Cardinal s1 ep 5; s1 ep 6

Two very good episodes to finish. In episode 5 the plot strands are being drawn together: a hunter has found the body of Woody, the burglar who got unlucky last week, and from Woody’s internet search history Cardinal and Delorme deduce, very quickly, that since dude was looking at guitars this has to have something to do with the missing Keith and, therefore, with our serial killers. Another leap of logic takes them to the music shop where Eric works, and although he’s not there he becomes their main person of interest.

Meantime Delorme has concluded that Cardinal is paying someone off, rather than being bribed, and sure enough he hands money over to a mysterious woman who comes to his house. In domestic news Cardinal’s wife does a runner from her presumably not-very-secure care facility, and Lise has an argument with Josh – who seems, let’s be honest, to be a bit of a cock – over her entirely understandable desire not to bear his children.

And the episode finishes with a couple of shocks: Eric lures Cardinal and Delorme to a deserted school and shoots Delorme, although she’s wearing a bulletproof vest. When Eric tries to drive away Cardinal jumps into his van and, after a crash, shoots and kills him. But what Cardinal and Delorme don’t yet know is that Eric has an accomplice, Edie, who drags poor Keith into a car boot, then stabs him.

Which takes us into the sixth and final episode. With Keith and Edie both missing, the characters all start to talk as if Keith is dead, which of course is the biggest clue that he’s still alive. But we’ll get to that: first of all Delorme confronts Cardinal with her conclusions from her investigation into him, which are that he’s been taking money to avoid the truth coming out about him tipping off drug dealer Kyle Corbett about a raid, which led to a cop being killed. Cardinal doesn’t even try to deny it, which is also significant for those of us who watch procedurals. Sure enough, Cardinal has been taking the rap for someone else, and since that someone else is his wife, it starts to look very unlikely that he’s going to be hooking up with Delorme, even though Josh takes the hint and moves out.

Meantime Edie discovers that Keith has somehow escaped from the car boot, and takes the battle directly to Cardinal by going to his house and pointing a gun at his daughter, meaning that when Cardinal – who by now has found out about Edie – arrives home he gets shot a couple of times. Fortunately Delorme turns up a few minutes later to kill Edie and save Cardinal, but they still don’t sleep together. It’s like the writers just don’t care about shipping possibilities.

So Cardinal stayed on top of its plots, didn’t outstay its welcome, provided further evidence that Karine Vanasse has star quality, put Agnes Obel on the soundtrack, and finished with its two strongest episodes. I’d say it goes down as a success. Two more seasons are planned, and if the BBC buys them I’ll watch them.

Cardinal s1 ep 3; s1 ep 4

Before the start of this double-bill the BBC’s continuity announcer warned of “prolonged violent scenes”. No shit: the treatment of guitar-toting Keith at the hands of weirdo couple Eric and Edie, all of whom we saw at the end of the second episode, amounts to feature-length torture porn. Poor Keith is drugged, imprisoned in the cellar underneath Edie’s grandmother’s house, stripped, strapped to a chair, photographed, knocked around, forced to watch a video of Eric’s last victim being killed, and has a finger cut off with secateurs. He even almost escapes a couple of times, just so that he can be taunted with the possibility of hope.

But we’ll get to that. In episode 3, Delorme is put on desk duties by Cardinal, so while he’s out looking for Todd’s killers she’s back in the office reviewing anything received from the tips line. As it happens, I think this is a bit of a miscalculation on the part of the writers: if you have two big stars, and only six episodes, it makes sense to keep them together onscreen. It does, however, free Delorme up to continue her investigation into Cardinal, assisted by a dude who at first I thought she was addressing by his rank, but who I subsequently discovered actually has the surname Commanda. Presumably, like Catch-22’s Major Major Major Major, he will in due course be promoted by an IBM machine with a sense of humour. It also gives her time – as I predicted – to take her hidden birth control pills.

Having discovered that Keith is missing, most likely abducted by the person or persons responsible for three previous killings, Delorme and Cardinal are brought back together for episode 4, which is the better of the two episodes. It also sees the reappearance of the first episode’s burglary suspect Woody, whose M.O. involves identifying people with valuable property, then following them home. Thus, when he sees Eric and Edie with Keith’s guitar, he tails them back to their house, only breaking in when he sees that they have left. He finds Keith, but after untying him he’s interrupted by Eric and Edie returning, and gets a blade in the stomach for his trouble. Keith is recaptured by Eric, for more torture. However, I’d now be surprised if he ends up dead, with only two episodes to go.

Josh, meantime, has found the birth control pills and gone full-on mad: he confronts Cardinal and asks if he’s having an affair with Delorme. Not YET, says one shipping viewer. But during the course of their conversation he lets slip that Delorme is only temporarily in Algonquin Bay, and Cardinal is evidently starting to wonder what she’s up to. Hardly outstanding television – I don’t think anything really surprising has happened yet – but good.

Cardinal s1 ep 1; s1 ep 2

Algonquin Bay, Ontario, Canada. (Apparently a thinly-disguised North Bay.) A missing First Nations girl, Katie Pine, turns up dead and encased in a block of ice. This comes as little surprise to the detective who was originally looking into her disappearance, John Cardinal (Billy Campbell in fine form), and he’s put back on the case, with dark warnings to behave himself; we’re given to understand that he became obsessed with the investigation first time round. Cardinal is paired with Detective Lisa Delorme (Karine Vanasse, reliably good), who’s just transferred in from Financial Crimes.

In the first of this double-bill Cardinal pursues his belief that whoever killed Katie is, to use his word, a “repeater”, and he starts to review unsolved missing person investigations to see if he can find similar cases. Meantime Delorme is sent off to stay on top of Cardinal’s outstanding enquiry into a string of housebreakings, which – as yet, possibly? – don’t seem to be connected to the murder.

But in the final few minutes of the first episode the show moves up a gear. We discover that Delorme’s presence in the homicide squad isn’t because she fancied a career change: she’s been planted there by Musgrave, the unlikeable Witchfinder General of Internal Affairs, who thinks that Cardinal has a corrupt relationship with drug dealer Kyle Corbett. (And, from what we’ve seen, Cardinal is undoubtedly up to something in the background.) So Delorme is investigating a murder and her partner, at the same time. Awkward, potentially. And while she’s being lectured by Musgrave, Cardinal’s pursuit of one of his missing-person leads results in him finding the body of runaway teenager Todd Curry.

Which sets up the second episode nicely: Cardinal and Delorme head to Toronto for Todd’s post mortem, and discover that his head was wrapped in old-fashioned audio tape, which when analysed contains a faint recording of Katie Pine, pleading for her life, and an unknown man, presumably her killer, thus establishing a link between the murders. Meantime Delorme is visibly wrestling with the fact that Cardinal is more agreeable than the other men in her life – husband and Witchfinder – but nonetheless continues to investigate Cardinal, tailing him to a casino at which he appears to exchange black market chips for cash. He looks dirty, but I’d bet my mortgage that means he isn’t.

By the end of the second episode I was kind of hooked, I think, although with one or two reservations. Even leaving aside Cardinal’s obvious debt to Scandi-noir – the snow, the dead girl, the multiple plots – there’s much about this show which draws from the well-established procedural playbook. Cardinal and Delorme, to start with, tick quite a few of the maverick-TV-cop boxes. For Cardinal, there’s inevitably Secret Pain, personal (his hospitalised wife is bipolar), and professional (his thwarted investigation into Katie’s disappearance). He also has a dead raccoon in his crawl space. I have no idea whether that’s supposed to be a metaphor for something. Delorme, meantime, is supposedly trying for a baby with her husband, for whom I do not care at all. I suspect that before the end of the season he’ll be finding a hidden stash of birth control pills lying around. But Campbell and Vanessa are attractive and watchable actors who elevate the material. And in addition the show looks, well, amazing. The snow-covered, desolate landscapes are, I would guess, a gift to a cinematographer; and the shot of the block of ice containing the remains of Katie being hoisted out of the murder scene on a pulley isn’t one I’ll forget any time soon. So Unpopcult is in, with further reviews to follow.

Public Service Announcement 19 of 2017: Cardinal, Shots Fired

After Unpopcult fell in love with Private Eyes – which we’re promised is returning in the UK this summer, Shangie fans – we’ve been on the lookout for another Canadian drama to try. Mind you, it should be said that Cardinal, which starts this weekend, is probably at the other end of the crimefighting spectrum. In fact, superficially at least it looks like Canadian TV’s attempt to replicate the Scandi-noir model: dysfunctional detective with Secret Pain, frozen landscapes, murdered girls. On top of that, the lead role of John Cardinal is played by Billy Campbell, who was in the American remake of The Killing. He’s paired up with the luminous Karine Vanasse as new recruit Lise Delorme. Cardinal is being shown in those stupid double bills, although as each episode is about 40-45 minutes long that’s not necessarily disastrous. We’ll be reviewing the first two episodes at least (Saturday 3 June, BBC 4, 9pm).

Also starting: Shots Fired, a ten-episode drama about racially-charged killings in North Carolina. It was reasonably well-received by the American critics, but won’t be back for a second season. Might be worth a look (Sunday 4 June, FOX (UK), 9pm).