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Visual Novel / Cause of Death

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Cause of Death is a Visual Novel style serial published by Electronic Arts for the iOS operating system beginning in December 2010. Falling under the Detective Drama genre, it follows a Homicide police contingent in San Francisco, focusing on decorated (albeit with some qualms about following authority all the time, courtesy his daddy issues) detective Mal Fallon and FBI profiler Natara Williams. And yes, the profiler is very much justified, given the problems San Francisco is having on account of the Connoisseur, a more-than-slightly-well-heeled funder of...Serial Killers. The focus isn't just on the killers and their impending comeuppance, though, but also on the personal relationships (platonic and otherwise) of the Homicide department.

Cause of Death is downloaded with its first volume (or, to use the current terminology, "season") completely free. After release, each week sees a new episode accessible for free...for that week, anyway. In order to play through episodes that aired before that, purchase is required. Thankfully, there's a discount for older seasons, increasing with age. The initial season has six episodes, with a bonus scene after it all if the player does well enough throughout. After that, each season has eight episodes, and rather than one bonus scene for the whole lot, there's one bonus scene for each episode. Between episodes, a two-part "Side Story" is published that focuses on someone besides Mal and Natara. And finally, there are the occasional Short Story Collection premia that don't actually have choice sections; just click and watch the show... er... read the story.


Unfortunately, after a few months of failing to meet the weekly episode standard, the game began to release content biweekly in September 2013.

After months of server issues and episodes being pushed back from their scheduled release dates, the introduction to Volume 16, Chapter 4 (released on June 5th 2014) announced that Cause of Death was soon coming to an end. The team thanked the fans and promised the "final episodes" would be released soon. And in July 2014, the series released it's finale (the final chapter of it's 16th volume); in September 2014, the game was delisted from the App Store.

The only way for new users to get the game is through unofficial rereleases, such as this one. There's also this playlist documenting the game by uploading a categorized playthrough of it.

While the game has been delisted, its creators went on to create Choices: Stories You Play, an Android/iOS game that offers a variety of separate stories. One of those stories that is perhaps the closest to Cause of Death is Most Wanted; the two have a few similarities. For one, San Trobida, a fictional location appearing in the 11th volume of Cause of Death, is mentioned early on in Most Wanted, as well as a Shout-Out to "Rise of a Maskmaker," an in-universe movie in Cause of Death based on the events of volume one. Other stories in Choices: Stories You Play mention Mansingh Transglobal, the company which Natara's father owns. Additionally, both of the series stare a male Detective in his home city, who is complemented by a federal agent visiting it. Apart from being contemporary murder mysteries, that's pretty much where where the similarities end.


This serial provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Season 11 randomly drops the storyline about a cannibal serial killer halfway through in order to focus on the more popular story arc of Mal and the gang battling the Salazar cartel in San Trobida.
    • The resolution to the cannibal case is quickly glossed over by Blaise in the final scene of the season.
  • Action Girl: Blaise, Natara, Maria and Amy while she's in Brimstone, among other females such as Kara Yan.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Wendy Wilcox in Domestic Disturbance. The reason for the first two murders? Her husband was cheating on her. Reason for murder number three? Barbara stole her snickerdoodles recipe.
  • Amicable Exes: Despite that she cheated on him, when Mal and Sandra reunite to work on a case, they're on fairly good terms.
  • Amoral Attorney: Catherine Krutzik blatantly and shamelessly displays this after 6-3. Why does she want to represent a patently guilty killer who literally just took her hostage and held weapons to her head hours ago that day? For increased fees and media rights, of course!
  • Arc Villain : The series lacks an all-throughout Big Bad, though it uses Genevieve Collins as the Overarching Villain for Volumes 1 thru 13, whilst having the Firstborn as it's Overarching Villain for it's remainder. Here are a list of main antagonists of the individual volumes. Note that almost all of these people fall under the Serial Killer trope. Also note that none these people (and any allies/associates they may have) are the sole antagonists of their volume.
  • Arms Dealer: Captain Abe Miller. A little unusual in that while he is operating in the black market, he's still very conscientious about background checks. Too bad background checks won't reveal very recent Sanity Slippage.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Done intentionally with the latitude and longitude of San Trobida in 11-6. The writers made sure that the exact location would, in our world, be in the Gulf of Mexico, rather than on land, if only to keep fans from making a pilgrimage. The location is pretty close to the Pánama/Colombia border, admittedly.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Mal sacrifices the Lilith File to The Firstborn, a document which contained information on all of Genevieve’s children, in exchange for Natara’s life. The Firstborn uses the file with the intent to "activate" all Genevieve's children one by one and does so with a few of them.
  • Back from the Dead: A photo promoting Season 16 of Cause of Death was released on the game's official Facebook page, which only showed a line of dialogue from Mal that read "This whole time... How could you just go on letting me think you were dead?!" It turns out that the photo was just a April Fool's joke, and nobody is actually coming back.]] See Faking the Dead below for examples of faked deaths.* Backstory: Exists in side stories for some of the main cast, and told in the later episodes of a season for that season's killer.
  • Bad Samaritan: During one of his murder plots, the Boogeyman buys a little girl ice cream and plays with her at an amusement park... only to then murder her parents.
  • Banana Republic: San Trobida. Kind of hard to avoid when your Prime Minister isn't just The Generalissimo, but also a drug kingpin.
  • Bear Trap: The Hunter.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Natara technically possesses all three traits, although the latter is sometimes given to Mal.
  • Big Bad: See Arc Villain above.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mal and Natara near the end of Season 1 when they confront the Maskmaker to save Amy. Also, all of Mal's friends taking part in an operation led by Jacob Fallon to rescue him from General Salazar. Or a bit later, Mal leading an operation to invade Salazar's compound.
  • Big Fancy House: Blue-collar Mal seems kind of allergic to them. Part and parcel of his low opinion (and constant suspicion) of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": The Maskmaker to Natara towards the end of Season 1, if the player chooses the right choices.
  • Big Sister Bully: The catalyst for Brian Resler becoming the Maskmaker in Season 1.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The game is mostly in English, with the occasional sprinkle of Spanish like ‘Madre de la Muerte’ and 'brujo'.
  • Bonus Material: Scoring at least 80 out of 100 Det. Points in a chapter or (part of a) side story (or attaining 500/600 Det. Points in Volume 1's 6 chapters as a whole) will grant you a special bonus scene, which can range from a trivial conversation (i.e. 10-2) to being a sort of epilogue (i.e. 14-9). Of course, important bonus scenes aren't limited to Volume enders (most notably in 15-2 which revealed some practically essential backstory).
  • Break Them by Talking:
    • As with certain interrogations held with potential suspects in the SFPD precinct. The ending of the Premium Content piece "4 Hours" (in "Buried Secrets, Buried Lives") is actually decided by whether or not you choose to break or uphold the law.
    • This is also how Gareth Kelly is beaten in Season 15.
  • Breather Episode: The writers have been introducing ‘Interlude’ episodes in the recent seasons. Also, side stories are released in between seasons.
  • Broken Pedestal: Shawn was Natara's mentor/role model at Quantico, the FBI training academy. He was also the guy who tried to murder her.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Kai. Cardinal nerd, cardinal Cloudcuckoolander, cardinal Casanova Wannabe...and cardinally good forensic tech.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Despite his problems, Mal really does try to keep to this when he can. It helps that he's constantly on the lookout for probable cause, though. Jeremy Redbird is a much more resolute example.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Mal and Natara took ten seasons to do so, and even then it wasn't a direct confession.
  • Can't Drop the Hero: Subverted in the sense that you don’t always play from Mal’s and Natara’s perspectives, but technically they’re still around.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Mal almost always disobeyed Maria when he found probable cause. It was even stated by Ken in 2-3 that he's okay with breaking the rules if it'll put the right men behind bars.
  • The Chase: As with most chase scenes across different seasons.
  • Clear My Name: Mal seems to be the target of this trope. He is first framed by Genevieve for killing Senator Jake Collins in the second season, followed by being accused of restarting his father's drug empire by his ex-colleague, David Troy in the thirteenth season.
  • Cliché Storm: In-universe example with the Rise of the Maskmaker film. No one is impressed, not least because of how fast and loose it plays with what actually transpired.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Several villains, such as Mikhail Volk, Firstborn and Johnny Qingyi.
  • The Coroner: Kai.
  • Cowboy Cop: Jacob was a particularly ferocious version of this. Blaise can be one when the situation seems especially urgent, and Anna wishes she could be a "proper" one.
  • Criminal Mind Games: A few instances of this.
    • Mikhail Volk and Genevieve Collins put Natara into one in Volume 2 by setting up an elaborate puzzle for her.
    • Zero, in Volume 4, tied a hostage to a chair, and from a remote location, invited two SFPD officers (Ken and Natara) to her location. They ordered the pair that they must input a password into an input device before a timer runs out to save her before she is killed. They put in the correct answer, but since they "cheated" by calling Kai and Amy to ask for help, Zero killed her anyway.
    • The biggest fanatic of this trope was the Mad Stranger in Volume 6, who set up his murder system of Revenge by Proxy. With the protagonists, he made Natara and Oscar figure out a chess puzzle (what a pawn would need to be promoted to in order to checkmate the opponent) in a time limit, otherwise they would be gassed to death by poison.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Many people (on both sides of the hero/criminal spectrum). Most notably Ryan Orville, The Hunter, after killing Mal's gilfriend at the time, who was killed by being forced into a bear trap head first in 3-8. Also Armie Gillum, The Ladykiller, falling into a jet turbine in 7-8. Characters have also fallen from heights and been tortured to death.
  • Darker and Edgier: Things seem to have taken quite a turn, in suggestiveness and darkness, since Season 1. Remember the sex club in Season 10? Oh, have you seen Season 11 and its gore yet?
  • Dating Catwoman: Kai with Kara.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Iconic characters have their own side stories. Also, the player gets to play from different characters’ perspectives in different episodes.
  • Death by Irony: Many examples throughout the game. In Season 1, Eric Mills drowns in the waters surrounding Alcatraz. In Season 3, Ryan Orville is shoved head-first into a bear trap. Subverted as he was not hunting bears but women previously. In Season 4, Herman Hartnall is killed with a slashed zero carved into his forehead.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Except for the moments when the character's death is canon and planned, you get to replay from a checkpoint if you die in your playthrough of an episode. Some of the death scenes show rather detailed scenarios that expose some of that character's thoughts.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Ken Greene, despite being one of the Player Characters throughout the first eight seasons, is killed by Kolo Zargoza in 8-6.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Genevieve Marsden Collins, a.k.a. the Connoisseur, as well as the Firstborn.
  • Dirty Cop: Jacob Fallon. Say hello to the source of Mal's occasional squirming with authority. All in the name of containing San Francisco's crime to levels that wouldn't endanger civilians, he created his own little crime ring of other Dirty Cops. At least until Yeong supplied decisive evidence to put him away...Not that that completely undid his little ring. Anna Willis is another example, with even fewer standards.
  • Dirty Old Man: Wesley Vale is a particularly vile example. He seduces married women solely to get constant revenge on his ex-girlfriend. You know, the one whom he killed around twenty-eight years earlier?
  • Distressed Damsel: Amy in Season 1, Neha in Season 2.
  • The Dragon:
    • The burned man Mikhail Volk to Genevieve Collins in Volume 2.
    • Kolo Zargoza to Shawn Mallory, the leader of The Kraken, in Volume 8.
    • Arguably, you could call the Onryo, Noroiy Hayashi, to be this to the Firstborn throughout the two-part series finale for Volume 16.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • The ending scene of V1-C4 reveals that The Maskmaker is actually not Christian Rose when the real Maskmaker walked into his hospital bed and executed him, though Mal and Natara had to deduce this manually in the following chapter without knowing what the audience knows.
    • Also seen in Volume 9 with the Livewire. The appearance of the Livewire killer is given to the audience at the very start of the volume before the SFPD learn this.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Several characters can be glimpsed early on in the series that don't become relevant until later on. Notable examples include Anna Willis and Phil Morris, both of whom appear in Season 1 but become crucial to the story (in Anna's case) or more prominent (in Phil's case) during Season 4. Similarly, Diego and Ken both show up during Season 1, and while Diego never becomes that important of a character (although he does get a recurring role), Ken essentially becomes a main character, eventually even becoming Amy's boyfriend and forming one of the most emotional death scenes in the game via his Heroic Sacrifice in Season 8. In the bonus scene of 2-1, we get to see District Attorney Oscar Santos interrogating Sandi Demme. Flash-forward to Season 6, where he plays an important part in the Vernon Frist court case and begins dating Natara and once again becomes something of a main character for the series.
  • Ending Memorial Service: The funerals for Miguel Flores at the end of Season 1 and Ken Greene near the end of Season 8.
  • Enfant Terrible: The young Brian Resler was one, no thanks to how his sister treated him. Similar case with Joy Hoskins and her parents. Nobody holds a candle to Genevieve's son, Alex Domínguez, though.
  • Eureka Moment: During normal discussions of a case, a character may gain a life-changing epiphany from another character's speech.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The Connoisseur only approves of killing for the sake of satisfying instinctual urges, not for sport. Which is why she helped Shawn dispatch the Hunters...among other reasons. It is also why she later attempted to kill Shawn, who had now become the leader of the Kraken cult in Season 8.
    • In the Dirty Cop department, Jacob has one very hard and fast guiding principle for his crime ring: Never sell out or otherwise coerce a civilian customer. Junkie wants to quit? Guide him to a proper clinic. Prostitution? Completely forbidden. Drug sales? Stay clear of the schools. He may have despaired of eradicating the black market, but not constraining it.
  • Everybody Did It: In Season 5, it turns out that the three suspects identified of killing their father worked together. It was not a one-man affair.
  • Everyone Can See It: Mal and Natara have obvious chemistry and feelings for each other, however neither seem to realize the other's, due to their other romances. In contrast, characters such as Blaise, and Ken are very aware of the romantic tension between the two and Kai makes it apparent to the both of them at one point or another.
  • Evil Matriarch: Genevieve Collins becomes a surrogate mother for troubled children that she "nurtures" into becoming full fledged serial killers.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The titles for different seasons depict that particular season’s killer or antagonistic group. Only Volume 10 is an exception to this; it is named after the central drug that is used by the killer.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • At the end of Volume 1, when The Maskmaker known as Eric Mills is killed, it is confirmed — and later reaffirmed by Mal in V 8 C 1 — that the police Never Found the Body. This makes a fairly strong case that there were plans to bring The Maskmaker back... but he never did, and the series has now ended.
    • During Zero's conversation with Natara in V 4 C 7, as was reaffirmed in the very first Secret Files entry, it is believed that Genevieve Collins had adopted a son, Alexander, who had died. It turns out that this "Alex" boy was a biological son and that he did not die... and he gives the protagonists huge trouble in the final four volumes of the series.
    • The king and most notable user of this trope is Shawn Mallory. Though to be fair, the death was fairly well foreshadowed — just like The Maskmaker, a case of Never Found the Body is confirmed in the bonus scene of V 5 C 8. Shawn is revealed to be alive, but badly wounded with greyed hair, at the end of Volume 8.
    • At the end of the second part of Kai Hard, it is presumed by everyone except Kai that Kara Yan is dead.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: As with most death scenes depicted across different seasons.
  • Fangirl: Neha and Amy.
  • Fiery Coverup: Kara makes use of this to steal an artefact and escape in Kai Hard. Subverted as she was not the one who bombed the location.
  • Final Boss:
    • V1: The Maskmaker
    • V2: Genevieve Collins and her Russian follower-mercenaries
    • V3: The Hunters
    • V4: Zero, although the one fighting him is recently-turned Shawn Mallory
    • V5: Shawn Mallory
    • V6: Mad Stranger
    • V7: Ladykiller
    • V8: Kolo Zargoza and The Kraken
    • V9: Livewire
    • V10: Reese Gable, followed with a Post-Final Boss / Hopeless Boss Fight against the Salazar kidnapper-mercenaries that kidnap Mal.
    • V11: Pablo Salazar
    • V12: Boogeyman
    • V13: Spinerette, who is killed by The Firstborn
    • V14: Firstborn
    • V15: The Dismemberment Case Perp
    • V16: Firstborn/Onryo
  • Finger in the Mail: Only not actually a finger. More like Shawn Mallory's head.
  • First Girl Wins: Inverted. Having dated Shawn and Oscar beforehand, Natara chooses Mal, the first potential love interest introduced.
  • Fixed Camera: Different places may have different scenery, but even then it’s only one picture each.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Mal, Jacob and Jacob's dad work in the police force like the esteemed Malachi Fallon, founder of the SFPD.
  • Gas Chamber: Appears in the last 2 chapters of Season 8. Mal and Natara get trapped in another in the penultimate chapter of Season 10.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Amy's nicknames on the Internet. 'Love Kitten' doesn't sound very childish, does it? Then again, she came up with that alias when she was in eighth grade, and it was simply because of her immense love of cats.
  • The Ghost: Mal's sister, Cynthia, and niece, Denni. The latter is from Surviving High School, Cause of Death's sister game. Finally averted in the Christmas episode and Season 13, the latter of which Denni plays a large role.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Special Crimes Task Force (SCT) introduced in Volume 14 Chapter 1.
  • Gut Feeling: Mal, to a great deal, to the annoyance of his partner, Natara, who is a profiler.
  • Have a Nice Death: There are plenty of ways you can get yourself killed if you make a bad choice, or several bad choices in a row.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Happens to Estaban in 4-3: Esme brutally murders him just as he starts to show positive personality traits, and agrees to help Mal.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": The one time we get a snippet of his writing style (the "Hot Frisco Nights" scene at the beginning of First Date), Kai's fanfiction quickly proves itself to be this. Neither Ken nor Amy think terribly much of it.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mal and Amy when Ken dies in Season 8.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ken for Amy in 8-6.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Jacob Fallon ran aground of this, hard. Ditto Shawn Mallory, and arguably Anna Willis.
  • High-Pressure Emotion: Certain characters not only frown, they also have a burst of red appear behind their heads when they are overly agitated. Blaise is a good example.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Hunter in Season 3. Okay, Hunters.
  • Hurting Hero: Natara in Season 1 over her accidentally shooting Shawn prior to the beginning of ingame events.
  • I Call It "Vera": Jericho of Brimstone has a ‘mobile operating unit’ he calls Lucille.
  • I Choose to Stay: Natara responds to Mal positively near the end of Season 10, during Love and Madness.
  • I Have Many Names: The Connoisseur. Genevieve Marsden was just her latest alias when she met Jake Collins. She'd had many aliases beforehand, all incorporating the "jin" phoneme somehow.
  • I Have Your Wife: Several varieties throughout the course of the game, of course.
    • Coworker (Amy Chen) in Season 1, Sister (Neha Mansingh) in Season 2, Girlfriend (Tasha King) in Season 3...
    • In 9-8, Livewire abducts Captain Yeong's daughter, Annie Parks-Yeong.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • In 1-2, Maskmaker suspect Lance Boggs mentions the latest victim Sophie's name even though it was not released to the press.
    • During an interrogation in 2-1, Sandi Demme said she did not know the victim was beaten up when Mal never mentioned it at all.
  • Internal Affairs: Charles Anders is a particularly unpleasant example. Especially when 9-2's bonus scene implies that he's not so much about the primacy of regulations and protocol as about being a Control Freak. He eventually undergoes Character Development and warms up to the SFPD. Edgar Walsh in Jacob and Fallon is a much more friendly representative. Too bad Ésteban kills him.
  • It's All My Fault: Mal following Amy's kidnapping in Season One's climax, as well as his girlfriend Tasha King's murder in Season Three's climax and most significantly following Ken's death in Season Eight.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Although Mal's true opinions on Natara's 2 boyfriends during the first 10 volumes (Shawn and Oscar) still haven't been revealed, he qualified fully with Oscar (even though he occasionally showed a sad face), and at least until Volume 4's 2-part culmination, he seemed to qualify with Shawn. Natara also returned the same to Mal with Selene and Tasha.
  • Jerkass: Debatably Oscar, when he first dumped Natara. For more constant examples, just look at Seth and Anna.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Kingfisher's gambits. Amy Chen notes that his favorite tactic seems to be figuring out how to egg his target on into the trap already set for said target. As witness Jeremy's use of a compromised laptop to stop a subway train, only for Kingfisher to use the open wireless access to steal sensitive data off the very laptop. Amy later manages to turn it back on Kingfisher with resounding success.
  • Killed Off for Real: Many characters, both protagonists and antagonists:
    • Season 1: Miguel Flores, Doctor Rose, William Rye, Eric Mills/The Maskmaker
    • Season 2: Ramsey Brand, Jerome Eccleston, Senator Jake Collins, Mikhail Volk.
    • Season 3: Max Paring, Tasha King, Ryan Orville and Klaus Paring/The Hunters.
    • Season 4: Esteban Flores, Phil Morris, Herman Hartnall/Zero.
    • Season 5: Mako, Stewart Klipper/The Unknown Sailor, Vassily Barkov, Shawn Mallory/The Hand of Justice. Season 8 Spoilers 
    • Season 6: Javier Garza, Marvin Clemente.
    • Season 7: Armie Gillum/The Ladykiller
    • Season 8: Ken Greene.
    • Season 11: The Brujo, Carlito Flores, Esmeralda Flores, General Pablo Salazar, Jacob Fallon.
    • Season 13: The Ghost, who had been a thorn in the side of our heroes since Volume 2.
    • Season 14: After 14 volumes of evading justice, Genevieve Collins is killed by the Firstborn. There's also Boone Ligaya and Emma Pointe.
    • Season 16: Blaise Corso, The Firstborn, the Onryo.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Many characters only have a handful of outfits throughout the series.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: What Natara was to Shawn. When she breaks up with him, he spirals and becomes a vigilante.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The list only keeps growing... Of course, if you counted up every single character in the game, it is true that a majority of them would only be a One-Shot Character.
  • Love Hurts: No protagonist has not endured a complicated love life throughout the series with the exceptions of Anders and Maria.
  • Madness Mantra: The Ladykiller when he experiences a psychotic break. Also, if you end up making a drugged Jeremy kill Blaise in 12-6, Jeremy ends up in an asylum where he repeatedly rocks back and forth muttering, "I'm sorry" over and over. In Chapter 8, one of the Kraken's acolytes tries to put up a facade of this. Krakenwillrise indeed.
  • Mama Bear: Don't even think of threatening Maria's household. Not unless you fancy getting embedded with buckshot...among other possibilities.
  • Meaningful Echo: During a training session while in the FBI Academy, Shawn tells Natara that the crime scene is not just 'out here', but also in their heads. At the very end of Season 5, after Shawn falls from the roof of Alcatraz, Natara repeats the saying to herself.
  • Meaningful Name: Mal's name is short for "Malachi", the same given name as his illustrious ancestor. Mal is almost never called Malachi.
  • Mind Screw: Mal’s and Natara’s rather all-out hallucination scenes near the end of Season 10, in ‘Love and Madness’.
  • Monster of the Week: Each season is primarily concerned with a particular Serial Killer (whether or not they're one of the Connoisseur's lilim). Even during the usual two side cases for parts 2-3 and 5-6, Mal and Natara are constantly aware of the wretch's shadow, and typically didn't take the side case of their own wishes (e.g. Season 3's first side case is only taken because Seth won't finalize Ryan's transfer to California unless they do).
  • Mushroom Samba: The Veritox Incident.
  • Never Found the Body: See some of the examples listed under Faking the Dead.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Ken barging in on the tense standoff between Shawn, Vasily, Natara and Mal in 5-7.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Several of the 'You have failed.' endings are this, including Mal resigning from the force if he shoots Mayor Gilcomb in 6-8.
  • Noodle Incident: Blaise often talks about the cannibal she faced in Season 11 without giving a proper explanation of what really happened, much to the other characters' chagrin.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Mal’s shooting of Shawn and the latter’s subsequent ‘drowning’ at the end of Season 5. As revealed in Season 8, he did survive that shot, and as revealed in Season 8's final bonus scene, he somehow survived being shot in the chest again. In the Season 13 Prologue, he then returned to life one last time. And as if that wasn't enough, Kolo Zargoza — as huge a monster tank as he is — managed to survive a fusillade of usually-fatal attacks in Season 8's conclusion.
  • Not So Different: In First Kill, Jacob highlights how he and Maria are 'not so different' as they would 'do whatever it takes' to achieve their goals. In addition, the Firstborn has seemingly gotten Blaise to start thinking like this in regards to the serial killers she persecutes in Season 14.
  • Official Couple: Ken and Amy in Season 8. Mal and Natara more recently in Season 10. Blaise and Jeremy are subverted in the sense they actually don't have romantic feelings driving their relationship... right?
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Awesome Sexy Adventures of Blaise Corso, how Blaise captured the cannibal killer in Season 11. It included a jet ski chase, Anders getting tear-gassed, Bartaugh undervocer as Blaise's husband, and a swordfight. At least, that's how Blaise tells it to Jeremy after he gets back from San Trobida.
  • Only Six Faces: While the recurring characters get unique portraits, non-recurring characters will usually get one of a stock suite of portraits with varying levels of adjustment (e.g. Miguel Flores and Ryan Orville, Emile Schumann and Alan Dwitz, and somewhat humorously, Shawn and Seth).
  • Open Shirt Taunt: Firstborn to Blaise in V 16 C 5.
  • Overarching Villain: See Arc Villain above.
  • Prison Episode: The Breaking Point dyad in Season 6. Quickly turns into a Prison Riot.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Not shooting the brujo in Season 11 reflects Mal's morals that he should never shoot the defenseless, no matter how evil they have been. Not to mention him realizing that there actually was a pattern to the kills, thanks to Pablo's chatter about "my men".
  • Professional Killer: The Ghost.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Shawn, an FBI agent with profiling skills, who himself turns into a villain.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Gender-inverted. After she breaks up with him, Shawn becomes obsessed with Natara and becomes a killer so that she would be forced to think and care about him.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Jacob Fallon, who dies a hero while extracting Mal and Natara from General Sálazar's compound in Season 11.
    • Esteban, in his final moments, confesses that he would be proud if Mal was his son in 4-3.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mal's the red, Natara's the blue. From Fourth of July Special onwards, we also have Red Blaise and Blue Jeremy.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Ken and Amy in Season 8, and Mal and Natara from colleagues to a couple in Season 10. As of the Fourth of July Special, Blaise and Jeremy, and then Amy and Jeremy, although there seems to be a complicated permutation of a Love Triangle going on as of the Season 14 epilogue.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Shawn makes Natara profile him twice and both times are riddled with subtle insults, like how he's attached to her (of course, Shawn doesn't really interpret these as insults).
  • The Reveal: Due to the crazy amount of different cases featured throughout the series, there is usually a reveal of some kind almost every single episode. Commonly, the identity of one of the antagonists. Eric Mills being the Maskmaker in Season 1 is probably the first example in the series.
  • Revenge Myopia: The Flores family sought revenge on Mal for killing Miguel Flores despite the fact that it was completely in self-defense.
  • Rousing Speech: Then-Captain Maria Yeong to her subordinates in Volume 9's conclusion, and later Mal to his friends and colleages of the SFPD, which convinces them to join the rebel's cause and aid the revolution in 11-8, in spite of how that seemed suicidal at the time. Firstborn's final message in Volume 14's conclusion can be seen as this.
  • Sanity Slippage: Shawn Mallory in seasons 4 and 5. Thanks ever so much, Genevieve.
  • Save the Villain: Often times the law enforcement have to save the killer from killing themselves. Examples include Armie Gillum and Max Paring, the latter of which intentionally killed himself to escape prosecution.
  • Say My Name: Usually happens when someone gets injured across the different seasons.
  • Scars Are Forever: Natara’s scar down her left shoulder as depicted in Seasons 1 and 2, and Ken's torso wounds in Greene Zone from his tour of duty as a Marine in Afghanistan. Also the incomplete thrall mark Anna Willis received in 4-8.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Thanks to the Connoisseur, San Francisco's "enjoying" a bumper crop.
    • Pretty much every antagonist in the game (see Arc Villain above) falls under this trope.
    • Also, all the murders that SF experienced what with it being the setting of the game was alluded to by Maria in 8-6 (in which can be construed as an inside joke by the writers).
  • Shipper on Deck: Kai for Mal and Natara, among other things.
  • Ship Tease: Electronic Arts seems to take distinct pleasure in dancing around whether and when Mal and Natara will get together. Now that they've been upgraded to an Official Couple, EA's attention has apparently shifted over to Amy, Blaise, and Jeremy.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mal in Season 9 when Blaise tends to his wounds in Las Vegas, and a good chunk of From Oahu with Kai.
  • Split Personality: Selene Mensra is a victim of Dissociative Identity Disorder, as a result of experiments conducted on her by Reese Gable. She has one normal, presentable side that is kind and charismatic that counteracts with her other side that is aloof and sinister.
  • Stalker with a Crush: City of Love features this kind of killer aiming at "rescuing" Natara from Mal.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Natara's father turned out to be like this. Exhibit A: He all but abjured her after she joined the FBI. Even with Anita as a go-between, they don't communicate all that often. This is implied to be a fate that Natara's fearful of in 10-7.
  • Storming the Castle: Mal, Natara and Blaise raiding the Kraken’s lair in Season 8, Mal and Natara breaking into the AcuoMentrics complex in Season 10, and Mal, Natara, Jeremy and Amy storming the Sálazar Compound at the end of Season 11.
  • Story Arc: Every season has its own story arc. Some newer arcs may be linked to older ones though. (You have the 'over-arching story arc' here.) Volumes 3-4, 6-7, 9-10 and 12-3 (notice a pattern...?) all have their 2nd-3rd and 5th-6th chapters be part of a smaller arc.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Amy when she leaves San Francisco for New York with Brimstone, then returns for Natara’s wedding with Oscar in Season 10.
  • Suburbia: The gated community's conceit of being a haven from all things nasty takes a beating in the Domestic Disturbance dyad. Even apart from the psycho killer who just got activated, Natara discovers that just about every adult in the walls is cheating on their spouses. The sole exceptions that she noticed? The two swingers.
  • Taking the Bullet: Blaise for Mal in 8-3.
  • Taking You with Me: How the mortally wounded Jacob kills Pablo Sálazar at the end of 11-8.
  • Teenagers Are Monsters: In Volume 10-Chapter 2 and 3, two highschoolers murdered a popular cheerleader in the name of love.
  • The Scream: Happens particularly a lot in a game about murders. A notable moment was when The Firstborn was torturing Mal and Natara.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: Explicitly stated in the prologue of Season 8. It turned out to be Ken.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: You get to replay from a checkpoint if you die or otherwise irreparably fail in your playthrough of an episode.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Natara is Indian and a woman.
    • Amy is Chinese, Jewish and a woman.
    • Maria Yeong is female, a Korean immigrant (when she was a toddler, anyway) and lesbian. The conflation of traits is lampshaded in Fallon and Yeong, Part 1, when Jacob points out that with the first two traits (and being unmarried as well—this is in 1984, after all), there are a lot of people hoping newly-promoted Homicide Detective Yeong will crash and burn. Trait 3 is a secret at the time, and Jacob threatens to reveal it to the rest of the police if Maria tries to expose his deals with Ésteban Flores.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Mal and Natara in the suburbs during Season 7, and later Mal/Blaise and Kai/Natara in the couple's retreat of Season 8.
  • Undignified Death: As with most death scenes depicted across different seasons.
  • UST: Mal and Natara. After ten long seasons They Do.
  • Victim of the Week: In most episodes, when someone is attacked. Body of the Week applies to most of these episodes.
  • Vigilante Man: Season 5's overarching story is about Shawn Mallory's verge into this.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Armie Gillium during his interrogation session with Natara in Season 7.
  • Vomiting Cop: Natara actually induces this in Domestic Disturbance, Part 2 so Mal can get a look at a crime scene while maintaining cover.
  • Wham Episode: Due to the sheer amount of reveals and plot twists, almost every single episode is this in some way. Some of the major examples include:
    • 1-5, when The Maskmaker's identity is revealed, at last: He is Brian Resler, a young boy who was tormented by his sister. After he murdered her, he eventually changed his name to... Eric Mills. Almost immediately after this, he kidnaps Amy and kills William Rye (a supporting character from that season).
    • 1-6, Season 1's finale: Mal and Natara finally confront (and defeat) Eric on the roof of Alcatraz prison, and it turns out Eric had a benefactor. If you screwed up, it is also possible to get a non-canon ending in which Mal dies and the game continues, as well as one where both Eric succeeds in killing Mal, Natara and Amy, and continues to find and kill victims.
    • 2-6: Natara gives herself up to the Burned Man to save Neha.
    • 2-7: Mal is framed for the murder of Senator Jake Collins, and he and Natara realise the Connoisseur's true identity.
    • 2-8: The identity of the Connoisseur is finally revealed to be Genevieve Mardsen Collins, Mikhail Volk is killed, and Genevieve escapes.
    • 4-3: Esme kills Esteban, just after he pulls a Heel–Face Turn to Mal.
    • 3-7: The Hunters kidnap Mal and Natara and murder Mal's girlfriend Tasha King right in front of his eyes.
    • 4-8: Shawn pulls a Face–Heel Turn after he brutally murders Herman Hartnell by carving a slashed zero into his forehead. The Bonus Scene also reveals that he is now working with Genevieve.
    • 8-6: Ken Greene is Killed Off for Real when he performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Amy.
    • 8-7: The Kraken turns out to be Shawn Mallory.
    • 9-3: Amy chooses to leave the SFPD to work with the Hacktivist group Brimstone.
    • 9-8: Mal returns to the force, Maria finally stands up to Anders (and the game ''rewards'' you if you choose to slap him), Jeremy turns on Anders to stick up for Maria, Maria rescues her daughter from Livewire, and ends up having to leave the force.
    • 14-7, where Genevieve, of all characters, is killed by the Firstborn. All the Plot Armor that the Big Bad of 13 story arcs would have didn't do her any good, it would seem.
  • Wham Line:
    • From 4-7:
    In one fluid movement, Ryan pulls a revolver from behind the bookshelf... And fires point-blank into Tasha's forehead.
    • At the end of 8-7, revealing The Kraken's true identity:
    Shawn Mallory: Hello, Natara. I've missed you so much.
    • From 10-8:
    Mal: Natara...
    Natara: Yes...?
    Mal: Do... Do you smell gas?
  • Wham Shot: When The Kraken takes off his mask at the end of 8-7, revealing the aged and twisted face of Shawn Mallory.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Kai Hard Die Hard.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Mal and Natara Until Season 10's last episode.
  • Working with the Ex: Natara works with Shawn, however this is only for a brief period, as Shawn goes rogue and becomes a killer.
  • Wrong Guy First: As most fans can attest to: Natara with Shawn and Oscar.


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