Robert Goren

Robert Goren
Det. Robert Goren
Law & Order character
Robert Goren - CI.png
First appearance Season 1: "One"
Last appearance Season 10: "To the Boy In the Blue Knit Cap"
Portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio
Time on show 2001–2010, 2011
Preceded by N/A
Succeeded by None
Partner Alex Eames
Nickname(s) Bobby
Occupation Police Officer
Title NYPD Junior Detective
Family Frances Goren (mother) (deceased),
Mark Ford Brady (father) (deceased),
Frank Goren (brother) (deceased), killed by Nicole Wallace,
Donny (nephew),
Molly (niece)

Det. Robert "Bobby" Goren is a fictional character featured in the NBC-USA Network[1][2] police procedural and legal drama television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio.

Goren is a detective investigator first grade for the Major Case Squad in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). He is partnered with Det. Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe). As created by executive producer René Balcer, Goren is an intense, extremely intelligent and imposing man who uses his intuition and insight into human nature to size up suspects and pick apart the details of crimes. Goren appeared in 141 episodes.


Fictional character biography

Criminal Intent highlights Goren's abilities as a profiler and an interrogator. He is able to elicit confessions from calculating killers with his insight into their minds and his imposing physical presence. However, Goren shows a sensitive side as well, particularly directed at his mother, his partner Det. Alexandra Eames and certain victims of the crimes he is solving. His badge number is 4376.

Early life

Robert O. Goren was born on August 20, 1961,[3] and grew up in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, near The Rockaways. A phenomenally bright young man, he took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory in his senior year of high school and was sent to speak with the school counselor and school psychiatrist as a result. He played basketball as a youth and was the power forward on his junior varsity basketball team, but quit when he "lost [his] love for the game."

In his youth, Goren was an altar boy; he considers himself a lapsed Catholic.[4]

Goren's mother Frances first started showing symptoms of schizophrenia when Goren was seven years old. Frances' husband, whom Goren had believed to be his father (see "Mark Ford Brady" section below), gambled frequently on horse races and was a serial adulterer; Balcer describes the man as "a rake".[citation needed] He left Goren's mother when Goren was eleven, making little effort to stay close to the family.

Military and early police life

After college, Goren served in the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division. He was stationed in Germany in 1987, and also did a six-month tour in South Korea.

While Goren was with CID, he met Dr. Declan Gage, one of the first criminal profilers, who was on loan from the FBI to offer advice on a South Korean serial killer. Gage became Goren’s mentor in the field of criminal profiling, a relationship which continued even after Gage was discredited following a particularly tense and unsuccessful hunt for a serial killer named Sebastian. Both Gage's daughter and Gage himself have considered Goren a surrogate son.

After leaving the military, Goren joined the NYPD and spent four years in the Narcotics Division. He was responsible for three sting operations that resulted in 27 arrests and 27 convictions.

Major Case Squad

In the backstory of Criminal Intent, Goren has been partnered with Det. Alexandra Eames since sometime before 2000, posted to the Major Case Squad under Captain James Deakins and later Captains Danny Ross and Joseph Hannah.

As an investigator and profiler, Goren is uncommonly skilled at sizing up suspects and picking apart the details of crimes. Goren is frequently able to recall pieces of information that may seem obscure but prove to be incredibly relevant to the case. He can speak different languages, particularly German, and the episode "Silencer", implies that he is proficient in American sign language. Additionally, he has an acute sense of smell that discloses details even a forensics investigator might miss.

During interrogations, Goren has the habit of cocking his head at odd angles while talking to people, a "side talking" method he uses to distract and unnerve them. D'Onofrio improvised this habit[citation needed] from a scene[5] where a suspect he was interrogating would not look him in the eye. It was such a strong identifier of his character that, in the episode “The Gift”, a woman who, while describing a psychic dream she had (in itself a trick thought up by Goren) labeled Goren as being "the man with the broken neck".

Additionally, when questioning people, Goren attempts to agitate uncooperative suspects by exploiting a weakness which he had noticed. For example, if he believes a subject is a "neat freak", he will deliberately move the subject's possessions around to create clutter, appearing to do so out of clumsiness or lack of respect, to rattle them. Goren is frequently portrayed as using details from a witness' life that are irrelevant to the case at hand in order to reveal a suspect's true motivations for committing a crime, and to create enormous emotional distress in that individual. Goren then utilizes that distress to elicit a confession. A further method is to find a weak link in the relationship between two or more suspects in a crime, and utilize the relationship to make one implicate the other.

While Goren is typically able to outwit a suspect, he occasionally meets his match; the foremost example is Nicole Wallace (Olivia d'Abo), a sociopathic con artist and murderer with a keen eye for detecting and exploiting weakness. From her introduction in the episode "Anti-Thesis", Wallace is able to pierce Goren's emotional armor by confronting him with details of his unhappy childhood.

Goren on occasion also pushes professional boundaries, either because he feels it will solve the case more effectively, or because empathy leads him to believe that the most extreme punishments are not warranted. This has caused conflict between him and his superiors, and his character has been suspended from duty on more than one occasion.

In the episode "Untethered", Goren is suspended and sent for a psychological fitness evaluation.[6] While waiting for his reinstatement,[7] Goren decides to go undercover to take down a high-level drug dealer.

In the two-part Season 9 premiere "Loyalty", Goren and Eames are pulled off a pair of homicides by Ross, who informs them that the FBI has taken an interest in the case. Ross is later murdered as well, leading Goren, Eames, and Detective Zach Nichols to team up in an effort to find his killer. Their prime suspect is taken into custody by the FBI, provoking Goren into a physical altercation that leads to his suspension. He continues to investigate on his own and eventually learns of a plan by the FBI to allow GPS-tagged weapons to be distributed to terrorist camps in Somalia, so that the camps could be easily targeted and wiped out. As a result of Goren's conduct during the investigation into Ross's death, Eames and Goren mutually decide that it would be best for Eames to fire Goren rather than have him needlessly go through the trials that would lead to his dismissal. After firing Goren, Eames immediately resigns.

After a year's absence, Goren and Eames again became the series's lead characters in its tenth and final season. While it has not yet been explained how or why they were reinstated to the police force, it's clear that one of the conditions is regular sessions with a psychiatrist (played by Julia Ormond).[8] Their new captain, Joseph Hannah (played by Jay O. Sanders), also briefly refers to his and Goren's "friendship," perhaps implying that his character used personal influence in bringing Goren back to the force.[9]

Partnership with Alexandra Eames

Goren and Eames both tend to discuss the other, and call each other, by their last names alone. However, Eames does address him on occasion by the more familiar "Bobby", while Goren refers to Eames as Alex infrequently (e.g., "Amends").[10] Goren often takes the lead, although initially he is the junior partner in their working relationship. Eames supplies the tough side to the relationship, as she often plays the role of the "bad cop".

Early in their partnership, Eames petitioned the department for a new partner, thinking that Goren was erratic and unstable; she later withdrew the petition, but never told her partner what she had done. When this information comes out during a trial, Goren reassures her that he is not offended, and admits he is "an acquired taste".[11]

Eames is practical, while Goren is often portrayed as intellectual, yet there is little evidence of conflict between them. Goren himself said they have "complementary skills": Goren is portrayed as having extensive "book knowledge", while Eames is portrayed as more computer and politically savvy. Contrasting with the instability of his family, Eames is a steadying influence.

Goren is temporarily partnered with Det. G. Lynn Bishop (Samantha Buck) in the 2003–2004 season while Eames is on maternity leave. They function reasonably well as a team, but their personalities are not as compatible; Goren often compares Bishop to Eames, to Bishop's detriment. It is implied that she is aware of being compared to the partner that Goren obviously misses.

In the episode "Blind Spot", Eames is abducted by Jo Gage (Martha Plimpton), the daughter of Declan Gage (John Glover), Goren's old mentor.[12] Jo sets up the crime in such a way that her father is a suspect for most of the episode, causing a great deal of conflict between Goren and the elder Gage; Goren is in distress over the welfare of his partner whereas Gage is more aloof to her well-being versus the intellectual challenge of solving the case.

In the episode "Purgatory", when Goren decides to go undercover during his suspension he does not inform Eames of this decision which causes a considerable conflict between them when his actions are revealed. Goren apologizes and states that he wanted to keep Eames away from the situation, but she reacts angrily and implies that his actions were based on selfishness and that "all [his] wounds are self-inflicted."

At the end of the season 9 premiere "Loyalty", Eames and Goren's partnership comes to an end. Eames has been offered a promotion and command of the Major Case Squad, on the condition that she fires Goren. The two mutually determine that it would be best for her to do so, since his actions after Captain Ross's death will likely result in his dismissal anyway. In this final scene, Goren kisses Eames on the cheek, and the two embrace before he departs. Once he has left the office, Eames lays her gun and badge on Ross's desk and resigns.


It is often implied that Goren's childhood contributes to his ability to understand criminal psychology and to empathize with the victims of crimes. In the episode “Suite Sorrow”, he states that he knows what it is like “to have your judgment, your sense of security undermined by your parents; because they were hiding a truth or denying it to themselves.”

As a result of his father’s infidelity, Goren harbors an intense dislike of men who abandon their wives and/or neglect their children. When blindsided by Wallace,[13] Goren comments, "She picked a man I already didn't trust. I already didn't respect. ... She, uh, picked a man like my father."

Goren’s mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and is institutionalized at the Carmel Ridge mental facility.[14] He calls her every day and visits her once a week, saying that she has been slipping away from him his whole life but he can’t let go.[15] She is diagnosed with lymphoma and undergoes major surgery.[16] Goren is known to flinch openly whenever his mother is mentioned, another vulnerability Wallace frequently exploits, but he has been able to turn that reaction to his advantage at times. One such instance occurs when a judge suspected of rape and murder hired a private investigator to impersonate an NYPD officer and questioned her until she has a psychotic break. Goren subsequently rages at the judge, needling the latter into admitting his role in the crime.[17]

Goren is also estranged from his older brother, Frank, a drug addict who also has a gambling problem. Goren's mother apparently favors Frank, and describes him as a "scientist”, and seems to imply that Frank could take better care of her than Robert did. In reality, Frank is homeless on Manhattan’s streets. In the episode "Brother's Keeper", Goren gives his brother some money, his overcoat, and his business card. They agree to meet the following Sunday (Frances' birthday), but Frank does not show up. In vain, Frances waits for Frank to appear, sure that he would never forget her birthday. Robert does not give her any details about Frank's condition.

Frank approaches Robert to request that he find a way to help his son, Donny, who is incarcerated in a prison where inmates are being abused. Goren decides to sneak into the prison to help him, but Donny escapes from the prison by faking an illness before Goren is able to get him out. Once Goren is freed, he confronts his brother about Donny's whereabouts, and Frank claims ignorance; the brothers fight, physically and verbally, over the issue.[18]

Several months later, Frank relapses into drug abuse. While high on drugs, he is murdered by Robert's arch-nemesis Nicole Wallace (under the persuasion of his mentor, Dr. Declan Gage). Despite their earlier fight, Robert takes Frank's death hard and breaks down upon seeing his body.[19]

In the season 8 episode "Faithfully", the beginning scene features Goren eating dinner with family members; the description of this episode on the USA Network says that Goren has gone to the Midwest to visit his aunt. It is unclear exactly who they are, as Goren has no other siblings but Frank who had only one child, a son. It is theorized that they may be Mark Ford Brady's relatives (see below). In a later episode Goren shows a photo of one young girl, Molly, to Eames and refers to her as his niece.

Mark Ford Brady

In the episode "Endgame", serial killer Mark Ford Brady (Roy Scheider), anxious to delay his scheduled execution, arranges for Goren and Eames to interview him about victims not yet attributed to him.[20] Goren, with aid from his brother (now clean after a lucky streak in Atlantic City), pieces together a story which shows that Brady and Frances Goren had a short relationship, which continued until Robert was four and Frank was seven. Frank remembers Brady as "Uncle Mark", who brought little presents for Robert when he came to visit. Brady, who only visited when Mr. Goren was away, no longer visited after getting into what the brothers were told was a "car accident" with Frances (it is implied that Brady raped and beat her). Goren does not remember Brady, but recalls that after the "car crash", Frances was never the same mother that he knew.

In a death row interview room, Goren learns that Brady was on leave around the time John F. Kennedy was elected—the month that he would have been conceived—leaving Goren with the possibility that Brady might be his father. Goren confronts his mother, who reveals she does not know for sure who his father is; both Brady and Frances die that night, Brady by execution and Frances due to her failing health.

At a later date, Goren reveals that he has DNA evidence that Brady is his biological father.[21]

Character comparisons

D'Onofrio has called Goren "a modern-day Sherlock Holmes,"[22] and creator René Balcer further cites Georges Simenon's Commissaire Maigret as influencing the development of the character. Balcer also says the character owes a lot to Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe.[23] Balcer cites the forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz as a real-life model for Goren's interview style and ability to get others to talk about themselves. Goren's character pays tribute to Columbo's habit of catching suspects off-guard by seeming to buy their story, walking out the room, then turning around with a "gotcha" question, a la Columbo's "Just one more thing..."[24]

Other appearances

D'Onofrio made a cameo on Saturday Night Live's March 1, 2008 episode, hosted by Ellen Page. Although he played himself, the cameo poked fun at Goren's mannerisms, as D'Onofrio attempted to interrogate Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler) in her televised debate with Barack Obama (Fred Armisen).


  1. ^
  2. ^ The show began on the NBC television network and moved to the USA network in October 2007 for the start of its 7th season.
  3. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Anti-Thesis"
  4. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "The Faithful"
  5. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "One"
  6. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Untethered", originally aired December 6, 2007
  7. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Purgatory" originally aired June 8, 2008
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "The Consoler", originally aired May 8, 2011
  10. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episodes "Faith", "The Collective", and "Amends" originally aired June 8, 2008
  11. ^ Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "In the Wee Small Hours"
  12. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Blind Spot"
  13. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "A Person of Interest"
  14. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Anti-Thesis"
  15. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Semi-Detached"
  16. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "The War At Home"
  17. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "In the Wee Small Hours"
  18. ^ 07:09 "Untethered"
  19. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Frame"
  20. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Endgame"
  21. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Frame"
  22. ^ Vincent D'Onofrio on Robert Goren, Radio Times, 3 February 2004
  23. ^ USA's Character Insights: "Detective Goren" (a.k.a. Creating Goren)
  24. ^ Mad Magazine issue 449, Lewd & Disorder: Criminal Malcontent

External links

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