charlie Maybe it's insecure.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Crews and Reese are sent to investigate the murder of a sheriff's deputy on an Indian reservation to avoid a turf war between the tribal police and the sheriff's department.
  • Karma Houdini: In his first appearance in "The Fallen Woman", Roman kills a woman, but is able to get away untouched because he's an informant for the FBI.
    • This starts to fade midway through season two, diminishing completely by the series end.
  • Last-Name Basis: Crews and Reese refer to one another almost exclusively by their last names.
  • Let Off by the Detective: In "Black Friday", the decedent is found to have coercively recruited several runaways into a criminal enterprise and pressured the female member of the group into sex at a very young age. The person who killed him is a homeless teenager protecting his young sister. Crews tells the killer to claim that the dead guy accidentally fell. It works.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Reese starts doing this in Season 2.
  • Lonely at the Top: Reese and Crews investigate a murder among a support group for lottery winners in "Jackpot". Most of the winners have shed their families, some because said family members were always asking for money, others because they became incredibly paranoid that people were after the money.
  • Lonely Bachelor Pad: An ongoing subplot, where Crews has bought a big house with the settlement money he got from his lawsuit against the state of California for wrongful conviction, but he has practically nothing in it.
  • Love Dodecahedron: The entire wedding party in 'Tear Asunder', including the bride and the groom, either dated or hooked up with one another in the past.
  • Love Interest: Olivia for Ted, which puts him in the midst of a love triangle with Charlie's father.
  • The Mafiya: Roman Nevikov runs it.
  • Marrying the Mark: This was the intended plan by a con artist couple. The girl was going to marry a multimillionaire lottery winner, but in order to sell the con she had a tattoo with her boyfriend's name removed. He thought that meant she didn't love him any more and killed her.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Its unknown whether it really was the spirit of Deputy Haas who gave Crews a clue in his dream or just his subconscious.
  • Meaningful Name: Subverted by Eval (sounds like "evil"), a leading suspect in "Evil...and His Brother Ziggy." He's a sketchy guy illegally importing guns, but it turns out they're musketoons for use in (historically inaccurate) reenactments for his casino.
  • Mid-Season Twist: In season one, Crews finds out about Jack Reese and the Bank of LA shootout.
  • Motor Mouth: Crews slips into this at times, but it seems to crop up most when he's rattled or thinking about prison (or rattled because he's thinking about prison).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Dani Reese, especially after she starts sleeping with Tidwell in season two, a relationship that seems to have been conceived with the aim of showing off Sarah Shahi's sex-appeal.
  • Mundane Luxury: Crews's love of fresh fruit stems from not being able to get any while in prison. He also really enjoys sunlight, and the lighting on the show reflects that.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: In season one there is a very dramatic sequence in which a thirty-year-old guy and a teenage girl try to play Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones to level 10, though the real game doesn't have the "You Win" and numbered level messages the show depicts.
  • Must Let Them Get Away: Roman, in season one. But not in season two.
  • Mystery of the Week: The show's formula has most of the episodes involving Crews solving one.
  • Native American Casino: In episode 2x10, the deputy is killed in one of those reservation casinos.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Ted has this outlook, and says that he will kill himself before going back. Ultimately he's unable to avoid being sent back to prison, although Charlie is able to hire another prisoner to essentially be his 24/7 bodyguard.
  • Noodle Incident: In a non-humorous example, there are several vague references to an incident involving something Charlie did to a correction officer during his years in prison.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Crews has a tendency to stand uncomfortably close to witnesses and suspects, especially in the early episodes. One can safely assume he's forgotten the social rules about personal space after spending twelve years in a place where those rules don't apply.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: Used (quickly, at a distance) to trick a confession in one episode.
  • Odd Couple. Uh... well, duh. Reese and Crews are so completely different, which of course, led to Shipping.
    • In the Season Two Finale, "One", the last few seconds indicate it may be canon. May.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Crews throws his zen tape out the car window in the season one finale, the first major sign that he's lacking his usual self-restraint and may seriously be considering crossing the Moral Event Horizon. The second major sign occurs moments later, when he slams on the brakes and sits in the middle of the road for a few moments, contemplating what he just did, before flooring it again and leaving the tape behind.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Damian Lewis' American accent is pretty strong throughout the series, but there are a few times where he slips into a slightly twangier accent than usual during the early episodes before he finally settled into Charlie's accent.
  • Pac Man Fever: See the trope entry for Mundane Made Awesome. This part of "A Civil War" was widely mocked on gaming blogs.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: In one episode a suspect slammed his head onto a table and then started claiming that Crews was a crazy cop who pulled a knife on him earlier (which he did, while attempting to apprehend the suspect) and now was terrorizing him. They did have to let him go - not because of the fake injury (they had tapes) but the pulled-a-knife-on-him thing, which was kind of against the rules.
  • Police Procedural
  • Poor Communication Kills: "Jackpot", wherein the killer murdered his partner/lover because she removed the tattoo of his name and replaced it with someone else's. It was all part of a con on someone else...which he didn't know about.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Do you wanna know how I got through twelve years in prison?"
  • Punk in the Trunk: Charlie does this to Kyle Hollis in "Fill It Up."
  • Put on a Bus: Constance moves to New York for a few episodes, but eventually returns, though her role isn't nearly as prominent as the show goes on.
    • Karen Davis is demoted between seasons and replaced by Tidwell. She turns back up for one episode in season two.
    • Crews sends Rachel away in season two, after Roman makes it clear that he knows where she's been staying.

  • Really Gets Around: Neither Reese nor Crews are chaste heroes.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Charlie's conspiracy wall.
    • It Was Here, I Swear!: When the police storm Charlie's place, hoping to connect him to the murders, said wall magically vanishes. Much to even Charlie's surprise. Turns out his roommate/friend removed it when he wasn't looking. When Charlie starts up the wall again in season two, he covers the walls in butcher paper first.
    • And later on, a blackmailer manages to charm Ted into letting her into the house he and Charlie share, and takes pictures of the Wall. She later ends up an ally. Turns out her client was involved in the conspiracy, and he wanted to make sure Charlie wasn't gunning for him too.
    • There was also a Serial Killer whose room is filled with smiley face memorabilia.
  • Running Gag: A number of them, done pretty smartly.
    • People rhetorically asking what an experience would be like to highlight how terrible it is - that Charlie would have gone through as a prisoner.
    • Charlie's love of fruit.
    • Charlie repeating everything that's said to him, often to Reese's dismay.
    • "Is that Zen?"
      • And Charlie saying something Once per Episode that might be Zen but turns out not to be. For instance, telling a suspect who is about to hit him that "You strike me and you'll only be striking yourself." The suspect asks "What? Some kind of karmic payback?" Charlie responds "If only. No. My partner will just shoot you in the head."
    • "Why is your car full of bullet holes?" "I shot it."
      • Relatedly, Crews's cars all ended up trashed in some way over the course of the series.
      • And Charlie is not attached to his car. Any of them.
    • Also, Ted lives in a room above Charlie's garage, not in Charlie's garage.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Ziggy Vadas, who is only described beforehand as Eval's brother.
  • Science Marches On: An in-universe example. Crews was framed and sent to prison for life. As it turns out, none of the evidence at the scene matched him, but until DNA testing improved, this could not be proven.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Roman's connections get him out of a lot of stuff.
  • Secret Other Family: In "Farthingale", Crews and Reese investigate a gas explosion in which an IRS agent leading a double life is the victim. What makes the case more difficult is the victim has two wives and acted as if he were a top secret spy for the US government.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: In "Badge Bunnies", Bob goes to Crews' house to get his sister Kathy who is Skinny Dipping at his pool. When she leaves wearing only a Modesty Towel, he tells her to Please Put Some Clothes On and she makes a move to take off her towel right there in front of everyone, before he yells at her to get dressed outside.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Lenny, the killer in "Jackpot", is described as being "dirty". He was disguised as the clean shaven "bodyguard" of one the lotto winners.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Jude Hays' death. Everyone has heard a different story, and with good reason: because he's not dead.
  • Smug Snake: The couple from season two who tried to kill four birds with one stone: kill his wife, frame her little sister, use the murder as a springboard for a political career and humiliate the police.
  • Story Arc: In the first season, it's 'Who really killed the Seybolts?' In the second season, it's 'What exactly happened in the LA bank robbery/who set Charlie up?'
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • As Charlie's old partner, Bobby was a pariah for several years once Charlie was convicted. He doesn't hold it against Charlie, but his wife does.
    • Charlie's ex-wife moved on while Charlie was in prison, and she isn't particularly keen on so much as being friends with him again, let alone restarting their relationship.
    • The lead detective on Charlie's case doesn't believe Charlie's innocence, even with the DNA tests. For one, he was the one who did all the investigating and formed a case that everyone thought was true for over a decade, only to have it busted by some miracle new invention that he doesn't believe in- and for two, who'd want to admit that they were wrong and sent the wrong guy to prison for over a decade?
    • The police really aren't keen on having Charlie back in the force, given that he's walking proof that they fucked up, and also because they view him as unstable and a potential liability, hence why he gets his new partner straight from their shit list. In addition, multiple characters question why the hell Charlie even wanted his job back- after all, he got his freedom and millions of dollars, who'd want to be a cop after that?
    • After getting out of prison, Charlie's got a very... unique mindset, and that causes him to clash with Reese a lot. He also sleeps around a lot and eats a lot of fruit- both things that he couldn't get in prison.
    • In her backstory, Reese went undercover for a drug bust. She wound up sleeping with a junkie, and ended up getting so immersed in the cover that she became a junkie too.
    • In one episode, a lab managed to make a cancer drug that was having really good results with a rare kind of cancer, but the company funding them stopped all research on the drug because it was a really rare kind of cancer, and therefore not profitable. Harsh, but unfortunately happens a lot.
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: The series features as its Myth Arc an investigation into deep-rooted corruption inside the LAPD, Roman Nevikov, a member of The Mafiya and a Dragon with an Agenda to the members of the conspiracy, is revealed to have a seemingly endless supply of FBI agents on his payroll, enabling him to set up entire fake operations that are actually covers for his own criminal dealings, with the Bureau higher-ups apparently none the wiser.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Seever for Dani.
  • Tattooed Crook: A lot of the criminals are heavily tattooed. Crews himself, although not an actual criminal, hints that he might have some ink of his own from his days in prison.
  • They Fight Crime!: She's an angry ex-junkie alcoholic Broken Bird. He's a cop turned wrongly convicted prisoner turned cop again.
  • Title Drop: The series title is dropped in the very first episode, while several episodes throughout the show get their own titles dropped.
    "Life was his sentence, and life is what he got back."
    • "Dig a Hole" and "Fill it Up", the final two episodes of season one, both contain the quote formed by their combined titles.
  • Token Minority:
    • While Dani's father is American, her mother is Persian (this matches Sarah Shahi's actual half-Iranian parentage).
    • The actor who plays Jack Reese is Cuban. There's also Det. Carl Ames and Special Agent Bodner.
    • There are also all of the sexual minorities they keep encountering. (After all, it is California.)
    • There's an entire episode set on an Indian reservation, and Seever herself qualifies as a Twofer Token Minority.
  • Tomboy: Reese at first but she becomes more a Tomboy with a Girly Streak in Season 2. Tidwell even calls her "dude" which she resents.
  • Too Dumb to Run Psychology Experiments: The sociology professor in "Not for Nothing" replicated an experiment specifically known for encouraging abusive behavior in its participants... and then decided that random blackouts with no direct supervision and deliberate psychological torture were a good idea. You can guess what happened.
    • This may also be a case of research failure, as modern ethical guidelines would probably rule out his experimental design in the first place. Maybe not, though, as the professor was shown to be trying to cover his tracks and was ultimately arrested for his behavior.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Any time a nude female is shown, which happens more often than you might expect.
    • In "Merit Badge" when Reese climbs out of bed naked after a one night stand with a random stranger.
    • In "Badge Bunny" when the Badge Bunnies strip to fo Skinny Dipping on Crew's pool.
    • Combined with Shoulders-Up Nudity in "Evilů And His Brother Ziggy" when Reese walks up to Tidwell naked.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Crews' is fruit, any kind of fruit.
  • Tranquil Fury: Charlie Crews never raises his voice or becomes visibly angry, but heaven help you if you piss him off. The best example occurs near the end of the series finale, when he kills Roman with a single punch to the throat, and remains completely serene as the man chokes to death next to him.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Karen Davis really wants Charlie sacked, and she pulls all kinds of gambits in season one (including trying to get Reese to rat on him) in order to either get him to quit or be sacked for screwing up. It doesn't work.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Crews and Reese's interviews with the two wives in 'Farthingale'.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Charlie's settlement, which is rumored to be somewhere between 5 and 50 million dollars. In one episode, where several suspects are part of a lottery winners' support group, Charlie is told that you have to have won at least 20 million to join. He then pulls up a chair and sits down.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Averted, with both of Crews' female partners.
    • In the more generic, regular type of UST, there are some subtle indications that maybe there is something more going on between Crews and Reese. Alas, we'll never know.
    • Averted or subverted? Seever makes a speech about the fact that this is almost inevitable between male/female partners. Charlie wasn't paying attention.
    • Crews gets a lot of this with his lawyer, Connie, and also his ex-wife, eventually resolved, and occasionally with women associated with the crime of the week.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Uncap the Sharpie." Reese is asked this and is horrified.
  • Walking Spoiler: Rachel Seybolt was thought to be killed as part of the murders Charlie was framed for; her survival is wrapped up in uncovering the whole conspiracy.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: "Not for Nothing" turned out to be this.
  • What Would X Do?: At the end of one episode, a young woman finds out her father killed the park ranger who was her mentor. She promptly aims a rifle at him. When Crews asks her "What would [mentor] do?" she promptly replies "Kill him." Crews then asks "What would he want you to do?" Beat She lowers the gun.
  • Wrap It Up: The second and series finale. The Myth Arc isn't really solved yet, but the ending is satisfying enough that both Crews and the audience can have some closure.
  • You Always Hear the Bullet: Averted in "A Civil War", when the hostage taker in the bank is shot by a marksman outside. The scene takes place entirely inside the bank and there are no cutaway shots to police snipers outside so when the shot is fired all you hear is the breaking of the glass window and the delayed report of a rifle which reverberates as if the sound is bouncing off other buildings. Someone in SFX on this show thought hard about what someone inside the bank would hear.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: What usually happens to people when Roman is finished with them.
  • Zen Survivor: Charlie, literally.

Alternative Title(s): Life