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  • Anvilicious: In "That Woman", we learn the important lesson that suggesting a group of teenagers exercise self-control will turn them all into heartless killers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The flashbacks spend a lot of time developing the victim's character, allowing the audience to get to know him or her, often making them so nice that it's easy to forget that he/she is going to end up dead. Even their killer finally being arrested can't take away the sting of this person being gone forever--especially since the killer themselves is often depicted as genuinely horrified by their actions. And in the case of the occasional Asshole Victim, it bites that someone's being arrested for killing someone who probably got what he or she deserved.
  • Complete Monster: The handful of perps who aren't Sympathetic Murderers. And quite a few victims as well. George Marks and John Smith being the most prominent examples of the former (though at least George has a Freudian Excuse mentioned in spoilers).
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: The victim of the week often gets one of these in the trailer, or at some point in the episode, just before they turn up dead. Sadly, this is sometimes the very reason they end up dead. (ex: the victim in "Blood On The Tracks" who wanted to confess to a crime committed years ago, but was murdered to ensure his silence, the reporter in "Breaking News" who was about to blow the lid off a scandal, etc.)
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: For starters, there's Creatures of the Night, which is just one long tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
    • Also, the opening theme.
      • E.S. Posthumus - Nara (Unearthed album). Except for the opening cry, that is.
    • That episode which only played Bob Dylan songs.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The mall shooters in Rampage are disturbingly popular.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Lilly and Scotty, who had a clear Unresolved Sexual Tension in the early seasons (even lampshaded by John Smith, who bluntly asks Scotty, "You get a piece of that? Bet you think about it from time to time.") Lilly and Stillman also have their fans.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Anytime Biggie says the word "Management" in the episode Metamorphosis is hysterical if you've seen Carnivale (where Michael J. Anderson plays virtually the same role and Management is a sinister figure).
  • Narm: In Andy in C Minor the tension between deaf and hearing people is about as bad as 1960s racial tension, complete with everyone trying to pull apart two lovers because they belong to different worlds, and the victim having been killed because he wanted to get a cochlear implant.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Many of the death scenes, especially Mitchell Bayes' in Churchgoing People and the young girl in Mindhunters, with her scream of "I want my Daddy!".
    • John Smith's entire MO. Some of his victims had even managed to somehow carve messages into the wall of the cell, messages which appeared to grow increasingly desperate and illegible. The beginning of Rampage was also pretty horrific, considering how out of nowhere it was.
    • Offender, in which the killer lured his unsuspecting victim into his garage with the promise of helping him (the boy had fallen and cut his knee). As the killer walked towards him, the boy turned to face him, and in the split second before the garage door closed, his eyes widened in knowing terror.
    • The Letter, in which the victim is held down and gang-raped, then accidentally smothered when her would-be lover puts his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams.
      • Though that scene in The Letter could be interpreted as him suffocating her to spare her the more painful death the group would have planned.
      • When he takes his hands away, the body is still moving. Think about it.
    • The brutal lynching of the victim in Strange Fruit, with Dr. King's legendary "I Have A Dream" speech playing in the background tops everything.
  • The Scrappy: Frankie Rafferty.
  • Straw Man Has a Point: When Moe Kitchener fills a complaint for harassment against Lilly for stalking him. When you think about it, she has no evidence but a Dying Dream to prove he was the one person that tried to kill her in "Into the Blue"
    • When Patrick Doherty points out that Stillman's repetitive actions to protect his team when they keep Jumping Off the Slippery Slope are more counterproductive than anything.
  • Tear Jerker: A good number of the ending scenes, mostly because of the combination of music and context.
    • Family 8108: Ray's story was just so tragic.
    • Saving Patrick Bubley. All of it!
    • Andy in C Minor.
    • Wishing. Just... Wishing.
    • Forever Blue": "I miss him" "I know"
    • One Night": I'm sorry about the car, Dad... and We can ride the horses in the field...
    • The River": made this troper cry Manly Tears because the main victim reminded him of a friend of his and one of the main characters beating up an innocent man because he done nothing wrong, really made me cry.
    • Oh gods The Good-bye Room. This troper broke down crying in the second half.
    • Best Friends. "I used to wonder if it was wrong, the feelings I had for her." "No. It was just... the wrong time."
  • Title Confusion: Contrary to what many fans believe, the main characters are not a specialized team that works in cold cases only. They are average Homicide detectives that from time to time reopen old cases, and they often talk about recent cases they closed before they went cold (and are rarely shown through the series). If the cold case is recent enough, there is a chance you'll see one of the main characters themselves putting the box on the shelf in the prologue. Lilly, though, seems to have built an informal fame as "cold case investigator" over the years.
    • A lot of that confusion comes from the episode Love Conquers All in which Det. Valens is introduced. He complains to Lilly about working in cold cases when he would rather be out solving live ones. Lilly then tells him that she chose it because everyone deserves justice, no matter how long it takes.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The serial killer from It Takes a Village and the one from Sabotage.
    • Phil, one of the robbers from Dog Day Afternoons, also qualified as such. Despite his cold, almost murderous exterior, he actually had somewhat of a heart, and actually wanted to get out of the robbery business for good, unlike his boss Julius Carver, and even attempted to warn Roween Ryan about Julius' lying nature as well as his having another accomplice that he seduced to helping him rob the bank. When she decided to have Julius be turned in, Phil also attempted to stand up to Julius when he ordered for her to be executed, but unfortunately, he was verbally and emotionally broken by Julius' words, and thus ended up having to kill her anyways. At the end, despite his being the murderer, you actually have to pity him.
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