Category Archives: Canadian crime drama

REVIEW: Cardinal (S4 E5&6/6)


Cardinal has always been a bit of an outlier in the crime drama world; it’s a show that has shifted through a number of different styles but never seemed to really feel comfortable in any one of them. A touch of Nordic Noir there, some high concept villains there; a dash of police procedural and a ‘will they won’t they’ cop duo certainly makes for a solid set-up – but as the show reached its conclusion this week it got me wondering if this series ever got away from its exemplary first season, or if my expectations were set too high.

In context, that first season may come with the considerable caveat that it was broadcast in the UK during 2017 –  a specific sweet spot of broadcast time when viewers, spoiled on the best of the original Nordic noir shows, were looking for similar riches further afield. That first season seems like a bit of a fever dream now, not just in its eerie tone and compelling setting, but also in the treatment of its titular star, who had a far different composition to the same man we see in later series. Back then, we didn’t even know if we were supposed to like Cardinal – a man haunted by rumours of corruption whose grim stoicism within the Algonquin Bay PD almost felt like a burden to his fellow officers. Lise Derlorme was originally brought in to investigate him, and this counter-play around his possible guilt drove the narrative along beautifully. It was, and still is, the best season of this show.

But crucially, one of the most interesting character arcs the show produced was also done by the season’s end. You could argue the source material was at its strongest with the debut novel Forty Words For Sorrow – and in returning with a second and third season, the elements that were there initially wore a little thin. Gone was the complex nature of Cardinal’s internal struggles, and instead he just intimated a facsimile of sadness. The series-wide sub-plot around his wife’s potential suicide seemed largely there to give him a purpose outside of the crushing repetition his day job provided – without his work, Cardinal didn’t seem to exist. Even when we experienced him in peace at home, when his wife was well, he never seems actually happy or fulfilled. It felt like the trope of the tortured detective stretched to its limit.

That’s not to say Billy Campbell isn’t terrific in the role. His face can articulate a lot without uttering a single word, and whilst the spark between Cardinal and Delorme was largely put on the back burner for the middle seasons, the interplay between Campbell and Karine Vanasse has always been the central reason to watch the show. So it was rewarding to see that spark finally ignite in these final two episodes, and sensibly close out the show’s run with a little bit of happiness for the pair before the curtain fell and that narrative road ran out.

Arguably that second story was the more engrossing element to this finale. Whereas the middle two episodes were frankly over-stuffed with narrative leap-frogging to wrap up Neil’s story, this concluding part felt a little thin as we finally got to unravel the conspiracy that led Scott to exact his vengeance. And frankly, there wasn’t much there to be told – and what was there, didn’t really hold up to examination. In essence, Barry and Sheila worked for a rival forestry business to Ken’s – and sold him secret information that logging rights were due up on a piece of land. But that land also happened to be the home to an endangered species of bird (the peregrine falcon no less – hence the feathers left at the crime scenes), and so they needed to be shot and removed from the land to prevent it being labelled a protected space (and therefore no logging allowed).

Quite why Ken enlisted his corporate spies to do this dirty work with him that day is purely plot convenience as it makes no sense otherwise, or why Taj Roy was there also (or at least we guess he was, it’s never explicitly stated he is the fourth person present). Either way, their actions are discovered by a young Scott and his girlfriend Rebecca, who are in the forest tracking bird movements. An altercation leads to Ken accidentally hitting Rebecca and his team leaving the pair to freeze to death in the middle of nowhere. Again, this was never explained fully – both to the extent of her injuries or how Scott survived and she didn’t – but the upshot was Scott was eventually convicted of her murder. One long prison sentence later, Scott is out and fired up for revenge.

A considerable amount of single scene exposition dumps lead our detectives to the final endgame, where they searched the area of Rebecca’s death to find Scott, who had abducted Taj and his daughter Mena. The scenes of him trying to speed up their deaths were a little silly, and it felt like the writers couldn’t quite figure their villain’s motivation out in the final jump – was he the man who quite happily crippled one guy and killed two others with a thirst for murder, or was he a sympathetic figure tormented by decades-long grief that deserved some (albeit bloody) justice? Or both? It was hard to tell and as a result, Shawn Doyle’s performance was a little uneven given the script and distracted from the final dramatics.

Dramatics, it has to be said, which were largely redundant. Cardinal as a show has never shied away from displaying violence and whilst the core characters have experienced plenty of personal peril over the years, there’s never been any doubt they would die – it’s just not that kind of a show. So when both Cardinal AND Delorme are gunned down through Scott’s sniper scope, it’s a bit of a damp squib in terms of shock value – and bulletproof vests are the trusty plot device to ensure they live to see another day. Bonus points are awarded here to super-cop Jerry for busting it across acres of land on his sledge to deliver the single – and fatal – shot to Scott at exactly the right time in exactly the right place (I should point out Jerry has been doing this from the first season and gets zero thanks – he just saved your life Cardinal, cut him some slack!).

With the day won, the perp put down and another pesky court trial avoided, Cardinal and Delorme look longingly at each other across the crime scene before the eventual epilogue brings us home.  Lise leaves for Toronto PD, John stays behind to build a new house, and with the inkling of a burgeoning long-distance relationship between them, he returns to the grim task of his day job and another murder case. Is he happy? Sad? It’s hard to decipher Campbell’s inscrutable reactions, as he slides into the eternal loop of all TV detectives, forever on shift and never, ever fulfilled.

So long Cardinal, we hardly knew you.

Andy D

Rating: 3 out of 5.




REVIEW: Cardinal (S4 E3&4/6)


We’ve already reached the half-way point in this final season of Cardinal without even really trying and boy, it hasn’t hung about. These two episodes packed more action into their running time then the last two seasons combined, and whether this increase in tempo is preferential toward the show’s overall style remains to be seen. But it was undeniably good television all the same – twisting and turning into a set up for next week’s final act.

If there was any faint optimism that Adele should survive her ordeal at the hands of contract killer Neil toward the end of last week’s cliffhanger, then it was quickly expunged when a junker discovered her frozen body at the scrapyard. It was a graphic and unpleasant scene, but reinforced the brutality Neil was administering – but was this trail of vengeance purely for himself? In Neil’s rented holiday home, we meet his employer Scott – somebody seemingly with a BIG axe to grind against certain citizens of Algonquin Bay. Scott’s not happy with the results Neil is bringing, and insists he wants to get closer to the action when he hunts the next victim.

Whatever Scott’s history is, it’s clearly tied to Barry and Sheila, who visits him at the local church to discuss events. Barry’s fully aware that his mother’s fate is his fault, intimating something in their past is the cause of all this misery. It’s also something that involves local businessman Taj Roy, who seems to be the only one uncowed by the killer’s actions. Taj visits Barry at night to politely threaten him into staying quiet about their shared secret, whilst Scott solemnly stakes out the address from afar. Elsewhere, Neil is on a stakeout too, secretly watching Lise’s house – is she his next target? Either way, he witnesses Cardinal turn up and try his best at a smooth move – arriving with takeout and a folder full of crime scene photos (classy date). Lise seems to be responsive – until her ex Josh turns up to turn the mood sour.

Back on the case in the morning, Lise deduces Wade was the local middleman connecting client and killer with his knowledge of the area. When Barry is discovered frozen to death in his garden, the detectives surmise he was in a lot deeper than they imagined. With the local priest confirming Sheila met Barry the day before despite both previously telling the police they didn’t know each other, Cardinal and Delorme begin to dig in to Sheila’s history. It transpires that both Sheila and Barry worked at the same forestry company in the late 1990s – and left the business a week apart of each other. The detectives pile the pressure on Sheila to reveal what she knows, but their actions only cause her to resist further, raising the ire of Jerry, who feels they are going too far. It also elicits a call to Taj, where Sheila asks for his protection – unaware of what that actually might entail.

Meanwhile, Neil is planning his next strike and to the surprise of absolutely no one, it’s Lise’s ex, Josh. Anybody superfluous to a primary cast with more than a few speaking lines is always going to be prime meat for the killer in these things, and so it was that Neil tasered poor Josh over his chopped carrots and bundled him away, but not before being surprised by Josh’s dad Ken, whom he also incapacitates and abducts (fair to say, he is getting the job done in this show). When the alarm is raised, Lise is understandably aggrieved – although in a very civilized Canadian manner, with a few door kicks to make the point. It seems a bit strange that she wouldn’t know her long-term ex’s father just so happened to be the owner of the forestry company where Sheila and Barry had worked, or that Josh also worked there – but as these facts are revealed it’s clear the focus of the case is on what transpired there in the past, with Ken at the centre.

The wheels on the plot did come off slightly in this final third, but it was an enjoyable (albeit bumpy) ride. In quick succession, the baby-cam from Josh’s house yields a decent enough photo of Neil to identify him, and with the killer spooked as his name goes national, he meets with Scott to demand his money and dump Ken onto him so he can abscond. Quite why Scott decides not to just string him along, and instead fight a guy twice his size is a bit of a mystery, but the tussle results in Scott “accidentally” stabbing Neil to death with a rusty nail (ouch). The fallout from this sees Scott take Ken to a second location, whilst Lise and Cardinal frantically search for Josh. For the sake of plot contrivance, Josh is able to withstand the extreme cold long enough to free himself and set fire to a nearby shed, thereby alerting the authorities to his whereabouts.

So with Josh saved and Neil dead, the show is already aligning itself for the final act. Scott’s interactions with Ken reveal his connection in the death of a woman called Rebecca, but it’s not clear how everyone was complicit in her fate. What is clear, however, is the next victim is going to be Taj Roy’s daughter, as he is the final person in Scott’s plan to suffer for his actions – and with the detectives constantly two steps behind the villain, it’s anybody’s guess how this story will conclude.

Andy D

Rating: 3 out of 5.


REVIEW: Cardinal (S4 E1&2/6)


Cardinal returns for it’s fourth and final series this week, with a few immediate differences – a new home (BBC Two), a new slot (midweek prime-time) and (it feels) a new sense of narrative purpose after a somewhat meandering, directionless third season. This time around, the story is based on originating author Giles Blunt’s sixth novel in the franchise, Until The Night – and in these opening back-to-back episodes, there’s a feeling of the series returning to the dramatic highs of its impeccable debut season.

We rejoin John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) looking dour and dejected as ever, having swapped his family home for a dismal town flat as he awaits the former’s sale in the aftermath of last season’s conclusion around his wife’s death. Suffering from recurrent nightmares of a vehicle trapped on thin ice, it’s clear the detective is as haunted by his dark past as ever.

Not so partner Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), who is looking forward to the future with her transfer to Toronto PD finally on the horizon and Algonquin Bay shortly to become a distant memory in her career. After all the torment Cardinal went through in the previous season with his fellow detectives, it seems Lise and he are back on good terms – to the point that the tender romantic spark which has always followed this pair seems to be subtly reigniting again.

However, there’s not much time for any shenanigans in the ice-cold grip of a bleak Canadian winter, although it’s a joy to see those sweeping snow-blind vistas back in the series after two seasons of milder weather with much less personality – even if it is a bit odd watching this deep freeze during the current bright nights of summer. It’s into this frosty environment our intrepid detectives enter when Jerry Commanda (Glen Gould, very dapper as always) pulls them onto the case of a missing person – or very important person – state prosecutor Robert Quillen. Quillen was out the previous night enjoying the benefits of his open marriage to local politician Shelia Gagne (Carmen Moore), but had failed to return home to his wife as agreed.

One thing that was apparent early on here was the show wasn’t messing around this time – we moved swiftly from scene to scene with a little exposition to grease those pesky plot wheels, and it felt much more on a par in terms of pace with the first season then the somewhat languid tone of its successors. So in short order, Cardinal and Delorme scan the motel room Quillen was clearly abducted from, complete with a bird’s feather left by the kidnapper as a clue (always handy – especially later on as we’ll find out), then track Sheila’s phone to a failed ransom drop with an unwholesome chap called Wade Kleiss, who they promptly arrest, only for the real perpetrator to brazenly walk into the precinct car park, taser the arresting officer into unconsciousness and stab poor Wade to death. This was all in the first 25 minutes, and had me checking to see if I was watching the same show as I was used to.

So we were definitely picking up the pace here, and this worked in tandem with the level of urgent brutality the season’s villain was going around administering. Like previous seasons, we got to know him very early on in the running – a morose middle-aged man called Neil Cuthbert (Currie Graham, who Project BlueBook fans will recall as Cal Miller). Neil is definitely a man on a mission – and that mission is murder as a means to punish others – something he casually informs Quillen of, in a very Nordic noir set-up, leaving him tied to a tree trunk in the dead of night to (very painfully) freeze to death. With Quillen as a means to an end, an anonymous video sent by Neil to Sheila of her husband begging for his life shifts the detectives’ focus on to her as the real “victim” of the murder. Neil wanted her to suffer. But why?


While the police pick up the pieces of the case with Sheila, Neil is already stalking his next victim. Hindsight being what it is, we know what’s in store for whoever he picks – and so it was a fairly dark twist to reveal his prey as elderly (and very sweet) Adele Leblanc (Linda Goranson), mother of local florist Barry Leblanc (Duncan Ollerenshaw). It’s clear from Neil’s (very) creepy interactions with Barry at his workplace that the pair aren’t acquainted, so what’s the connection here? Barry makes mention to his mother of knowing Sheila when they were at high school together, but they aren’t friends – so is this something fatally coalescing from a shared experience in their childhood past?

The scenes around Adele’s abduction were frankly, hard to watch – not least because it was clear Neil had some level of remorse in his actions, but also that he’s driven by some deeper, more visceral level of vengeance that supersedes his humanity. Adele’s disappearance triggers the police to connect the cases when Delorme finds another bird’s feather in her scooter basket (handy that), and as they scramble into action, we see Neil leaving Adele to die alone in a massive junker’s yard. Meanwhile, as Sheila sees the news about Adele’s abduction on television, she is clearly spooked by the person mentioned as missing. So a shared secret maybe – and as Neil again tells Adele that her punishment is really meant for Barry – another victim falls to whatever that secret might be.

It was a savage ending to two fast-paced and enthralling episodes, and it seems initially like the show is attempting to recreate the more action-packed slant of that debut season – and certainly with as memorable a villain on board. What suffered slightly in this was the usual interplay between Cardinal and Delorme – which is the real centrepiece of this show – but I’m sure that will develop later into the season. On this evidence anyway, all signs point to Cardinal going out with a bang.

Andy D

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cardinal is currently showing on BBC 2


Frankie Drake Mysteries renewed for a third series

Canadian period crime drama – Frankie Drake Mysteries – has been green-lit for a third series by the show’s home broadcaster, CBC, and the UK’ co-production partner Alibi.

Frankie Drake Mysteries is set in 1920s Toronto and follows the city’s only female private detectives as they take on the cases the police don’t want to touch. The series stars Lauren Lee Smith, Chantel Riley, Rebecca Liddiard, Sharron Matthews, Wendy Crewson and Grace Lynn Kung.

The third series sees Frankie face a family secret while episodes bring her and the Drake Private Detectives team into the world of British aristocrats, illegal boxing, the supernatural, and political fundraisers. 

The renewal comes soon after its stablemate – Murdoch Mysteries – was given the go-ahead for a 14th series.


Cardinal: BBC Two confirms series four transmission date

We’ve heard whispers in the wind for a while now that the fourth and final series of Canadian crime drama, Cardinal, might well be moving channels and that it was imminent.

Now we know both of these things are true.

Cardinal – starring Billy Campbell, Karine Vanass – is set in the town of Algonquin Bay in Northern Canada and follows detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme as they investigate major crimes and unearth the darker side of their picturesque community.

The show’s fourth and final season sees a seemingly mundane missing-persons case turn into a spree of nightmarish murders. The ensuing investigation pushes Cardinal and Delorme to their limits as detectives and partners, forcing them to face what their future holds.

Cardinal (series four): Wednesday 3rd June, 9pm, BBC Two


Murdoch Mysteries renewed for a 14th series

It looks as though one of the more watchable and enjoyable period crime dramas – Murdoch Mysteries – is coming back for more.

Based on the novels by Maureen Jennings, Murdoch Mysteries is set at the turn of the 20th century and revolves around Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson)  of the Toronto constabulary, who uses ground-breaking forensic techniques to close his cases.

Here’s a trailer from the 13th series to give you a flavour if you haven’t seen it.

Now reports reach us that the show has been renewed for a 14th series by its Canadian hosts, CBC.

The series is a co-pro between Shaftesbury Films and UKTV channel, Alibi, who shows it here in the UK.

Cardinal releases first trailer from final series

It’s a little way off from British shores, but Canadian crime series, Cardinal, is gearing up for its final series in its native country.

Series one followed Detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanassee) as they join forces to hunt down a killer in a small Northern Ontario town.

Adapted from author Giles Blunt’s award-winning Forty Words for Sorrow, the first of the John Cardinal Mysteries book series. Series two has already aired in its native Canada (it’s one of the country’s most-watched shows.

Now we have a trailer for series four.

More news as and when we get it…


Alibi confirms transmission date for series three of Frankie Drake Mysteries

Canadian series Frankie Drake Mysteries is set in 1920s Toronto and follows the city’s only female private detectives as they take on the cases the police don’t want to touch.

The period crime drama series stars Lauren Lee Smith, Chantel Riley, Rebecca Liddiard, Sharron Matthews, Wendy Crewson and Grace Lynn Kung.

The third season of Frankie Drake Mysteries sees Frankie face a family secret while episodes bring her and the Drake Private Detectives team into the world of British aristocrats, illegal boxing, the supernatural, and political fundraisers.

What’s more, the world of fiction and reality when Honeysuckle Weeks guest stars as Agatha Christie.

Frankie Drake Mysteries (Series 3): Tuesday 21st January, 9pm, Alibi 

Canadian TV developing The Hardy Boys TV series

We’ve had a new Nancy Drew series and now we’re getting a Hardy Boys series.

Based on Edward Stratemeyer’s bestselling classic children’s books, the mystery-drama features the principal characters in their teen years.

After the tragic death of their mother, Frank Hardy, 16, and his brother Joe, 12, are moved from the big city to their mother’s hometown of Bridgeport for the summer. Their father, Fenton, is convinced his wife Laura’s death was no accident and leaves the boys with their aunt as he chases down a lead. Frank and Joe set out to solve the mystery themselves only to find the secret runs deeper than they could have ever imagined. The task of fitting into their new environment is made even harder when the boys begin to believe their mother’s killer is in Bridgeport and suddenly everyone in town is a suspect!

Big Little Lies’ James Tupper stars as Hardy boys’ father Fenton, Rohan Campbell is Frank Hardy, and Alexander Elliot is Joe Hardy.

Virgin Media picks up Canadian series Pure

Virgin Media has acquired the Canadian series Pure and premiered it yesterday Virgin TV Ultra HD today (Thursday 31st October).

Created by Michael Amo, Pure tells the story of Noah Funk a newly-elected Mennonite pastor, who is determined to rid his community of the scourge of drugs and its nefarious ties to a trans-border smuggling alliance with ruthless Mexican cocaine cartels.

Here’s a trailer…