Happy New Year and Happy New Winter TV! I do love when short-run series land well and then turn around a subsequent season really quickly. Case in point, CTV’s Cardinal, which rolls out its second six-episode series/season/pick your poison this Thursday night.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Based on Black Fly Season, a John Cardinal Mysteries title by Giles Blunt, the second installment is set about six months after the events of the first season, as Algonquin Bay detectives John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) have settled into a comfortable partnership, bonded by a solid working relationship and the secret about Cardinal’s wife, Catherine (Deborah Hay), that Delorme chose to protect.
As we begin, the pair pick up the case of a shooting victim stricken with amnesia by a bullet. It’s case that literally falls into their lap after Jerry Commanda (Glen Gould) is attentive in a bar and steps in to help a young woman, who they call “Red” (Pure‘s Alex Paxton-Beesley). She doesn’t know who she is or how she came to be in town, much less shot. Cardinal and Delorme get to work solving the mystery and soon find it intersecting with the burgeoning heroin trade.
That brings them into contact with a drug kingpin, Lasalle (Lost Girl‘s Kris Holden-Ried) and another detective, Alan Clegg (Orphan Black‘s Kevin Hanchard). Separate from that thread, we follow the genuinely terrifying Ray Northwind (19-2‘s Bruce Ramsay) an interloping drug dealer enthralled with the dark side of mysticism and prone to extreme violence, and his ragtag crew, Leon (19-2‘s Dan Petronijevic), Kevin (Reign‘s Jonathan Keltz), and Toof (Brock Morgan).
Cardinal is preoccupied on the homefront with Catherine back home, which has him worrying just as much about her, if not more, than when she was hospitalized. The now-divorced Delorme spends her off-hours boxing, where she mentors the former addict Rachel (Nicolette Pearse), and mulling next steps. She’s also still menaced by Musgrave (David Richmond-Peck), who’s desperate to unearth anything he can use on Cardinal.
It’s a well-paced six hours that strikes a solid balance between both sides of the case. Similar to the first installment, we spend an equal amount of time with the investigators and the criminals, and we see Red’s struggle with regaining lost memories. Where the winter and bundling up against it were characters on their own in Season 1, this set of episodes is set during summer and the titular black fly season. That gives the show a bit of a sultry feel this time around.
This season also doesn’t have the prolonged sense of anxiety of waiting for a rescue. Northwind is definitely a bad guy, but it feels less oppressive than the heightened tension about a singular victim being tortured for six episodes. I’m also happy to see Hanchard and Holden-Ried on my TV in anything. Look for Killjoys‘ Nora McLellan in episode 5, too.
Campbell and Vanasse get to play a much warmer version of Cardinal and Delorme here, which is a nice evolution from their initial animosity. Campbell is also excellent alongside Hay in the scenes of Cardinal and Catherine trying really hard to repair and navigate their marriage and her illness and recovery. That arc alone could be its own series. Paxton-Beesley does really strong work as Red, and her addition to the cast is perhaps the silver lining of Pure‘s cancellation.
Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CTV. Here are a few sneak peeks of the new season. If you missed Season 1, you can catch all six episodes now on CTV’s website. It’s not required viewing to enjoy Season 2, but it will give you an extra layer of context about the relationships.
Photos and Videos Courtesy of CTV