The 1st department is an elite unit of the Police of the Czech Republic with a solve rate for murders of about 95 percent. The department deals with cases of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and other serious crimes.
The series was co-written by Josef Mares (a real policeman and head of the 1st department) and Jan Malinda, who works as a journalist. Cases of the 1st Department can boast of being extraordinarily authentic and precise in the description of police work, slang, methods of investigation, co-operation with other police departments, public prosecution and forensic experts in present-day Czechia. The police often know quite soon who committed the crime, but they have to figure out how to bust them, get them to confess and find conclusive evidence.
The series has a top notch A-star cast in the main roles, however, the perpetrators are often played by less known actors which adds to its unsettling feel.
Tropes of the 1st Department:
- Accidental Murder:
- In episode "Cut Up", the murder victim was accidentally killed during a fight, or at least that's what the murderer said. The guy who killed her was her kindhearted roommate who was in love with her. She slapped him because he stepped into the bathroom when she was taking a shower. He slapped her back and his blow was much stronger than he had intended.
- The murderess in "Hatred" was already in prison before the current open case, sentenced when she was a teenager. She gave his second victim some pills to put him to sleep and wanted to steal from him, however, he was a cardiac and died.
- A tragic case happens in "Key Evidence". The victims in the episode are an Arab man, his Czech wife and their small son. The man was involved in shady business and organized crime, possibly with drugs. The team has two versions for the investigation — either they wanted to kill the whole family as a threat, or they were just after the guy and his wife and son were unwanted witnesses. It turns out they were actually killed by the woman's teenage son. He wanted to murder his abusive stepfather, less so his mother. However, when the elder son and his mother had a fight, he attacked her with a knife and his little half-brother wanted to defend her. He accidentally swung his knife at him, too.
- Abusive Parents: Two murder victims were abusive to their teen-aged son in the episode "Key Evidence". The widowed mother remarried and her new husband beat his step-son. They also badly treated the woman's in-laws from her first marriage who live in the neighbouring flat in the same house.
- Audit Threat: In episode "Key Evidence", a suspect in murder of a woman and her Arab husband is an Arab and an owner of a restaurant and casino. He's extremely unhelpful and refuses to cooperate. He gets more so when the police threatens to go over his accounts and tax records.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Maj. Plisek is the oldest, most experienced policeman who has been with the department over 30 years. He has excellent combinatoric skills and he often connects old cases with fresh ones.
- Bluffing the Murderer: In the episode "Key Evidence", Cap. Prazak and his partner arrest the murderer under the pretence that they need to question him for evidence. He asks whether they already got the culprit and whether he's confessed. They say that they got him and that he's about to confess. Little does he know... He breaks during the questioning.
- Butt-Monkey: Vita Srsen is the team's resident butt monkey. He's an outsider who is usually assigned to find related cases in the archives or he helps Maj. Plisek with computer systems. Martin Prazak and especially prankster Petr Andel make fun of him on a regular basis. For instance, Andel gave Srsen's phone number to homeless guys and told them to call him because supposedly he would rent them a cheap flat.
- City Noir: Downplayed. Prague is not absolutely horrible and dark here, but the city looks wonderfully shabby, gray, rainy or cold. It's noticeable especially if you compare it to Prague's usual idealised depictions set in sunny picturesque streets or beautiful historical palaces. Some murders happened in ghettos and poor neighbourhoods, and even the police building looks almost pitiful compared to high-tech sets of other police procedural shows.
- Creator Cameo: Josef Mares, co-author of the script, appears as a police officer in the first episode.
- Feminine Women Can Cook:
- Subverted when Maj. Kozak's daughter wants to appease her father (who got angry because of a clogged bathtub) by telling him she will cook schnitzels. He says okay and she says she's gonna download the recipe.
- Captain Prazak's wife makes him a sandwich when he's called to a case in the middle of the night.
- Freudian Excuse: The team suspects that the murderess in "Hatred" was abused as child, possibly even raped, and later disappointed by all males in her life. It probably triggered her hatred of men.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Maj. Plisek says he likes animals, and he thinks that a victim's disappeared dog is an important lead in the case, which proves to be right. He later adopts the dog because the victim's mother couldn't take him (she was a Kindhearted Cat Lover with a flat full of cats). Brandy appears in several subsequent episodes, just being cute or biting his colleagues.
- Sleuth Dates Cop: Andrea Skopcova is a very attractive TV reporter and a single mother of two who dates Capt. Petr Andel. Their jobs definitely complicate their relationship when Andrea's boss doesn't like that her work makes the Police department look good.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Luckily subverted. Maj. Plisek is a heavy smoker and he coughs from episode one. In "48 Hours", he has a coughing fit and spits blood. It points to lung cancer, but it's something less serious and he's cured after an operation.
- Majorly Awesome:
- Maj. Tomas Kozak is a cool and competent policeman who should be head of the department, however, he's his deputy who at times must do his boss' duties. He's one of the most charismatic people on the show. Though he can appear moody.
- Maj. Vaclav Plisek is the oldest and most experienced policeman on the team. He has a great ability to read the crime and connect leads. He has awesome knowledge of the history of crime and he knows the criminals' psychology. His ideas prove right most of the time.
- Intrepid Reporter: Andrea Skopcova is a slightly unusual in that she has a mole in the Police Department who gives her information on open cases, and her reports often complicate investigation. She is also willing to shoot morally wrong reports, like accusing an honest cop of being dirty when her boss is not satisfied with her work that has portrayed the Police as helpful public service.
- The Mole: Early episodes feature an important problem — somebody from the department is giving tips to a reporter from "TV One", a commercial station that shamelessly broadcasts it when they shouldn't, which intrudes and complicates their investigations. Several likeable and less likeable people are hinted to be responsible. He's a rather unimportant technician but he turns out to be a huge pain in the ass after he was transferred to another department.
- Murder by Mistake: It's one of the possibilities in "An Extra Hour". The victim might have been mistaken for a prostitute who looked very alike. The prostitute was harassed by her former customer because she had infected him. The "erotic services" resided in a flat located in the same building where the victim lived .
- Nepotism: Ondrej Kavalir is a young intern who briefly observes the team and works with them. He is a son of somebody important from the Presiding Police Committee, the highest division of the Police. The guys are not too thrilled because he makes lots of mistakes from the very beginning. He's not absolutely hopeless, but his last mistake is massive and he doesn't join the 1st department permanently.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Major Josef Korejs is a weak boss, not quite pulling off all his duties as head of the department. It's downplayed, however, as he has his rare moments when his police sense is on and he offers relatively useful insight on the case. He's willing to suck up to his superiors and bigwigs. His men know he will not support them in crisis and he takes the credit for their hard work. He also prefers the loyal over the competent.
- Police Lineup: Used seriously, never played for laughs. They make sure that a judge and/or a prosecutor is present during the identification. Sometimes photos were used instead of lining people up.
- Rape as Backstory: The team suspects that the perpetrator in "Hatred" was raped when she was small. Her female lover was raped by an old aedophile when she was a teen (with other girls). He was Ms. Fialova's first victim.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Major Tomas Kozak. He's a no-nonsense and highly capable cop who is better at organizing the investigations and handling various problems and issues rather than the actual head of the department, his boss Korejs.
- Red Herring: In "Lab Rat", they find a suspect and everything fits together — he works in a science lab and autopsy room, seems obsessed with dead bodies, he's a relative of the woman who works in a photo lab which was identified as the source of the lead photograph, his girlfriend is missing, he rents a secluded cottage,... They follow him, but it turns out he's just a weirdo.
- Captain Prazak's ringing tone is a theme tune of The Sinful People Of Prague, a police procedural set in Czechoslovakia in the 1920's and 1930's. That show was made in 1960's and it remains insanely popular.
- A rather humorous dab at CSI: New York. When Plisek's is at the hospital, his fellow patient is about to watch the show on TV and says that Czech criminal investigators suck. Maj. Plisek is unimpressed. He thinks the patient doesn't deserve to be opposed and doesn't mention to him that he's the cream of the Czech Police.
- Trash of the Titans: Maj. Vaclav Plisek's desk is always disorganized and messy. Maj. Tomas Kozak often tries to convince him to clean it. In episode "A Policeman to Gun Down", they have to look though a suspect's garbage. Kozak jokes that he's pleased that he decided to clean up. Surprisingly, Plisek's home is clean and cosy, even though he's an old bachelor.
- Teeny Weenie: The rapist from episode "Phantom from Southern Town" was reported to have a small penis. The team couldn't use line-up recognition because his photo leaked out in the media. He refused to confess to all of his crimes, so Maj. Tomas Kozak had an idea to use the information against him. He told him they would measure it and release pictures to press unless he confessed. He did.