• John Cardinal has a very cold case in the final season of Cardinal. (Cardinal)Source: Cardinal
The Canadian crime drama returns with a cold-hearted killer.
Kylie Walker

22 May 2020 - 9:17 AM  UPDATED 22 May 2020 - 9:52 AM

Rug up. Things are about to get chilling.

Season four of the gripping, moody Canadian crime series Cardinal is about two things: a series of nightmarish murders to be solved, and a relationship to be resolved. And snow. Lots of snow.

(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched seasons 1-3, we’d suggest you stop reading right now and head over to SBS On Demand to do that. We can’t discuss season 4 without mentioning some key events in those earlier episodes.)

It’s hard to believe we have to say goodbye to our favourite Canadian detectives. Cardinal – based on a series of books by Canadian author Giles Blunt  – started out in the snow and comes full circle in this final season. It’s deep winter in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay, and a prominent local has gone missing. Detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme soon discover he’s been abducted, and things quickly escalate from there.

Murder most cold

What starts as a missing persons case soon turns into something much bigger, a series of gruesome murders with victims left to freeze to death.  You may never think of snow – or a dinner party – in the same way again.

They’re up against an adversary fuelled by rage over past tragedies, but in chasing the murderer, Cardinal (Billy Campbell, who won several Canadian Screen Awards for his role, along with an Emmy nomination) and Delorme (Karine Vanasse, who also won a CSA) must face their own pasts.

Cardinal is struggling to move on after the shocking loss of his wife Catherine, while Delorme is torn between the life she’s built in Algonquin Bay and her career ambitions. When she first came to town, it was meant to be temporary. Booted from the homicide squad over his obsession with the unsolved disappearance of a young girl, Cardinal is reassigned to the case with a new partner after the girl’s body is found. But Delorme has a hidden agenda: she has orders to investigate Cardinal, who is suspected of links to a drug dealer.  It’s a complicated start, and things didn’t become any simpler in seasons two and three. In season four, the pair have drawn closer, but what’s to come will test them.

Do they or don’t they?

Cardinal is a superb crime drama, and the suspense will have you on the edge of your seat, but the relationship between the two detectives – and the way its portrayed by two superb actors – is the other thread that ties the four seasons of Cardinal together.  

“What I’m most excited for the fans to see in this final season is to see is, really, it’s the culmination of the relationship between Cardinal and Delorme.  I think that the relationship between Cardinal and Delorme is more of less the spine of the show and it comes to a very definite kind of fruition in this fourth season,” Campbell says of the final season.

‘Fruition’ makes it all sound quite predictable. Not so. In an interview with The GATE, he says fans can expect “a really good resolution, and that being said, it’s a resolution in keeping with the feeling and the flavour of Cardinal”.

But in the meantime, there’s a murderer to chase

Canada in winter is bitter-cold, and it becomes a murder weapon in a series of nightmarish deaths. “This is not somebody who wants to negotiate. It's somebody who wants people hurt,” Cardinal says as he and Delorme stand in the snow while the hunt goes on for the first victim.

Soon, someone else has disappeared, and the pair try to connect the dots (remember that phrase when you start watching…) between the victims. Gradually, they get closer to the truth, but people’s lives will hang in the balance as this brilliant series draws to a close, and it’s never been predictable.

Favourite moment?

“My favourite moment … it’s so difficult!” says Campbell, who describes Cardinal as the best gig of his career so far. “The last episode of the season … there is a series of scenes in which we do a lot of running around in the snow and the forest … that’s the first thing that pops into my head, but as I say picking a favourite moment from any of the seasons, it’s just too hard to do. It was some of the best working times of my life,” he says. Vanasse nominates scenes filmed in Toronto – not, she jokes, because it was warmer than much of the other action in season four, but rather because they were important scenes between Cardinal and Delorme.

All good things must come to an end

With a race against time to save lives, a happy ending is far from certain and that’s part of what makes it so gripping as Cardinal draws to a close. It’s a superb production, and while revenge might be best served cold, everything about this show is white-hot.

Seasons 1 to 4 of Cardinal are now streaming at SBS On Demand. Start from the beginning:

Continue to the 4th and final season:

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