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Series / Profiler

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Profiler was an American Forensic Drama on NBC starring Ally Walker as Samantha "Sam" Waters, a borderline-empathic criminal profiler working for the FBI. Along with the obvious influence of The Silence of the Lambs, it is considered the precursor to modern forensic shows, with its characters operating out of an inexplicably dark room with monitors and chasing overly-elaborate Serial Killers.

Also notable for having a series-wide Myth Arc (a rarity in police shows back then) involving the "Jack of All Trades", an elusive killer who is fixated on Sam. Ally Walker left the show early in Season Four, which also wrapped up the Jack storyline.

In response to its star's departure, the show underwent a Retool with a suspiciously similar heroine, Rachael Burke. The show's writers also cooked up a brand-new Big Bad for the feds to fight, a faceless crime kingpin named Damian Kennasas. Needless to say, the show wasn't as compelling as before and was soon canceled. As chance would have it, this was mirrored by a B-plot involving the probable shutdown of the task force's office thanks to congressional budget cuts.

For the trope, see The Profiler.

This show provides examples of:

  • Animal Assassin: A serial killer in the season 1 finale uses an assortment of creatures as her weapons of choice: poison dart frogs, sea snakes, venomous spiders, and even an octopus.
  • Arch-Enemy: Jack is obsessed with Sam, stalking her and killing her husband. She and her daughter Chloe are living under 24 hour FBI protection when the series starts.
  • Big Bad: Jack of All Trades.
  • Body Double: Rather bizarrely, Jack has decoys of himself running around everywhere. The first Jack is a transparent fake (an uncoordinated, Eurotrash geek packing a submachine gun); the second is more convincing, and just as amorous toward Sam. This is retroactively explained as a side-effect of Jack's brainwashing; the double literally believes he is the famous killer.
    • Jack recreates Samantha's likeness in "Jill" (Traci Lords), a blonde lookalike whom he schools in the art of murder.
  • Character as Himself: To maintain the mystery surrounding its main antagonist, the opening credits list the actor as "and Jack".
  • Crossover: Profiler did two Cross Throughs with the series that aired immediately before it, The Pretender, featuring an identity-swapping hero (Jarod) with no clue to his true past. Le gasp! A forensic psychologist is a Pretender's worst enemy! "End Game" crossed through into "Grand Master", and "Spin Doctor" crossed through into "Clean Sweep". Outside these multi-part crossovers, Jarod also turned up on a separate Profiler episode, "Pianissimo", towards the end of both series' runs.
  • Death by Irony: The modus of one killer is to decapitate his yuppie victims ("talking heads", as he disparagingly call them) and leave the severed heads in a newspaper bin. You can probably guess what the killer's ultimate fate is.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Jack creates his own female counterpart in "Jill", although he demeans and abuses her, particularly when her murders don't meet his standards and she becomes jealous of his obsession with Sam.
  • Eccentric Artist: A killer who uses a Flaming Sword to kill her targets is inspired by her favorite superhero comic. When the protagonists visit the comic's creator, she turns out to be a Cloud Cuckoolander who just happens to be randomly lying under a rug in her garden shed.
  • The Empath: Sam has a "gift" to see into the minds of victims before they were murdered.
  • Evil Matriarch: Jack is implied to have one.
    • In one episode, we see a lonely, antisocial killer who is being dominated by his mother.
  • The Faceless: Jack, played by Dennis Christopher of It (1990) fame. He steps into the open at last in Season 3. His scenes in the first two seasons never gave the viewers a good look at his face.
  • Fair Cop
  • Fetishized Abuser: Jack's "apprentice" Jill has a huge crush on him. He starts training her as his Distaff Counterpart and tries making her into an ersatz Sam. He also beats and abuses her when her murders don't meet his standards and she became jealous of his obsession with Sam.
  • Flaming Sword: One killer used a sword treated with accelerant and set on fire to kill people. The Idiosyncratic Wipes for that episode featured a flaming sword sweep across the screen before cutting to a commercial.
  • Freudian Excuse: A majority of the killers fit this mold.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: In a manner of speaking — Jack is gunned down by Sam in front of her late husband's grave.
  • The Grotesque: A psychopath who was deformed as the result of a forceps being used on him during childbirth.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sam and Angel. Both straight, but about as close to a lesbian couple as mid-'90s network TV would allow.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Several episodes used these on a one-off basis. They included everything from a Flaming Sword "cutting" to a commercial to random numbers flashing across the screen that were revealed at the end of the episodes to be real-life rape statistics.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: VCTF computer expert George Fraley is violently assaulted by an armed robber named Luke Dickerson in a video store. Luke tries to shoot George upon learning he works for the FBI, but his gun jams. George later gets a gun of his own and threatens Luke with it, but his VCTF teammate John Grant stops him and arrests Luke for the video store robbery instead. Luke gets off on the robbery charge by claiming coercion and police brutality, but then George uses the FBI's system to reissue all of Luke's outstanding warrants. No matter where Luke goes, he's not going to be a free man.
  • Master of Disguise: Jack masquerades as a small-town sheriff with a hillbilly accent in one episode.
  • The Mentor: Bailey Malone (Robert Davi) to Sam.
  • Mind Rape: Jack attempts this on Sam's daughter, Chloe, by masquerading as her child psychologist.
  • Mole in Charge: Half-mad (and so half-sane!) FBI Director Joel Marks (Gregory Itzin).
  • Monster Fangirl: Jack of All Trades eventually found one of these, and not only mentored her into becoming a full-blown Serial Killer herself, but did his best to turn her into a substitute for Sam via brainwashing.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Rachael's quirk is that she's obsessed with coffee.
  • Parental Substitute: Sam's best friend Angel often takes care of Chloe when Sam is out in the field, effectively being a second mother to the girl.
  • Primary-Color Champion / Secondary Color Nemesis: Both of these were inverted with Jack. His scenes were always tinted blue and the camera never gave the audience a good look at his face. The scenes with Donald Lucas were an early hint that he wasn't actually the true Jack.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The episode "I'll Be Watching You" made such prominent use of The Police song "Every Breath You Take" that the entire episode was left off the DVD release.
  • Romancing the Widow: Inverted — Jack cut to the chase by bumping off Sam's husband first.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The title sequences allude to this trope by using a typeface that resembles crudely scrawled handwriting, making this Credits Full Of Crazy.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: After all that build-up, Jack turns out to be... some random guy we've never seen before.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Sam doesn't seem to have any financial troubles, but she struggles to raise her daughter Chloe without her murdered husband while Jack is stalking her. Her former in-laws also try to get custody of Chloe, unhappy that she's being raised in a bubble with an often-absent Sam.
  • UST: Malone and Sam.
    • The crossover with The Pretender results in some UST between the two leads, seemingly setting up for a crossover return. You would assume that Ally Walker leaving the show would have torpedoed that idea, but no — the second Profiler, Rachael, made a cameo on The Pretender instead. The writers more or less overwrote the romantic tension with Sam, and sparks immediately flew between Jarod and Rachael instead.