The noirish action of Nowhere Man may or may not be taking place entirely in the mind of its hero, Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood), a photojournalist specializing in stark, brutal war shots. In the first episode, Veil attends a showing of his work, which includes "Hidden Agenda," a disturbing photo of American military personnel apparently presiding over an execution in an unnamed Third World country. Almost immediately upon its display, Veil's life is ... destroyed. Erased. Zeroed. Un-Personed. He becomes a fugitive non-person, on the run from the mysterious forces that want the "Hidden Agenda" photo destroyed and forgotten.
The series has Veil Walking the Earth, dealing with often disturbing happenings throughout middle America which were probably caused by the same organization that is targeting him, although hard truths are difficult to come by on this show, and the viewer is often left with a sense of uncertainty which mirrors Veil's own.
Not to be confused with the song by The Beatles.
Note: in some cases below even the trope names can be spoilers.
This show provides examples of:
- Adventure Towns: Owing much to the influence of The Fugitive, Thomas would often go to one of these.
- Assimilation Academy: The private academy in "The Alpha Spike".
- Bait-and-Switch: In a small town, Veil meets a man claiming to be the father who abandoned the family 20 years earlier. Between evidence of plastic surgery and a lack of mementos from his past, Veil naturally assumes this is another Conspiracy trick. It turns out this really is his father as the reason he had to leave was he got in deep with the mob and was trying to keep the family safe, eventually finding a new life for himself.
- Cyberpunk: A more cerebral kind which fit with The Conspiracy and The '90s zeigeist.
- Christmas Episode: It's nearly Christmas when Tom sees a newspaper reporting that the FBI are looking for him to testify. His family welcomes him back for the holiday and everything seems to have been a mistake. Then he finds the house has been turned over by his wife, looking for the negatives. He also finds a video tape showing the "newscasts" of the conspiracy taken down were just a bunch of actors filming what they thought was a movie. He takes the negatives from the hiding place and goes back on the run.
- Dramatic Hour Long: In the style of the X-Files.
- The Ending Changes Everything: The knowledge Thomas Veil doesn't exist ala Quaid in Total Recall (1990) and it was all a set up is certainly a game changer.
- Evil Plan: Everything in the series Thomas Veil goes through is part of the Conspiracy's scheme to test their Fake Memories treatment.
- Failure Is the Only Option: The conspiracy is all but omnipotent. Thomas also can't trust his own sense of reality.
- Fake Memories: The Conspiracy often plays with the sense of reality of people via Gaslighting. Thomas Veil never existed, for example.
- Government Conspiracy: Thomas Veil is the victim of one that "erases" his life in an attempt to cover up an incriminating photo.
- Later, it's implied the organization is a corporate/media/industrial firm that works more or less like The Illuminati.
- Homage: The town full of erased people is a pretty obvious one to The Prisoner.
- The Illuminati: The Conspiracy is everywhere. They also have access to sci-fi technology that is beyond what regular society has.
- Ironic Echo: "My name is Thomas Veil" since Thomas Veil never existed.
- Loss of Identity: The premise of the show is Thomas Veil becoming an Unperson. This messes with his sense of self.
- Mind-Reformat Death: Happens to a genius recluse who is wildly intelligent about Virtual Reality systems. When Thomas and the recluse get in touch with the recluse's former computer instructor, who helps them. To hack into the website server of the conspiracy, they don their VR headsets, and literally crawl through tunnels (in the VR world) to get to said server. Unfortunately, their presence is detected, and someone starts to erase the server, represented by expanding physical static. The computer genius is caught in the wake of the deletion, and decides to stay behind to let Thomas live and return to the real world. When he returns, the computer genius is now a catatonic vegetable.Pam Peterson (the computer teacher): I think he's still in there... When the system went down, he went with it.
- Meaningful Name: Thomas Veil. Also, "Thomas" is the doubting apostle and the hero begins to doubt everything as the series progresses. "Thomas" also means "twin" which takes on extra meaning twice, in the episode "Doppelganger" where the hero is being impersonated by a lookalike and in the finale "Gemini Man" (Gemini is the zodiac sign of the twins).
- Mysterious Informant: Partway through the series one of the members of the conspiracy starts giving Tom info on the Organization who "erased him" in hopes Tom will take them down from without so he can more easily take them down from within. He's eventually killed and Thomas' computer hacked.
- Mundane Dogmatic: It's apparently the 90s of the United States but The Conspiracy has near absolute control over society from multiple levels.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In "Father," Veil is convinced the man claiming to be his dad is a Conspiracy agent. He's tracked by some suited men, talking of how this was an easy trap and "you want the negatives" when they demand to know who his dad is. Eventually, it hits Tom that these are mobsters out to get back a "loan."
- Ontological Mystery: Of a sort. The audience is often left questioning how much is real and how much is fake information.
- Postmodernism / Recursive Canon: One of the Conspiracy's plots involves broadcasting a television show that depicts scenes from Veil's life after his erasure with almost shot-for-shot recreations of the actual show, but with bad acting and camera work. It got to the point of a Mind Screw where he had to do things out of character in order to defeat their plans.
- Stern Chase: The Conspiracy is chasing Thomas Veil, though not very hard, and it's implied letting him go a few times. It's only when he screws with their operations that they lay the hammer down.
- Un-person: Veil's entire former life is erased by the group that wants the picture.
- Veil soon discovers he's not the only one this has happened to. Indeed, he finds an entire town full of people who have suffered this fate.
- Was It All a Lie?: Tom asks this question of his wife who was seemingly in on the conspiracy from day one.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Thomas sometimes ruins a Conspiracy operation or scores some temporary victories but, just as often, they completely destroy his sense of self.
- A Christmas themed episode has Thomas seemingly exonerated by the conspiracy taken down his wife back with him, claiming to have been blackmailed into going along with it and his mother healthy. Naturally, it's all one huge scam.
- The penultimate episode has him waking up and told he's been in a coma dreaming all this with his best friend (supposedly killed in the pilot) alive. Of course, it's another trick.
- Lampshaded when Thomas meets a man (Dean Stockwell) who's been on the run from the group for 30 years and openly says it's all a big game and "just when you think you're about to get the truth, they yank it away from you."
- Walking the Earth: Thomas can never stay too long in any one place or the Conspiracy finds him.