Lieutenant Everett Backstrom
Commander of the Portland Bureau of Police's Special Crimes Unit. He doesn't care for social niceties and his insensitive remarks constantly get him in trouble. His superiors want to fire him but he's too good of a detective to fail at solving all the sensitive and difficult cases they hand him. He's in such poor health, however, that there's a good chance that he'll be dismissed from the Bureau on medical grounds or drop dead of a coronary. Based on the original character of Evert Bäckström who displays all these traits, and more, in the novels.
- The Alcoholic: He's constantly imbibing, spiking things like coffee if he's at work or in public. He's even swiped a bottle of vodka from an active crime scene.
- Berserk Button: Backstrom doesn't think too kindly of anyone or anything but he's particularly vicious towards adults who don't fulfill their obligations as authority figures and allow children to do whatever they want.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Backstrom cold-bloodedly terrifies a major crime figure into leaving Valentine alone, engaging in some torture in the vein of Jack Bauer in the process. He was, however, high on oxycodone at the time and not entirely in control of his actions.
- Big Brother Instinct: Backstrom becomes fiercely protective of Valentine when Val is in genuine trouble. See Beware the Silly Ones above.
- Blessed with Suck: Backstrom is good at what he does because he is extremely sensitive to human nature and instinctively knows the true nature of others. It's implied that part of the reason why he drinks is to try and dull the horror of knowing just how awful people can be.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Backstrom can barely function yet he can solve cases nobody else can.
- Cigar Chomper: He puffs away without any concern for no smoking laws. The only places he won't smoke is in his office and in his doctor's office.
- Dark and Troubled Past: His father was violently abusive and he was viciously bullied throughout his childhood.
- His brothers told him a story about the boogieman that scared him so badly he refused to sleep until he went psychotic and had to be hospitalized.
- Defective Detective: Backstrom has absolutely no regard for professional conduct, personal niceties, or his own health but he's still a brilliant detective.
- Hidden Depths: His habit of casually dropping racist and sexist insults is put in another light by his Odd Friendship with roommate Valentine, a gay career criminal. Former fiancee Amy thinks he's too sensitive to be a cop, having the soul of an artist.
- Backstrom's a fairly decent dancer and can be quite charming when he wants to be.
- He minored in Studio Art in college and, despite his outward disdain, he can explain in eloquent detail precisely what an artist is trying to achieve. One performance artist actually prostrates herself before him in admiration.
- Hollywood Atheist: Backstrom reveals when he has to investigate a death in a new age church that he has no qualms of calling it a cult, but says that's not discrimination because he hates all religion equally. Combine that with his being a giant Jerkass, and you've got a classic Hollywood Atheist.
- Iconic Outfit: His blaze orange poncho and beaten up Steelhead Tugs baseball cap.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Backstrom definitely isn't hiding any gold.
- Kavorka Man: Backstrom is an abrasive, misanthropic, overweight, smoker and drinker. He managed to attract the team's hot French civilian administrator by accident (temporarily dumbfounding him) and she continues to flirt with him. (In the novels, he misses her obvious attraction to him completely leaving her somewhat annoyed).
- His ex-fiance, who still cares for him, is played by Sarah Chalke. Backstrom, being Backstrom, interprets her past attempts to fix him as trying to control him.
- The episode "Takes One to Know One" (which introduces said ex) has Backstrom claiming an attractive young man in the Church of Happyology is gay because he's eying the "full Backstrom package". A few seconds later, said young man reaches out to comfort his fellow church member in a rather suggestive fashion. note
- Manipulative Bastard: He normally prefers to be outright confrontational but his innate understanding of human nature also allows him to manipulate people to get what he wants.
- My Greatest Failure: He was the lead detective on a missing child case that was called off. According to Almond, the guilt from not being able to solve the case is what set Backstrom on his downward spiral.Almond: It was Chief Cervantes who found [Backstrom] holed up in a motel in Port Orford trying to drink himself to death.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: constantly denouncing every single sub-demographic of humanity.
- Non-Action Guy: He's not the kind of cop who gets into physical altercations or is cool under fire. In the pilot, he manages to shoot himself and kill a suspect by accident and is extremely shaken up about the whole thing.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Backstrom normally takes cases as they're handed to him or if Gravely pesters him into taking over an investigation. But when he sees that a young girl with heterochromianote has been abducted he calls in the entire team on their day off to take the case. Everyone wonders why he's so gung-ho about this one girl until Almond realizes that their current case might be related to an earlier abduction. See My Greatest Failure above.
- Perma-Stubble: Episodes so far seem to have taken place three days after Backstrom's last shave.
- Reassigned to Antarctica/Kicked Upstairs: Backstrom was exiled to the Traffic Division for several years before being given command of the Special Crimes Unit. This was actually to give him all the sensitive and difficult cases nobody else wants in the hopes that the higher-ups can find an excuse to fire him.
Detective Nicole Gravely
A former Vice detective, she was transferred into Backstrom's unit after engaging in unknown behavior that caused her to fall into disfavor. Based on the character of Annika Carlsson in the original novels conflated with aspects of Lisa Mattei.
- Action Girl: In the pilot, she breaks a suspect's finger because he pissed her off and, in "I Am a Bird Now", she pulls a very brawny drag queen off Backstrom.
- Adaptational Sexuality: Originally a lesbian in the original CBS pilot (and Bi the Way in the original novels), hints at experimenting with other girls in college in "Enemy Of My Enemies"
- Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder: Her job is to make sure Backstrom doesn't tank a case because he offended someone or because he didn't pay attention to proper procedure.
- Fiery Redhead: almost perpetually hostile to Backstrom. (In the novels she is well disposed towards him and finds him strangely attractive.)
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The successful stint at Vice should have helped her career, but she ended up assigned to Backstrom's unit. She had unknowingly busted someone well-connected during a prostitution sting and the evidence related to that bust was either destroyed or went missing. This was enough to get Gravely's previous 24 convictions vacated and she would have been fired if ADA Steve Kine's hadn't protected her from the worst of the fallout.
- The Other Marty: had been played by Mamie Gummer in the original 2012 CBS pilot
Sergeant Peter Niedermayer
The Special Crimes Unit's forensic liaison. Based on the character of Peter Niemi in the original novels.
- Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate: He examines crime scenes for a living yet his very expensive suits never get any gunk on them.
- Granola Girl: A male example. He meditates, is constantly spouting new age niceties, and offers Backstrom special teas to detoxify the lieutenant's body.
- Mistaken for Gay: If Niedermayer is around homosexual men, it's pretty much guaranteed that he'll be hit on.
- Nice Guy: In fact, he genuinely likes Backstrom. The feeling isn't mutual.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: While he doesn't seem to mind, Niedermayer is the SCU's permanent forensic liaison because none of the other crime scene techs can stand being around him. Gravely says that it's because he's so good at his job that he makes everyone else look bad.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: He is the most fashionable member of the SCU. It's part of the reason why so many gay men hit on him.
Officer Frank Moto
A former MMA fighter. He's now Backstrom's bodyguard/chauffeur. He has ambitions to become a detective.
- Action Dad: He has a son. He says that he became a cop and wants to become a detective in order to be a good role model and show his son that's OK to have aspirations.
- The Big Guy: Not tall, but his frame carries a lot of force.
- Book Dumb: He is a good cop but often doesn't think his theories through.
- One-Man Army: He took on a group of Oxblood Police deputies and would have beaten all of them if they hadn't drawn their guns on him.
Nadia Paquet aka Oralee
The SCU's civilian administrator. She's originally from France and is the only member of the team Backstrom doesn't show any disdain towards. Based on the character of Nadja Holbörg in the original novels.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Nadia Paquet isn't her real name. She was involved in something shady enough to warrant her going into witness protection with a new identity. In the novels she is originally a highly-skilled refugee from the old Soviet Union who was internally exiled for wanting to emigrate, who illegally crossed the border into Finland, then Sweden, and asked for asylum. Her skills and a security clearance got her into the Stockholm police.
- Playful Hacker: She handles most of the team's online investigations, sometimes in not-quite-legal ways.
- Room Full of Crazy: Often decorates the evidence board like this. It's so confusing to Backstrom that he has no clue as to how it is set up.
- The Tease: "The moment has passed" indeed.
Backstrom's roommate and "underworld connection". He deals in antiques and often handles materials of dubious origins. He's also a former prostitute. He and Backstrom are half-brothers. based, in part, on the character of "Ge Gurra" in the novels, who while a bent art dealer (and gay) is not related to Bäckström.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Valentine will blatantly hit on any man he finds attractive (especially Neidermayer) and will sleep with anyone who's willing.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Valentine and Backstrom's relationship most closely mirrors that of two bickering brothers. Admittedly, a rather vitriolic duo, but still. Then it's revealed that they really are half-brothers.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Valentine was working as a hooker when he was kidnapped and tortured for days before he could escape. He's covered in tattoos because that was the only way he could cover up the physical scars from his ordeal and it's clear that he's still deeply haunted by the memory.
- Flamboyant Gay: Valentine's very, very open about who he is.
- Guyliner: Worn as part of his haute-emo look.
Sergeant John Almond
A veteran detective. He's a devout Christian and preaches at a small church on the weekends.
- Not So Above It All: While he's normally trying to get everyone to embrace their good sides, he joins Backstrom in showing disdain for being dragged into an arson investigation because he knows that the fire department is trying to spread the blame for a string of fires they can't explain.
- Token Good Teammate: He and Gravely are the two team members most resistant to Backstrom's fast and loose approach to police work.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Backstrom says that Almond was assigned to the SCU because he's burned out after decades of police work. Though from his actions it seems more like he joined the SCU because he is loyal to Backstrom.