Category Archives: Cardinal

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


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


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…


REVIEW: Cardinal (S3 E3&4/6)


We’re already halfway through the new season of Cardinal and things are just starting to heat up, with the dynamics of family life once again at the forefront of these episodes.

One family that seems to be forged from fractured lives is that of Sharlene ‘Mama’ Winston and her brood of runaways. But Mama’s not happy with her “warriors”. She berates her teenage assassin Jack for murdering the Barstows before acquiring their hidden cache of weapons, and accordingly takes a belt to him as punishment. It seems Mama is working her way through the local area, gathering collateral to furnish her dream of an off-grid compound called Northaven. There’s an eerie echo of the Manson Family in their oddball interactions as they play at normality around a dinner table before Mama brutally tortures their hostage Lloyd Kreeger, whom she seems to have some unspoken history with.

Elsewhere, another fractured family explores their bereavement in different ways when Cardinal’s daughter Kelly comes home for Thanksgiving. Kelly is still harbouring anger at her mother’s suicide, intent on moving on with her life whilst her father obsesses over the nature of her death. When Cardinal shakes down an ex-con who he believes is behind the accusatory notes he’s been receiving, Noelle tells him to immediately drop his covert investigation and holds Delorme accountable for not managing him properly. But when has a stern warning ever stopped Cardinal from pursuing a case? His slightly unhinged tenacity pays off when he receives an invoice for Catherine’s funeral with a printing error that matches those on the anonymous cards. This leads him to Roger Felt, an accountant who Cardinal put away for fraud several years prior. Felt folds under interrogation to confess he was behind the campaign, but his bitterness at John doesn’t extend to murdering his wife. The fallout from Felt’s arrest engenders a rift between Delorme and Cardinal, a development that felt a little forced for the sake of filling out the missing tension between them from the previous seasons.

With Randall’s prints all over the show house, the detectives correctly hypothesize he was using the building as a place to conduct his affair. Aaron Ashmore does an excellent job at sleazing it up as Randall, only concerned with his own self-preservation when he discounts Sam’s worries to ensure he is kept out of her account to the police of what happened on the night of the murders. We get a fairly weak bait and switch to pad out the third episode when Sam is pursued by a masked assailant and drops him with a hastily racked crossbow, only to find out it was Randall’s loser friend Troy trying to scare her into silence – but at least we are treated to a satisfying denouement to this scenario when Randall is led away in cuffs at his partner’s office party.

As the case progresses it’s clear the Barstows weren’t just wealthy patrons of the yachting scene, but were also international gunrunners – and it’s their stockpile that Mama and her crew are desperately searching for to arm themselves for their oncoming self-proclaimed apocalypse, which they enthuse over around a campfire. Whether we feel truly invested in Mama’s half-baked prophecies of nuclear war or the silly histrionics of her psychopathic pet killer Jack is another thing, and their maternal relationship feels like a poorer counterpart to the similarly skewed dynamic of Brady and Deborah in Mr. Mercedes. Certainly the element of threat they are supposed to exude to us as viewers feels diminished, and the additional coincidence of all the cases the detectives are investigating converging into one unit of people feels more a convenience of the duration of this season than a natural part of the script. This feels equally apparent in the narrowing of the suspect pool ahead of the final run of episodes when Jack murders Lemur, predicating Mama’s most likely fatal inability to truly control his rage and presumably setting up a final act of redemption for Nicki, the most normal member of their micro-cult.

It’s the compact nature of Cardinal’s seasons that can be both a blessing and a curse. Whilst the narrative flows easily enough and the stories are always solid, we also don’t get a lot of time to really explore the characters beyond a surface level of detail. Likewise the truncated nature of the series means we also get some sticky plot issues that would require a bit more scrutiny in a longer run – Delorme’s solo foray in pursuit of Lemur being one of them, or Jack’s ability to locate Lemur immediately under the police cordon without detection another – but Cardinal somehow seems to retain enough dramatic goodwill to keep you watching, even when the plot has almost run out.

Andy D


REVIEW: Cardinal (S3 E1&2/6)


We welcome back Cardinal to the BBC’s Saturday night crime slot for its much-anticipated third season, having concluded its original Canadian run in March. The series follows on directly from the shocking conclusion of the second season, this time merging elements from author Giles Blunt’s novels By The Time You Read This and Crime Machine.

The story opens directly after the previous season’s close, with Detective John Cardinal lost in shock from his wife Catherine’s untimely demise. Her death has a clear impact on the entire investigation unit and with Cardinal crestfallen, his partner Detective Lise Delorme has to push aside her personal feelings to work the case like any other suspicious death – but a note in Catherine’s bag seems to confirm the cause as suicide.

When Catherine’s doctor later confirms her mental health was improving at the time of her death, Cardinal feels he cannot accept his wife would end her own life in such a way. This is only compounded when he begins to receive anonymous notes blaming him for her demise, triggering hallucinations of her around town and leading him to have her suicide note analysed by a forensic expert. Subsequently, he begins his own private investigation into what he increasingly suspects to be foul play – a convenient outlet for somebody who secretly blames himself for being unable to cope with his wife’s mental health struggles in previous seasons.

With the funeral over and his wife’s case ruled officially as suicide, Cardinal reluctantly returns to investigate a series of ATM gunpoint robberies whilst Delorme takes the lead on a double homicide at a local holiday home. The only issue is despite the ample evidence of a violent murder spree, there are no bodies. Their investigation leads them to sleazy local realtor Randall Wishart, who had been using the site of the murders to conduct a secret affair with teenager Sam Duchene. Randall provides a hilariously shaky alibi to the detectives which covers up the fact Sam witnessed the murderer at the property and barely escaped with her life.

It’s clear the emotional repercussions of family bereavement will be writ large in this season, as outside of Cardinal’s struggles we also see his boss Noelle deal with the fallout of her sister’s death from cancer – an unspoken trauma cleverly extracted through a tense scene where she tries to talk down a suicidal gunman in a sort of high-stakes therapy session. It’s these second story-lines which Cardinal borrows from the Nordic Noir handbook that really elevates it above being a standard procedural (it’s no mistake each episode is named after a character in the show), with a strong ensemble cast that work hard to engage you beyond the core plot.

When the bodies are eventually discovered tethered to a sunken boat, the real work begins to find out who they were – despite the murderer getting busy with a fish hook to disfigure them beyond identification (ouch). Further investigations lead them to the names Roman and Irena Barstow, wealthy patrons of the local boat show. Whilst the detectives attempt to trace the couple’s movements prior to their murder, Sam is brazenly stalked around town by their killer who happens to have found her phone – with their tense interactions echoing Eric’s similarly predatory behaviour around Edie from Season One. But our expectations are transformed somewhat as we conclude the second episode, when it seems his actions are dictated by others in a scene that is reminiscent of horror movies like The Strangers and Martyrs.

It didn’t feel like a whole lot happened here, but Cardinal is never the most action-packed drama to begin with – and the glacial pace that dictates the opening of this third season felt in keeping with the weight that Catherine’s death would bring. After a largely uninspired second season, it’s encouraging to see the show return to form in re-capturing some of the eerie magic that imbued its inaugural series. Billy Campbell anchors the show as John Cardinal with a performance that is deceptively somnambulistic in its delivery, with Karine Vanasse left to do the heavy lifting as the show’s emotional core in Lise Delorme. Equally, it’s great to see the larger cast get to expand their roles somewhat, with Kristen Thomson as Noelle really shining in these opening episodes after being largely a bit player in the previous season. Despite its grisly content, Cardinal remains great comfort-food crime drama television.

Andy D


BBC Four announces transmission date for series three of Cardinal

Arguably Canada’s most successful crime series, Cardinal, is on its way back to BBC Four.

Starring Billy Campbell as John Cardinal, series two left us with Cardinal discovering the suicide of his wife, Catherine (Deborah Hay).

It’s autumn in this year’s six-episode third series that returns to Algonquin Bay as Cardinal and his partner, Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), investigate a double murder. Their investigation will also see them crossing paths with a doomsday cult.

It’s also the aftermath of Catherine’s suicide, and Cardinal outwardly accepts the evidence that she took her own life, but when he starts to receive taunting greeting cards blaming him for her death, he begins to question the suicide. Back on duty, Cardinal and Detective Lise Delorme are called to a bloody cottage crime scene where at least two people have died, but there are no bodies to be found. With resources stretched thin as Delorme also works a string of ATM robberies, a hunch of Cardinal’s leads them to the two bodies.

Here’s a trailer:

Cardinal (Series 3): Saturday 11th May, 9pm, BBC Four

REVIEW : Cardinal (S2 E5&6/6)


So after just three short weeks we wrap up Black Fly Season, the second series of Canadian crime drama Cardinal. It does make me wonder if it had been extended out to an episode a week rather than the traditional BBC4 double-up if I would have had the patience to persist with what has been a relatively flat storyline in comparison to the superior first season, but with an an absolute slap in the face of an ending it might just set up proceedings going forward to be very interesting indeed.

Cardinal and Delorme head to the kill site where Toof met his unfortunate end at the hands of Leon and his trusty golf club. A little dental sleuthing identifies Toof as Rachel’s dealer from the local snooker hall – along with a boot print that resembles the one they dug up from Terri’s discovery site. Toof’s distraught mum puts the detectives onto Leon and Northwind – Ray’s native name – as the guys he went to live with a few months previously. Slowly, the circle is closing into the gang as the evidence piles up – thanks in part to some ingenious science involving maggots.

Meanwhile, Clegg makes a surprise visit to Ray’s Summer Love Shack and is clearly entrenched in the drug boss’s plans when he provides him with his cut of the takings, but when Alan gets a late case of the wobbly morals and refuses Ray money, he reminds him their deal is life or death – and Ray wants Terri’s whereabouts from Alan as soon as possible or his children are next. Elsewhere Jerry (as commentators said last week, the real MVP of the show) gets the rundown on just how dangerous Ray is when he visits the Northwind reservation and hears how when the chief refused to provide him a reference to native Canadian drug dealers, he cut off his dog’s paws in retribution. Not cool Ray. Not cool.

As the net closes, Kevin escapes the encampment to have a quick drugs smoking session, but flips Leon’s stolen truck when he nods out at the wheel, before fleeing the crash scene. In his stupidest maneuver yet, he then returns to the base to beg Ray for more drugs “to sell”. Unfortunately for Kevin, the truck is registered to Ray (seems a bit convenient, would a crime boss have anything in his name?) – and is full of drugs paraphernalia when the police eventually find it. Matters only get worse for Kevin when Ray catches him breaking into his summer love shack looking for more drugs – and sets him up for his next sacrifice as the new moon rises.

Elsewhere, Musgrave gets shook down by Cardinal when Tammi won’t take the bait in his bid to bring John to ‘justice’ for Kyle’s killing. Cardinal has evidence Musgrave has been stealing files, along with recordings by Tammi as to his attempted bribery. Cardinal asks Musgrave to make things right for Delorme in her bid to move to NIS, which he eventually does. Tammi visits Catherine and tells her the full story of how far Cardinal went to protect his wife over the death of Tammi’s partner. Despite Cardinal’s best efforts (albeit often misplaced), Catherine feels beholden to his protective stance over her illness and tells her psychiatrist that hearing this news was devastating – she feels responsible for Kyle’s death, exactly the thing Cardinal has been trying to avoid in paying off Tammi.

Terri positively identifies Leon from a selection of mug shots, whilst unbeknownst to her Leon is staking out the safe-house thanks to Alan’s betrayal. Alan’s not stopping there though in his bid to be worst cop of the series – when Ray asks who he should be targeting, the detective identifies Cardinal as his main adversary. Meanwhile, Cardinal and Delorme get the lowdown from Ray’s former foster mother, who has some choice things to say about the kid she helped raise – in essence that he was a raving psychopath in training. His real mother was repeatedly victimized by bikers and his grudge against the gang culture never abated – leading him into his current war with the Northern Riders. A call to Miami PD clarifies his activities up to now – a string of brutal, ritualistic murders related to him as El Brujo (‘The Witch’) that remain unsolved but mysteriously stopped when Ray left town – and headed to Canada.

Leon brings a drugged Terri to Ray’s Summer Love Shack, who strings her up next to her terrified brother. Ray is obsessed by the magical power that he insists Terri harbours (“if a bullet can’t stop her on this side, imagine what she can do for me on the other”), and feels the sacrifice will be his most successful yet. As you do. Coming to, she recalls finally how she came across the shack on her first visit to find Kevin and how that lead to Leon trying to murder her. Unlike her useless brother, Terri isn’t one to give up – she gets herself off the hook she’s tied to and frees her sibling – only to be caught again by Leon, albeit after she’s driven a sharpened animal bone through his face. That looked painful.

Clegg hopes he can finally atone for his sins by slipping Lasalle the coordinates to Northwind’s camp, before giving Cardinal a likely story about wasp allergies to divert the detective’s attention whilst he swipes his phone as they head out into the forest in search of Ray’s camp. Back at HQ they realise Clegg has betrayed the team when they find out Terri is missing – and when Cardinal reaches for his phone to call in their location Clegg holds him at gunpoint whilst Jerry and Delorme hone in on the GPS of the detective’s car.

In the big finale – if you can call it that – Clegg delivers up Cardinal to Ray – but when the drug boss demands he kill John it’s a step too far and he tries to pull the trigger on Ray instead. In the ensuing scuffle, Ray escapes but not before slashing Clegg – leaving Cardinal and Delorme to discover the summer love shack and a prostrate Kevin tied up on a makeshift altar. Delorme takes down Leon at gunpoint whilst Cardinal hunts down Ray in the woods before they have a flaccid punch-up in the lake – with Delorme eventually providing the bullet that stops Ray drowning John. Everything wraps up neatly, with the Northern Riders appearing a little too late to act but still be arrested anyway, Clegg alive and facing some tough questions, Terri and Kevin reunited and Ray injured but facing a lengthy prison sentence. Cardinal heads home with a phone call to Catherine’s answer machine saying he is officially done with the police. He’s retiring.

Fans of the books will know things don’t wrap as neatly as intended in this story (slightly brought forward from the third book in the series), when John arrives home to find a note from Catherine that leads him into town and the horrific sight of his wife having finally took her own life. Did Ray’s prophecy of Catherine’s inevitable demons taking over come true? Perhaps in the more esoteric sense, but more likely a final submission to her battle with mental illness – a battle Cardinal was never going to win for her. It’s a real sucker punch of an ending, a proper lump in the throat moment – and one that I wrestled with. Catherine’s journey hasn’t been the best represented across the two seasons, and at times she felt like more a cypher for the plot to progress than a real character. I mentioned last week there seemed less and less for her character to impart on the show other than to confound Cardinal, but even so the way her death was treated as a inter-season cliffhanger felt cheap. Perhaps we’ll see the ramifications of this in a more nuanced way in the third season, but for now it left a decidedly bitter taste.

Cardinal, like any other crime drama, lives and dies on it’s stories. In the first season it felt like there was real peril involved as we joined the detectives on a serial killer hunt – and with the question over John’s shady past still unanswered it felt like a show with purpose and drive. Unfortunately the second season’s story just didn’t hold together for me – Ray on paper I’m sure would be infinitely more terrifying than what we got on screen – but overall I felt a real lack of sympathy with most of the victims involved except Terri – all who were criminals involved in what they knew could be a deadly,brutal world. Not only this, but re-treading Musgrave’s involvement was a mistake as it bore little to no impact on the show other than to grow the seeds of doubt in Catherine’s mind about the extent of her husband’s commitments. Perhaps in overview it’s just too tall an order to explore a book’s worth of plot in six episodes that barely rake in at fifty minutes a piece – but hopefully we’ll see an upturn in the series’ fortune next season.

Andy D



REVIEW : Cardinal (S2 E3&4/6)


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.

Andy D