For two seasons now John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) has been tackling crime in the tiny Canadian town of Algonquin Bay. With a third season of Cardinal just around the corner, here’s what you need to know to get up to speed with Canada’s favourite brooding cop and his world.
It’s a Scandi-noir set in Canada (but don’t call it Candi-noir)
When a missing girl is found dead in an abandoned mine outside the Canadian town of Algonquin Bay, disgraced cop Cardinal is brought back into the fold and given the case. It was his obsession with her disappearance that led to him being kicked off the homicide squad, so this is his chance to redeem himself – but when he starts talking about a serial killer working in the area, it looks like his old obsessions are back.
Cardinal’s partner has a secret
While Detective Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) is assigned to help him solve the murder, she’s also there to secretly investigate the charges that Cardinal is a corrupt cop accepting money from a drug lord to throw investigations off the track. It seems obvious that Cardinal isn’t really a crooked cop… but if he isn’t, then what is he collecting from a mysterious man he pays off in cash?
He’s also got family problems
If things weren’t tough enough at work, Cardinal’s wife Catherine (Deborah Hay) is struggling with her own demons. She suffers from bipolar disorder that sees her in and out of institutions, leaving Cardinal alone in the house, studying the images of dead victims and having cereal for dinner. Yum.
Didn’t you used to be the Rocketeer?
Billy Campbell has appeared in a series of neo-noir shows, including a season of Modus and the US version of The Killing. Fun fact: he was also one of the vampire hunters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But he’s still best known for the title role in Disney’s The Rocketeer – even if those square-jawed heroics are a long way from the gritty cop he plays here.
Cardinal’s comrades hold a grudge
In the second season Algonquin Bay is rocked by what looks like a string of occult ritual killings. But are they the work of a crazed cult, or really just part of a drug war taking out the local bikie gang? Not everyone on the force has given up on the idea that Cardinal is a corrupt cop either - could these killings lead to the evidence that will finally convict him?
It’s based on a series of bestselling novels
The first six episodes were adapted from the novel Forty Words for Sorrow, the first in a series of hit crime novels by award-winning Ontario author Giles Blunt. The second season was based on the third Cardinal novel Blackfly Season, while the third uses the fourth and fifth novels, By The Time You Read This and Crime Machine. To date Blunt has written six Cardinal novels, so no prizes for guessing what the recently announced fourth series will be based on.
Last season ended on a grim twist
Without giving too much away, a main character won’t be back for the third season, and their departure is going to have serious repercussions for Cardinal. He’s always been a man on the edge, but with part of his support structure gone, will this be the season where he finally goes too far?
Enough of the brutal murders - what about the weather?
Things aren’t always frozen over in Algonquin Bay. While the first season took place in the dead (sometimes literally) of winter, the second broke with Scandi-noir tradition and took place during the lush and green summer season. But season three takes place six months later so you guessed it – we’re back to snow as far as the eye can see.
Cardinal is an SBS On Demand exclusive. Season 3 will be available to stream from Thursday March 7.