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Who is Carmen Sandiego?note 

"I realized that stealing isn't a game. It does harm people... especially when you're willing to steal lives."
Carmen Sandiego
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Carmen Sandiego is a Continuity Reboot of the long-running educational game and TV show franchise, with a big twist to the formula: this time Carmen (Gina Rodriguez) is the hero, turning against V.I.L.E. after growing disillusioned with their willingness to hurt or kill people, and attempting to beat them to any artifacts they plan to steal. Assisting her as always is The Player (Finn Wolfhard) who acts as Mission Control from his computer.

You can watch the first season trailer here. The season two trailer can be seen here. An interactive special titled Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal was released on Netflix on March 10, 2020. The special's trailer can be seen here.

There are also some tie-in books and graphic novels.

Now has a recap page.


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Carmen Sandiego provides examples of:

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    A-F 
  • Absence of Evidence: How Chase managed to find V.I.L.E.'s headquarters. Their "Valuable Imports, Lavish Exports" front had perfect customs paperwork for all of their activities. However, there was one location they had business in that had no paperwork at all attached to it. Too bad V.I.L.E. blew up their base a week before he got there.
  • Absentee Actor:
    • Neither Zack nor Ivy are seen in "The Chasing Paper Caper" and Ivy isn't seen in "The Lucky Cat Caper".
    • On VILE's side, El Topo (who is always seen with El Chevre) is nowhere to be seen in "The Chasing Paper Caper".
    • On the law enforcement side, Chase Devineaux and Julia Argent aren’t around in “The Opera in the Outback Caper”.
    • During season 2, A.C.M.E. is not involved in "The Daisho Caper", although they refer back to its events in the following episode so they were still keeping tabs even if they weren't present.
    • After being shoved back into Interpol in the Season 2 premiere, Chase doesn't appear until "The African Ice Caper".
    • Shadow-san is mentioned being on the "Malaysia Caper" by Player in "The Crackle Goes Kiwi Caper".
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While he holds her at gunpoint, Carmen and Gray laugh over their first encounter at V.I.L.E. Academy, where she intimidated him for trying to call her Lambkins.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Zack and Ivy, though not as bad as Chase, also suffer from this a bit. In the Where on Earth series the two were some of ACME's best agents and were really the only ones capable of keeping up with Carmen's intelligence. In this series, they act more as Carmen's backup or The Watson, never displaying the top class detective skills they had their original series. Some of their first dialogue suggests they were just common thieves before meeting Carmen (which is half-confirmed in "The Boston Tea Party Caper").
  • Adaptational Job Change:
    • Downplayed with Chase and Julia. Both are still detectives, but they work for Interpol instead of ACME. However, both are recruited by ACME in the fourth episode. Chase is later put on indefinite leave to Interpol at the start of Season 2 and is rehired at its finale, after being fired from Interpol.
    • In Where on Earth, Carmen (back when she was still with ACME) mentions Maelstrom was a marine archaeologist before turning to a life of crime. Here, Maelstrom is now a Psycho Psychologist.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Sort of.
    • Zack and Ivy go from fighting against Carmen to working with her (though she's undergone Adaptational Heroism), and season 2 reveals they were trying to avoid being thieves but had to pay off money from a loanshark with this one job that led them to meeting Carmen.
    • There's also a character called Player, who works with Carmen and is meant to represent the player character. While in the other series, the player contended against Carmen, here Player is an anti-hero white hat hacker who breaks into computer systems. Originally it was to tell people how to boost their protections, now it is to fight a criminal organization but still using illegal means.
    • In the original show Suhara was Carmen’s partner and mentor in ACME. Here, it's Shadow-san's real name.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelization Who is Carmen Sandiego? expands on Carmen's childhood, what happened after she sneaked out with the graduates, and her encountering Paper Star in origami class.
  • Adult Fear:
    • After she sneaked out the first time, all Brunt does to Carmen is give her a bone-crushing hug and says, "I blame myself." It's not that much different that a normal parent would have to their child sneaking out for a dangerous place. She was obviously relieved that Carmen wasn't badly hurt from fighting her classmates and getting chloroformed.
    • The idea of dying when you are trying to give your child a better life, and not knowing if they are okay. Carmen's father suffered this fear when Interpol raided his safe house.
  • All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: When Carmen has Image Spots and dreams of a younger Shadowsan around the age when he found her as a baby he is wearing one of these hats. It is revealed when Shadowsan recounts his past from that era and before, he isn't actually wearing one.
  • All Part of the Show: In "The Sticky Rice Caper", the shadow puppeteers are scared off by Carmen and Tigress. When Carmen and Tigress fight behind the screen, the band resumes playing music and the audience cheers for the "puppetry."
  • All There in the Script: The woman following Carmen at the end of the pilot who works for A.C.M.E is named Zari, according to the credits. Season 2's premiere implies it is her last name (as the Chief calls her "Agent Zari").
  • Alone with the Psycho:
    • Chase finds himself knocked out, handcuffed and trapped by Coach Brunt in the first season finale. At first he's snarking about them giving him a new keycard, and accusing them of working for Carmen Sandiego. Then he goes Oh, Crap! when Coach Brunt straps a truth extractor to his head, and warns him that if it's on for too long it can cause brain damage. By the time Carmen frees him, he's semiconscious and collapses after activating his A.C.M.E. pen.
    • Carmen tries to avoid this in the season 1 finale, by distracting Coach Brunt and Shadow-san into leaving Chase alone and tied up. It doesn't work; Brunt figures it out, bars the door too well for Carmen to break, and subjects her adopted daughter to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. By the end of it Carmen has several broken bones and needs help to walk.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • It's never confirmed if Gray after his memory is erased is a potential sleeper agent. Player points out the possibility, since V.I.L.E. released subliminal brainwashing at the Sydney Opera House, where Carmen and a rocket scientist were affected. He says that Gray may be a trap for Carmen since V.I.L.E. knew about their friendship. Carmen doesn't believe it, but she thinks it's best to leave Gray in his new life, since if V.I.L.E. knew they renewed their friendship then he could become a target.
    • In the first season finale, it's unclear if Shadow-san will continue to be a mole for Carmen or if he outed himself by knocking out Coach Brunt. This gets resolved early in season 2.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Subverted. Coach Brunt speaks softly to Carmen when suffocating her and breaking her bones, but it's obvious that while she may not enjoy it, she will do it.
  • Arc Words: "Where in the world... [x]?", usually, a way that characters, even Carmen herself, wonder where she is.
  • Artistic License – Geography: "The Opera In The Outback Caper" involves implanting subliminals on a researcher as she attends an opera, then triggering them at her workplace outside Ayers' Rock the next day. The nearest city to Ayers' Rock is Alice Springs, which is over 460km away - not a distance one can casually travel for a morning commute after a night at the opera. If the opera house was actually meant to be Australia's most famous one in Sydney, the distance becomes even more implausible - over 2,800km by highway, a 30 hour drive. Yet Carmen apparently makes a round trip in one day.
  • As You Know: As Carmen recounts her backstory to Gray, he lampshades that she can skip a chunk of it because he was there. She replies that he doesn't necessarily know her perspective of the events and keeps going.
  • The Atoner: Shadow-san was the one who rescued Carmen because he witnessed her father being killed by Interpol— while on an assignment to kill him. He felt pangs of conscience when he and Carmen barely survived the confrontation and brought her to the island. The reason why he didn't want her to become a thief was because he didn't want her repeating her father's mistakes.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • This topic was taught by Dr. Maelstrom using two brief cases with Tigress as the other person in the demonstration. He acquired her cash, and she acquired his bait, as in worms, bugs, and other slimey and disgusting things people bait animals with.
    • In "The Duke of Vermeer Caper", Ivy attempts to drive the getaway van over a rising bridge...but she's unable to do it unlike her brother so she presses the breaks.
    • In "The Hot Rocks of Rio Caper (Part 2)" it looks like Shadow-san is about to reveal that he's betrayed Carmen... until he states that Coach Brunt found her in Russia and not Argentina, thus proving that he's on her side.
  • Bait the Dog: Gray is the first classmate who's nice to Carmen, and they form a deep bond over how they do in class. Then it turns out he has a ruthless sadistic streak when he tries to gun down an innocent archaeologist and doesn't understand why Carmen would be against killing. In the present, now that he and Carmen are on opposing sides, he threatens to electrocute her if she doesn't answer his questions.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Carmen's heist of The Eye of Vishnu was a trick to get the law authorities to investigate the apartment she robbed, and for them to realize it was a V.I.L.E. hideout with all the stolen artifacts hidden there. Julie makes the connection as Interpol investigates.
    • Mime Bomb performs one in "The Lucky Cat Caper". When detained by Chase and Julia with a stolen stamp in his possession, he covertly slips the stamp into Chase's pocket. No longer having it in his possession, they let him go, but tail him afterwards - which allows Tigress to steal the stamp back later.
    • Both sides pull this off in "The Daisho Caper". Lady Dokuso coats a pair of chopsticks with poison, knowing that Shadow-san will pick them up and use them as weapons. Meanwhile, Carmen tricks Paper Star by having Zack cover a string of paper lanterns with glue, so that they'll stick to her when she tries to use them for origami.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Carmen accesses the security room by claiming that she's an IT trainee and has to ride the elevator with Ms. Booker.
  • Be Careful What You Say: Shadow-san keeps accusing Coach Brunt of wanting to go easy on Black Sheep aka Carmen. In the first season finale, it's revealed Shadow-san was the one looking out for Carmen all along, and saves her when Coach Brunt tries to kill her in cold blood.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: All of V.I.L.E.'s teachers kept telling Carmen that she needed to control her recklessness and immaturity, with Shadow-san being the hardest on her. She eventually did kick the habit; after she got busted for messing with her class's heist, Carmen bid her time for the next school year and plotted her escape, complete with her open defection and declaration of war on V.I.L.E. Now when she's impulsive, she channels it into letting Interpol agents chase her.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The five leaders of V.I.L.E. serve as the central antagonists, and lead by committee, with no one member having any apparent superiority over the others (although Professor Maelstrom often acts as the group's mediator and spokesman).
  • Big "NO!": Carmen screams this in the second episode right before Crackle tries to kill an innocent man who leads an archaeological dig.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Those Two Bad Guys, Le Chèvre and El Topo. Le Chèvre means "goat cheese" in French note , while El Topo means "the mole" in Spanish. Fittingly, "the goat" strikes high, while "the mole" strikes low.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Gray was kind to Carmen, charming and charismatic. It hides a sadistic and violent streak that no friendship could tame, as Carmen witnessed when he fired on an innocent man. After his Laser-Guided Amnesia, the kindness is genuine.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: On the black side, there's VILE and on the gray side we have Carmen Sandiego and her troupe stealing from VILE themselves and ACME trying to hunt Carmen down even though she's technically on the side of good..
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Mime Bomb tells Carmen he's stopping to smell the roses while following her following the Bookkeeper. She buys it for a few seconds, only to turn and tackle him.
    • Carmen tells the Bookkeeper she's ashamed of the pranks she pulled over the years. Cookie buys it hook, line and sinker.
  • Book-Ends:
    • In the first season, the first and last episode had Carmen in France.
    • The end of "The Dukes of Vermeer" has Grey step out of the bus in Australia. The end of "The Opera in the Outback Caper" has Carmen leave on a bus.
    • The beginning of "The Boston Tea Party Caper" and the end of "The Need for Speed Caper" have Zack and Ivy walking out of the Carmen Outfitters Factory and talking about what they'd want to install in their new headquarters.
  • Brains and Brawn: Julia and Chase; the former is the one interested in geography and tries to think of logical conclusions to Carmen's heists, the latter just rushes in and tries to go for the chase.
  • Brick Joke: Young Carmen accuses Shadow-san of rigging his test (which was to pickpocket a dollar bill from his coat) and states that the coat is empty. Come the season finale, and a Good All Along Shadow-san admits (slightly annoyed) that yes, it was empty.
    Carmen: I KNEW IT!
  • Broken Pedestal: Because they essentially raised her, Carmen looked up to Coach Brunt, Professor Maelstrom, Dr. Bellum, Countess Cleo, and Shadow-san and aspired to be like them. Learning that they instructed their students to steal by any means necessary (including killing witnesses) caused her to leave V.I.L.E. — and, as a result, the only family she's ever known — in disgust. It also means she left Gray after learning that he was willing to murder. Shadow-san becomes a Rebuilt Pedestal when he reveals that he was trying to keep her out of the thief life and wishes he could have gone with her to help.
  • Broken Record: In Episode 6, whenever someone who was exposed to the subliminal message at the Sydney Opera House hears it at the aerospace facility, it causes them to go into a trance and repeatedly say "Launch the boomerang.....launch the boomerang".
  • Butt-Monkey: Chase. Poor, poor Chase. In order: he takes a 2-story plummet into the bonnet of his car, gets insulted by the Chief in favour of Argent when he joins ACME (admittedly justified though it was), tortured by Brunt to the point of being comatose, fired by the Chief as he wakes up from said coma, is told to never talk to Argent again even though she is the only friend the show has revealed he has, gets sent back to Interpol by the Chief who has decided to bust him down to "File Clerk" out of sheer pettiness, spends all his time at work doing boring paperwork, continues his investigation into Carmen in his own time at his own expense and figures out exactly where VILE Island is only to arrive one week after they destroyed and abandonned it, finds himself stranded on said island for another week, is rescued when he accidentally burns down his shelter; and is finally fired from his File Clerk job upon his return for not turning up for a fortnight. Tough times. The length of bare screen alone shown here gives a good idea how much he goes through.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Tigress when meeting Carmen threatened to break her nesting dolls after Carmen beat up Gray during orientation; Gray breaks up the fight by reminding them they're all roommates.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Subverted. Carmen seemed to want to tell off Coach Brunt and the other teachers for lying to her, but she never got the chance; Brunt let her off easy for sneaking out with the graduates, and the other teachers put constant surveillance on Carmen. For what it's worth, Carmen was truly sorry for worrying Brunt after all that she learned.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Played with. V.I.L.E. masks its real intentions by not disclosing the actual meaning of its acronym to new cadets (going with the name "Valuable Imports, Lavish Exports"). However once they graduate to full operatives, they are inducted into the organization's real purpose, along with learning its actual name: Villains International League of Evil. Inverted with A.C.M.E., which is the "Agency to Classify and Monitor Evildoers".
  • Casting Gag:
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Almost all of Carmen's onscreen V.I.L.E. classes are relevant during her escape. In particular:
    • Coach Brunt's fighting class has her state to protect the face else they'll be knocked out. When Tigress is about to attack Carmen (for stopping Crackle from killing the archeological dig leader), Carmen uses his weapon right at the face. She also knocks out Gray by kicking him in the face at the end of the pilot.
      Carmen: They never protect the face.
    • Carmen uses Professor Maelstrom's bait-and-switch trick to ultimately steal the hard drive with data for that year.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The Bookkeeper and her annual trips to V.I.L.E. island. Carmen uses her to plot her escape.
    • Player became this to Carmen after he hacked into the phone she stole. Thanks to Player's friendship, Carmen was able to escape from V.I.L.E. and plan a counterattack.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Whenever she hits a new country, Carmen and Player give an infodump about the location (as expected by a show based on a series of educational games); just about everything mentioned in these infodumps will show up in the episodes, whether as plot points, locations, or even background gags.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: "To Steal or Not To Steal" is structured this way, with path choices offered periodically.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Played with. Paper Star managed to cut the brim of Carmen's fedora during their fight.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Professor Maelstrom's plan in "The Dubloon Caper" turns out to amount to this. He wants to steal a gold doubloon of great cultural significance just so he can melt it down and make himself a pair of cufflinks that would make Countess Cleo green with envy.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The season 2 premiere has Carmen and Shadow-san targeting the same V.I.L.E operation in Brazil which the latter lampshades.
    • Zack and Ivy were trying to collect money to pay off a loan shark in the same location Carmen was at, a donut shop.
    • The season 2 finale reveals Shadow-san was at the villa of Dexter Wolfe to assassinate him the same night that Interpol happened to raid the place and shoot his mark dead, even though he himself decided not to go through with it. Furthermore, the shooter herself turned out to be the future chief of A.C.M.E., meaning she was Connected All Along to both Shadow-san and Carmen.
  • Creator Provincialism: Despite the fact that neither Carmen nor the Player are American they still discuss temperatures in Fahrenheit and speak in a way that implies an American point of view in many ways, such as referencing the 'Fourth of July' as the first example of a holiday with fireworks. Some of this is understandable, as Zach and Ivy are American and many of their infodumping sessions are used to educate the pair on their latest country.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Shadow-san is the hardest on Carmen when she asks to be accepted into V.I.L.E. Academy, and refused to vote to accept her, because he believes her immaturity and recklessness will put her in danger in the field. Carmen finds it hard to refute his point when she gets busted for tossing water balloons at the Bookkeeper. Or so he claims; it's actually because he didn't want her to become a thief and throw her life away to please her adoptive family nor follow the path of her true father.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Carmen not only gets the jump on Chase, but also pickpockets him in the pilot.
    • While Carmen can hold her own against her former classmates, her instructors are still far out of her weight class.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: In the first season finale, when Carmen is forced to fight Coach Brunt, she does manage to last a few minutes while her adopted mother beats the tar out of her. Zach went down in two seconds when Brunt cornered him.
  • Darker and Edgier: Most Carmen media glosses over the possibility of people getting hurt, with the exception of Word Detective and Where in Time. Here, V.I.L.E. skips past "possibility" and explicitly engages in attempted murder. But unlike in some other iterations, this Carmen won't stand for it.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Carmen is noticeably darker-skinned in this continuity than in previous incarnations, and her hair is a deep red. Player nicknames her "Red" as a result of her red hair/outfit.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Season 2 gives more focus episodes to other characters.
    • Shadow-san's history is explained in "The Daisho Caper"
    • Zack and Ivy get more focus in "The Boston Caper" (detailing how they met Carmen) and "The Need For Speed Caper" (a continuation of "The Boston Caper")
    • "The Stockholme Syndrome Caper" is Ivy's time to shine as she has to fight off two VILE henchmen when Carmen's out in the cold.
  • Decomposite Character: This show has an actual Tigress, when the original was just a false identity created by Ivy.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: A paternal example in Dexter Wolf, former VILE instructor and Carmen's father. Having a child made this villain defect from VILE to be able to raise his child safely.
  • Designated Girl Fight: While the show doesn't purely restrict Carmen to fighting female opponents (she briefly mixes it up with Le Chevre in "The Opera in the Outback Caper"), by and large the longest and most intricate fights Carmen will have are against other females (Tigress, Paper Star, and Coach Brunt).
  • Determinator: Chase's saving value is that he doesn't give up. While he's chasing Carmen, she does give him a respectful look as he keeps pace with her.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Chase uses the elevator in an antiquated building to get to Carmen. Predictably, the elevator is slow, when he could have taken the stairs. This is followed by his refusal in calling in backup to catch the train Carmen is on. This is essentially Chase’s defining characteristic.
    • Carmen sneaks out to join the graduating class on their plane. She then realizes that she didn't think of packing a parachute. Gray is blindsided when she blows her cover to tackle him so they land safely together.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Carmen's story — that she was raised in a privileged life by people who loved her and gave her so good an education that she realized they were villains and turned on them — rings a bell with how children's politics vary from their parents' between generations. Of course, most parents aren't criminal masterminds.
  • Double Agent: Roundabout is a VILE agent positioned in a high-rank in the British intelligence services, which enables him to help keep VILE's operations one step ahead of the law.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The poisoner from Season 2 makes a non-speaking appearance in Season 1's "The Vermeer Caper."
  • Edutainment Show: Despite feeling more like a traditional children's action series, this is still a Carmen Sandiego series tied to educational teaching giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and trivia about various locations and items is included in most of the episodes as a result. Unlike many other iterations, the info dump after introducing the location does come up later in the episode.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: Muzak plays during the elevator scene in Episode 2. It is muzak version of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?'s theme song.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Brunt was the only person allowed to call "Black Sheep" Lambikins; Carmen beat up anyone else who tried.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Carmen tells Player that she stole the phone he hacked, he asks if she's a shoplifter and if she was AWOL for being in jail. Which, is actually a logical conclusion to make. She quickly corrects him, and he admits being in a school of thieves makes sense.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: VILE is a pretty diverse organization, both among its operatives and in its ruling council.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Julia and Chase get theirs in the first episode, where Julia tries to talk Chase about Carmen's motives, whereas Chase ignores her and decides to go all Leeroy Jenkins on Carmen.
    • In "The Sticky Rice Caper", we get to see Zack and Ivy's characters on the plane trip to Indonesia: we have Zack asking his sis if she got anything to eat, and Ivy show off a bit of her fiery side.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Gray and Brunt take Carmen's defection personally, Gray because they were best friends, and Brunt because she was like a mother to Carmen.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Carmen had wanted to be a thief her whole life, but quits V.I.L.E. in disgust at their willingness to kill people. She then devotes herself to bringing them down... while still being a crook herself.
    • V.I.L.E, whatever their ulterior motives, took in an abandoned baby and raised her as their own with a cushy life, a thorough education that made her The Ace, and something close to love. It made Carmen turning on them much harder, because Brunt was a Doting Parent and truly cared about her. That is, if what they told Carmen about rescuing her as a baby was true; even Carmen has been questioning the story for a while.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Carmen is nice to Mime Bomb, but no one else respects him, not even the teachers to whom he reports. It doesn't help that he is a spy. Even Carmen turns on him when he nearly thwarts her escape attempt.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Carmen's Mission Control is only ever called "Player" mostly because Carmen first introduced herself as "Black Sheep" and he thought it was a username of some sorts.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • Carmen talks to the head archaeologist, who tells her that his team is excavating the Eye of Vishnu, a historic relic. She realizes that the graduates are stealing the Eye of Vishnu, even though as the archaeologist says, it has more educational than monetary value.
    • Carmen as she's tailing the Bookkeeper runs into Mime Bomb, who mimes that he's "stopping and smelling the roses". Carmen starts to tell Player over her re-stolen phone that Mime watches everything, and "everyone". Cue her tackling him, locking him in a broom closet, and confiscating his lock picks.
  • Expy: Dr. Janine Dennam and HelioGem seem to be inspired by Elon Musk and Space "X".
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: VILE mooks carry rods that shoot electric blasts while ACME agents carry pistols that shoot clouds of blue knockout gas. This does get averted however during Interpol's raid on Dexter Wolfe's house, where a younger Chief shoots Dexter after she mistook his car keys for a gun.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • It's Shadow-san who gives Carmen the warning about no turning back if she becomes a thief. He's the one who helped kickstart Carmen's defection from V.I.L.E. and has his own regrets now for the life he chose and cannot escape from.
    • In the second episode, Carmen's presumed timing isn't right. She had just left the main building making a beeline to the boat. There was no way she had time to make a detour to the chopper to disable it, or when she would have as she was inside at all prior points in the episode. The only answer is someone else helped her and the only other person present already outside is Shadow-san.
    • The use of the opera Carmen is more than just a pun. The song they use from it, the Habanera aria, is about the dangers before people and not recognizing it, such as the subliminal messaging in the attack and how the theatrical Carmen is like smoke, unattainable and uncatchable, and pursuing her will lead to tragedy, both befitting the cartoon Carmen's skill at evasion and her avoiding Gray to avoid bringing him back into danger in the end.
    • When Player is giving the info-dump about Botswana, he tells them to watch out for "tigers in the grass," and Carmen calls him out on joking, since tigers are native to Asia, not southern Africa. Later, she's ambushed by Tigress in the grass.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Zack and Ivy have a choice to make in "Need For Speed Caper": whether to continue their escapades with Carmen or go back to Boston under a rich sponsor to race. They end up staying with Carmen.
  • Freudian Excuse: A benevolent example; why did every teacher on V.I.L.E. spoil Carmen rotten as a child? Because her father died trying to defect from them, and they wanted to ensure she would never have a reason to turn on them the way he did. Shadow-san's reasons are to make amends for being a witness to his death.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In "The Hot Rocks of Rio Caper-Part 2" while Tigress is talking with Professor Maelstrom confirming Shadowsan and Carmen are working together, Coach Brunt is still seen trashing the faculty room in rage.
    • In "The Deep Dive Caper" Zack and Ivy pose as barristas at Chief of Acme's favorite coffee shop. Carmen approaches the target and while they talk serious business, Zack and Ivy fail epically at making the target's latte. The target nonchallantly asks if they are getting their drink, but Carmen warns them not to drink it, while Zack and Ivy are seen beating the coffee machines to get them to work.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • V.I.L.E. apparently stands for "Valuable Imports, Lavish Exports" since they seem to focus on trafficking stolen goods. Of course, this is a cover for the real name: "Villains International League of Evil".
    • We also get to find out what ACME stands for: "Agency to Classify and Monitor Evildoers".

    G-L 
  • Gilded Cage: V.I.L.E. Island was a tropical paradise in Carmen's words, and also a child's haven where she was treated very well. Eventually she chafed under the restrictions, however, and wanted to become a V.I.L.E. thief officially to gain some freedom.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The way Carmen describes her childhood, one of the top criminal organizations took her in when she was a baby, and raised her with love and a thorough education. It also gave her a sense of compassion, which meant she got a Heel Realization when she saw that her family kills people, and recklessly at that. When she finally enrolled, it gave her an intimate understanding of Bellum’s inventions, Brunt’s fighting techniques, the way Maelstrom’s twisted mind works, and Countess Cleo’s style. While she definitely isn’t able to go toe to toe with the faculty directly yet, her training gives her the ability to identify and target V.I.L.E. locations and schemes.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The Chief about twenty years ago shot Carmen's father when the latter was trying to flee an Interpol raid with his daughter. In her defense, she was trying to detain a dangerous criminal and notorious thief and she thought he was reaching for a gun when he was really reaching for car keys, but learning about this kills any chance of Carmen allying with ACME.
  • Heroic Bystander: In "The Fishy Dubloon Caper", an Ecuadorian archaeologist overhears Carmen's crew trying to find a rare doubloon that has no monetary value but rather symbolic value, and they lie that they're amateur coin hobbyists. She gets suspicious, follows them up the mountain, and helps Carmen when the latter succumbs to altitude sickness. When Carmen finds the doubloon and returns it to her, they shake hands.
  • Heroic Resolve: Despite Devineaux being such an incompetent Interpol agent, when VILE are torturing him, he starts singing the French national anthem to prevent himself revealing the truth. It doesn't work forever, but it still shows he has depths.
  • Hiding In Plain Sight: As might be expected of a mime, after stealing the $10 million stamp, Mime Bomb sits out in the open reading an invisible newspaper. This being San Francisco, no one pays him a second glance.
    • V.I.L.E. as a whole is into this ("[They] never operate without a smokescreen"), choosing to use plots that involve deploying their operation or moving stolen goods in a way that would be beneath notice (such as smuggling rare gemstones out of Brazil by using an amphibious parade float in the middle of Carnival).
    • Carmen herself likes to do this, ditching all but maybe one piece of red clothing and redoing her hair when she's not trying to pull a job. However, in a subversion, both Chase Devineaux and A.C.M.E. know her face well enough that she can still be identified even without her red accessories.
    • In season 2 Carmen acquires a long-term base of operations, a factory once owned by Carmen's of San Diego, the clothing outlet that she took her name from. The sign is still up.
  • Hollywood New England: Zack and Ivy in this series hail from Boston, which also complemented by their thick accent.
  • Homage: In "The Lucky Cat Caper" Zach drives a vintage muscle car in a three way chase up and down the hills of San Francisco, in an obvious reference to the climactic chase scene from Bullitt.
  • Hope Spot: Carmen was hoping that if she talked to Gray one-on-one, then he would understand why she defected and she would get her former best friend back. Gray instead gets an Ignored Epiphany and prepares to fire on Carmen. She knocks him out and leaves him for Interpol.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: In episode 6, Carmen and a female scientist get brainwashed into enabling a defective rocket planned to desecrate the Australian Outback.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: After the initial 2-part premiere, each episode is named "The X Caper".
  • Ignored Epiphany: Despite the fact that Carmen grappled with Gray for shooting at an innocent man, and later told him off for "stealing lives," Gray can't understand why Carmen would turn on him.
  • Impossible Theft: A notable aversion. Considering her origins, it would almost be expected for Carmen to try and steal impossibly large monuments. Instead, all the thefts are plausible, if extreme. The most elaborate theft is all 34 works of Verneer.
  • Innocent Bystander: Carmen enacts a Diving Save to rescue the head archaeologist that was kind to her, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • In-Series Nickname: Carmen has a couple, including:
    • "Red", by The Player.
    • "The Crimson Shadow" and "La Femme Rouge", by Chase Devineaux.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: With the exception of Ivy and Zack, a lot of the voice actors look pretty similar to their respective characters.
  • Inspector Javert: Chase Devineaux, the Interpol and later, ACME agent that repeatedly attempts to catch Carmen throughout the series.
  • The Internet Is for Cats: Dr. Bellum enjoys watching cat videos.
  • Interpol Special Agent: In contrast to previous iterations, where the main crime-fighting presence was from the ACME Detective Agency, Chase and Julie are agents of Interpol. Both are recruited by ACME due to their involvement with Carmen.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Carmen has a chance to go on a date with an amnesiac Gray but decides not to in part because she fears he might be mind-controlled into hurting her and because she wants him to have a new life without V.I.L.E. getting involved. In a subversion, she doesn't actually say this but simply leaves without ever speaking to him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Carmen looks briefly ashamed when Countess Cleo and Shadow-san at different points tell her off for being reckless and immature. Shadow-san is also correct that, despite Carmen working to earn her grade, that she gets favoritism due to being a V.I.L.E. adopted child.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Carmen only steals from thieves and donates the money she makes off her thefts to children's charities.
  • Karmic Thief: Carmen still steals, but only from V.I.L.E.
  • Kick the Dog: Gray firing on an innocent old man who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time was what broke Carmen's illusions about what V.I.L.E. was really like.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Chase and Julia discuss why a thief would want people to know that she's stealing, make herself visible, and take the object in question with an audience.
    • While listening to Carmen's backstory, Gray comments that he was there for part of it and that she's telling him about events he already knows.
    • The V.I.L.E. leaders eventually comment that while Mime Bomb's status as a mime makes him able to be disregarded by the people he spies on, the fact that he refuses to go out of character ever makes it hard for him to deliver reports, as he does so via charades.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Any V.I.L.E. agent captured by law enforcement is quickly extracted and has their memory erased by Dr. Bellum’s machine. Like what happened to Crackle.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Carmen's statement that stealing isn't a game can be a reference to the franchise's start as edutainment software. Her followup that it does in fact hurt people could also be a comment on how the franchise has traditionally ignored the harm crime could cause.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Ironically, it's the older agent Chase who does this and not his protege Julia. Rather than call for backup on sighting Carmen, he decides to go after her alone and orders Julia to stay in the car so that she can "learn". Predictably, Carmen evades him.
  • Lessons in Sophistication:
    • While being raised on V.I.L.E. island, likely Carmen received these lessons in her youth when being tutored, or as part of her classes in thief school.
    • Carmen must later give Zack these lessons in "The Duke of Vermeer Caper" when V.I.L.E. agent Dash Haber arrives early to a meeting and is looking for "The Duchess," an alias Carmen is using, but Zack opens the door and improvises himself as "The Duke." These lessons range from table manners, to art history, and to diction lessons so Zack won't speak with his native Bostonian accent.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Dr. Maelstrom invokes this idea to his colleague Coach Brunt in order to break apart the alliance of the traitors Carmen and Shadowsan by revealing to the former Shadowsan killed Carmen's father on orders from the leadership council. What this plan fails to account for is the trust the two have in each other allows Carmen to work through her anger and just asks Shadowsan to confirm the details he can, and when third party evidence backs up his version of events, the alliance is stronger than ever.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Carmen bases her alias on the name of haberdashery who made her (or rather Cookie Booker's as Carmen stole it) trademark hat ("Carmen's") and the city where it's located ("San Diego").
  • Logical Weakness: Paper Star can fold paper into deadly throwing stars. That said, her weapon is paper.
    • In "The Magna Carta Caper", she's got Carmen on the run until Carmen leads her out onto the roof of a train, where the wind blows her projectiles off course when Paper Star tries to use them. They're still paper - making them sharp doesn't make them any heavier.
    • This is continued in "The Daisho Caper" when Paper Star is about to make some origami out of paper lanterns, only to find out that they're covered in glue so they're considered useless.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Chase demands that she stop, Carmen does... briefly.
    Carmen: You didn't say for how long. (runs)
    Chase: It was implied!

    M-R 
  • The Main Characters Do Everything:
    • Chase insists on catching Carmen single-handedly in the pilot, which is the main reason why he fails. If he'd thought to call ahead to have some other police officers stop and search the train at its next stop instead of personally chasing it all the way to Paris, he might have caught her as well as Gray.
    • Despite the V.I.L.E. Academy producing forty graduates a year, and has for decades, only one episode in the first season has any agent appear other than Carmen's ex-dormmates (who only made up an eighth of their graduating class), her teachers, or the cleaners, all of whom were introduced in the pilot. Season 2 manages to introduce some other V.I.L.E. field operatives as well as show that V.I.L.E. has grunts beyond their elite thief academy graduates as part of a Story Arc involving who will take up Shadow-san's place in the council..
  • Master of Disguise: One of Carmen's skills, usually involving formal dress wear and casual street clothes, depending on the situation. Chase appears to know her well enough that a simple change of clothing won't fool him if he can see her face.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Carmen's crew wants to shut down V.I.L.E. and avoid A.C.M.E., V.I.L.E. wants to stop Carmen from interfering in their business affairs and learn more about A.C.M.E., and A.C.M.E. wants both of them brought down (though their relationship with Carmen swings around frequently due to misinformation about her objectives). Sometimes Chase Devineaux also does his own thing in order to try and run down Carmen without any sanction from A.C.M.E. or even Interpol.
  • Mickey Mousing: Carmen fights Le Chevre to the tune of "L'Amour est ouisou rebelle," each blow set to the tune of the music.
  • Military School: V.I.L.E. Training Academy for Thieves aims to crank out professional thieves into the world. Carmen was initially a student, but she defected after underestimating how the school's ruthless approaches were against her morals.
  • Mistaken For Kidnapper: In the season 1 finale, Carmen is seen alone with the kidnapped Devineaux, resulting in the authorities assuming that she was behind the kidnapping rather than trying to rescue the victim from V.I.L.E.
  • Morton's Fork:
    • Either Carmen would have been trapped on V.I.L.E. island permanently as a ward, and remaining under the crooks' influence, or she would voluntarily enter the Academy to become a thief for real... and remain under V.I.L.E.'s influence. Shadow-san hoped that at least with the former option that Carmen wouldn't become a thief and throw her life away; he didn't intend for her to defect entirely.
    • Shadow-san faced this dilemma with hindsight. He could either pass Carmen, which would lead her to become a thief, or he could fail her with a rigged exam, and give her another year to pass his class. If he kept failing her, the other teachers would have smelled a rat. And of course, thanks to him goading "Black Sheep" about her failure when she proved she could pick his pockets without a problem and wanted a second chance, she ended up taking the worst course possible for him; to defect and openly turn against V.I.L.E., putting her in even more danger than she was before.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • The Bookkeeper is mugged by Carmen after Carmen causes a lockdown demands that she be allowed to leave the island, and none of V.I.L.E. wants her around after she let Carmen pickpocket her. Carmen ties up and gags the Bookkeeper and steals her coat and hat to pose as her long enough to fool the Cleaners.
    • Zack's rival Trey is mugged by the Driver, so that the operative can steal the supercar he's intended to test drive.
  • My God, You Are Serious: A downplayed version when Dr. Bellum calls Zack and Ivy Carmen's "operatives." Carmen corrects her they are her friends getting a chuckle from the scientist. She stops after a moment and realizes Carmen is genuine about her feelings for them and thought Carmen was making "a funny."
  • Mysterious Past: All Carmen knows about her origins is that a VILE agent (supposedly) found her as an abandoned baby in Argentina alongside a set of Matryoshka dolls. The agent was a young Shadow-san, but he doesn't know any more about her past than that himself.
    • Her past was finally revealed in the second season finale: her father was Dexter Wolfe, a V.I.L.E. agent and former member of its inner circle who tried to defect, only for his colleagues to send an assassin (Shadow-san) after him. However, they weren't the only ones after him; the same night Shadow-san went to kill Wolfe, Interpol raided his mansion and he was shot dead by a younger Chief (who thought he was about to pull a gun on them). Shadow-san took baby Carmen back to headquarters with him afterwards, and the faculty decided to raise her as one of their own after she shows potential as a thief. The Matroyska dolls were the only thing that could calm her down.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The inclusion of Interpol harkens back the very first version of the original game, where the player worked for Interpol instead of ACME.
    • Early on, Julia guesses that Carmen may simply be stealing as a form of game. In some continuities such as the previous cartoon, that was her motivation.
    • In the first episode, Chase asks Julia if it's possible for a car to keep up with a speeding train. Julia responds that she's no math detective. Bonus points in that Chase was in that game.
    • One of Carmen's classmates points out the absurdity of the various antagonists in the franchise having Punny Names, saying that nobody would take them seriously.
    • The Elevator Muzak in V.I.L.E. HQ is Mozart's 'Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder', which was used as the basis for the theme to Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?.
    • Chase is told that he is "no longer a gumshoe" when he's recruited by ACME; "Gumshoe" was the lowest rank of ACME agents in the games and in the PBS game show.
    • ACME's chief resembles her incarnation from the "Where in the World?" game show and Brøderbund games, albeit with short blonde hair. She also appears through holograms, like the AI Chief from "Where on Earth?" who also had blond hair
    • While Professor Maelstrom is a psychotic psychologist and not a marine archeologist, as he was in Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, the first caper he is seen having Le Cheve and El Topo go after is one involving investigating a sunken ship for lost treasure.
    • When posed with the connection between Carmen and V.I.L.E., Devineaux's first thought is, "Ah! She is the ringleader!" — which she traditionally is, but when reminded of known facts and differences between them, he agrees that that doesn't add up here.
    • "The Chasing Paper Caper" centers around Carmen trying to stop a V.I.L.E. agent from stealing all known copies of the Magna Carta. Stealing the original Magna Carta was Carmen's goal in one episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?.
    • One of V.I.L.E.'s leaders is a Countess, possibly a reference to the Contessa, a recurring villain from Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego??
    • Coach Brunt is a big, strong woman with green hair, similar to Eartha Brute.
    • Dr. Dennam is listening to a podcast that claims aliens exist. Aliens appear in several different installments of the franchise.
    • The Cleaners are likely a reference to Rick and Nick ICK, two bumbling janitors from the 3.0 versions of Where in the World and USA. Their backstory is that they joined V.I.L.E. under the belief that knowing how to "clean up" would make them rich, and so they were assigned to "clean up" the evidence of V.I.L.E.'s whereabouts.
    • In "The Hot Rocks of Rio Caper (Part 1)", the daughter of the family Carmen is having lunch with (and who is also wearing Carmen's hat) is known as "Isabel", which is the middle name of Carmen from Treasure of Knowledge.
    • In "The Deep Dive Caper", the imagined form of Vera Cruz, potentially Carmen's mother wears a red trenchcoat and yellow scarf, just like Carmen in Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?.
    • Completing the interactive special and getting the best ending unlocks a bonus scene involving the entire supporting cast singing Rockapella's theme song for the original game show.
  • Never Say "Die": Although characters are placed in deadly situations, characters threaten each others lives, and Carmen's chief objection to V.I.L.E. is their willingness to commit murder, the words "die," "kill," "dead," etc. are never used. The expression "stealing/taking lives" is more commonly used.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • While Chase bursting in on Countess Cleo's dinner gives Carmen more time to steal the Countess's Vermeer paintings, it also means that he completely misses that all the dinner guests are V.I.L.E. operatives and guests; the Chief isn't amused when the next day they find the mansion burned down, and chews out a sheepish Chase for his obliviousness.
    • Carmen pickpocketing Devineaux's ACME keycard becomes this when Paper Star pickpockets it from her in turn and brings it back to VILE, making them aware of ACME's existence. V.I.L.E. erroneously concludes that Chase is Carmen's partner, capturing and torturing him.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
    • V.I.L.E. giving Carmen a decent childhood and education while raising her led to her developing a sense of compassion that put her at odds with her family's murderous intents.
    • One of Carmen's teachers at V.I.L.E. named Shadow-san ensures her failure on an Unwinnable by Design pickpocketing test while applauding a more unscrupulous classmate's methods because he doesn't approve of Carmen's special treatment by the other teachers. This spurs Carmen towards trying to prove herself by sneaking on an actual caper of her newly graduated class's and realizing the lengths to which V.I.L.E. was willing to go to acquire items, thus prompting her Heel–Face Turn. If the teacher had just tested her normally, Carmen would still be "Black Sheep" and in V.I.L.E.'s pocket for a little longer. Subverted when it’s revealed he did this on purpose because he didn’t want her to become a thief.
    • Gray firing on an innocent man, and refusing to listen when she saves the man's life and calls him out for it, led to Carmen's disillusionment and eventual defection. It also ended their friendship when she saw what he really was.
    • The fact that V.I.L.E. chose to shelter Carmen from their more brutal nature left her completely shocked and disillusioned with her beloved family, if they had not gone to such lengths to hide their unscrupulousness, she might’ve remained under their thumb and not become their greatest enemy.
  • Noble Demon:
    • Carmen eventually becomes this. Julie deduces that Carmen only steals from other thieves, and gives most of the money she earns to charities.
    • Player is one; he only hacks into places to see what good he can do. He inspires Carmen to do the same.
  • Noodle Incident: How Carmen met Zack and Ivy. The most we know is that it had something to do with a V.I.L.E. hideout disguised as a donut shop. Eventually revealed in Season 2's "The Boston Tea Party Caper": the donut shop was a holding facility for materials V.I.L.E. used for a counterfeiting operation, which the other two thought was a Mob front. They both tried tossing the place the same night and ended up reluctantly teaming up.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Julia forcefully interrupts Chase in the pilot to point out Carmen is right behind them after he speaks disparagingly of her academic background.
  • Not So Different: Player and Carmen became friends when they both realize they want to use "evil" skills for good reasons.
  • Nothing Personal: Paper Star doesn't have a grudge against Carmen, unlike her other classmates who graduated, because they never had a rocky history. As the novelization details, Carmen would give her extra origami paper when she asked for Shadow-san's class, and complimented her handiwork until Paper Star beheaded her own paper army with a paper ninja star. Ironically, Paper Star is the only classmate who has actually defeated Carmen in a straight fight. Though maybe Paper Star doesn't take it personally because she's a "psychopath," in Le Chevre's words.
  • Novelization: "Who in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" is an adaptation of the first two episodes delving into Carmen's past.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: While Carmen remains a thorn in V.I.L.E.'s side, it's implied she's only disrupting a fraction of their operations. Le Chevre, for instance, boasts that he's done more successful missions than Paper Star though we've only seen his failed missions on the show.
    • Averted by the end of Season 2. After two straight years of Carmen disrupting their operations, and being forced to destroy their own lavish headquarters, by the time the season ends, V.I.L.E. has been reduced to meeting in a coffee shop.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Coach Brunt reacts this way when Mime Bomb communicates that "Black Sheep" sneaked out with the graduates.
    • Carmen has this reaction when Gray fires on the archaeologist.
    • Zach has this reaction multiple times in the Vermeer caper: when he opens the door and encounters Dash Haber instead of room service and has to dress up as a Duke, when he picks up the wrong drinking glass at the Countess's dinner, and when the palate cleanser before dessert is beluga caviar (he hates fish).
    • In the novelization, Carmen has this reaction when she compliments Paper Star's origami miniature army, only for Paper Star to callously behead them with a paper ninja star.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Shadow-san arriving at the pier just as Carmen takes the boat in the two-parter. When we revisit the scene in the season one finale, Shadow-san reveals he was trying to join her.
  • Once per Episode: After the two-part series opener, there is always an infomation dump about either the location or a topic related to what Carmen's gang is talking about. It is usually done by Player conversing with the others about some of the cultural aspects of the location or other tidbits that become Chekhovs Guns or Gags.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Carmen treats her Russian dolls very well, because they're the only clue she has about her past. The day she escapes, she decides to leave them behind on V.I.L.E. island to "travel light".
    • The Bookkeeper notes that Carmen for the first time ever has not tossed water balloons at her for the Bookkeeper's annual arrival. It was because Carmen was planning on pickpocketing her and pretended to apologize during their elevator ride.
  • Origins Episode:
    • The two-part pilot serves as this, detailing Carmen's origin in this continuity as an orphan raised by V.I.L.E., and the events that led to her turning on them.
    • "The Boston Tea Party Caper" details how Carmen and Player met up with Zack and Ivy.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Carmen has a set of Russian nesting dolls that V.I.L.E. found by her when she was a baby. They sadly didn't carry hints to her past, though Carmen tried to investigate them. She ends up leaving them behind when she defects, symbolically abandoning the story of her Mysterious Past to make a better future. Then she re-steals them from a V.I.L.E. hideout, and it's revealed to have been a trap that Gray set (though she was expecting that). The Season 2 finale reveals that they were one of the only things that could calm her down.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Due to Julia's background in knowing history and archaeology, it makes her better suited to understand Carmen's methods than the action-oriented Chase. Chase of course dismisses her background when she talks about the objects Carmen could steal.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Inverted and subverted with Carmen. When she's doing a job, she wears very auspicious red accessories (a wide-brimmed red fedora and a red trenchcoat or a red cocktail dress if she's doing something requiring a modicum of formality), along with having her full head of hair sweeping in the breeze. If she's trying to blend in, she wears unassuming civilian clothes (at most maybe adding one red piece) and has her hair done up differently. However, the people who pursue her (A.C.M.E. and Chase Devineaux) don't let simple changes of clothes deceive them and they can still pick Carmen out regardless of what she's wearing by knowing her face.
  • Pet the Dog: The Bookkeeper has every reason to dislike Carmen, from the water balloon pranks to her recklessness. But she gives Black Sheep genuine advice and shakes her hand.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Carmen, who's the youngest V.I.L.E. student ever, gets into fights with older students and her former teachers.
  • Playful Hacker: The Player, who specifically identifies himself as a white-hat hacker, even using a white fedora as an icon at one point and wearing a white baseball cap in his first conversation with Carmen.
  • Police are Useless: Chase Devineaux's sole virtue as a policeman is his determination. But since he never thinks before chasing after Carmen, he never accomplishes anything. Julie Argent comes across as more competent, but even that is limited to being observant enough to know there are unanswered questions that her partner never considers, but she still never gets a chance to work out the answers or do anything with them.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Seems to be the heart of the conflict between Carmen and A.C.M.E., with constant misinterpretations of the actions and observations of the other leading to fallout and mistrust. Julia has tried to remain the voice of reason between both parties but then something comes along to disrupt that and puts them at odds again. While no one has died, there have been some close calls.
  • Properly Paranoid: Carmen refuses to put an amnesiac Gray in danger by re-entering his life. It turns out that when V.I.L.E. thinks that Chase is her partner at the Season 1 finale, they end up capturing and torturing him.
  • Punny Name:
    • Aside from Dr. Saira Bellum, this has mostly been avoided, as lampshaded by Gray's initial attempt at a codename "Graham Crackle".
    • Countess Cleo's underling Dash Haber may count as a Stealth Pun, as a haberdasher is a men's tailor. In season 2, he poses as a haberdasher for a fashion show and his weapon is a razor-brimmed hat he can control with a device in his glove, which seems to confirm the intentional pun.
    • The name of one character is Vera Cruz, which could be a subtle pun on the name of the Mexican city Veracruz.
  • Raised by the Community: Carmen Sandiego, then known as Black Sheep, was raised on Vile Isle by the VILE staff members who acted as her basic teachers and caretakers.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Carmen tries to pull a prank by tossing water balloons at the Bookkeeper, as she did when she was a child. It might have been cute then, but when she becomes a V.I.L.E. student, the action nearly leads to her expulsion.
    • Carmen's first attempt to leave the V.I.L.E. academy involved forcing open a drainage grate in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer. When she tries it again the following year, she finds that the staff (who learned of her escape and how from Mime Bomb) has taken steps to ensure that nobody can get in or out that way again by bolting the grate in place.
    • Paper Star may be able to create Absurdly Sharp Throwing Stars from paper, but they're still paper, and as such, can easily be blown away in the wind.
    • As impressive as Carmen's physical abilities are, exploring sunken ships found in the sea followed by walking around Quito, the second-highest capital city in the world, without taking the time to adjust to the change in pressure is a bit of whiplash for the body. She quickly succumbs to altitude sickness.
    • Carmen gets subject to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in the first season finale, courtesy of Coach Brunt. Shadow-san convinces her to escape with him because, as he points out, she can't walk on her own and the police will catch her.
    • Chase's continual bumbling and tendency to act without thinking eventually causes ACME's Chief to remove him from active duty and replace him with his Hypercompetent Sidekick Julia.
    • During The Stockholm Syndrome Caper, Carmen gives her coat to Ivy to throw off the ACME agents. After crashing her hang-glider in a forest in the middle of winter, she nearly dies from her injuries and exposure, and the next episode shows her spending at least a month laid out, and is easily overpowered by Tigress in a fight.
    • It's revealed that the ACME Chief killed Carmen's father in a raid when she was under the impression that he was a murderous thief. Which, to be fair, he was. Carmen decides not to ally with the Chief and lets Player hack into ACME to verify if the story is true. With law enforcement, Good Is Not Soft and Police Brutality is bound to happen when there are violent criminals.
    • The end of "The Daisho Caper" has Shadow-san ask to atone for his sins in regards to stealing the sword from the museum his brother was the curator for. It ends with said older brother walking away without a word. Just because you decide to amend for your misdeeds does not immediately equate to Easily Forgiven.
    • At the opening of "The Fashionista Caper", Shadow-san quickly discovers that walking around dressed like a samurai tends to attract unwanted attention most places. This prompts him to seek less conspicuous clothing.
    • Running a massive criminal undertaking costs a lot of money, so if you fail to turn a profit, you could find yourself in the red quickly. Sure enough, Season 2 shows that V.I.L.E. has suffered major financial losses due to regularly taking it on the chin from Carmen.
  • Redemption Rejection: Carmen reveals that she wanted to talk to Gray because she believed the memory of their friendship was enough for him to want to join her and turn on V.I.L.E. Gray responds by turning her down and firing his electric gun on her.
  • Red/Green Contrast: Used extensively throughout the show; red is used to represent Carmen and her allies, while green is used to represent V.I.L.E. This even extends to how certain scenes are tinted; scenes where V.I.L.E. has the upper hand or when things are just generally going badly for Carmen are tinted green, while scenes where Carmen has the upper hand or is just doing well in general are tinted red. In fact, this also serves as subtle foreshadowing towards the big twist at the end of season 1: rewatching the episodes with the color symbolism in mind means you'll pay more attention to the fact that several of Shadow-San's scenes are tinted red.
  • Repetitive Name: Trey Sterling's father asks Zack and Ivy to call him Sterling. His name? Sterling Sterling.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Not intentionally but one of the reasons that V.I.L.E. took Carmen in as a baby and spoiled her rotten was in the hopes that she would prove a Superior Successor to her father, Dexter Wolfe, who defected from them. It worked better then they possibly imagined
  • The Reveal:
    • Season 1: Shadow-san was the one who discovered Carmen as a baby, and he failed her because he thought she could do better with her life than become a thief and a V.I.L.E. agent. He was the one who sabotaged the Janitors' helicopter when Carmen made her getaway, and would have joined Carmen in the boat if he had made it in time.
    • Season 2: Carmen's father was Dexter Wolfe, a V.I.L.E. operative that Shadow-san was ordered to kill after he apparently defected. However, Shadow-san was beaten to the punch by an Interpol agent — specifically, the head of A.C.M.E. And her mother is possibly still alive.
  • Rewatch Bonus: After learning about Shadow-san's true nature, most of what he does in the two-part premiere makes more sense.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: During the climax of season 2, Coach Brunt reveals to Carmen what happened to her father in the hopes of driving her away from an ally. It works — except Brunt was trying to drive her away from Shadow-san, not the Chief.
  • Running Gag: There are a few minor ones, like how every time V.I.L.E. is mentioned to have made a food product the flavor is compared to the company name, or how the show loves to show off Zack and Ivy's Southie accents with common phrases that are known to exaggerate it.
    • Starting in Season 2, Zack is repeatedly referred to as a Duke, based on his disguise from "The Vermeer Caper".
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  • Scenery Porn: The locations are very bright and colorful despite the lineless artstyle.
  • Second Episode Introduction: If you count the opening two-parter as one episode, Zack and Ivy don't get introduced until the following episode (although the back of Zack's head can be seen as he pilots the boat Carmen uses to escape in the very end of the two-parter).
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The first season ends with Chase going to the hospital after having V.I.L.E.'s truth device clamped to his head, The Chief of A.C.M.E. face to face with Carmen Sandiego, Shadow-san revealing his true colors and leaving Carmen with a new VILE hard-drive which means more adventures for her and the crew.
    • The second season ends with Carmen and Shadow-san discovering that her mother is still alive and setting off to find her, Chase being re-inducted into A.C.M.E. by the Chief as part of their new plan to stop Carmen, and V.I.L.E.'s inner circle searching for a new headquarters.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet: The reason Carmen's father died as The Chief thought he was pulling out a gun instead of car keys..
  • Shout-Out:
    • During Carmen's flashback to her childhood, her geography lesson has her identifying "Istanbul, not Constantiniple".
    • V.I.L.E. only graduates forty students a year. Naturally, Carmen once refers to them as the Forty Thieves.
    • When brainstorming codenames, Gray first thinks of "Shocker" before it gets shot down.
    • More than once, Gray puns on Carmen's V.I.L.E. codename with an old nursery rhyme and quips, "Bye-bye, Black Sheep".
    • Tigress dismissively called Carmen "Fedora the Explorer."
    • "The Duke of Vermeer Caper" is all about the career of Johannes Vermeer, and how his incredible attention to light and shadow and surprisingly small body of work (only 34 known paintings) make his work highly desirable.
    • "The Opera in The Outback Caper" is set during a performance of Carmen (fittingly enough). The similarities of the characters is referenced often.
    • Le Chèvre calls Paper Star "Pippi Punkstocking"
    • Professor Maelstrom's outfit (tan slacks, dark turtleneck, black jacket with white piping) is an exact replica of the one Patrick McGoohan wore in The Prisoner.
    • In "The Fashionista Caper", Agent Argent is practicing what she'll say to Carmen when she eventually catches her. At one point, she attempts to do a Horatio Caine-esque one-liner, complete with putting her glasses on and a song similar to "Won't Get Fooled Again" playing.
    • As of "The Need for Speed Caper", we can add Carmen Sandiego to the list of franchises that have paid homage to the famous Akira bike slide.
    • As for Carmen Sandiego herself, the ability for her coat to transform into a hang glider is reminiscent to that of Kaito Kuroba. Bonus points that they are both thieves who use an alias to steal valuable items in order from them getting in the wrong hands.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • V.I.L.E. is obsessed over hiding their existence from anyone outside of their organization, to the point of mind-wiping operatives who get captured. ACME can't even definitively prove that they exist..
    • ACME is even more mysterious to the rest of the world, with not even V.I.L.E. knowing anything about them, and they only get a hint that the organization exists late in season 1.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • The leader of the archaeological dig in the second episode. His conversation with Carmen about artifact conservation, and how he was about to die from Crackle's staff, is what causes Carmen to defect V.I.L.E.
    • The loanshark from Zack and Ivy's backstory; if he didn't tell them to go after a specific donut shop, then they wouldn't have met Carmen.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Coach Brunt speaks in a low voice when torturing Chase and attempting to crush Carmen to death.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In 'The Daisho Caper', Shadow-san battles a group of thugs while a karoake machine continues to blare Suspicious Minds in the background.
  • Southies: In this incarnation, Zack and Ivy are both thieves from Boston, who have noticeable accents.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Shadow-san refuses to show any favoritism to Carmen and it's implied he fails her on purpose so she can't graduate with her class. This led to her defection because she sneaked out to spite him and his rigged exam. It turns out his intention was to keep her from becoming a thief because he was worried she was throwing her life away.
    • Carmen herself became this when she tagged along with the graduates' mission. It led her to save a man's life because he was an innocent and opened her eyes to what V.I.L.E. really was.
    • In the Duke of Vermeer caper, Carmen and Player outline their plan to retrieve all 34 Vermeer paintings... and then that got derailed when Zack accidentally opens the doors too soon — thinking it was room service — only to meet with Dash Haber, one of Countess Cleo's underlings — and the group has to change it so that Zack appears as a Duke. In the same episode, Chase crashing Countess Cleo's dinner just before Zack puked at eating caviar (he's known to hate fish) is what gives Carmen and Ivy some extra time to swipe the last painting.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The Netflix subtitles clarify that it's Saira Bellum this time, perhaps to differentiate her from Sara Bellum from The Powerpuff Girls. Or from bad puns in general.
  • Splash of Color: The intro's first few seconds depicts Carmen's travels in a black and white atmosphere, allowing herself to stand out in her iconic scarlet color in every scene.
  • Stairs Are Faster: In the first episode, the old-fashioned lift Chase tries to use takes about a minute to make it one story. He lampshades this.
  • Stereo Fibbing: In "The Fishy Doubloon Caper", Player calls in Ivy and Zack that Carmen needed them, unfortunately notifying her previous classmate, La Chevre. As he walks towards them with a giant fish hook asking if this Carmen was Carmen Sandiego, Ivy and Zack switch between saying San Francisco and San Jose.
    Ivy/Zack: [simultaneously] Carmen Sanfrancisco. / Carmen Sanjose.
    Ivy/Zack: Sanjose? / Sanfrancisco!
    Ivy/Zack: Sanfrancisco! / Sanjose!
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream is heard in "The Hot Rocks of Rio Caper, Part 1".
  • Story Arc: Season 2 has VILE trying to find someone to replace Shadow-san's position after he defects.
  • Subliminal Seduction: "The Opera at the Outback Caper" has Dr. Bellum's plan release a subliminal command to unleash the Boomerang rocket when the head scientist hears "L'Amour est ouisou rebelle". Unfortunately, since Carmen was also there when Le Chevere unleashed the command, she is also commanded to activate the rocket when she was trying to delete its codes.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: In the Season 1 finale, Coach Brunt asks Carmen about her "partnership" with Chase Devineaux. Carmen doesn't bother to correct Coach Brunt and instead snarks that she prefers working with the law than with evil villains.
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: Chase attempts to shout at Carmen to stop to get her to surrender. She lampshades why he thinks that would work.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Chase and Julia. They're just trying to stop an obvious cat burglar from stealing priceless antiquities, they don't know her true motives. Even with her good intentions, Carmen is still stealing.
    • Without being tied down to Chase and his stubborn tendency to ignore her if a chance to chase Carmen comes up, Julia is able to convey how she feels more easily to the Chief. Although due to season 2 starting out with A.C.M.E. suspecting that Chase was detained and interrogated by Carmen, it takes some doing to get them to see things her way.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Carmen momentarily has this look, along with some respect, as Chase keeps pace with her on the rooftops in the pilot.
  • Tagline:
    • "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?"
    • "Who is Carmen Sandiego?" is another promotional take on the classic phrase, emphasizing this series' focus on unraveling Carmen's past.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    • Coach Brunt loved Black Sheep like a daughter, but she considers her to be dead, and loathes Carmen Sandiego for killing her.
    • Shadow-san states that he now goes by this name instead of his former one of Suhara.
  • Those Two Bad Guys:
    • The Cleaners, two V.I.L.E. agents that act as enforcers. Their day-to-day jobs are as the school's janitors but they're the ones sent to extract and take out targets.
    • There's also the graduates La Chèvre and El Topo, a duo that never goes on missions without each other (barring "The Chasing Paper Caper" where only La Chèvre appears) that respectively strike high and low.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: The reason why Carmen decides to turn against V.I.L.E.
  • Thrill Seeker: Carmen can't resist the thrill of the chase. It's why she kept launching water balloons at the Bookkeeper every year, why she pretends to give Chase a sporting chance to catch her, and why she lets Gray corner her on the train.
  • Time Bomb: "The Opera in the Outback Caper"'s launch of the Boomerang rocket is essentially one, although the time seems to count down in real-time.
  • Timm Style: The show's character designs, penned by Keiko Murayama, fits Chromosphere's in-house style of having angular, simple yet distinctive designs with some exaggerated proportions.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the first episode intro, Chase asks the eternal question "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" It happens again near the end of the two-part premiere, as Carmen has just escaped V.I.L.E. headquarters and tells Player to send her coordinates because "I need to know where in the world I am."
  • Title Theme Tune: As per tradition for the franchise, though paired with more overt spy themes, slow guitars, and castanets.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Julia finds the ACME agents that had taken Chase in episode 4 by following the trail of mints that Chase had accidentally spilled all over the parking garage floor after getting knocked out. It worked despite the small number of candies in the roll by the fact that he was taken to a utility room less than fifty feet away.
  • Traintop Battle: The climax of "The Chasing Paper Caper" ends with one.
  • Trash the Set: At the end of Season 2, V.I.L.E. evacuate and then blow up their island headquarters after they fear it's been compromised by Carmen and Shadow-san's defections.
  • Ultimate Universe: This take on Carmen blends elements from many prior versions: several characters from the mid-90s cartoon, the general setting of the original 80s games (V.I.L.E. is legitimately dangerous, there's a relative lack of Punny Names, and the investigators are from Interpol instead of ACME to start with, anyway), Chase Devineaux from the late-90s Broderbund games, Jules Argent from the 2000s Learning Company games, while taking new directions of its own, such as making Carmen the protagonist for once.
  • Un-person: VILE and ACME agents do not exist anywhere outside their own databases unless they get caught. As a former VILE trainee, Carmen also falls into this to an extent - most of the world knows nothing about her beyond what they can surmise from her crimes, and she doesn't know all that much more herself. While most of these people are off the grid because all records about them were redacted, Carmen's records never existed in the first place.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Carmen admits that all she knows about her origins — being an abandoned baby in Argentina— was told by the people who adopted her, and they hid more than one thing about her thief life. It turns out she wasn't abandoned; her father was killed. She claims that the teachers at V.I.L.E. spoiled her rotten and weren't allowed to hurt her, but in "The Sticky Rice Caper" she also says that Dr. Bellum fed her imitation rice that made her cry as a baby.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Carmen suspects that her pick-pocketing exam against Shadow-san was one, that she failed to lift the dollar bill from his coat because there was no bill to steal. She was right because Shadow-san didn't want her to pass.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The Chief ends up being this when Carmen's past is revealed. Carmen's father was a thief who was planning to defect when Carmen was a baby, for her safety and to give her a better life. When Shadow-san was sent to assassinate him, he balked on realizing that the defector had a child. Cue the Chief showing up with Interpol and shooting Carmen's father, forcing Shadow-san to flee with the baby back to V.I.L.E. island. This led to Carmen being raised by the same people her parents were trying to flee, and Shadow-san trying to make amends for his mistake. Carmen, when she hears the story, refuses to ally with ACME and hacks into their system to find out if the story is true.
  • Vanity License Plate: The license plate of Chase's ACME car is 10-19, the police scanner code for "return(ing) to base".
  • Vehicle Vanish:
    • Carmen does this in "The Opera in the Outback Caper" at the end.
    • Carmen and Shadow-san both this when ACME agents are getting close to them in "The Hot Rocks Of Rio Caper Part-2".
  • Vehicular Sabotage: When the Cleaners try to use a helicopter to capture the escaping Black Sheep in the pilot, they find several of the wires to the engine had been cut. It wasn't Carmen who cut the wires - it was Shadow-san.
  • Villain Respect: Shadow-san has this expression when Carmen successfully escapes V.I.L.E. island. It's because she was leaving V.I.L.E. behind for good, which was what she - and he - wanted.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Player is this for Carmen.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Zigzagged. Carmen knows that Brunt truly loved her, and that the V.I.L.E. Academy gave her the best childhood she could possibly have. She does question, however, how much they hid from her, like that the thieves have no moral code, and if the story of her being abandoned in Argentina was even true (that much of it apparently is). She bitterly tells Gray her whole life was a lie.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Shadow-san is a Japanese staff member of V.I.L.E. whose class on pickpocketing centers around developing a dexterous, light touch by practicing origami.
  • We Can Rule Together: Gray reveals that he has orders to bring in Carmen alive because V.I.L.E. finds her too valuable and competent to just kill or mind-wipe; they'll give her a "pardon" if she comes quietly. He points out that Carmen just wanted to be a thief the whole time. Carmen has a regretful look about what she wanted as a kid, and she makes a counteroffer for Gray to join her. Gray refuses and tries to knock her out or execute her; it's unclear.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Episode 4 reveals Julie and Chase being accepted into ACME.
    • Episode 6: Grey has his memories erased of being a VILE thief and Carmen must part ways with him.
    • Episode 9: Shadow-san reveals his true colors to Carmen, handing her a new VILE hard-drive and the Chief of Acme finally meets face to face with Carmen Sandiego.
    • Season 2, episode 10, Shadow-san reveals Carmen's past; in that she was the daughter of the former Stealth 101 instructor Dexter Wolfe who was shot —by accident — by the woman would become Chief of Acme. After Carmen hacks into ACME's database, Chief declares war on Carmen and reinstates Chase into ACME to go after her.
  • Wham Line: Pretty much all of the lines Shadow-san says in the climax of the Season 1 finale, particularly the one where he reveals that he found Carmen as a baby.
  • Whammy Bid: When they're seeking a dubloon that was eaten by a fish up for auction, Carmen tells Zack and Ivy to bid to win. Zack ups a bid from $100 to $150...thousand. No one in the auction house knows how to react to that, except the auctioneer, of course. They're spared having to actually pay that wager by El Topo stealing the fish first. Though having access to V.I.L.E.'s accounts would probably have enabled them to pay it anyway.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • All the teachers in V.I.L.E., despite being revealed to be villains, call out Carmen for her impulsive nature and recklessness. The words from Shadow-san hurt the most since he's the one who failed her.
    • Zig-Zagged. Gray tells off Carmen in Episode 2 for tagging along on the mission and putting his entire career at risk. While he is right that she was reckless and could have gotten them killed, he displays a more It's All About Me attitude that he didn't show before. And as Carmen finds out, he's willing to commit murder.
    • Subverted when Carmen calls out Gray for firing on an innocent man. Gray by this point is open about the fact that he's a villain, not a hero, and he's more concerned that Carmen betrayed him and all of V.I.L.E.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • After she was busting for sneaking out with the graduates and finding out that V.I.L.E. encourages reckless murder, Carmen was given a slap on the wrist: she had her stolen phone confiscated, had the teachers constantly watching and psych-evaluating her, and received a giant hug from a worrying Coach Brunt. Carmen could have easily trained to become a thief anyway and ignore her morals, remained the V.I.L.E. equivalent of a Mafia Princess and never leave the island, or even try to become an Internal Reformist as upward as that journey would be. Instead, she bid her time, re-stole the phone, and made her escape an open defection against V.I.L.E. Freedom wasn't enough, and stealing wasn't enough. She was going to take down V.I.L.E. from the outside for lying to her all her life and killing people.
    • "The Boston Tea Party Caper" has Zack and Ivy stuffing themselves with the counterfeit money that La Chevre and El Topo are about to get away with. It's enough to pay back their loan and fix up their car. Instead, they decide to recreate the Boston Tea Party and dump the money into the water although they do try to stuff some money under their shirts until Carmen reminds them that they'll be caught by the police.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: While Carmen keeping some of the money she steals for operational expenses can account for how she can afford them, no explanation is given as to where and how Carmen acquires all the gadgets she keeps in her coat. Dialogue implies that Ivy is the main gadget-maker of the team, however.
  • White Sheep: Carmen is this to the thieves that raised her, as she is discriminating in her choice of victims and tries to minimize collateral damage, while V.I.L.E. doesn't care how much harm they do so long as they turn a profit. Amusingly, her code name back when she was a V.I.L.E. agent in training was Black Sheep.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Boston Tea Party Caper" reveals how Zack and Ivy first met Carmen, which also happened to be Carmen’s first anti-V.I.L.E. operation.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Carmen didn't have a real name growing up; her code name was Black Sheep. Brunt called her Lambikins or Lambsie for short.
  • Who's on First?: In "The Opera on the Outback Caper", Zach and Ivy have to clarify if they're talking about Carmen Sandiego or Carmen the opera. An amnesiac Gray thinks that Carmen's being funny when she gives her name, which to be fair she chose out of a hat.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Gray corners Carmen in her first-class train compartment and shorts out her communications with Player; he found her because the object she stole had a tracking device. He has orders to bring her in alive, however, and she says that she wanted him to find her. So until the train reaches Paris, Gray interrogates her about why she betrayed V.I.L.E. and left him.
    • Carmen is confronted at gunpoint several times by ACME agents, but they never shoot. This would make sense if they were holding actual firearms, since they want to capture her, not kill her. However, ACME guns just shoot Instant Sedation gas, so shooting on sight would be the best strategy. Instead, they just point to her giving her time to use some acrobatics to turn their guns on them and escape.
  • World of Snark: Nearly everyone in the show will sneak in a cheeky quip or pun in any given situation.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: V.I.L.E. even when Carmen tagged along on the graduation trip just knocked her out and put her on a serious education regiment. Earlier, they adamantly refused to kill her as a baby when Shadow-san brought her from his accidentally-successful attempt to ensure her father was dead. He didn't actually kill her father, but he did bear witness.
  • You Have Failed Me: V.I.L.E. invokes this not for failing to complete a mission (as Carmen thwarts several of them), but for getting captured.
    • Although for some reason Mime Bomb gets a free pass. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t speak (and maybe can’t speak), so no law enforcement officials can get much of anything out of him, especially since he only speaks in charades.

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