Set in a fictionalized version of the city of Battle Creek, Michigan, the show focuses on the efforts of Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) as he tries to keep his home safe while dealing with tight city budgets, failing equipment, and insufficient training. The FBI sends Special Agent Milton Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) to provide assistance, but Agnew takes an immediate disliking to the newcomer. Unfortunately, the two are stuck together and have to try and cooperate to make Battle Creek a better place.
This program provides examples of:
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Michael Rossi has been in jail for about a decade, while his old girlfriend has a year-old baby. After he's released and becomes a suspect in several crimes, she claims that he was happy for her. The cops are skeptical about this and request the name of the baby's father, arriving at his house just in time to keep him from burnin to death in a fire.
- The Ace: Chamberlain is supposed to be a rising star and demonstrates that he can collect information in a fraction of the time it takes the Battle Creek detectives. Agnew thinks that this is all a facade for something much more troubled.Sandy: "Milton, you're good at everything!"
- Affably Evil: Roderigo Aveceda from the finale, who was initially reluctant to involve his son in his drug-dealing and knows to surrender without a fight, but demonstrates the evil when he lets greed overcome caution for his sons future, and was willing to have a sixteen year-old killed to avenge his son.
- Affectionate Nickname: Commander Guziewicz is occasionally called "Goose" by her subordinates.
- Batman Gambit: Agnew uses his suspects' arrogance to manipulate them into a corner.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Neither Agnew nor Holly can admit their feelings for one another. Agnew is afraid of letting his guard down, while Holly keeps waiting for him to make the first move. She finally decides she's waited enough and practically jumps Agnew in the evidence room, resolving the UST.
- Consummate Liar: Chamberlain is an incredibly smooth liar. Smooth enough to almost fool Agnew, who's a pretty decent liar himself.Agnew: "He's a better liar than I am. And secondly, he quite possibly could much more interesting than I thought."
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Inverted. A man is deemed to have died of natural causes but the detectives believe that it was actually murder. They build a pretty good case against the man's former accountant but then the coroner tells them that the autopsy revealed no signs of foul play and it really was natural causes.
- Did You Just Have Sex?: Erin and Milt to Holly and Russ, respectively. Russ keeps denying it. Strangely, the two were the only ones who picked up on it, despite Russ acting extremely unlike himself in the morning.
- Dirty Coward: Zigzagged with Donny Patton in Stockholm, as flashbacks show that he did take the bank robbery money and run out on his partners, one of whom was dying after the car crash, but he did linger until they told him it was ok to go, wished them good luck, and justifiably pointed out that the injured robber was too hurt to move and would get medical attention from the first responders just as fast whether they stayed with him or not.
- Dying Town: Characters bemoan the decline of the show's version of Battle Creek, Michigan.Funkhauser: What the heck is happening around here? It used to be nice...quiet. A place people moved to raise their kids. Now we're playing Whack-a-Mole with heroin dealers.
- The Ending Changes Everything: The series finale shows flashbacks to Milt that shift absolutely everything viewers (and Russ) thought they knew about him: It turns out this rule-abiding nice guy had once been a Cowboy Cop who had no problem threatening an innocent kid or putting him in danger to get an arrest. (Russ: "Why couldn't I have been partners with that Milt?") When his actions led to the kid being killed, a guilt-stricken Milt transformed into the guy we know today but carries that weight.
- Everyone Can See It: Agnew has a badly hidden crush on Holly, although Holly doesn't seem to be aware of it herself.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Subverted. In the pilot, Russ and Milton try coach their witness into fingering a local drug dealer for the murder of the week. Unfortunately for them, the dealer refuses to play ball because he's completely innocent, and Agnew only avoids a suspension because Milton tells Commander Guziewicz it was his idea (it was Russ's). Ironically the witness himself was the actual killer.
- Godzilla Threshold: Guziewicz's house burning down is serious enough for Agnew to voluntarily ask for Chamberlain's help.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Agnew tries to prank Milton by letting Milton answer the phone as if he was a member of the department. He expects that the call is from an old lady who regularly reports non-existant crimes so she has a reason to talk to police officers. However, this time it's a patrol officer calling in a double homicide and standard protocol is that the detective who answers the phone is the one who is the primary investigator on the case. Commander Guziewicz decides that this is a good time to teach Agnew a lesson so she gives Milton jurisdiction over the case and makes Agnew subordinate to him.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Throughout the episode "Syruptitious", maple syrup is treated like a drug. Russ repeatedly points out the ridiculousness of infiltrating a maple syrup cartel.
- Inheritance Murder: The detectives are investigating a woman's murder when they discover that she has been spending a lot of time with an older wealthy man who died a few days before her. They suspect that the deaths are related and that the man's children might have killed him for his money. However, this theory is subverted when it is revealed that the man died of natural causes. The dead woman was the man's illegitimate daughter and was killed by her half-siblings so they would not have to share their inheritance with her. After they are arrested, the dead woman's son inherits everything.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Agnew has a personality so abrasive that his co-workers discourage him from giving death notifications because they're afraid he might make things worse just by being himself. But he's also a dedicated cop who wants nothing more than to make Battle Creek a better place.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Agnew does not appreciate Chamberlain's involvement in his cases even though the FBI agent was specifically brought in to help the overburdened Battle Creek Police Department.Agnew: "It's our town. It's our people. It's our job."
- Kansas City Shuffle:
- The cops make it clear they know a pair of rich kids murdered a woman who could have ruined their inheritance but have no evidence. Later, they find the duo burning the clothes they'd been wearing committing the murder and gloating on how any evidence is gone. Smirking, Milt and Russ dryly point out how they were hoping the two would do that as it'll be hard for a jury to buy any other reason they would be burning their clothes.
- Guz tells a cop they know he stole a kilo of heroin and offers him a chance to turn evidence. The cop carefully says he's sure Guz is wearing a wire and refuses to confirm the story. He then goes to see his niece (who had stolen the heroin) to press her to be quiet, unaware she's wearing a wire.
- When Russ's con artist mother becomes part of a case, it's nearly impossible to count the shuffles the two run on each other.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Russ is suspended for talking to a suspect without his lawyer present. He brings Milt some evidence on who's the guilty party so Milt can make the arrest. Knowing it's not right to take this from Russ, Milt "hires" him (for a single dollar) as an FBI consultant for the case.
- Font is upset when a pharmacy sells him fake medical marijuana. He brings Milt with him to threaten the owner who smugly says he knows Milt won't be the guy to try and bust the owner and set off a huge legal row over legalizing pot. However, Font sees how the owner is playing a movie on video and rewinds it to the "FBI Warning" of showing such films in public. Milt smirks that the owner can refund Font or be busted for breaking federal law.
- Mayor Pain: The local mayor is an immature user of recreational drugs who happily thanks Milt for keeping him from having to spend more money on the police department as Agnew seethe nearby.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The production of pure, high quality maple syrup is given a montage that wouldn't have seemed so out of place on Breaking Bad.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: While arresting a Dominican drug kingpin, Funk attempts to duplicate Milt speaking Spanish earlier.Funk: (in subtitled Spanish) Very cold! I arrest myself!
Drug Lord: (in English) What?
Funk: I said, "You're under arrest!"
- Noodle Incident: Milt transferred to Battle Creek ostensibly because he slept with his boss's wife. But his boss reveals that the decision to make the transfer was made by an unknown party much higher up the chain of command and no one knows why it was made.
- Not Me This Time: in spoiler: Old Flames there are three arsons which could have killed someone connected with Michael Rossi within days of his release from prison, including Guziewicz's house. When Rossi is finally captured (at the scene of the third arson). He claims that he didn't set the fire at Guziewicz's house even though he was trying to kill other people he had grudges against with fires in that same timeframe and that he doesn't pay as much attention to the cops arresting him as he does to people he has more personal beefs with. Agnew, Guziewicz and the others ultimately conclude that he's telling the truth, because he didn't even remember that Guziewicz was a woman.
- Properly Paranoid: Vito in Old Flames is seen putting bars on his window after learning his cousin (who he testified against for arson and murder) just got out of prison, and also bargains for FBI protection. Later in the episode, his cousin does make a failed attempt to kill him, despite that FBI bodyguard.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Commander Guziewicz is often frustrated by Agnew's attitude but she takes it all in stride and prefers to gently guide her subordinates but makes it clear that there are boundaries she doesn't want them to cross.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Battle Creek is a small industrial city that's seen better days (in real life, it's where Kellogg's keeps its world headquarters) but it might as well be Antarctica to Chamberlain, who should be rapidly moving up the FBI's ranks. He was transferred from the Detroit field office because he slept with Agent Bromberg's wife. It was kept quiet so that he could leave with a bit of dignity intact until Jacocks figured it out in "Man's Best Friend". But there's a greater power at play, according to Agent Bromberg.Agent Bromberg: "Good riddance, you miserable sack of-" Cut to next scene
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Agnew is red while Chamberlain is blue.
- Running Gag: In the pilot, everyone the crew canvasses offers them coffee cake. Even the drug supplier whose door they were about to break down!
- Serious Business: The manufacture and distribution of maple syrup is a tough and dangerous business and sets up the plot of "Syruptitious".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Chamberlain wears well-tailored suits and custom shoes.Agnew: "How do you run in those shoes?"
Chamberlain: "Oh, I have an excellent cobbler."
- Shoddy Knockoff Product: One episode revolves around the import and selling of counterfeit goods.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Agnew and Chamberlain's first case together makes headline news. Chamberlain graciously shares credit with Agnew but the front page photo crops Agnew out. Holly throws out the paper before Agnew can see.
- In "Old Flames" Chamberlain and Agnew rush into a burning building. While Agnew actually deals with the fire Chamberlain carries a victim to safety, where neighbors promptly pull out their phones to take photos and videos of the heroic FBI agent. Agnew can only look on from inside the house.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Chamberlain and Agnew do not like each other but have to work together. Chamberlain makes an effort to be civil while Agnew is outright antagonistic.
- Truth in Television: Due to the amount of time and labour, not to mention the cost, required to produce pure maple syrup, competition in the real world is steep and it's not unheard of for rivals to poison each other's trees or use tactics like force and theft to try and get ahead in the business. Though it's not quite as dramatic as depicted on the show.
- Who Murdered the Asshole?: When the detectives investigate a rich man's suspicious death the discover that the man was No Hero to His Valet and that his household staff all despised him. This makes for a rather large pool of suspects with motive, means and opportunity. The man dies of natural causes.