It was a slow start to Black Fly Season last week, the second series of well-regarded Canadian crime drama Cardinal. The tale of warring drug gangs with an amnesiac victim at the core of it didn’t initially ignite my interest as much as the first season’s story, but the show is always solid fun to watch – and things did pick up at this halfway point in the series, just not maybe in the way the writers intended.
Over at Ray’s Summer Love Shack, he’s been getting stabby all night with poor old Wombat much to Kevin’s distress (“he was screaming for hours”), and the crime boss’s behaviour isn’t just spooking out his underlings – Leon also has the fear after getting a lesson in being honest when Ray stabs him in the hand and forces the truth out that Red is still alive and in the wind. Ray’s demeanor is a little more optimistic around the missing woman now however – “I didn’t recognise her power at first” – and so he wants her brought back to the camp alive. Where Ray is concerned, that’s not a good thing.
Meanwhile Cardinal and Delmore manage to trace Red to a petrol station the day of her disappearance via some CCTV footage – and her usage of Air Miles points eventually gets an identification – Terri Tait. Terri is originally from Vancouver and seems a long way from home – her employer advises the detectives she took a week off to come to the Bay. She recalls staying at a lakeside motel before her disappearance, but Delorme is having serious doubts that Terri is an innocent bystander to events.
Terri and her involvement in the case becomes more complex when she gives her guard the slip in the hospital, escaping into town. Unfortunately this puts her directly in the sights of Leon, who’s keen to correct his error with Ray and bring her back to the camp. The sight of his truck in the distance is enough to spark a memory and have her fearfully hiding in the shadows, so it’s safe to say Leon isn’t her best friend. Things get even more complicated when Cardinal and Delmore dig into Terri’s family history and find out she has a brother – the very same Kevin who’s forced by Ray to dump Wombat’s body in the lake, leading him to start using drugs again – and putting him directly in convention of the boss’s ‘rules’.
The hunt for Kevin leads the team to a former associate’s house, who is affiliated to the Raiders. There’s nobody there – except the severed head of Wombat hanging from the shower rail, meant as a warning to the biker gang. With no sign of brother or sister, Cardinal uses his super sleuthing skills to utilise the knowledge of the Tait siblings previously living with their Canadian Air Force father to find Terri hiding out in her former childhood home on a nearby dilapidated former base.
Cardinal and Delorme lead Terri into the woods with a reconstruction of her escape in a bid to awaken her memory. This leads them to a cave where she remembers Leon and his attempt on her life, but little in the way of a solid description. A short trip to Toronto to speak to a rituals expert confirms Ray needs continual sacrifice to retain his ‘powers’, and that his abilities would be strongest every new moon. As Ray’s handiwork becomes increasingly macabre, a spooked Gang Intelligence Officer Clegg meets with CI Rachel to let her know she’s off the hook, mainly in part because of Delorme’s protestations – but sometimes you should be careful what you wish for as in her efforts to wrench free of her past she takes to using heroin again with tragic results.
Elsewhere, Raiders boss Lasalle has a pep talk with his gang about finding the people who killed Wombat and who are putting the hurt on his network of dealers – who he is led to believe is the Native Canadian gang Northwind, which is actually the bait and switch Ray set up days ago as a distraction to keep them busy. You get the impression Ray is leading the Raiders into a massacre of their own making – but not before he cleans house himself, using Leon to beat Toof to death with a golf club after they mistakenly believe he’s using drugs – only to compound more fear and confusion into Kevin who is barely keeping it together as it is. Every murderous cloud has a silver lining though – it was Toof who supplied the deadly batch of heroin to Rachel, so his timely disappearance might put the brakes on Delorme’s investigation for now.
Your mileage may vary in how invested you are in this series, but the general threat of Ray’s gang in comparison to the malevolence of Eric and Edie in the first season doesn’t seem on par; if anything, Ray’s comical mutterings of cosmic happenings and throwing around of magical pebbles is more likely to elicit laughs than fear, likewise his gang of unlucky miscreants who have a habit of killing the wrong person. It has a little touch of the surreal happenstance of Fargo about it in that sense but I don’t think it’s intended to play like that.
Similarly the ‘second’ stories of the show in Musgrave’s hilarious hard-on for Cardinal’s badge (acting via heavy breathing over every scene) and Catherine’s perceived odd behaviour precipitating the disintegration of her marriage just don’t seem as heavily embedded as they were previously – we know by now Cardinal is essentially a good guy whose intentions don’t always create the best outcome – and as a result they feel diminished in requirement to the point you question if it should be included at all. With only two episode to go there needs to be a ramp up in quality to keep things interesting.
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