Cardinal s4 ep 1; s4 ep 2

There might be confirmation bias at work here, but does Cardinal get the love it deserves? And – here I’m really flying in the face of decades of received wisdom about Anglophone audiences – would it, in fact, be more appreciated if it were subtitled? For this fourth and, apparently, final season it’s certainly been bumped out of BBC Four’s Saturday night foreign drama double-bill slot, and given what looks like a promotion to BBC Two. But it looks a little bit adrift, a little unmoored, popping up on a Wednesday evening.

And so, despite not having planned to review this season at all, I thought I should say that, on the basis of these first two episodes, the show is bowing out on a note of sustained excellence. In the coldest month of the year in Algonquin Bay – and, my God, there isn’t an exterior shot that lets you forget it – Detectives John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) are searching for Robert Quillen, the prosecutor husband of politician Sheila Gagne (Carmen Moore). Quillen and Gagne have an open marriage, he had been on a date with another woman, and hasn’t returned. Cardinal and Delorme probe this issue tactfully; but, no, he wouldn’t just have stayed out, and sure enough he’s found having died of exposure. Then in the second episode, the elderly mother of nurseryman Barry Leblanc (Duncan Ollerenshaw) is abducted.

As it happens, we already know whodunnit, even if the cops don’t: Unpopcult’s old friend Currie Graham, who has served with distinction in The Rookie, Murder in the First, and The Mentalist, is the killer. We don’t yet know why, although we’ve seen evidence that Currie has at least one ally, and there are hints that Gagne and Leblanc are connected in some way. The real thrills, though, are to be found in the way in which Campbell and Vanasse subtly play opposite each other like colleagues who have a long history. It’s beautiful to watch. Moreover, with Cardinal’s ex-wife now dead and gone and Delorme’s ex Josh happily married off, there’s very little to stop the ship I’ve been sailing on since the very first season, particularly as Delorme has finally negotiated a transfer out of rural Ontario and down to Toronto. This is seriously good TV. Don’t miss.

Public Service Announcement 25 of 2020: Cardinal, How To Get Away With Murder, This Is Us

The fourth and – apparently – final season of superior Canadian policier Cardinal starts tonight at 9pm, with Billy Campbell as Detective John Cardinal, Karine Vanasse as Detective Lise Delorme, and Unpopcult as the person hoping that we might see the strengthening of the faint possibility of a hookup between the two of them. Before we get to that, though, this time round Cardinal and Delorme are hunting for a hired assassin who abducted the husband of a politician and left him to die from exposure.

The show has been moved from BBC Four – its home for seasons 1-3 – to BBC Two, for no obvious reason: it seems ideally suited to Four’s Saturday night double-bill import slot. Unless, of course, this is the first sign of Four’s alleged repositioning as an archive channel, with the new stuff going to Two. (Any threat to BBC Four is, I should say again, a remarkably bad idea.) On the bright side, apparently the first three seasons, which are all worth watching, are on the iPlayer as of today as well.

In things-I-don’t-watch-any-more news: How To Get Away With Murder is back for its sixth and final season (Thursday 4 June, 10pm, Sky Witness); and season 4 of tearduct-drainer This Is Us is dropping onto Amazon Prime on Friday 5 June.

Public Service Announcement 29 of 2019: Cardinal, The Society, Lucifer

Intriguing Canadian police drama Cardinal is back for its third season this weekend. If the first two seasons are anything to go by it’ll be a taut and nasty thriller, conspicuously well acted by the leads, Billy Campbell as Cardinal and Karine Vanasse as Delorme. I am also shipping them, although given that Cardinal’s wife REDACTED herself – or did she? – at the end of season 2 I have already braced myself for this as a likely example of TV’s latest unwelcome trend, a STUPID DEAD WIFE who gets in the way of a PERFECTLY GOOD SHIP (Saturday, BBC 4, 9pm, double-bills).

Netflix’s latest pitch for the YA market, The Society, drops today. It’s exec produced by Christopher Keyser (Party of Five) and Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, a couple of Spider-Men, Limitless), who also directs the first two episodes. It’s about a group of teenagers who are transported to a facsimile of their hometown, sans adults, and if it’s even halfway decent – and perhaps not even that – it looks as if it might have “cult” written all over it.

And Netflix also has, as of now, the fourth season of Lucifer, which it picked up after Fox cancelled it. I’m still watching season 3 week-by-week, and I’m doing my best to keep myself from being spoiled, so I have no idea where s4 might go. However, from what I’ve seen so far of the third season the quality remains high, so once I’ve finished that I will be very much HERE for more #Deckerstar.

Public Service Announcement 27 of 2018: Cardinal, Reverie, Alias

Saturday brings the return of Canadian noir Cardinal for its second season. Like the first, it stars Karine Vanasse and Billy Campbell as cop partners solving nasty crimes in rural Ontario. I watched and, indeed, reviewed the first season, which I thought really very good indeed. Haven’t decided yet whether I’m reviewing this time round; BBC4 has gone yet again with those stupid double bills, which makes it much trickier. But I’ll be watching. The show has, incidentally, been renewed for at least two more seasons (Saturday 4 August, BBC4, 9pm).

There’s also an entirely new show starting tomorrow: NBC’s Reverie, which has quite the cast: Shaw from Person of Interest (Sarah Shahi), President David Palmer from 24 (Dennis Haysbert), Lilly from Cold Case (Kathryn Morris)… and, uh, Mohinder from Heroes (Sendhil Ramamurthy). It also has quite the high concept: Shahi is a former hostage negotiator trying to save people trapped in a virtual reality simulation, while struggling with Secret Pain. What it doesn’t have, unfortunately, is a positive critical response. Still, the season is only ten episodes long, and (most of) the cast looks highly watchable (Thursday 2 August, SyFy, 9pm, but also very early in the morning if you’re really keen).

And finally: as I always say, I don’t run a media company; I’m just a viewer. So I have no idea whether the falling out between UKTV and Virgin Media (my service provider) is the fault of one side, the other, or both. What I do know, though, is that it’s VM’s public response has been a crass insult to the intelligence of its viewers. Unless replacing Dave, Gold, Drama, Alibi, Yesterday, and the like with (checks notes) Horse & Country and IQ TV is a counter-intuitive stroke of programming genius. (Spoiler alert – it isn’t, it really isn’t.) 

On the bright side, though, both Virgin and Sky are presently providing on-demand access to every episode of Alias, a thrillingly nonsensical spy/action drama with a terrific cast: Jennifer Garner is the lead, but Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, and Michael Vartan, among others, are also great. I suspect most viewers at the time would have expected Vartan to be the breakout star, but instead he was overtaken by Bradley Cooper, who occasionally pops up in a recurring role. I won’t be rewatching – partly because I never rewatch anything, and partly because Alias depends on its twists and turns – but the first season and a half at least are sensationally good.

More soon: Sky is about to launch Witness, its new Ameri-crime channel, with some new-to-the-UK shows.

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).