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Series / Witchblade

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Not someone to take lightly.

A 2000 live-action television series based on the comic book Witchblade, aired on TNT. The series contains a similar premise - New York Detective Sara Pezzini (Yancy Butler) is bonded to an Empathic Weapon called the Witchblade, which makes her of interest to Chessmaster Kenneth Irons (Anthony Cistaro), who seeks to control the Witchblade though he cannot wield it, and his Dragon, Ian Nottingham (Eric Etebari). However, the series tells more like a re-imagining of the concept rather than a retelling.

To the disappointment of some fans (and the delight of others), the Stripperiffic nature of the Witchblade was done away with, replacing it with a more traditional knight's armor.

The Witchblade itself is a supernatural weapon that can only be wielded by a woman. The reason given for this varies from character to character - Irons says it's because women are "more elemental" while Nottingham claims it is because women can better stand pain. It ends up on the wrist of Sara during a shootout at a museum where it was displayed, ultimately saving her life. From that point forward, it begins to show her visions of the past and, later, her dead partner, Danny Woo (Will Yun Lee).

But there are many people after the Witchblade and its wielder, and their intentions and motives are rarely good. Sara must learn to master the Witchblade's powers without falling under the control of Irons or being killed by those who desire to take the Witchblade themselves.

The series is something of a cult classic among viewers, and was released on DVD in 2008. General opinion has that the show was a reasonable translation of the comics and quite good in that regard. In fact, the show would have likely continued for several more seasons if not for lead actress Yancy Butler's substance abuse problems.

In January 2017, plans for a new version of the show were announced by NBC.

This series contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Modesty: In the live-action version Sara herself and other wielders of the Witchblade are nowhere near as scantily clad as the comic versions of the characters, which would probably have been far too distracting for what is basically a supernatural crime drama.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Danny Woo is shown practicing kata in one episode of season two, and uses it to subdue a Serial Killer a couple episodes later.
  • All Myths Are True: All mythologies that are mentioned have a basis in fact: the Witchblade has connections to Judeo-Christian mythology (its Spear Counterpart is the Lance of Longinus, it was wielded by the divinely inspired Joan of Arc, Sara fights a demon with it, and it's able to end Jesus's curse on a Roman prison guard who tormented him during the Crucifixion) and made-up versions of Celtic Mythology (the fictional Irish war goddess Cathain was a Witchblade wielder who romanced the fictional Irish king Conchobarnote ).
  • Anyone Can Die: Being in the opening credits is no defense in the first season. By its end, every major character save Sara and most of the recurring characters are dead. But then Sara uses the Witchblade to reboot the entire season to square one.
  • Arc Number: 11. Sarah acquires the Witchblade on November 11th (11/11) and she works at the 11th Precinct.
  • Back from the Dead: Everyone who died in season one, thanks to the Reset Button Ending.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Sara, without the Witchblade. With, she's just plain badass.
    • Also her partner Danny after the reset button is hit in Season II, and he stops being the enigmatic ghost guy, we get to see that he is pretty bad ass himself.
  • Battle Butler: Nottingham.
  • Beard of Evil: While morally ambiguous Nottingham has a somewhat scruffy full beard, the replacement Irons creates for him after his death has a sinister goatee and is a lot more straightforwardly evil.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Many famous historical figures, including Joan of Arc, were actually wielders of the Witchblade. And, in a strange twist, actually all Sara herself. Constantine and Adolf Hitler were both wielders of The Lance of Longinus.
  • Bifauxnen:
    • "Diplopia": After castigating her younger partner Jake for homophobia while investigating the murder of a gay man, Sara shows up to investigate the victim's bar dressed as a man, just to mess with him a little more.
    • "Palindrome": The champion at an all-male underground fight club turns out to be a disguised woman, specifically a Doppelgänger of Sara herself.
  • Bullet Catch: Nottingham can do this, apparently.
  • Bullet Sparks: Used to indicate when a bullet has ricocheted off the Witchblade. Also causes a gas main to blow up in the pilot episode.
  • Bullet Time: Used to show that the Witchblade can slow down time.
  • Buried Alive: Happens to Danny in season 2.
  • Burn the Witch!: Joan of Arc was a previous wielder of the Witchblade, but the series has several flashbacks to her execution by burning after the weapon abandoned her.
  • Cartwright Curse: Sara's suitors and boyfriends tend to end up dead, in comas, or possessed.
  • Casual High Drop: During a chase scene both Moebius and Nottingham jump off a high building and land right on their feet with no injuries.
  • Catch and Return: Sara catches a crossbow bolt and throws it back at the shooter with enough force to kill. Later, she pulls a Punch And Return with a bullet.
  • The Chessmaster: Ken Irons. His extremely nice chess set is a common prop for him when he's shown at home.
  • Cloning Blues: See Evil Twin. Also, Ian's clone is a complete homicidal maniac.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: With the Witchblade, anyone (female) can block bullets and slow time. If you're not a chosen wielder, however, it's as likely to turn on you or abandon you as it is to protect you.
  • Cop Killer:
    • In the pilot, Mafia hitman Tony Gallo murders Sara's partner Danny Woo in cold blood in front of her, and she spends the rest of the episode trying to catch him while learning to use the Witchblade. Gallo also killed Sara's father, a beat cop.
    • "Agape":
      • Narcotics detective Dean Gorner gets into it with Sara at a murder scene, claiming that Homicide is dragging its feet on investigating the death of Gorner's partner Torres and taking umbrage. It turns out in the end that Gorner and Torres were Dirty Cops and Gorner himself was the triggerman. He killed Torres for his share of the take.
      • Following on from the above spoiler, a drug kingpin refuses to kill McCarty or Gorner, because "unlike you, I'm not a cop killer." But he's not above leaving them both guns so they'll kill each other. Fortunately Sara and Danny get there in time.
  • Cowboy Cop: Sara is a rare female example. She's a good cop in a precinct full of dirty ones, but her fellow officers sometimes complain about the way she plays fast and loose with the rules and doesn't seem interested in training her rookie partner McCarty (most of this is due to Witchblade-related shenanigans taking up her time). Also, McCarty is actually an undercover FBI Agent and doesn't need the training.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ken Irons, particularly in season 2.
  • Da Chief: Joe Siri until his retirement. Complete with a Turn in Your Badge moment in the pilot.
  • Dead Partner:
    • Literally in season one. Danny Woo is murdered in the pilot and spends the rest of the season following Sara around as a ghost. Due to later time travel shenanigans, his murder is avoided and he spends season 2 as Sara's flesh and blood partner.
    • In "Agape", Narcotics detective Dean Gorner accuses Sara of dragging her feet on investigating the shooting death of his partner Torres. Turns out Gorner himself was the killer.
  • Demonic Possession: A priest in a rather narmy episode.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • The White Bulls, a secret society of dirty cops inside the NYPD in season 1. One of the rules is that if you find a spent shell casing with a bull engraved on it, it's a signal to cover up the crime.
    • This is ultimately The Reveal of "Agape": Detective Gorner and his deceased partner Torres are dirty, and Gorner killed Torres for his share of the take, then tries to pin his robbery and murder of a mob drug house on McCarty snapping.
  • Dodge the Bullet: One of the powers of the Witchblade is to automatically move to intercept and block bullets. Nottingham can also literally dodge bullets, as well as catching them.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe, Conchobar gives prioritizing fun over profit as his reason for not accepting any of the many record deals he's been offered. He wants to be a troubadour, not a rock star.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Witchblade has a mind of its own. It's opinionated about its wielders and is prone to abandoning them in crisis.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Ian Nottingham.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Tommy Gallo, the Starter Villain for the series, is a mafia hitman who kills Sara's partner in the pilot. In a much later episode a completely Ax-Crazy criminal enters town and starts to wipe out all the other gangs one by one. Gallo is horrified that one of those killed was his nephew, since he promised his sister that he'd look after him.
  • Evil Twin: Subverted. First, they are triplets (or, as The Stinger reveals, quadruplets) rather than twins. Second, all three are pretty damn evil.
  • Fake Shemp: In one season 2 episode, Sarah has a long conversation with someone who is kept mostly in the darkness. His face is shown pretty clearly in at least one shot, but at the last second some Special Effect Failure reveals that the ghost is John F. Kennedy, whose face is superimposed (badly and from Stock Footage) on the actor when he leans into the light for a moment.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The Witchblade is explicitly a female force, choosing women to wield it and regarding them as superior. Many of the villains Sara encounters are, conversely, in one way or another embodiments of the darker sides of masculinity or the products of male efforts to "usurp" the female domain (e.g., clones represent artificial control over pregnancy and birth, and brainwashing super soldiers can be seen as a twisted version of child rearing). Sara herself is tough and capable but also not afraid to show emotion or otherwise appear feminine, and protective of others in a definite Mama Bear sort of way.
  • Fight Clubbing: "Palindrome" has Sara, Danny, and McCarty investigate a death at an underground fight club. Sara keeps watch outside because women aren't allowed in. Except the killer turns out to be a cross-dressing Doppelgänger of Sara.
  • Flaming Sword: The Witchblade, after it protect Sara from a flamethrower.
  • Foil: Several antagonists in the first season are reflections of Sara and the Witchblade.
    • Kenneth Irons is a wealthy, Wicked Cultured Corrupt Corporate Executive who works by planning and manipulation and relies on his enforcer to get things done, while Sara is a down-to-earth, physically formidable, obsessively self-reliant Action Girl with a tendency to wear her heart on her sleeve. He is also also looking to exploit the power of the Witchblade despite having been rather forcibly rejected by it, while Sara is the wearer it has chosen.
    • Nottingham is a male clone of the last Witchblade wearer and therefore in possession of some of its power, and was created by Irons to serve as an Evil Counterpart to the true wearer. He's as hyper-competent as Sara, but also oddly submissive and prone to seeing things in strange philosophical and poetic terms, while she is straight-forward, straight-talking and takes no shit from anyone.
    • The White Bulls are an all-male group of Dirty Cops, contrasting both Sara's unflinching idealism and her status as a rare female member of a mostly-male profession.
  • For Want of a Nail: Lampshaded by Irons in the first episode of Season 2, explaining why this season will play out very differently from Season 1 despite starting with everyone and everything in almost exactly the same position - the few things that have changed (Sara's vague instinct to not go after Gallo, Irons' visions of a future where Sara killed him) are enough to shake everything up to the point of creating a completely different story, especially since things are more connected than they seem.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Deconstructed in "Nailed". Danny Woo is revealed to have once planted evidence to get a Serial Killer convicted (they knew he was their guy but couldn't prove it). The plot kicks off courtesy of the killer's conviction being overturned because of the frame-up, forcing the team to catch him all over again.
  • Game Face: During the climactic fight between Sara and Gallo in the pilot, his face briefly morphs into a demonic grin after he tells her that killing her is Nothing Personal to him. This weird hint that he's Not Even Human is then dropped completely, as it's never brought up in later episodes.
  • Ghostapo: The most recent Witchblade wielder prior to Sara was an American spy in World War II who was given the Witchblade by an SS officer she romanced while undercover (the implication is that the Nazis looted it in bracelet form from the Catholic church, who are confirmed to have taken it from Joan of Arc). Adolf Hitler was a wielder of The Lance of Longinus.
  • Government Conspiracy
  • Historical Domain Character: Sort of. Irish rocker Conchobar named himself after (and is implied to be the reincarnation of) one of several ancient Irish kings who, In-Universe, became one half of a Battle Couple with Irish Action Girl Cathain, a wielder of the Witchblade who apparently became a War Goddess in later Celtic Mythology. However, the show never actually specifies exactly which Conchobar they're talking about (and none of the historical ones seem to fit), and the stuff about Cathain is was made up for the show.
  • Hook Hand: A killer who targets fashion models has a prosphetic hook in place of his right hand. This is because he once tried to wield the Witchblade, which dessicated his arm as punishment since it only accepts female bearers.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin
  • Human Sacrifice: Done by a nutjob in order to summon/resurrect an ancient Irish warrior goddess, a wielder of the Witchblade.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: When crooked cops within the department are looking for Sara, they interrogate her friend Gabriel by destroying his antique merchandise.
  • I See Dead People: One of the powers the Witchblade grants Sara is the ability to see and speak with certain dead. She spends all of season one with Danny Woo as her ghostly companion. There seems to be some unspecified rules though: she seemingly can't interrogate her homicide victims unless Danny acts as an intermediary.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode's title is a single word, often from ancient Greek, e.g. "Agape".
  • It Only Works Once: The time-reversal power Sara uses at the end of season 1 can only be used once by each wielder.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: McCarty is shown roughing up a suspect in the interrogation room in one season one episode, which draws comment from their precinct captain, who eventually recruits him into the White Bulls Dirty Cop ring. Given that McCarty turns out to be an FBI Agent investigating rumors of the White Bulls' existence, it may be an Exploited Trope.
  • Killed Off for Real: In season two Sara kills Irons in the Lance of Longinus episode (or rather he runs himself through when she has him at swordpoint), but he's around for the rest of the season as a ghost. In the series finale she uses the Witchblade to banish his ghost for good.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: Bola.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The Witchblade, when it suits it to be. On two occasions in the series women other than Sara get ahold of it. In the first case she convinces it to crush the wearer's wrist. In the second, the wearer fatally stabs Conchobar with it, but then it refuses to be pulled out, giving Sara an opening to shoot her when it would normally deflect the bullets.
  • Mega-Corp: Vorschlag Industries. They even have their own television station.
  • Mexican Standoff: A group of criminals in season two.
  • Morph Weapon: The Witchblade can take the form of a bracelet, a gauntlet, or a sword. Season 2 adds brass knuckles. And the sword can either sprout from Sara's wrist or emerge from the end of her fist.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Conchabar, who has numerous Shirtless Scenes.
  • New Meat: Detective McCarty, a rookie homicide detective who is assigned Sara as his training officer after Danny Woo is murdered. Subverted. As revealed late in season one, he's really an undercover FBI agent investigating rumors of a Dirty Cop ring inside the NYPD. This is presumably still true in season two despite the Reset Button Ending, though it doesn't come up.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Gallo to Sara.
    You know, you and I aren't that different. We're both hunters and we both like to kill.
  • Nothing Personal:
    Gallo: You know, killin' your father wasn't personal. Neither was Maria. And don't flatter yourself, neither are you.
  • One-Man Army:
    • When Sara is wearing the Witchblade and its power is fully unveiled, she cannot be stopped.
    • Nottingham proves himself another version of this trope in the pilot, where he fights his way past a dozen of Gallo's men without seeming to even break a sweat.
  • One-Woman Wail
  • Parrying Bullets: Sara is able to block gunfire and even redirect bullets. It's all the Witchblade's doing—without it Sara is just an ordinary cop with an ordinary department-issue Glock.
  • Pilot Movie: Opens with a double-length pilot that follows Sara as she acquires the Witchblade and begins learning to use it.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Lance of Longinus is the (literal) Spear Counterpart to the Witchblade.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At the end of Season 1, Sara has defeated all the villains and lost every single one of her friends and loved ones. This is what prompts her to use the Witchblade to go back in time to the first episode, effectively Cosmic Retconning the entire first season of the show.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Irons and some minor characters.
  • Reincarnation Romance: One of the earliest wielders of the Witchblade was an ancient Irish Action Girl named Cathain, who was sought out by a tribal chieftain named Conchobar for battle training. They fell in love. So do Sara and a present-day Irish indy rocker who uses Conchobar as his stage name. And as in the story, Conchobar ends up dead.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: A lot of the soundtrack was replaced for the DVD release. While the music for the pilot remained intact, because of issues securing rights to the mostly classic rock songs, the rest of the episodes featured an original score of generic electronic music.
  • Reset Button Ending: The Season 1 finale has Sara use the Witchblade to turn back time to the beginning of the season. It Only Works Once, and season 2 goes a very different route with Sara only occasionally getting flashbacks of the previous season's events.
  • Retcon: In the season two premiere, it is revealed that Gabriel witnessed the chase that ended with Sara receiving the Witchblade.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: In The Pilot, the titular artifact gauntlet bonds with Sara, she has the following exchange with Kenneth about what the artifact is.
    Sara: What is this thing? What is the Witchblade?
    Kenneth: A mystery, wrapped in a riddle, and cloaked in a conundrum.
    Sara: That doesn't help very much.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The pilot, we first see a figure pulling jeans over boxer shorts, grabbing a gun and a bike helmet, and riding a motorcycle to work. It's not until "he" removes "his" helmet that we learn that "he" is a she.
  • Scary Black Man: Mobius, a creepy Army special warfare operator from the same unit Nottingham used to be a part of.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Aras, Sara's Evil Twin.
  • Secret-Keeper: Gabriel knows a lot of lore about the Witchblade.
  • Sex by Proxy: There's a scene where shadowy chessmaster Kenneth Irons is apparently psychically connected to Sara Pezzini when she has sex with her Irish rockstar boyfriend Conchobar.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Conchabar has his shirt off in a lot of his scenes.
    • Danny gets an extended one in season two while practicing martial arts kata to work out.
  • Shower of Angst: Sara takes one in the pilot after nearly getting killed in a shootout, complete with troubled fetal position.
    I don't know why I keep pushing the envelope. Something's gotta change. I've gotta change.
  • Slippery MacGuffin: The Witchblade has a history of abandoning its wielders in their time of need, with Joan of Arc as a prominent example. Sure enough, Sara finds it slipping off her wrist at several crucial moments, though she manages to survive and recover it each time.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing at Danny's funeral.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Sara and Conchabar. The first time around, he is taken hostage by Irish intelligence officers trying to use him as leverage against his terrorist brother, and is killed by one of his captors during Sara and Ian's rescue attempt. The second time is during the Fight Clubbing episode in season two, when he winds up comatose from a head injury sustained in a bout.
  • Starter Villain: Tommy Gallo, a legendary mafia hitman, was the first true villain that Sara Pezzini faced, being responsible for both the murder of her partner Danny and as he later reveals, the murder of her father many years ago. He's caught and locked up at the end of the two-episode pilot and then commits suicide in jail, with Pezzini facing a number of other threats from thereon out. Despite the Reset Button Ending of the first season as a result of time travel, Sara doesn't face down Gallo again and basically ignores him the next season since she has bigger enemies to deal with.
  • Straight Gay: When Sara and McCarty investigate a Serial Killer operating out of a gay bar, she lays into him for mild homophobia (he's visibly uncomfortable talking about two men being together). Turns out she's a lesbian and nobody noticed because she fits neither of the major stereotypes. (Although it's quite possible she was just messing with his head, given that all of her Love Interests in the series are male.)
  • Suicide by Cop: Nolan attempts this, although Sara foils it. Also, Nottingham in the season one finale, after Irons casts him out for his devotion to Sara.
  • Super Cop: Sara Pezzini is a detective in the NYPD homicide department who gains the power of a magic artifact known as the Witchblade.
  • Super-Soldier: The Black Dragons, which includes Nottingham. They were an elite unit created by Vorschlag Industries for SOCOM using experimental therapies.
  • Sword over Head: Sara defeats Gallo in the season one premiere and holds the Witchblade to his throat. In the end, though, she chooses to arrest him instead of killing him.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: The White Bulls, a group of corrupt cops who serve as a major villain in the first season, are very proud of being manly men, thus serving as a Foil to Sara's girl power heroism. Notably, they are not actively hateful towards women, just very much a boys' club.
  • There Are No Coincidences: At least not for Sara anymore, courtesy of the Witchblade.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: The visions Sara has of the Witchblade indicate it was forged from a meteor. Tests on the blade itself indicate it's an unknown metal.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Joe to Sara after the shootout at the Rialto. He doesn't have much choice about it: her partner is dead, several of Gallo's mooks were killed with a bladed weapon made of unobtainium, and she's closed-mouthed about what happened (in large part because she isn't completely sure what's going on herself).
  • Villainous Crush: Nottingham has strong feelings for Sara. Sara's exact feelings for Nottingham are unclear, but his declaration of love certainly flustered her.
    Nottingham (to Sara): I love you. In unguarded moments.
  • Voices Are Mental: In the finale, Gabriel speaks in Irons's voice when possessed by him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Season two has a bit of a problem with this. Sara's investigation of Gallo that got Danny killed last time? Forget it. The Doppelgänger from "Palindrome" that Nottingham takes into custody seemingly as a substitute Sara? Never referenced and left mostly unexplained.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Sara is visited by JFK's ghost in a late season 2 episode and the assassination is touched on. Kennedy doesn't address any particular theory regarding the assassination, but he does say something to the effect that he was killed for wanting to change the world for the better.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the episode "Lagrimas", Sara meets and falls in love with a man named Daniel Germaine. Daniel was a Roman prison guard who abused Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion. Jesus cursed him to live until the Second Coming and Daniel spent the next two millennia trying to find a way to end it. Turns out that the Witchblade, a weapon of divine origin, is his way out: at his urging, Sara runs him through and he dies happily in her arms.
  • You Killed My Father: In the Pilot Movie mafia hitman Tommy Gallo reveals to Sara that he is responsible for killing her father, which we then see in a flashback.