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Series / Perception

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"Reality... is a figment of your imagination."
— Dr. Daniel Pierce

Perception is an American crime drama on TNT centered on a brilliant and eccentric neuroscientist who works as a well-liked university professor. On the side, he is recruited by the FBI, through one of his favorite ex-students, to work as a consultant for some of their more confounding cases. With the uptick in cases come flare-ups of the professor's notable mental ailments.

Created by Kenneth Biller and Mike Sussman, the show stars Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce and Rachael Leigh Cook as Special Agent and former student Kate Moretti. Co-starring are Kelly Rowan as Dr. Pierce's old flame, best friend, and dearest hallucination and Arjay Smith as his live-in teaching assistant.

The show premiered on July 9, 2012, after TNT greenlit 10 episodes for the first season. A second season was announced in August 2012 and ended after three seasons, the final episode airing on March 17th, 2015.


Perception contains examples of:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Joe Moretti tells Daniel, as he's leaving Joe's bar, that Kate had a crush on Daniel all through college. Kate responds by yanking on his scarf to get him out of there.
  • Amoral Attorney: Donnie has a tends to flirt with the fine line. Although he appears to be a fundamentally good guy he's quick to prosecute a possibly innocent suspect and cross ethical lines.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Lewicki puts up with a lot.
  • Big Secret: In "Toxic" a group of girls develop mass Tourette's hysteria due to the guilt they feel over driving the victim to suicide ... only to discover she was murdered by someone else.
  • Black and Nerdy: Max Lewicki.
  • Bland-Name Product: Caleidoscope is Second Life in all but name.
  • Book Ends:
    • Each episode begins and ends (with the exception of "The Messenger" from season 1) with a lecture from Dr. Pierce that relates to whatever happened in the episode.
    • Advertisement:
    • The first episode ends with Pierce chatting with Natalie, and the audience learning she's not real when Max shows up. The season one finale ends with Pierce sitting on the bench with the woman he based Natalie on, as friends, and Max walking past with a smile.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In "Toxic" the murder victim was in a relationship with her half-brother unbeknownst to her.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Pierce's schizophrenia makes him very difficult to deal with, in both the university where he teaches and the FBI, but they keep him around because he is brilliant and has been a huge asset to solving cases, respectively.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Robert Picardo plays a man who claims to have been abducted by aliens who is signing copies of his autobiography at a convention. The same convention has a signing by Jeri Ryan (referred to by her character, Seven of Nine), Picardo's co-star on Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Lewicki serves as a sort of minder for Dr. Pierce, making sure that the professor is doing what he's supposed to be doing while also helping him manage his "condition".
    • This is lampshaded in the pilot:
      Hallucination: Why do you keep this idiot around?
      Pierce: Because when assholes like you show up, I need someone to tell me that you're not real.
    • Kate also serves this kind of role when it comes to Daniel working with the FBI.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Daniel is this, presumably as a result of his paranoid schizophrenia.
  • Cool Teacher: Daniel is very popular among his students.
  • Cop and Scientist: Kate and Daniel.
  • Creature of Habit: Daniel, by necessity. His routine helps keep his paranoid schizophrenia under control, but working with the FBI screws with that routine a lot, and so he becomes noticeably more unstable when out in the field with Kate.
    Lewicki: What did you tell me when you hired me? "Schedule equals sanity."
  • Crossword Puzzle: As a part of Daniel's daily routine.
  • Defective Detective: Daniel Pierce, and how. He tops virtually ever previous incarnation of this trope by being literally unable to differentiate reality from fantasy (though, as he points out in the pilot, his hallucinations are as real to him as this wiki is to us), but he's still enormously perceptive, and his hallucinations often serve as a mechanism for his brain to solve problems faster than his conscious mind would otherwise allow.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Pierce.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Daniel's hallucinations allow him to have these quite frequently, since they often work as a means for his unconscious and conscious minds to communicate. And his unconscious, like all of ours, notices everything and never forgets anything. Most people just have a brighter line separating the two.
  • Fair Cop: Kate. She's played by the positively adorable Rachael Leigh Cook, so it's inevitable. She also has a penchant for flattering clothes, though nothing blatant or inappropriate.
  • First-Episode Twist: Natalie is a hallucination of Daniel's.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: This series is superficially similar to Raines, though it differs in the fine details.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Peirce sees a hallucination of homeless guy in one episode. It turns out it is his possible future self.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: In "Romeo" Daniel has two of his hallucinations arguing about how he should deal with his feelings to Kate: One for him confessing and the other for him to not. Almost to use this trope while waiting at the wedding they argue with each other between his shoulders while sitting behind him.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Daniel tries really, really hard to be nice, and mostly he succeeds, but his little hallucinatory breakthroughs often don't allow much time for editing, so he often comes off as rude. And the stress of being a paranoid schizophrenic also makes brain-mouth filtering a low priority, which also gets him into trouble on a fairly regular basis.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Kate is a genuinely sweet and kind woman, but she is fearsome when tested.
  • Hates Being Touched: When being touched without prompt, Pierce's reactions can vary from taking a suddenly defensive stance to, when coupled with other factors, an outright panic attack.
    • He also takes passive measures to put space between him and others, such as hugging onto his large bag or visibly shrinking away and averting eye contact when faced with a potentially threatening stranger.
  • Happy Place: The classroom is this for Daniel, where he's virtually indistinguishable from a normal person (a normal person with a Ph.D in neuroscience, but it's close enough for government work).
  • Hollywood Atheist: Daniel, though Natalie lampshades it.
  • Hot Teacher: Daniel, both then and now. In the pilot, an attractive female student throws herself, almost literally, at Daniel. And later, Kate's dad reveals she had a crush on him all throughout college.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Lewicki for Daniel, and Daniel for Kate.
  • Identity Amnesia: The investigation in the episode "86'd" hinges around a witness with anterograde amnesia. She remembers everything prior to her kidnapping (which happened 29 years prior to the events of the episode when she was 17) perfectly well, but is incapable of forming new memories and can only remember new events for a few minutes.
  • Idiot Ball: Doctor Pierce? Maybe someone with your condition should have thought twice before entering an immersive Second Life-esque virtual environment? The potential for addiction and losing touch with reality are bad enough for people without already-existent psychological problems.
  • Imaginary Friend: Natalie Vincent, revealed only at the end of the pilot.
    • It turns out she was never real, not even when he first knew her. He got her face from a girl he saw at a college party, a girl who would later become his psychiatrist.
  • Informed Ability: Dr Pierce's students laugh uproariously at the jokes he delivers during his lectures. They are not even mildly amusing.
    • Kate is described in-universe as a tough-as-nail, strong-willed FBI investigator, but is actually slightly less intimidating than a plush poodle.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Absolutely defied. Daniel Pierce is schizophrenic and utterly non-violent, virtually none of the mentally ill people he comes across in working for the FBI are violent, and he repeatedly makes the point that people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators.
    • A promo clip for the show featured a look at Pierce's "To-Do" list. The second item was "Buy dog food", and the fourth was "Determine whether I actually have a dog".
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Donnie clearly wants Kate to be happy again, and supports Daniel's possible feelings for her
  • Longing Look: Between Daniel and Kate at the end of "Faces".
  • Mail-Order Bride: In the episode "Faces", the crime of the week has to do with a missing Ukrainian bride.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Natalie is an interesting deconstruction of this trope. She is hardly impulsive or spontaneous, and her male counterpart certainly is, but like any self-respecting MPDG she is there to serve Daniel's needs. As a total figment of Daniel's imagination Natalie's life pretty much revolves around him, but she is there to be a friend, an intellectual equal, and to give Daniel a grounded perspective to contrast his wild, often irrational ideas. Though her entire existence is literally a male fantasy, he loves her to the point of recklessness for his own well-being.
  • Medication Tampering: The Villain of the Week in the first season finale kills her husband by replacing his blood thinner medication with sugar pills, which caused him to suffer a fatal stroke.
  • Papa Wolf: Joe Moretti, Kate's dad. He wouldn't let Kate out of his sight for a whole summer, when a serial killer was preying on a different girl every week, despite being about ten years outside the killer's target demographic.
  • Perma-Stubble: Daniel, somehow.
  • Skewed Priorities: Played for laughs in the season one finale, Kate's partner, pretending to be Daniel, is nearly run over by the killer, and all Daniel cares about is his bike that was damaged in the incident.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Kate claims this. Bonus points for reciting the "just sign the damn papers so I can get better at work" line.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: In "86'd" the witness' amnesia was induced by a head injury.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The audience often doesn't know which characters are real and which characters are in Dr. Pierce's head (just as he doesn't) until it is revealed later. For example, we learn only at the end of the first episode that Natalie Vincent isn't real, although we are given clues.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Shadow": A mysterious man approaches Daniel telling of a political conspiracy regarding a US Senator, and then gets killed right in front of Pierce. The FBI fails to find the body, and Daniel spends the next two days investigating the conspiracy until he confronts the apparent masterminds... only to learn that his entire weekend was all a delusion. He then voluntarily checks himself into a psychiatric hospital, after which the FBI encounters a video taken by the missing murder victim, confirming that Daniel wasn't entirely crazy after all.
    • "Light": Natalie was based on a real person: Daniel's new doctor, Caroline Newsome. It turns out that his memory of meeting Natalie was actually the first instance of his schizophrenia.
  • Wham Line: From the season 1 finale: "Who's Natalie? My name is Dr. Caroline Newsome."
  • Working with the Ex: In season 2, Kate's ex husband joins the main cast and she's obviously not happy about it
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: In the first episode, Dr. Pierce explains that that's how reality works. Our minds cannot tell the difference between hallucinations, 'actual' reality, or things we think are real. It's all the same to the mind.