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Series / Sanctuary

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"We protect the two dominant species of this planet from one another: humans and abnormals."

Sanctuary (2007-2011) is an Urban Fantasy series that started as a Web Video series. Notable primarily for its good writing despite a low, low budget, and for Amanda Tapping as Doctor Helen Magnus, the immortal head of the Sanctuary in the title.

Yes, that Amanda Tapping.

The show follows Dr. Will Zimmerman and the other members of the Sanctuary, as they protect Abnormals (the "real" creatures that inspired the folklore, legends and myths about monsters and other supernatural weirdness, but that turn out not only to exist, but also to have a perfectly rational "scientific" explanation behind each one) and have adventures.

No relation to the manga, anime, and live-action film of the same name about two Japanese survivors of the Khmer Rouge trying to remake their society in the roles of a politician and a Yakuza. Nor is it any relation to the place where runners go. Or Dark Brotherhood assassins.


Sanctuary provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Justified; Magnus has been alive for over 100 years and probably half the world's leaders owe her a favor. When the newbie to the team asks if there is a health plan, Magnus says no. (Granted, the organisation is headed by probably the best doctor in the world with medical contacts in every corner of the globe, so it's possible their health plan is simply "Dr Helen Magnus".) Also, the Sanctuary has enough resources to purchase a lot of new medical equipment, and pay the taxes and upkeep costs for a castle. Given that they always get help for any injuries or illnesses that occur, possibly they don't have a designed health plan because they'd have to write "Covers anything. Like, anything at all that could or could not happen to anyone, human or otherwise."
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Will refuses to believe the Morrigan have really been in the cave they found them in for 1200 years, although this is somewhat justified as he points out they shouldn't be able to comprehend or speak modern-day English. It turns out they are actually that old, and that their telepathic abilities allowed them to read Will's mind enough to speak in modern venacular
    • Henry is the only member of the team to even consider the possibilities of aliens. Given that the producers decided one of the rules of the show was that there would be no aliens, this is always played for laughs
  • Artistic License – Biology: Standard issue fiction butchering of classifications. Magnus refers to humans and abnormals as the planet's "two dominant species," despite the fact that abnormals are shown to include creatures that range from superpowered humans, to rodent-like animals, to moving globs of ooze. Other episodes have Magnus referring to some creatures as separate "species of abnormals," that is to say that "abnormal" encompasses a type of species.
  • Aside Glance: "I gotta admit, your Nubbins are pretty amazing." "Don't you just want to squeeze them?" Cue long stare into camera.
  • Ass Shove: Helen Magnus has an uncanny ability to produce a gun at any given moment, which actress Amanda Tapping attributes to her "gun bum".
  • The Atoner: the character of Jimmy from the episode "Penance" was already this (he was a former gang member who was stopped by Magnus from being tricked into almost releasing the equivalent to a chemical gas attack on a crowded L-train), but he becomes doubly this trope when he realizes he was the one who snuck the bomb into the police station that killed Kate's dad
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Will's shtick. James Watson had it to Storybreaker Power levels. Before he dies of old age, Watson indicates that Will has the potential to match him at this.
  • Back from the Dead: The entire cast at least once, Will twice. It isn't as bad as Stargate SG-1, but Amanda Tapping seems to have brought some bad habits with her.
  • Badass Longcoat: Invoked in "Normandy" where Druitt explains the reason for joining the Nazis was... the outfit (cue the leather longcoat).
  • Bad Future: The Ancient Keeper in "Pavor Nocturnus" shows Helen a Zombie Apocalypse caused accidentally by her Who Wants to Live Forever? attitude.
  • Bald of Awesome: John Druitt
  • Bald of Evil: Druitt, again.
  • Batman Gambit: The season two episode "Veritas", wherein the big guy and his boss play out an elaborate and highly convincing scheme intended to make a corrupt Sanctuary employee believe that Magnus had gone mad and murdered her best friend. Self-induced madness was a cover to hide her thoughts from the telepaths, and she left amongst her things a file on the location of a powerful abnormal which served as bait to make the target of the gambit move as intended and get caught.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: All over the place, what with the various long-lived characters.
  • Better Than Sex: The food at Alfredo's is just that good.
  • Big Bad: The Cabal in Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2. Adam Worth in Season 3.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Helen Magnus gives one to Nikola Tesla in the last episode of the series right before she blows up the Sanctuary.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Both sasquatches and yetis appear, sasquatches being large hairy humanoids (the Big Guy being an example) while yetis are shapeshifters who can mimic the forms of other people as well as cause people to experience extremely-real seeming illusions. Their real forms are ugly and slimy
  • Blue Screen: Most of the time, the only non-CGI things on screen are the actors, the clothes on their backs, and the chairs they sit on. The show completely dispenses with building sets and simply uses blue screen backgrounds, even for relatively "normal" locations like Magnus's office. This also makes Sanctuary one of the cheapest sci-fi programs on TV.
  • Bluff the Impostor: How Magnus finally defeats the creature that had been picking off passengers of a downed plane.
  • Book-Ends: In the first episode, Helen offers Will "a chance to explore a world that you've been trying to understand on your own … with very little success" and the second episode ends with Magnus saying "Shall we begin?" In the series finale, Magnus says "What if I offered you the chance to explore a world that you've been trying to see since you were a child?" The last words of the episode are Magnus once again saying "Shall we begin?" to Will.
  • Bottle Episode: Due to the low budget of the show, there are many episodes that feature only a part of the main cast in a limited location and maybe one or two guest stars. Examples include "Requiem", "Instinct", "Next Tuesday", "Bank Job" and others.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • Ashley at the end of the first season, which continues into the second season.
    • The Big Guy gets hit with this in season 4, having had his brain permanently altered by an abnormal telepath to turn him into a human-hating extremist.
  • Broken Masquerade: In the season 3 finale, multiple characters discuss the growing possibility of this trope, and whether or not it would be a good thing. And as of the end of the episode, it looks likely to happen, as huge armies of abnormals from Hollow Earth invade the surface.
    • The first part of the two-parter series finale ends with Magnus announcing that abnormals exist on live television. The exact impact of this is mostly left unclear.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Tesla, sort of. He loses his vampire powers, but the bio-electric powers he possessed as a vampire seems to have been kept to an extent, turning him into a living magnet.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: The show is obviously filmed in Vancouver and make no effort to hide it, but the actually name of the city is never mentioned. A large portion of the fictional city is also created with CGI, and taken as a whole, the setting is a wonky cross of Vancouver/Seattle with Montreal/old-town Boston.
  • Catchphrase: Magnus has "Dear God." She also uses "Bloody hell!" quite often.
  • Chickification: Will Zimmerman is a rare male example. He's a brilliant forensic investigator, an emotionally tough, tenacious maverick willing to find the truth at any price... in the pilot. In subsequent episodes, he becomes the Designated Victim, losing his glasses and (frequently) 50% of his pilot IQ and personality in the process, as well as gaining tighter clothes and lots of hair product. As of the fourth season premiere, he seems to be getting better.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Done as with many speculative fiction shows, but a particularly textbook example is present in season 2, episode 4, with a crane controller.
    • Done over a several episode span in season 4... at first Henry's random gadget storyline seems annoyingly out of place amidst the tense Helen/ Will scenes in "The Depths," but it pays off big time two episodes later in the series finale.
  • Clingy Costume: Taking a note from Spider-Man, two episodes have a character in a superhero suit that they couldn't take off. Will even asks him about wastes.
  • Clip Show: "Wingman." Unlike most examples of this trope, the clips largely happen at pauses in the actual plot, which has little to nothing to do with them (mostly they take the place of explanations Will and Henry give to their dates Abby and Erica about their previous adventures).
  • Clothes Make the Superman: As mentioned above, the suit in question was an abnormal entity that shaped itself like a superhero suit so it could bond to a host. It would grant them superhuman abilities, but feed on their live energy in return.
  • Conflict Ball: Will and Magnus are butting heads a lot more in season 4. Even accounting for stressful situations, it was never this bad. In Fugue, Will gets handed this big time. His girlfriend gets infected with something that slowly turns them into a violent abnormal. Magnus then suggests a cure and considering she is the foremost expert of these things, you think that Will would go along with her idea. But NO, he thinks that the idea is too risky, which doesn't make sense in the first place because the victim has a 100% chance of dying without the cure. Then he accuses her of having ulterior motive, which doesn't fit with his character and there is no way that she would do that kind of thing anyway. It gets so bad that they have to lock him away so he won't go on a violent rampage to "save" her. Classic Conflict Ball
  • The Conscience: Will for Helen. She specifically tells him that she needs him to be this for her.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Declan: You obnoxious piece of—
  • Cute Monster Girl: Erica, Henry's werewolf girlfriend. She's rather stunning in a red dress
  • Deadline News: Once so far, taking up most of an episode as the protagonists try to protect the reporters while making sure their news will never leak.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast at various points, but Will, Kate and Tesla most consistently.
  • Dedication: "Normandy" is to all men and women who serve in the armed forces.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A little over a hundred years ago, Helen and the rest of The Five hunted down a dangerous man who attempted to kill most of London. He also had Dissociative Identity Disorder, and thus wasn't fully responsible for his behavior. Nevertheless, Helen did her level best to kill him in cold blood in order to protect society, believed she had succeeded, and is still pretty okay with that. Will, a modern psychologist, is appalled.
  • Differently Powered Individual: Anyone with Source Blood; many of the abnormals.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: What clues Magnus in to Druitt's return. Justified, being that Druitt is Jack the Ripper and that's what he's known for.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Early in the second season, Big Guy claims to be cast out by his own people, but says that doesn't mean he shouldn't honor their ways. In "Fragments", when all of Magnus's medicine fails, he employs a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that brings a patient back from the brink. And in Veritas, he comes back from "the dead". Will finds this out after seeing that the slab across his tomb had been moved.
  • Don't Come A-Knockin': In "Wingman", Henry and his girlfriend are in a van, rocking the hell out of it... while trying to wire a cell phone recording into the speaker system.
  • Dreamville: "Out Of The Blue" features Helen Magnus and Will Zimmerman ending up in a dreamlike suburb in which Helen is married to John Druitt and Will is caring for a pregnant Abby Corrigan. Over time, both of them begin to experience visions of waking up in a laboratory, and begin remembering who they really are — eventually prompting them to drive off a cliff in order to awaken themselves from the illusion. Turns out that they'd been exposed to the venom of a psychic worm during an expedition to New Mexico.
  • Dying as Yourself:
    • Ashley recognizes that the Cabal's programming is going to take over again in a moment, and chooses to go the Heroic Sacrifice route instead.
    • Druitt momentarily looks like he's going to this at the end of "Haunted".
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Edward Forsythe's epic "screw you" to Wexford at the end of "Kali Part 3".
    Forsythe: This is HMS I Don't Give A Crap. If you happen to be an uptight amphibian martinete with a Napoleon Complex, please Bugger Off! Otherwise leave a message after the tone and we'll get back to you as soon as possible! Beeeeep!
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Will is shown to have Hyper-Awareness in the first season, but it's never brought up again in later seasons.
  • Elemental Embodiment: The "Normandy" episode is about Helen Magnus trying to stop the Nazis from utilizing a fire elemental to wipe out the Allied invasion force before it can even land.
  • Ending by Ascending: Subverted. Will is transforming into an abnormal and dreams of himself as a human ascending a staircase towards a bright light. He follows, only to find himself on top of one of the Sanctuary's towers, where he commits suicide.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Big Bertha is said to be able to create earthquakes. Turns out she's a hell of a lot more powerful, supposedly having shattered the Pangaea super-continent and made the Biblical floods. When the idiots running the Sanctuary network decide to ignore Magnus and attack her, she hits back Old Testament style.
  • Enemy Within: What turned Druitt into Jack the Ripper.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Without even saying a word, Tesla's introduction says everything about him. He casually strolls into Magnus' lecture, gets security to hand her a note; informing her that some men are coming to kill her, to meet him outside... and she looks hot.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • John Druit seemed to be working for the Nazis, though he was really working against them from within, or something (he did kill Hitler after all), because "I know evil when I see it."
    • Sue, The Dragon of the Vendetta Gang turns out to be this in "One Night," creating an elaborate Batman Gambit where Will is kidnapped to save Gibbs, the poisoned head of the Vendetta Gang, an international group of assassins. Sue could not abide the Gang getting involved in slave trafficking, so unleashed a poisonous Abnormal on Gibbs, then had Will kidnapped as someone who plausibly could save him but wouldn't be able to, thanks to being Not That Kind of Doctor and Sue being deliberately not forthcoming about certain details, such as not mentioning Gibbs was an abnormal and then lying about what kind of abnormal he was. Unfortunately, she gets found out by the third in command, who shoots her.
  • Even the Girls Want Her:
    • Might be the psychological trauma, but one of Magnus' fellow hostages in Episode 4.4, "Monsoon", becomes very attracted to her.
    • The vampire queen from "Awakening" seemed interested in more than just drinking Magnus' blood...
  • Evil Is Sexy: Invoked during Tesla's toast in "Sleepers".
    Tesla: Here's to those halcyon days of bloodlust now gone... plus you gotta admit, vampires are just plain cool.
    Magnus: Amen.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Seems to be a large part of the Cabal's activities.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Between the revelations and remembrances about times she worked for the French Resistance, sailed on the Titanic and had sex with the man who became Jack the Ripper, Sanctuary wants you to know Helen Magnus has lived through her 159+ years on this Earth.
  • Expy: Magnus and her group was originally formed under the auspices of the British government to handle an extra-normal threat that only people with their special talents could tackle. Yes, that does sound familiar.
  • Fan Disservice: You would think Magnus's first real nude scene (well, as nude as a show on SyFy can get) would be more enticing. Not when she's forcibly stripped naked by men in biohazard suits and then hosed down because they think she's a zombie.
  • Fanservice:
    • Will and Magnus spend a good part of "Next Tuesday" soaking wet.
    • Clara having to get naked in order to turn invisible.
    • Kali. (At least the human avatar of her.)
  • Femme Fatalons: Ashley gets them. But since they're a vampiric trait, Tesla has them too.
  • Fight Clubbing: The Cabal's underground abnormal fight network.
  • Flying Brick: The Adjuster's symbiotic suit grants this.
  • Foe Romance Subtext:
    • Magnus and Tesla. Magnus and Druitt. Druitt and Tesla. Druitt and Watson. Members of the Five seem to have a lot of subtext going.
    • Tesla and Foss, who spend an awful lot of time arguing like and old married couple.
    • Magnus and Druitt should get a special mention seeing as they were actually married and very much in love before Druitt went mad.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend
    • Persistently averted with Ashley. Nearly every single episode of the second season has Magnus dealing with it in some way or another.
    • Unfortunately upheld with Clara, though. To be fair, Will does mention her in "Next Tuesday", and he knew her for only a few weeks, while Ashley was Magnus's daughter, so naturally her death is going to have somewhat less impact.
    • Although "friend" may be pushing it a bit (and they Never Found the Body), there is absolutely no mention of John Druitt during all of season 4.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Kali (who in reality is a giant spider who lives on the sea floor) appears to her heralds as a ridiculously beautiful Indian woman
  • For Science!: Both the Cabal and Magnus. And Tesla. Aside from his famous real-life work, he tries to design a weapon to disable but not kill Ashley and the other brainwashed super-abnormal Cabal operatives, even though he thinks it's an impossible task, because he's not sure it's impossible, and just has to find out for himself. He doesn't really care about saving the Sanctuary, he's just doing it to see if he can.
  • Future Badass: Will Zimmerman in "Pavor Nocturnus". His actions even scare the crap of Magnus of all people.
  • Ghostapo: The season three episode aptly titled "Normandy", has Helen, Watson, Griffen and Tesla (from the war office in England) going against Hitler's own abnormal hunting group, seeming helped by Druitt, who were going to use a Fire Elemental to stop the D-Day Invasion. Watson points out the irony of Hitler going after the imperfect cretures to help in his quest for a perfect world.
  • Giant Spider: Big Bertha, a.k.a. Kali, Hindu Goddess of Destruction.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Adam Worth, a scientist who almost made the Five into the Six, inspired the novel. Both sides are aware of each other. Neither side likes Magnus...
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Right, Wexford and the unbelievers. Hey, that's a good name for a band."
  • Guile Hero: In season 4, Helen Magnus, with the help of Will Zimmerman, manipulates the United Nations Security Council — not to mention the governments of most of the free world — into cutting the Sanctuary off for good, so they can maneuver independently of government bureaucracy. This is not surprising, as she has made an absolute career out of this sort of thing. She keeps this up throughout the Season, while more and more of her plans are revealed, culminating in the creation of a new, hidden Sanctuary at the end of the Season.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Druitt near the end of season 1, though it's not always consistent. We later learn his bloodlust in particular is due to an Enemy Within.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Pascale Hutton (Abby) was six months pregnant during their first date in "One Night". Unusually for this trope, they actually show the same pregnancy later in the season.
  • Historical Domain Character: Nikola Tesla and Jack the Ripper.
  • Historical Injoke: Magnus has been around a long time, so naturally she gets into this. Among other things, she was on the Titanic and was pulled into a lifeboat by Molly Brown.
    Magnus: There is such a thing as "before my time"!
    Will: (skeptical look)
    • Also, in his introductory episode Magnus makes a reference to Nikola Tesla planning on sharing plans to a death ray machine he developed with every Allied government, in order to cause an end to all war. This actually was something the real Tesla was working on towards the end of his life.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Though time travel isn't involved, "Normandy" reveals that Druitt killed Hitler about a year before D-Day, but they just used body doubles after that.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Tesla accidentally "devamps" himself with his own devamper weapon, powered by his own body no less. That'll teach you to make a weapon with a business end on both sides.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Will. We get a little special effect that highlights the details that he notices to draw his conclusions, à la Psych, but this effect isn't used as much later on.
    • Watson also possess this to an even greater degree.
  • I Call It "Vera": Henry's gun MOLE, pronounced "Molly"
  • Identical Grandson: Will's grandfather as seen in "Normandy". He dies during the operation to stop the Nazis from unleashing the fire elemental.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Subverted. Tesla loves wine (it doesn't affect him though) to the point that he empties out Magnus' wine cellar in the season 2 premiere. And in season 3 when working on the Hollow Earth Map. And gets a start on it after being fired from SCIU.
    • Kate mentions all of the priceless first editions are covered in wine stains because of Tesla.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight:
    • When Zimmerman attempts to rescue a friend from the experiment mentioned under Playing with Syringes. Possible subversion, as Zimmerman was also under the influence of the experiment.
    • Magnus attempts this on Ashley to break the Cabal's mind control. She fails the first time, but it works the second. Too bad Ashley's solution was to kill herself.
    • Will tries to talk down a transformed Henry in "Animus", to little avail.
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: Nikola Tesla is the occasional Butt-Monkey, since, being a vampire, he can't die (at least until he is turned back into a human, sort of). He has been stabbed, electrocuted, having Jack the Ripper's fist punched through his chest, sliced with claws, dropped from a high-rise, etc. And he's still as cheerful and annoying as ever, especially since he lacks the any of the traditional vampire weaknesses (he walks in the sunlight, can eat and drink, does not require blood, can survive a stab through the heart).
  • Incest Subtext: Between Henry and Ashley in "Nubbins". (While they are not biologically related, Magnus did raise them both together, making them Not Blood Siblings, but siblings nonetheless.)
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Strictly speaking, Zimmerman never said to the murderer pretending to be the murder victim's friend that the victim's body was stuffed in a washing machine.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Magnus and Adam alter several key events after time traveling back to Victorian England (Jack the Ripper gets an extra kill and Adam's daughter dies from falling debris instead of disease, among others), but the present is apparently unchanged.
  • Invisibility: Near the end of the first season the team has to locate an invisible girl to find the MacGuffin to defeat the bad guys. The fact that she has to be naked to do so is frequently commented on and joked about. This gives the show a chance to Fanservice it up since the other female characters, while being very attractive, are always quite well covered up.
  • Invisible Streaker
    • Nigel as the inspiration for the Invisible Man has this of course.
    • Clara inherited the same power.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Michael Shanks guest starring in the episode "Penance".
  • Jack the Ripper: Much discussed concerning Druitt.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: What Tesla eventually proves himself to be. He remains as cranky and snarky as ever, but it becomes obvious that he really does care despite his protests.
  • Karma Houdini: The Vampires (with Trust-Funds) from "Sleepers". Even after Tesla devamps them again, we get no indication that they were punished for the murders they committed, nor learn anything from the experience! We're never exactly made certain of how much of their behaviour and actions were caused by becoming Vampires, with several indications being given that they were already a bunch of spoilt, arrogant jerkasses to begin with?!
    • Tesla in that episode also qualifies. His plan was to create an elite class of Vampires that would slowly manifest over the course of the next 30 years, allowing him to be in a position where he could take over the world. After stopping the prematurely activated Vampires, Magnus seems to laugh the entire incident off completely after Tesla is accidentally rendered mortal along with them.
  • Killed Off for Real
    • Ashley in the season 1 finale.
    • In the season 4 finale, The Big Guy follows suit, in what amounts to a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Kill 'Em All: That's one way to end a mid-season finale: kill your main cast off. Granted, they get revived, but it's a hell of a way to go.
  • Lamarck Was Right: The Source Blood must be pretty potent stuff indeed if it can alter a person's gametes. Well, it activates latent abnormal genes in otherwise normal humans, so it's not so much altering as it is triggering. Add in the fact that trace amounts of Source Blood may have been in Dr. Magnus' body when she was carrying Ashley and... yeah.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "This is so Indiana Jones!"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Bank Job" when someone thinks that Magnus' British accent is fake.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Zig-Zagged in "Out of the Blue", it's a therapy meant to help them recover from a psychworm's venom that has this effect.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: John Druitt, Ashley's father. It comes out pretty quickly, though. Faster in the webisodes. It's said in the first episode there. Gives a reason for her monster hunting in the second.
  • Magnetism Manipulation: Nikola Tesla becomes magnetized after losing his vampirism and Shock and Awe powers. He can pull metal towards his hands from long distance. And retains that power after becoming a vampire again.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: Appears at the end of "Hero", although it's defintely a case of Stylistic Suck as the characters are all reading a comic written by the episode's now depowered superhero.
  • Memento MacGuffin: In "Firewall", two of Magnus' birthday presents from her father turn out to combine into what seems to be a scale-model of a mysterious, futuristic city.
  • Mercy Kill
    • Done to infectees in "Pavor Nocturnus"
    • In "Bank job," it would have been so much more awesome for stargate fans if the victim of the Monsterofthe Week had been played by Siler instead of Walter Although to be fair, it was plenty awesome as is, and using Siler probably would have been too much of a Level Breaker. But still.
  • Minored in Ass-Kicking: While Magnus is most often seen utilizing her abilities as an Omnidisciplinary Scientist and diplomat to solve problems and save the day, her coworkers in the Sanctuary are always quick to point out that she can handle herself in a fight and she has shown the ability to do so many times. The entirety of Monsoon is basically Helen evading the bad guys and saving the innocent bystanders through a combination of wit, stealth, and hitting people in the face. The following exchange sums it up quite well, clearly with the trope in mind:
    Charlotte: What are you, a spy, an agent or something?
    Magnus: A doctor.
    Charlotte: Of asskicking!
  • The Mole: Tesla's assistant in "Normandy" turns out to be spying on him for the Nazis.
  • Morality Pet: Nikola Tesla is a Jerkass with plans for world domination who doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself... and Helen Magnus. She's the only living thing he truly loves, and there's nothing he would not do to keep her safe.
    • You eventually get indications that he's starting to see Henry as a sort of protege, and he cares enough to risk his own life to save him on at least one occasion.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The entire episode featuring a guest appearance by Michael Shanks, wearing leather and sporting stubble.
  • Mugging the Monster
    • In "For King and Country", Helen pays a girl to lead her to Druitt. When they get there, the girl and and her cronies try to rob Helen. She disarms the girl and takes the rest of them hostage in about a second.
    • Lampshaded in another episode, when Will and his date are taken hostage. Will realizes that they meant to capture Helen, and laughs at the very idea of them trying to kidnap Helen Magnus.
  • Mundane Utility: Will is turning into a lizard-creature and gains the ability to crawl on walls. Henry's reaction is priceless (slightly paraphrased): "Cool. Now go change some lightbulbs."
  • Musical Episode: "Fugue". Justified in that the episode involves Abby being infected with a parasitic being, one of the symptoms thereof being that she can only hear and speak in certain frequencies, thus she communicates with others in song, and since the parasite makes her deaf to regular speaking, duets are not uncommon. Even parasite-Abby gets one, which is probably the best. At one point Magnus has a conference and imagines, or not, that everyone is reporting to her via a song as well.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • Ashley teleports with the shield up, leading everyone but Magnus to believe she's dead. She spends an episode searching for ways she could be alive, before eventually accepting that she truly didn't survive. According to Word of God she really is dead.
    • Ditto Ranna of Hollow Earth, who is presumed dead after the destruction of Praxis. Word of God is mum so far.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Helen in the series 4 premiere. After time travelling to 1898, she angrily berates Past!Adam, earning his ire that she won't help him with his daughter's kidnapping (ironically, by his future-self). At the end of the episode she ends up in a confrontation with Future!Adam, only for him to fire a stray shot that accidentally ends up causing the death of his daughter anyway, despite her being cured from her terminal illness. After her past self arrives at the crime scene, Past!Adam shows up and immediately blames Past!Magnus for his daughters death, causing his Start of Darkness.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Apparently, it's not okay for a TV show to put nipples on mermaids, but it is okay to show the shredded bodies of hundreds of said mermaids — arguably, not being a mammal, "Sally" has no real use for nipples. And if that's true, then she also has no need for breasts.
  • No Ending:
    • There's a season two episode in which Magnus and Will crash the helicopter down a borehole, and when not fighting the monster of the week, exhausted every possible method of escape and communication. At the end, the camera zooms away, with Will saying "Seriously, how are we going to get out of here?" The next episode implies they got out, but the event is not explained or even mentioned.
    • "Instinct" has a variation on this. After the cameraman Zach, who has been filming the events of the episode gets killed by the second creature, Magnus turns off the camera. We then cut to the team back at the Sanctuary, with no explanation of how they dealt with the second creature, what happened to the first creature trapped with the frozen embryos, how they got past the incoming SWAT teams, etc...
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: "One Night" has Will and his date getting kidnapped by gangsters who want him to cure their poisoned boss. They completely ignore him when Will points out he's a psychologist, not a surgeon or an expert on poisons (like Magnus), and so therefore he does not have the medical expertise to save the man. this is the first clue that this is an elaborate Batman Gambit by The Dragon of the gang to capture someone who could theoretically save the leader, but wouldn't be able to, to prevent the gang from getting into slave trading of Abnormals like the boss wanted to
  • Not What It Looks Like: "Out of the Blue" makes it looks like Will and Magnus have been kidnapped by Vincent St. Pierre (a previous foe) who's drugging them into thinking they're in an alternate world where Will is a cardiologist married to a pregnant Abby whilst Magnus is an artist trying to divorce herself from Druitt. However, once they break out of the fake reality, it's revealed that St. Pierre was hired by Henry and Kate to cure Magnus and Will from the effects of a mind-altering abnormal worm which was causing them to hallucinate they were in the dream world
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: In "Pavor Nocturnus", a blatant Zombie Apocalypse episode, they go to great lengths to avoid calling the zombies what they obviously are. Instead, the characters say "the outbreak" or "the infection" and refer to the creatures themselves as "pale-faces" or just "them".
  • Oddly Small Organization: There are at the start of the series six Sanctuaries over the world, and presumably more than five staff members work at the main one, but they get 99% of the screentime. Occasionally we see staff from the London Sanctuary, which was run by James Watson until his death at the end of season 1. The second season shows almost all of the heads of the Sanctuary network.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Druitt and Tesla apparently take down the entirety of the Cabal on their own as revenge for Ashley's death. Offscreen. John is even in one scene drinking some sort of amber liquor and with a few splotches of blood on his neck.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr Magnus, though to a lesser degree and with a heavy biology bent; being over a hundred years old, she's had quite a bit of time to study.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: No one lets Druitt forget that he was Jack the Ripper.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Justified. Dr Magnus was born during the reign of Queen Vicky, and has lived in Canada for a very long time, therefore one would expect the character's accent to shift somewhat. Lampshaded in "Bank Job", when one of the hostages calls Magnus' British accent fake and she changes it to an American one to mock him.
  • Our Ancestors Are Superheroes: It pegs Nikola Tesla as a vampire with electric, and later magnetic, powers, Doctor Watson as a super-human genius, and Jack the Ripper as a teleporting bloodthirsty maniac.
    • Also, humans used to be slaves to an ancient society of vampires before we rebelled and killed them all (Tesla is not a true vampire).
    • And there is, apparently, an entire advanced civilization living in sprawling cities deep underground. The D'ni, perhaps.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Henry. Season 3 introduces us to a private psychiatric hospital, all of whose patients and staff are werewolves who take medication so as to not change. This episode also reveals that Henry's tech-wizard abilities are apparently a racial trait: all of the patients tinker with machinery as a way to amuse themselves, and one of them is legitimately shocked to learn that this isn't something that regular humans also do
  • Playing with Syringes: One of the Cabal's more heinous experiments, creating Super Soldiers and having them fight to the death to determine which methods of improvement work best.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The season one finale. Deliberately designed that way by Magnus' father.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Most of the episode "Metamorphosis" takes place from Will's POV.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • Clara, who has invisibility powers and uses them to sex up Will.
    • Tesla uses his magnetic powers to unbutton an FBI agent's blouse. Will stops him before he can do any more than the top button.
  • Pregnant Hostage: In season 3 the team pretends to be bank robbers and holds everyone hostage because one person is carrying an Abnormal parasite. One hostage is believed to be the host, but instead is revealed to be pregnant. Later she is the first hostage released.
  • Premature Empowerment: Nikola Tesla became a vampire with electrical powers after injecting himself with vampire blood (all true vampires having been killed off long ago). His goal throughout the series is to re-create the vampire race in his own image. His first attempt fails miserably, as the vampires are mindless savages with no free will. He then moves to Mexico and opens a rehab clinic for rich American kids, while covertly performing genetic experiments on them. Each of them is implanted with vampire DNA that is slowly changing their internal makeup and will not actually activate until decades later. Then one gets into a car accident and dies, triggering a premature transformation. He then proceeds to find and shoot every one who visited the clinic, doing the same to them. Unlike Tesla, they have no electrical powers. They then try to take over the world...Tesla does NOT approve.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Dr Magnus used to date Jack the Ripper; she's 157 years old at the start of the series. For that matter, Tesla, Watson, and Jack the Ripper are also all older than they look for various reasons. The only member of the Five that isn't (The Invisible Man) is dead with a grown up granddaughter. Magnus' father is even older, and probably in his 180s-190s or so. She's now 250+, thanks to taking The Slow Path after the fourth series premiere.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: After hiding Pascale Hutton's pregnancy earlier in the season, it is written in as part of the hallucinated reality Will and Magnus experience after being attacked by the psychworm.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Figures that the big lizard-guy is the one spoiling for a fight. It's with good reason, but still.
  • Reset Button: At the end of "Pavor Nocturnus". At first it seems that it was All Just a Dream, but Helen keeps the coat that she picked up in the Zombie Apocalypse future — the Guardian threw her forward in time, then brought her back.
  • Ret-Gone: The unfortunate fate of the majority of the residents in Carentan. A time dilation bubble surrounding the city has to be neutralized, lest it expand far enough to tear the Earth apart due to the violent temporal shift. Inside the bubble, where a single day had been compressed down to six years from their point of view, three generations of people were born. Reversing the time dilation had the effect of negating their existence, as well as everything created in it.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Nubbins, which turn out to be Killer Rabbits.
  • Right Behind Me: Will pulls this on Kate in season three.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In episode 8, "Edward", the title character draws monsters. He has a sheaf of drawings; they include one of an Unas and one of a Wraith.
    • In "Sleepers", Will discovers Henry and The Big Guy have gone to Comicon in San Diego and refers to them as "fanboys". Amanda Tapping's return smirk is priceless. It's not hard to find pics of Amanda Tapping, Robyn Dunne and other cast members on panels at Comicon.
    • Will quotes John McClain when crawling through the air ducts in "Haunted".
    • Two separate Shout Outs to Twilight in "Firewall". One doubles as an Actor Allusion for Christopher Heyerdahl (mentioned above). The other (Will saying "Twilight is amazing!") seems more like a Take That!.
    • In "Firewall", Henry shouts "What in the name of Sweet Sidney Crosby is going on!" Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal for Canada in the 2010 Men's Olympic Hockey Gold Medal game.
    • In Season 3, when Will and Henry are investigating stories of other werewolves, the power goes out as Magnus and Tesla are studying the city. Upon requesting Tesla to do something, he replies "What am I, a house elf?" to which she replies "Thank you, Dobby!"
    • In the Season 3 episode "Awakening", the Vampire sigils where Magnus and Tesla are my be slightly familiar to fans of The Elder Scrolls. One of them is the Oblivion Sigil.
    • In "Hero", the Adjuster lies to Will about how he got his powers by telling him a story that's a mashup of various well-known heroes' origin stories. When Will relates it to Henry later, Henry gets every one of the references and laughs at Will for missing them.
    • In "Next Tuesday", when confronted by a Vampire Squid, Magnus mutters "Hello, Beastie!".
    • The series 2 finale showed a confused, lone pterodactyl that had been picked up by the London Sanctuary, with no further commentary where it might have come from. This episode aired about half a year after Torchwood Cardiff had been blown up in that show's third season, effectively making Myfanwy homeless.
    • In "End of Nights", Henry says, "Have fun storming the castle!"
    • The fourth season episode "Chimera" is full of shout outs. Due to the plot involving Magnus and Tesla plugging their brains into the Sanctuary's computer system in order to hunt down a Praxean nanite, The Matrix, TRON and Skynet are all mentioned by the Genre Savvy team, as well as a whole host of other sci-fi franchises.
    • "Metamorphosis" has Will being slowly turned into some sort of lizard-man. After the team gets used to it, Kate asks him if he can save them 15% or more on car insurance
  • The Slow Path: After travelling back in time with Adam Worth, Magnus has to get back to the future via this method. At the end of Season 4, it turns out that, being Magnus, rather than taking the supposed century of vacation, she uses the time to set up an elaborate Batman Gambit to further her goals in the present, and secure the future of the Sanctuary.
  • Spoiler Opening:
    • Subverted. The opening to "Eulogy" still features Ashley like the first season opening did, implying that the character will be brought back after the Heroic Sacrifice. And then the episode ends with Magnus having to accept that Ashley is, in fact, really dead, and the next episode's opening is completely redone, replacing the trio with a quintet.
    • Season 3 seems to play straight into this though, the shot of the team removes big guy and instead features Druitt
  • Spontaneous Choreography: When trying to summon Kali, a delusional Will remembers that she told him earlier to dance, so he starts a typical Bollywood dance in the middle of Mumbai. In his mind, there are a dozen dancers with him. In fact, he's dancing alone, and the locals are looking at him as if he's insane. It's not clear where he got the moves, but it works.
  • Spring-Heeled Jack: Spring-heeled Jack appears briefly in "Tempus". A humanoid abnormal with white skin who Looks Like Orlok and possess superhuman leaping abilities, Jack preyed upon humans in Southern England during the Victorian era, until Dr. Helen Magnus convinced him to become the first inhabitant in the UK sanctuary.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: In "Normandy", during the final attack on the underground bunker that holds the fire elemental.
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • Adam in "Pax Romana". Will hesitates to shoot him, and is scolded by Adam for it. He is then immediately shot by Helen.
    • In "Normandy", Watson asks Druitt why he can't just kill Hitler. It turns out that John actually killed him nine months ago, but the Nazis are using his body double to run the Reich and are perfectly happy with it. Oh, Crap!.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The Nazis had an Abnormal-hunting division. They managed to collect a weather machine and a living fire elemental, which would have ruined the invasion at Normandy if not for Magnus and her merry band of vampire-enhanced humans.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: In the first season episode "Kush", there's a crash, followed by several murders. When they settle things down by supposedly catching the suspect, he's killed and they have to reexamine their "fool-proof" method of determining the killer.
  • The Symbiote: The Adjuster's suit is a rare benevolent example.
    • The Macri. It allows communication with Kali, extends its chosen host's life for centuries and its only "evil" act is that the host's physiology becomes so dependant on it, they will die soon afterwards.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Future!Will's response to being bitten by zombies is to attack as many of them as he can head-on, with a side order of Last Stand / You Shall Not Pass!.
  • Ashley literally takes the last cabal super-soldier with her to death.
  • Take That!:
    Magnus: Stop glorifying yourself! It was a book written in three days high on cocaine.
    Worth: About my amazing exploits! Never saw a penny for it, mind you. Stevenson, *laughs* selfish bugger!
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Once as of this writing, with a plane crashed in the mountains and an illusion-generating monstrosity loose. Probably the only work ever to include a Genre Savvy Red Herring Mole — he's self-aware and attempts to avert Death By Genre Savvy. The monster is ultimately detected through Bluff the Impostor.
  • They Do Really Love Each Other: Helen Magnus and John Druitt. They were married way back when they were still human, but by experimenting on themselves, Druitt was driven mad and they became bitter enemies. Its clear however that they both still love each other.
    • This dynamic is best shown when Helen tracks John all the way to the middle of nowhere and finds him delirious and sick. She takes care of him, and when she is sure he is unconscious, she lies down next to him and crawls into his arms.
  • Time Is Dangerous: A time bubble allows people to enter, but violently destroys anything attempting to leave. Time inside bubble runs six years to each day outside, result in three-year periods of no sunlight. Naturally, this is not good for a self-contained ecosystem. Furthermore, if the bubble had expanded too far, the time differential between the different parts of the Earth would have destroyed the planet. Will and Magnus manage to reverse it, but at the cost of ret-goning everyone born inside the bubble.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: In "Carentan", the people who entered the area affected by the time dilation and grew old/died of old age stay old / dead, while people who were born inside a time dilation vanish when the loop ends because they were never born.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Will, sort of. He's the only main character who was introduced to the existence of abnormals during the run of the show.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: James Watson dies at the end of the second episode he's in. In a subversion however, his character is then developed in subsequent flashback episodes.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Edward Forsythe. Various characters speculate that his motivation for controlling Big Bertha was to hold the world hostage, use her to dig for more oil, use the Macri to live for centuries, etc. As he's dying, he reveals to Magnus that that his sole intention throughout was to recreate Pangaea as a sanctuary for all the abnormals in the world.
    Edward: An Island of Dr Moreau... but done properly. You can't blame me for dreaming big?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted. While at first Ashley is convinced the "adorable" Nubbins are the prey of a more monstrous-looking creature encountered in the same episode, the reverse ends up being also true when there's enough Nubbins, and the Nubbins quickly become a major threat.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Normandy" is set during the Second World War and ends with Battle of Normandy.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: After Ashley's death, Magnus goes looking for a way to remove her immortality. It... doesn't end well. Thank God for the Ancient Keeper.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?:
    • Played with in "End of Nights pt. II". While reluctance to put down Ashley is reasonable, the really do try to kill the Cabal soldiers, and fail only because they don't have the magic gun. Once they do, Helen Magnus kills three of them very casually.
    • Every time Adam made an appearance. Helen's famous practicality seemed to take one look at the guy and run for the hills, allowing him to be WAAAY more successful in his various evil schemes than he really should have been.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The time dilation bubble around Carentan had a ratio of six years inside to each day outside. The resulting difference meant that their daily cycle was stretched over the same period: three years of daylight and three years of night.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Played straight and inverted in "Chimera". Physical stress in the simulation manifests in the real world, but likewise, an adrenaline shot in the real world gives Helen momentary Super Strength inside the simulation.
  • Oh, and the Mayans were wiped out by an early Zombie Apocalypse. Presumably those zombies ran out of humans to eat and eventually died, due to populations being more isolated than they are now.


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