Law and Order: Criminal Intent

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"In New York City's war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad. These are their stories." DONG DONG

It's about yearning. He misses his partner.
Detective Goren's style is definitely unique and an acquired taste.
—Eames.

Second Spin-Off from the popular Law and Order series, Criminal Intent basically shows the viewer what is happening from the criminal's perspective as well as the ongoing police investigation. Basically, what happens when Columbo is brought into the Law and Order universe, complete with a quirky genius detective - Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio), an anti-social, twitchy detective in the NYPD Major Case Squad who has a very sharp mind for piecing together details and lateral thinking. Together with dryly sardonic partner Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe), they investigate the most serious crimes that occur in New York (most of which seem to be murders or end up in murders), whilst the show also gives us the perspective of the people responsible for it (or at least people who are connected to the people responsible for it).

In 2005, Mike Logan (Chris Noth) - formerly of the original flavour - joined the cast when Vincent D'Onofrio began to suffer from exhaustion. The episodes alternated between Goren and Eames one week, and Logan and his partner the other from that point. In 2009, Logan was replaced by Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum), though Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson) has stayed. In 2010, Goren and Eames left the show at the conclusion of the second half of season 9's two-part premiere. Eric Bogosian also left the show and was replaced as the Major Case captain by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Nicholson's character, too, has left the show and was replaced by Saffron Burrows as new detective Serena Stevens.

The show was renewed for a tenth season that brought back D'Onofrio and Erbe for eight final episodes. Law and Order: Criminal Intent aired its finale on June 26, 2011, ending its run after ten years and 195 episodes.


Tropes used in Law and Order: Criminal Intent include:
  • Always Murder, even though the real Major Case Squad does not handle murders.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Goren, he's all sorts of crazy, has multiple quirks and ticks, but avoids any specific disorder or symptom set.
  • And Another Thing
  • And the Adventure Continues...: How it all ends.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: In the season 9 opener, after Goren is fired, he and Eames are saying goodbye as partners for the last time. They full-on embrace for the first time in the series, and Goren presses a rather intense kiss to her cheek for several seconds.
    • May be justified. Despite his excellent skill at understanding homicidal maniacs, Goren is seemingly awkward in interpersonal relationships. Something as personal and intimate as kissing her on the lips would be difficult for him.
    • It had all the intensity of a more obvious kiss, but without the non-shippers' outrage.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Used all the time to break perps.
  • Badass Adorable: Alexandra Eames is five-foot-two, adorable, and blonde. And she is just as terrifying as Goren when she gets going, if not more so.
  • Best Friend Manual: Alex Eames for Bobby Goren.
  • Berserk Button: Never, ever, ever threaten or harm Alexandra Eames. Robert Goren will hunt you to the ends of the earth.
    • Word of advice: Do NOT mess with Goren's mother or he will rip your head off.
  • Boring but Practical: Thrill at the wonders of Forensic Accounting!
  • The Boxing Episode
  • Brains and Brawn: Funnily enough, Eames is the muscle in her partnership with Goren. She's no slouch in the intellect department - she's shown to be much more computer-savvy than her partner - but she's physically very tough despite her size.
    • Though it must be said that Goren himself, being both a police officer and a former military man, has proven to be more than capable of handling himself in a fight.
  • Break Them by Talking
  • Broken Bird: Alex's husband was a cop killed in the line of duty.
  • Broken Pedestal
  • The Cast Showoff: In "Rock Star", Jeff Goldblum's first episode, he has a scene where he gets to demonstrate his skill as a pianist.
  • Channel Hop: From NBC to USA with Season Seven.
  • Church of Happyology: The villain of "Con-Text" runs one of these, which he calls GraceNote.
  • Clear My Name: The Season 7 finale has Det. Goren being framed for the murder of his brother by his Arch Nemesis Nicole Wallace and mentor Declan Gage.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Goren's mannerisms really give off this impression (especially when he tilts his head).
    • Nichols is Jeff Goldblum doing his Jeff Goldblum thing, so he counts too.
  • Colbert Bump: Jeff Goldblum has shamelessly plugged the show on The Colbert Report, and Stephen Colbert himself guest starred in Season 3.
  • Cold Opening
  • Comatose Canary: Subverted in the episode based on the Terry Schiavo case.
  • Complexity Addiction: Several of the perps seem to suffer from this. For example, in the episode "Grow," a killer sets up a fake mugging to murder his brother, but kills him with an injection of poison under his tongue (to fake a heart attack), rather than just shooting or stabbing him like a mugger would do.
  • Crime-Time Soap, though perhaps not as much as Special Victims Unit.
    • Only since Rene Balcer left after Season Five.
  • Crossover: With the original series, twice in the first season.
    • One episode had a brief cameo by the lead character from In Plain Sight. Strangely enough, a criminal later taunts that said character's expectation that he'll break down and confess was a product of her having watched too much Law and Order. Such confessions are more or less Criminal Intent's trademark.
  • Crazy People Play Chess: The villain in the season 4 episode 'Gone' was this.
  • The Danza: James "Jamey" Sheridan as Capt. James Deakins.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Detective Eames is made of this trope.
    • Goren has his moments.
    • And Wheeler gets her moments as well.

Detective Nichols: "How's the, uh...how's the body?"
Detective Wheeler: "Dead."

Eames: Serial killer groupies... And I thought I was pathetic with my ABBA fan club card.

  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Captain Ross
  • Empty Cop Threat: Carried out. A killer Goren interviewed (who was later proven to have been his biological dad) was executed. In Pennsylvania, where it was still legal.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe example in "Faith," in which an autobiography written by a Littlest Cancer Patient had to be tightened up a bit by an editor for publication. It's eventually revealed the editor did more to improve the story than even she realizes, which gives Goren the psychological tools he needs to manipulate her into confessing to the episode's murder.
  • Explosive Leash: "Pas de Deux"
  • False-Flag Operation
  • Finger in the Mail: Inverted/subverted in a season finale episode when Goren receives a human heart while investigating the death of his brother Frank and possible kidnapping of his nephew. Turns out it actually belongs to serial killer Nicole Wallace, who had killed Frank and was subsequently killed by Goren's unhinged mentor, who wanted to remove himself, Nicole and Frank from Goren's life in one fell swoop.
  • Flaw Exploitation: In "The Saint", this is the criminal's motivation: he believes the church was taking advantage of his mentally ill mother, who insisted on donating everything she could to their cause, to the point of completely cleaning out their bank account because she thought the church needed the money more.
  • Focus Group Ending: A blatant and unashamed example in the episode "Great Barrier" viewers were asked to vote on which would be the true ending on NBC's website. The losing non-canon ending had Goren shooting his nemesis Nicole Wallace.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: "Chinoiserie"
  • Gilligan Cut: In the episode "Weeping Willow". "Who's going on camera?"
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Goren and Eames love to play this, switching roles as needed. You can tell that Goren is winding up to be the bad cop when he adopts a really exaggerated Brooklyn accent. Eames, meanwhile, is liable to take on a Straw Feminist persona.
  • Guile Hero: Arguably the entire premise of the show. The criminals are the most extraordinary collection of Magnificent Bastards, Chessmasters, and Complete Monsters you can imagine. But when Goren's on the case, they don't stand a chance.
  • Handy Cuffs: Used at least twice
    • A former military suspect asks to be cuffed in front out of respect for his family. He grabs a gun off one of the officers and kills himself. This immediately after attempting to kill himself and being stopped by the officers who arrested him. One wonders why they thought that was a good idea.
    • Justified when the police handcuff a deaf man with his hands in front, since handcuffing him with his hands behind his back would be akin to gagging him.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Frequently inverted; a favourite tactic of Goren's in particular is to either play psychological mind games or basically confront the perp of the week with evidence of what a truly pathetic and inadequate person they really are until they eventually crack.
    • Played straight by Leslie Lezard when she lectures Goren about his self-destructive behavior ruining his and Eames careers.
    • Zig Zagged by Nicole and Goren as they tear into each other over the years.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: In the special features of the Season 1 DVD, the producers say that after hiring Vincent D'onofrio they basically allowed him to do whatever he wanted, leading to many Funny Moments and one of the most distinctive characters in the Crime genre.
  • Hollywood Game Design
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The 6'4" Goren is much, much taller and brawnier than the petite and slender Eames.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison
  • In the Blood: Eames comes from a family of cops.
    • More disturbingly, Goren's real biological father turned out to have been a serial killer.
  • It Got Worse: Goren's mentor killed everyone he knew and loved because he thought Goren would have fun trying to find out who did it.
    • It was also done so Goren would be "free" of the two biggest burdens in his life: his druggie brother Frank and Nicole Wallace.
  • It's All About Me
  • It's Personal: The episode where they finally solved Joe Eames's murder.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Goren, Nichols, and Eames vs. the FBI during the investigation of Captain Ross' murder.
  • Last-Name Basis: Goren and Eames. Usually.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Goren tells his season 10 therapist that this is his relationship with Eames. (The therapist doesn't seem convinced.)
    • Vincent D'Onofrio has also stated that this is the real-life relationship between himself and Kathryn Erbe.
  • Mad Artist: The killer from "The Posthumous Collection".
  • Mafiya Princess: In "Maledictus."
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. Devildis, the insane fundamentalist Christian, crossed the Despair Event Horizon and tries to save his family and friends by murdering them. Hilariously, his name isn't commented on.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome
  • More Than Mind Control: This is the M.O. of two different villains, Randall Fuller in "Con-Text" and Bernard Fremont in "Slither." (Scarily, both are at least partially based on real people.)
  • Motive Rant: Inducing these are Goren's specialty.
    • Averted on occasion, when he breaks a suspect who then confesses to a crime they haven't committed.
    • Deconstructed another episode (where the overbearing nature of her husband causes a woman to kill two her children in a failed mass-suicide attempt) where Goren sucessfully caused the husband to break into a Motive Rant, but it ends up being all for naught because despite the husband being a world-class Jerkass, nothing that he did was technically illegal.
  • Murder.Com: The episode "Weeping Willow," although here the crime is kidnapping, not murder.
  • My Beloved Smother
  • Nasty Grace: Faith Yancy and Cindy Marino.
  • Never Found the Body: Nicole Wallce, though what is believed to be her heart was found. Interesting case, as Goren refuses to believe that she's dead despite proof.
  • New York City Cops
  • No Ending: Criminal Intent doesn't indulge in this trope as much as SVU, but there are several episodes that end this way, one of the most notable being "Flipped". Logan and Wheeler get the perp, a cop killer, but he is murdered by an undercover cop while the guards at Rikers turn the other way. The episode ends with the cop walking away
  • Obfuscating Disability: "Inert Dwarf" had a Stephen Hawking Expy who still had more mobility than he let on.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Goren has a tendency to do this at times.
  • Odd Friendship: Milton Winters and Dempsey Powers in "Cuba Libre." An Ambiguously Jewish clothing store magnate and a Malcolm Xerox drug kingpin.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In "Chinoiserie", Goren and Eames immediately identify a supposed British lord as a fake by his atrocious accent which keeps jumping around the UK. The outraged impostor, an actor unknowingly hired to play the part as part of a con, keeps insisting that it is "a perfectly valid British musical hall accent".
  • Opening Narration
  • The Plan:
    • Evil Plan: Each criminal has one and it frames the episode's plot.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Goren and Eames.
  • Playing Gertrude: Tony Goldwyn played Vincent D'Onofrio's older brother. Goldwyn is a year younger than D'Onofrio.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some of the guest characters, including a witness being identified by her Russian sable coat.
  • The Profiler: Goren.
  • Put on a Bus: All of the detectives who have exited the series over the years.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When Kathryn Erbe became pregnant with her second child, a pregnancy arc was written out for Eames in which she acted as the surrogate mother for her sister's child. This of course resulted in an Obvious Pregnancy later that season.
    • When Jamey Sheridan was affected with Bell's Palsy, so was Deakins (who donned an Eyepatch of Power). At times it was obvious the poor guy was visibly struggling with it and was having a hard time saying his lines.
  • Required Spinoff Crossover
  • Retool: Started out focused entirely on the exploits of Goren and Eames until Vincent D'Onforio began suffering exhaustion. After this the show was retooled with Mike Logan (Chris Noth's character from the orignal L&O) being added in and alternating every other episode with Goren and Eames. Things stayed this way (though with Noth being replaced by Jeff Goldblum in season 8.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Subverted in "Weeping Willow"; Willow, unlike Bree, turns out to be an actual girl. Double Subverted when it turns out the kidnapping was a fake that had simply spiraled out of control.
    • One noteworthy episode ("Want") was based on Jeffrey Dahmer, and included things like the killer being employed in a candy-related job, his longing for a permanent companion, cannibalism of body parts, boiling water being poured into holes drilled in the victim's head, and the killer being murdered in prison while on work detail. Neil Patrick Harris even looked scarily similar to Dahmer in the episode.
    • The killer from "Gone" is a murderous version of Bobby Fischer.
    • In the episode "D.A.W." the killer is an American version of Dr. Harold Shipman.
    • The first character played by Jay O. Sanders was obviously based on famous mob hitman Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski.
    • The last two episodes are based on Spider Man Turn Off the Dark and the Zuckerberg-Winkelvoss controversy, respectively.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: "Delicate," which is also an Homage to Heavenly Creatures. The two girls' names begin with the same letters, and the nuttier of the two even has the Portmanteau Couple Name of Paulette (Pauline/Juliette).
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: In "Loyalty".
  • Sadistic Choice: Holy hell, "Able & Willing." The one forcing the choice is the son of a Holocaust survivor whose own father and grandparents had to choose (father and grandfather survived), who's also a therapist.
  • Self-Harm: The daughter of one episode's suspect.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Goren's mother doesn't understand that Eames is her son's partner, and demands to meet his new girlfriend. (Goren's reaction is adorably bashful.)
    • Goren's mother got the wrong impression from his brother Frank, who assumed partner meant domestic partner; Bobby weakly tries to correct him, but it doesn't sink in.
  • Sleepwalking
  • Spin-Off: From Law and Order
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Logan's multiple partners. One was more or less a female version of Goren.
    • There was also a period when Goren got a new partner who acted exactly like Eames.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: All over the place.
  • There Are No Therapists
    • And if there are therapists, watch out.
    • Finally, wonderfully, thankfully, mercifully averted in season ten, with mandatory therapy sessions being a condition of Goren's reinstatement.
    • Back in Season Six, Eames also had to attend therapy sessions after being kidnapped by Jo Gage.
  • They Fight Crime: He's a quirky detective with an uncanny ability to read human behavior. She's a normal, well-adjusted human being. They fight crime!
    • Somewhat justified, given that it's a cop show.
  • They Were Holding You Back: In a rather bizzare twist on this trope, Declan Gage intended to get rid of himself for this reason, along with Frank Goren and Nicole Wallace.
  • Transplant: Logan, from Law and Order.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Eames barely manages to hold it together in court when a lawyer springs an old request for another partner on her.
  • Turn in Your Badge
  • Undying Loyalty: In the season 9 opener, not only does Eames fight with Nichols about investigating Goren over the murders, but she accepts the captain's post only long enough to ensure that she's the one who fires Goren (so she knows he will be treated well in the exit interview). Once he leaves, she resigns rather than stay without her beloved partner. The episode is even called "Loyalty," a reference both to the MCS detectives' loyalty to their captain and the partners' loyalty to each other.
  • The Unfavourite: Despite Bobby being the only one of her two sons who takes care of her and is always there for her, Frances Goren makes it clear that his brother Frank is the one she really loves. This causes a lot of issues for Goren.
    • This might stem from Bobby's true parentage. Mrs. Goren told him that "she just never knew for sure".
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Finally acknowledged in one episode by Goren's brother Frank, who irritably told his brother to "take Eames to a motel and get it out of your system." Bobby's reaction was... not pretty.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Once an Episode. Inducing these is Goren's shtick.
  • Vomiting Cop: A twist on the trope in this series; in one episode, Wheeler has been pregnant for a while and has been throwing up every day. The crime scene she visits is one of the less disturbing ones she's seen, but in her condition it's enough to bring her breakfast back up.
  • Waif Fu: Alexandra Eames is five feet and two inches of pure Badass.
  • The Watson: Eames seems to be an interface between Goren and the rest of the world, much as the Trope Namer is for his partner-in-crimesolving. Her main function is to help him interact with the rest of humanity, and to maneuver the suspect into a position where Goren can let loose with his Goren brilliance.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: ADA Ron Carver. He left without explanation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: For the entire unit; a black drug dealer suspect points out that the crime they're investigating wouldn't be "high priority" if a white tourist hadn't gotten caught in the crossfire.
  • Where's the Fun In That?: In the episode "The Unblinking Eye"

Detective Alexandra Eames: [while observing a suspect in the interrogation room] She could confess, but where's the fun in that?

  • Who Dunnit to Me?: "30"
  • Will They or Won't They?: The season 9 opener, where Goren and Eames both left the show, was left a bit open-ended in this regard, making this a case of No Romantic Resolution. It was definitely stated that they would see each other outside of the workplace, but the exact direction the relationship will take was not clarified. This was done so that those who ship them can believe that they will, and those who don't want them together romantically can believe that they won't.
    • Of course, then The Bus Came Back and proved that they did not become a couple.
      • And then season 10 (and the series) ended with an equally open-ended possibility of them eventually getting together.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The show's very last perp.
  • X Meets Y: Law and Order meets Columbo
  • Yoko Oh No: Discussed in "F.P.S."
  • You Called Me "X" - It Must Be Serious: Eames occasionally addresses Goren as "Bobby," but he very rarely calls her "Alex." When he does, it gets her attention fast.
    • Also worth mentioning that they call each other "Detective" when they're REALLY miffed.
  • You Got Murder
  • You Look Familiar: Carrie Preston has appeared in three different episodes as three different characters.
    • So has Susan Misner.
    • Jay O. Sanders played a memorable killer-of-the-week in one episode back in 2002; he plays Cpt. Hanna in the final season.
  • You're Insane!: Averted in the episode "Gemini", where the perp manipulated his schizophrenic brother into murdering people. The final interrogation included this memorable exchange:

Spencer Anderson: "None of this is true. You said so yourself. He's crazy."
Detective Goren: "Yeah, he may be crazy, but you're evil."