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  • Ass Pull:
    • Although it ended up being well-received, Goren and Eames' more-than-friends relationship was initially viewed as being this.
    • Goren apparently being a rat for doubting a fellow cop's work to get a confession out of a suspect, who ended up being the wrong guy was considered very out of character for him, but thankfully it wasn't seen before that season or since.
    • The whole concept of Eames being a widow was perceived by some as this, although old interviews with Kathryn Erbe confirm that this was actually part of the character's backstory all along, even though it wasn't mentioned onscreen until more than halfway through the series.
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  • Award Snub: Kathryn Erbe and Vincent D'Onofrio received nary an Emmy nomination in their eight years on the show's run, a criminal snub.
  • Awesome Music: The original and the newer theme songs, which are remixes of the themes of the Mothership and Law & Order: Trial by Jury, respectively.
  • Broken Base: Many fans did not respond well to Goren and Eames being written out of the show early in season 9. Letter-writing campaigns and boycotts were suggested, as was a clever idea to send cases of marshmallow fluff to the offices of the producers in protest of the casting change and tone change for the show. That season 10 ever even happened suggests this campaign had some effect.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Dork Age: Even though one could argue any time after season four could be this, season six is when it hit full stride. Rene Balcer left as the series' showrunner, Warren Leight stepped into the position and with him, new writers who weren't too familiar with the Law & Order franchise came along and ruined the dynamic of the show. The show took a more emotional standpoint to it and stop focusing some much on the criminals (which was one of the main hooks of the show), the writing was more in line with rival show CSI (even having episodes start off with a pop song in a hope of the storyline becoming more appealing) and they got rid of the time and location cards, which are a staple of the franchise. Even with these changes eventually being done away with and Leight leaving the position, the damage was done.
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  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Many fans have responded well to Nicole Wallace, who in spite of being a Serial Killer and the Big Bad, still has a strong appeal to her, even years after the series ended.
  • Evil Is Cool: Frequently subverted. Many of the killers initially seem like Magnificent Bastards, but by the time the detectives are done, they're exposed as delusional, desperate, insecure, broken people.
  • First Installment Wins: Although the series has had at least fifteen regular or recurring characters in its ten-year run, the original line up of Goren, Eames, Deakins and Carver (and Nicole Wallace) remains the most well-known among viewers.
  • Foe Yay: Goren and Nicole Wallace, so very much. The reason for her obsession with him is described, at one point, as being because she couldn't seduce him. Even as she was about to be murdered by Declan Gage, her last words were "You tell Bobby that he's the only man I ever loved."
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  • Genius Bonus: Many of the episode titles, especially of the older episodes. Case in point, the episode, "Graansha" was a word meaning "stranger" in Shelta, an ancient language by Irish travellers and the suspect in the episode was a tradition-obsessed person who killed his sister to keep people she brought into the fray of their sect out. Also, "Death Roe" has the latter word spelled like that because roe is the eggs of shellfish and the secondary victim of the episode was served poisoned abalone as an intentional ploy by a competitor to sabotage the restaurant that served her.
  • Glurge: The dark side of glurge is explored in "Faith" — the murder victim figured out that a girl suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, who has faced hardship after hardship in her life but pulled through to write an inspiring book about her trials, does not actually exist. Worse yet: that episode was Ripped from the Headlines.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In the April 2009 episode "Rock Star", a musician falls to his death in an elevator shaft in a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In November of that same year, Jerry Fuchs, the drummer for various indie rock bands such as !!! and The Juan Maclean, died pretty much the same way in a similar building in the same neighborhood. However, unlike in the episode, where the musician was pushed down the shaft, Fuchs actually fell while trying to jump from a stalled elevator to the next floor. Still pretty damn eerie.
    • In the episode "Pas de Deux," the villain is a bank robber (played by Charles Rocket) who is suffering from a terminal illness and plans to kill himself along with his unwitting accomplice. The episode was Rocket's last film appearance; he committed suicide later that year.
    • At the end of "Brother's Keeper", Goren goes through a brief scare when he thinks his brother was found dead, but it turned out to be another man. The ending gets hard to watch since Goren would really find his brother dead in the future. And he didn't just die, he was murdered. By his mentor.
    • "Wee Small Hours" is based on the story of Natalee Holloway. The suspect didn't kill her, although he inadvertently brought her into contact with the person who did, but he was involved in the death of another girl who disappeared several weeks before. In Real Life, five years to the day that Holloway disappeared and was presumably murdered, the prime suspect in her disappearance was charged with the murder of another girl.
    • The episode "Folie a Deux" has the missing baby girl's great-Aunt telling the detectives how she herself is in failing health and knows that the little girl is dead, even explaining how the baby is the only thing keeping her alive. The woman is played by Lynn Redgrave, who would die of breast cancer less than a year after the episode's airing.
    • The season two episode, "Monster", is partially inspired by Robert Chambers, who was committed the infamous "Preppie Murder" in 1986 and his 2003 release. At the end of the episode, the suspect was sent back to prison for committing a rape fifteen years prior and letting others take the fall for it and his being an accessory in his mother's present-day murder. In 2008, Chambers was imprisoned for another 19 years as well, but for selling drugs.
    • The season six episode "Tru Love" stars Anton Yelchin as Keith Cooper, a teenager who inadvertently causes his father's death in a vehicle accident by tampering with his father's motorcycle; he rigged the motorcycle in a way that he thought would cause it to fail to start (which would have been annoying but harmless), but it turned out it was able to start, leading to the fatal accident. Ten years after the episode aired, Yelchin died in an accident because his own car did something other than what he intended for it to do (his parking brake was properly set but failed).
    • The episode "Contract" features Jeff Garlin as a Harvey Weinstein-esque producer who is covering up the fact that he raped a teenager. Almost ten years later, the real Harvey Weinstein would be accused of rape and sexual misconduct by a number of women, including former CI star Annabella Sciorra. And then, a few years after that, Jeff Garlin himself would be accused of sexual misconduct on The Goldbergs, resulting in him being fired from that show. And then, a few days after that, Chris Noth, who starred in the episode, would be accused of sexual misconduct by Zoe Lister-Jones, who appeared all the way back on "Diamond Dogs", the first CI episode in whcih he starred.
  • He's Just Hiding!: A common theory concerning Nicole Wallace's death at the end of season 7. Given that the information came from a less than reliable source and since Nicole has faked her own death before, this isn't entirely unfounded.
    • Another series produced by Rene Balcer, 2013's "Jo", has the actress who played her show up in one episode as a character who most likely is her, but it's never said one way or another.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • The season 3 episode "The Saint" guest-starred a nearly unrecognizable (and incredibly gifted) Stephen Colbert as the main villain. Given what he's accomplished in the world of comedy and political satire, nobody's too sad he didn't pursue his original intention of a dramatic acting career, but that episode proved he has the chops for it and then some.
    • Also, while no one could dare question that Whoopi Goldberg is a phenomenal actress, be it to make one laugh or cry, no one expected her to pull off such a performance in "To The Bone", where she wasn't just a believable character, but evil as sin.
    • Plenty of people are familiar with Bronson Pinchot's comedy, but many were surprised by his skill at playing such a methodical and manipulative character in "Beast".
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the episode "Collective", Alex reads off this rather interesting pun from a brochure:
    "Fangs for the memories."
    • Annabella Sciorra appeared as Carolyn Barek in season 5. Thirteen years after her season of Criminal Intent, she and Vincent Donofrio would be reunited in Daredevil (2015) with her playing Rosalie Carbone, one of the crime bosses being taxed by D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk.
    • Speaking of Daredevil, the season 2 Criminal Intent episode "Malignant" guest-starred Jon Bernthal, which makes the Punisher's interactions with Fisk in "Seven Minutes in Heaven" take on a whole new level of subtext.
    • Malcolm McDowell playing a Rupert Murdoch Expy in the episode "Proud Flesh", then actually playing Murdoch himself in the film Bombshell (2019).
    • The No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Michael Vick who is central to Season 9's "Inhumane Society" is a boxer rather than a football player, played by Michael B. Jordan in one of his first roles. Not only does this presage his playing Adonis Creed, but since this is a Detective Nichols episode he plays scenes alongside Jeff Goldblum — who knew that Erik Killmonger and the Grandmaster knew each other casually?
    • Anthony Mackie, who plays The Falcon in the MCU appeared in the episode "Pravda". Mike Colter, who played Luke Cage, appeared in "Albatross". This brings the number of MCU actors in this show up to seven.
    • Jessica Walter played a grumpy, emasculating and manipulative matriarch in "Please Note We Are No Longer Accepting Letters of Recommendation from Henry Kissinger" only a year before landing her similarly-acting role of Malory Archer in Archer.
  • Idiot Plot: "Betrayed" is this in spades. A former girlfriend of Capt. Ross, who is also a former cop-turned-crime writer, has a younger husband who went missing along with his mistress. Naturally, she would be a suspect; however, due to both her interference/manipulation of the situation (and knowledge of police procedure) and Ross' himself telling Goren and Eames to back off due to his friendship and blind devotion for her, they have no choice but to investigate other leads and ultimate dead ends, just because of the torch he's carried for her all these years. Not only does it stall the investigation and delay the time to discover their whereabouts, but it makes Capt. Ross (and the detectives, by extension) look incompetent.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: As seen in the later seasons. Although Detectives Logan and Nichols as well as most of their partners were just as competent and efficient as any other member of the law, many fans preferred the team of Goren and Eames. Even when Oxygen Network had syndication rights to the series, they initially would air nothing but the Goren and Eames episodes.
  • Love to Hate: Nicole Wallace. Aside from being a Breakout Villain and one of the only people to outwit Goren, her episodes were always popular and many viewers were upset to learn she was apparently murdered, even to the point of refusing to accept this as canon.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Seasons 2-7: Nicole Wallace is a charming Australian murderer whose brilliance established her as the "white whale" of Detective Robert Goren's career. First appearing under a false identity, Nicole manipulated Mark Bayley into committing murder so she could become a citizen, she then murders Bayley and subtly reveals her deception to Goren before escaping. Nicole then married Gavin Haynes and committed another murder, framing Daniel Croyan, knowing that Goren would doggedly pursue Coryan and ignore other possibilities, before murdering Croyan and framing it as a suicide to ruin Goren’s reputation. After using Haynes' loyalty to escape justice, Nicole divorces him and starts molding Ella Myazaki into a killer like herself, nearly killing Haynes then murdering Ella and faking her own death. Nicole then becomes engaged to Evan Chapel and desires to live a normal life with him and his daughter Gwen. When she learns that Evan is trying to murder Gwen, Nicole exposes him to the police and kidnaps Gwen, only to realize that her very nature makes her a threat to Gwen and releases her. Staying just out of Goren's grasp the whole time, Nicole is only stopped when Declan Gage murders her, her last words being, "You tell Bobby, he's the only man I ever loved."
    • "Blind Spot" & "Frame": Dr. Declan Gage is a profiler of serial killers who analyzes them and gets into their minds as a means of figuring out their next moves. He ended up passing on his methods to his protégée Goren, thinking of him as a son. When a killer Gage tried to flush out by means of informing the press of evidence seems to resurface, Gage pushes to be involved in the case even when accused of the killings himself and gives Goren info and advice that helps him in investigating. After his now-estranged daughter Jo—and the true killer—ends up in a self-inflicted coma, Gage, blaming himself, seeks to free Goren of his personal demons to do right by him. While making himself appear to be a target as well, Gage ends up convincing Nicole Wallace to kill Goren's addict brother Frank and then kills her while leaving evidence that suggests Goren's the culprit, but then has it lead to himself so Goren will catch him. In doing this, Gage seeks to free Goren of the three people in his life still bringing him down so he can finally start anew.
  • Narm:
    • The Good Child" has a murderer and his murderous mistress are betrayed by the mistress's kleptomania, as she stole an eggcup from the murder scene. The episode ends with the murderer being dragged away by the police, screaming "Eggcup!" over and over again.
    • Similarly, there is the episode "In The Wee Small Hours" two-parter which was based off of the Natalee Holloway case. At one point, the Jerkass suspect's even bigger asshole of a father, who's a prominent judge, was angry at his son for betraying him and talking to detectives. What's his insult for him? Saying "You...Iago! Iago! IAGO!" in the most flat and uninspiring way possible. To add to the cheesy factor of the performance, while he is likely referring to the villain from Othello, thanks to Pop Culture Osmosis, fans were left wondering, "Why is he talking about that loud parrot voiced by Gilbert Gottfried?"
    • "The Saint" guest-stars Stephen Colbert and the plot centered around an organization's attempt to push their namesake to sainthood. One plot point involved the main characters repeating the phrase "Goat Letter" every few seconds. "Goat letter" was Truth in Television, since the episode was a thinly disguised retelling of the Mark Hofmann case, which centered around the "White Salamander Letter." It just happens that goats don't have the same sinister vibe salamanders do...
    • Hannah from "Tomorrow". Her screaming for her sister is supposed to be dramatic and signify her mental instabilities, but how over-the-top it is comes off as this:
    Hannah: I WANT MY SHISTER! I WANT TO BE WITH SARE-RAH!!
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize:
  • Nightmare Fuel: Now with its own page.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Johnny Santos from "The Unblinking Eye", who is portrayed by Arthur Acuna. In addition to pretending he's James Dean, he's virtually unmoved by being interrogated by the detectives and even acts like he was on an audition... until Goren accurately implies that he is gay, at which point his bravado finally wears down and he becomes defensive.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • Here's a Cold Open. Woman at a restaurant with others. Woman goes to bathroom. Woman is stabbed by a complete stranger in the inner thigh which causes her to bleed out in minutes, too fast to even cry for help. Assailant walks out. Cut to the detectives arriving...
    • Another In-Universe example is done effectively by Nichols when coldly confronting Captain Ross' killer, who, given his Diplomatic Immunity and a lack of evidence, gets away with both his murder and the murder of his own father. Obviously it works, given the Oh, Crap! look on the man's face once Nichols is finished:
    Nichols: "So how will you meet your end? Shot by a trusted chauffeur? Poison from your favorite wife? Hanged in a basement like Saddam Hussein? You know it's coming; you just don't know when."
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy:
    • Fans didn't warm up to Frank Goren, as he had many unsympathetic moments and being an overall manipulator of Bobby (which is quite a shame, as it wasted the talent of a fine actor of Tony Goldwyn's caliber).
    • Detective Nola Falacci didn't exactly win over fans, either, as they believed that she had no charisma or any chemistry with Logan. Plus, viewers found it hard to believe that a young, Plucky Girl as herself was married with a family.
  • Seasonal Rot: After Rene Balcer left as showrunner, the series fell into this, along with the Genre Shift of it going from the complex perspectives of the criminals and Goren using his skills to outwit them (or, so often, Break Them by Talking) to more of a spotlight on the detectives' personal lives. Storylines such as Eames' dead husband, the relationship between Captain Ross and M.E. Rodgers, more of the criminal suspects getting away with their crimes and Goren's apparent Sanity Slippage weren't generally well-received. Even with the Channel Hop to USA Network, where it was given more advertising (but unintentionally expected to compete with its more popular sister show), didn't help matters and the show died a few years later.
  • Shipping: Goren/Eames has a rather large fanbase. There are also fans of Logan/Wheeler (or, really, Logan/his latest partner) as well; however, Logan/Wheeler actually had some resolution in-universe. Also, although it's not nearly as popular as Goren/Eames, there's also Goren and Paula Gyson, the psychiatrist he's ordered to see in season 10.
  • Shocking Moments:
    • "Siren Call" has Goren talking a fellow officer who killed his daughter out of killing himself due to shame citing not wanting him to leave behind his dying wife or their younger daughter. Sadly, by the end of the episode as he's being lead away, he does that very thing.
    • Eames' abduction in "Blind Spot".
    • Captain Ross' unexpected murder in "Loyalty".
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • During the band's tribute to the Victim of the Week in "Rock Star", it's pretty obvious that the actors are not playing their instruments themselves, in spite of one looking like he's shredding on the guitar.
    • In "D.A.W." the opening victim is a young woman who was drugged because she was poking around for her recently deceased mother's missing ring that was stolen by a Deadly Doctor. As she wanders NYC in a drugged haze, she is hit by two cars before being run over by an SUV. The stand in dummy is not convincing and even worse, it is shown in several shots. It has to be seen to believed; it's stunning those shots made a major network television show.
  • Success Through Insanity: Deconstructed. Detective Robert Goren was encouraged by mentor Declan Gage to indulge his darker impulses to help him understand the criminal mind, and for a long time this approach served him well. However, after a particularly grueling season, he learned that Gage was manipulating events in order to kill Goren's brother and his nemesis, convinced that Goren would be a better detective with fewer people in his life to distract him. Instead, it drove Goren into a psychotic break.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • ADA Ronald Carver, who could have been as memorable and effective of a ADA as Kincaid or Novak; episodes like "The Good Doctor" showed that he really was good at his job. Unfortunately, he became more and more relegated to the background or written as being an Obstructive Bureaucrat, until he was written out of the series with no explanation whatsoever.
    • Frances Goren as well, which also crosses into "They Wasted a Perfectly Good Actress" in veteran actress Rita Moreno. Even as a schizophrenic dying of cancer, instead of being given more of a thorough backstory, she's portrayed as unlikable and unsympathetic as possible and is emotionally abusive to her younger son. She even casually told him that a Serial Killer is his real father, being the product of a long-term affair between the two, further screwing with the detective's diminishing sanity.
    • Jo Gage in "Blind Spot" is one of the most terrifying characters Goren and Eames have ever come up against, she kidnapped and tortured Eames, and is an effective Evil Counterpart to Goren. Except she's only in one episode and never returns, which some viewers found a waste of her talent.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Fans of SVU, Criminal Intent or both were rather disappointed that the two series never had a proper crossover with one another while the latter series was still on the air. Eames eventually made it onto the former show some years later, but without either Goren or Stabler there, it felt incredibly hollow and a bit unnecessary.
    • Also, it would have been an interesting storyline for Nicole Wallace to make an appearance during Goren's Sanity Slippage throughout seasons six and seven and been able to use that to her advantage and mock him for no longer being at his best. Instead, she was treated to a throwaway episode that she was barely featured in just to be unceremoniously killed off.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Dr. Kelmer from “The Good Doctor” is a depicted as an abusive, Jerkass, Control Freak and while that is true throughout the episode he generally comes across as just a guy whose wife has repeatedly disappeared before and he’s just tired of dealing with her and her enabling friends and family. His wife is shown to be cheating on him, repeatedly disappears on binges and has a history of drugs abuse, multiple affairs and suicide attempts. Her enabling family who don’t deny any of this while claiming he was abusive yet nothing is ever shown onscreen instantly suspect him when he calls looking for her don't even seem to care about finding her body making him the only one actively looking for her. They had no body, no forensic evidence; they couldn’t even prove that she was dead. Goren even flat out stated that he wanted to prosecute the guy because of how smug he is. Even the circumstantial evidence they did have didn’t hold up to Audience Awareness Advantage. His flight was shown but he didn’t have a body as the attendant was there with him when he took off. Her cousin said her therapist told her that he was going to harm her yet the therapist stood behind doctor patient confidentiality. In the end it is outright said that he was convicted for being a Smug Snake. While he wasn’t a nice guy, nothing shown proved that he was a killer, and given the Moral Myopia he had to deal with, his actions come across as far more understandable.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Rose, the killer's girlfriend in "In The Dark". It is rather sad that she had a coffin baby that calcified in her stomach over 30 years ago and she would have been sympathetic in that alone... if only she hadn't lied about her daughter being alive and "in trouble" (with drugs, ostensibly) and led her boyfriend to kill homeless men for the money "Jenny" needed for rehab.
    • Frances Goren. As unfortunate it is to be suffering from a double dose of both schizophrenia and terminal cancer, it still does not excuse her dismissive and distant relationship with Bobby, in spite of him being with her in her final days and caring for her although his inattentiveness towards an important case jeopardized his career. Plus her clear preference for her wayward older son Frank who wasn't even at her funeral and her manipulating him about his parentage and not understanding/caring what it does to him doesn't help matters.
  • Values Dissonance: The episode "The Glory That Was..." has been removed from rotation due to the Cold Open featuring a lesbian couple in bed together. Even though the episode aired in 2009, the fact that the LGBTQ community is far more widely accepted these days had led many to believe that very little issue would be caused if aired today and a demand that the episode return to the air. It isn't available on Peacock either, which is especially weird since the service launched in 2020.
  • The Woobie: See here.

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