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Series / Martial Law

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The season 2 main cast: Arsenio Hall, Sammo Hung, Gretchen Egolf, and Kelly Hu.
Sammo Law, a top flight cop and hand-to-hand combat instructor from Shanghai, China comes to Los Angeles to search for a crime boss and an undercover cop whom his department lost contact with. Once there, his temporary mission is turned into an ongoing exchange position and he is partnered with a pair of cops and is met with a clash in culture. As they battle the criminal elements of the city, his skill in martial arts proves to be a big help.

This 1999 show was largely inspired by the mid-90's Jackie Chan craze, and the fights scenes were in the same vein of being fast-paced and filled with "blink and you'll miss it" actions. Not coincidentally, Sammo Hung is also a long time friend of and frequent collaborator with Jackie. Sammo also had a noticeable brevity in speaking lines that were in English, due to a difficulty grasping a language foreign to his own cultural dialect.

If you're looking for the trope where someone declares martial law or a state of emergency, you'll want Emergency Authority. You might also have been looking for the comic series Marshal Law. Either that, or a 1991 movie with the same title starring Chad McQueen.

Martial Law provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Terrell Parker (Arsenio Hall) mentions that one of his favorite films is Coming to America.
  • Alliterative Name: Dana Dixon.
  • Amoral Attorney: One of the villains in early episodes.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: One appear near the end of the second season and Sammo's son is one of the members
  • Arch-Enemy: Lee Hei to Sammo.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sammo is one of the friendlier characters but if you threaten civilians or his friends, prepare for a world of beating.
  • Billy Needs an Organ: In one episode, a heart intended for a governor's daughter is stolen before it can be delivered.
  • Bullying the Dragon: In the first episode, cop Portman mocks and insults Sammo, despite hearing that Sammo was the top cop in Shanghai and the senior training officer in martial arts and hand to hand combat. Sammo shows him quite politely how he earned those titles.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Amy, at the start of season 2.
  • Cool Car: Sammo won a cool convertible that accidentally rolled into the bay during a fight The Teaser of one episode. He replaced it with a used taxi, to Terrell's disgust.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: The end of season 1 saw Sammo and Big Bad Lee Hei falling out of a helicopter over the ocean. Sometime during the summer, though, it was decided to retool the show, and instead of season 2 picking up off where the first had ended, it opened with a regular episode, with only scant allusions to a resolution to the previous events—Sammo asking if someone who's trying to kill him with a bomb is seeking vengeance for Lee Hei's death, and a fellow officer asking Sammo, "Hey, you fell out of a helicopter into the Pacific and survived... how much worse could a bomb be?" There was also no explanation for how Grace, who had been Bound and Gagged in the chopper (which, BTW, was also being piloted by one of Lee Hei's goons) managed to escape.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sammo, and his niece.
  • Crossover:
  • Culture Clash: Often happens frequently with Sammo and the other cops and even between Sammo and Grace, due to Grace being raised in the United States.
  • Dark Action Girl: Lin Pei Chen, Lee Hei's daughter.
  • Detective Mole
  • Dirty Cop: A Secret Service agent in the first season who was helping the team investigate a counterfeiting operation turned out to be part of said operation.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Not that he doesn't like them, he just doesn't get one. Hand Waved as the brass being afraid things might get volatile if he had one.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted with Lee Hei. When he accidentally shoots and kills his wife in the second episode, he's shocked, but he gets over it real fast. He also quite clearly states that It's All About Me when he is perfectly willing to let his daughter rot in jail.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In season two a crooked guard has no problem with threatening a city with a binary nerve gas to get a huge pay-off. When he finds out his partner plans to use it on the city whether or not they pay makes him try to stop him.
  • Fair Cop: Just about.
  • Fake Defector: Pei Pei does this to Lee Hei.
  • Foreshadowing: Sammo instructed a class of students that if they are faced with a gun, they should surrender. Later in the episode, this was how Grace was caught when she tried to escape from Lee Hei.
  • Friend to All Children: Sammo gets along quite well with children and teenagers.
  • Epunymous Title
  • Game Show Appearance: In the first episode, Sammo furnishes his apartment by winning stuff in The Price Is Right.
  • Genre Savvy: When Sammo leaves the airport in the first episode, he ends up in a con-man's taxi. The con man drives him out to a remote area, where he is surrounded by a half-dozen men and robbed, without fighting back. Because that would be stupid, seeing as they were armed and could've plugged him full of holes. When they get back from commercial, he's reporting the crime at the police station, and everything is recovered at the end of the episode.
    • In another first season episode, he and his partner have to get into a building that's surrounded by a high fence that's topped with razor wire. His partner asks if he's going to do some sort of crazy kung fu jump over the fence. Sammo gives him an incredulous look and asks if he's kidding. They find another way around the fence.
  • Heel Realization: Near the end of second season Sammo managed to talk his son out to make him think about his position in the secret society, without the audience knowing that he was successful.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: The closing credits presented a montage of flubbed lines and failed fight takes.
  • Hostage Situation: How the robbers in episode 10 made their escape once they realized they were outclassed by Sammo and Grace.
  • Improv Fu: The show has Sammo Law present this art in its finest form.
  • Improvised Weapon: Not terribly surprising given Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan were contemporaries in the Peking Academy of Opera.
  • Literal-Minded: Sammo has a few moments where he takes some phrases or idioms literally due to not understanding the English terms.
  • Manchurian Agent: One episode features a group of people who were turned into these during their studies in East Germany. A criminal uses them as an Killer-for-hire service.
  • Married to the Job: Sammo's co-workers are even afraid to tell him that he has to take a week off.
  • Martial Pacifist: Sammo
  • Mistaken for Badass: In "This Shogun For Hire," the team are tracking Nakamura, said to be the deadliest hitman on Earth. He's famous for killing an entire pack of Yakuza leaders at a dinner and suspected of scores of other murders. Grace meets him undercover, a charming and cool man who refuses to defend himself against attackers as "I'm paid to kill." He and Sammo face off...and Sammo takes him down in five seconds with Nakamura begging for mercy. This "master assassin" is a low-level con artist who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag. ("You're not a hitman?" "I'm not even Japanese.") He did kill those Yakuza accident as he was posing as a chef to escape the cops and cooked a fish the wrong way. Before he knew it, he was being blamed for every other unsolved murder in Japan so decided to use that to con a mob boss out of a big payday then run off before he could actually perform the hit. He's not happy the cops push him to keep up the role to find out who the target is.
  • Mistaken for Foreigner: Played with. Grace or Pei Pei was born in China but raised in the United States before returning back to China. The fact that she speaks English fluently and is knowledgeable about American norms surprises some characters.
  • Mistaken for Servant: This was how Sammo and Terrell met where Terrell believed that Sammo was one of the caterers.
  • Mistaken for Spies: A second season ep has an NSA operative convinced beyond reason Sammo is working for Chinese intelligence. While Sammo's odd behavior (which is him looking for his long-lost son) fuels it a bit, it's obvious the man's only "evidence" of Sammo's spy status is simply him being Chinese. Even when Sammo risks his life to get back a device, the man smugly suggests Sammo was trying to recover it "for your bosses in China and we showed up. Guess we'll never know." It's a testament to his temper that Sammo doesn't flatten the guy.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Grace. Small wonder as it's Kelly Hu.
  • Motor Mouth: Terrell.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Melanie George (Julia Campbell), Sammo's girlfriend in Season 1. When the main characters first meet her (in 'Extreme Measures'), she's the assistant for a district attorney who is murdered. The attorney's death essentially ends the assistant job. Okay. Then in 'Captive Hearts', an episode that involves the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), it turns out that Melanie now works at INS. Convenient, but plausible. But then, in 'Nitro Man', she works at a bank that gets robbed. There's no explanation for her sudden move to the private sector.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Terell apparently pulled this off, two bad guys thought that they pinned him down with gunfire, only for him to appear behind them with a gun on each hand.
  • Parents as People: Winship's brother was trying hard to raise his daughter Justine after his wife's death but as Justine pointed out, he was so involved in his work that he hardly paid attention to her at all and shuffled her off to a boarding school.
  • Prison Rape: Referenced when Sammo and Terrell go undercover in a prison. We're shown the shower, which pans over to Terrell showering with every single piece of his clothing on. At the end of the scene, he drops the soap, and watches the other prisoners cautiously as he picks it up.
  • Put on a Bus: Dana was written out of the show after only 5 episodes. Episode 6 did not even address her disappearance, and it wasn't until episode 7 that viewers learned her character transferred to a police department in Missouri to be closer to her parents. Meanwhile, both Louis & Lt. Winship were booted from the cast as part of the second season's Retool, explained in-story as the former transferring to NYPD while the latter retired (probably due to the gunshot injury he suffered in the first season's finale).
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: As part of the revamp, Mike Post's [ [Asian-influenced rock theme]] was replaced with a more businesslike one by the late Joel Goldsmith.
  • Rule 34: Sammo's goes to a house looking for a suspect, and ends up in a meeting for people who are sexually aroused by engine vibrations.
  • Soft Glass: Numerous episodes show window glass for vehicles, houses and hotel rooms to be easily and neatly broken.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When a young girl is killed in the crossfire of a gang war, the normally calm Sammo is on a quest for justice. Interrogating one of the gang's weapon suppliers, Sammo shows a picture of the girl. When the man looks away, Sammo suddenly screams "look at her picture!" Even Terrell is thrown by his partner's sudden anger.
  • Token White: Louis in season 1, after Dana left. Amy during season 2.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Eveybody's surprised the first time they offer Sammo something to drink, and instead of tea he asks for Diet Coke; it usually happens Once per Episode.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In episode "Cop Out" Sammo infiltrates into a group of policemen who kill criminals that have not been sentenced.