Cardinal Season Four: Until the Night

cardinal4This post is proving a little bittersweet: anyone who has read this blog over the past few years will possibly remember my positive reviews for the past three seasons of the Canadian crime drama series: season one here, season two here, season three here and I’m pleased to say I think that the fourth season, Until the Night, is possibly the best of the lot. Unfortunately it also appears that, by all reports, season four is the final season, which sets up that quandary where its great for a show to go out on a high and leaving fans wanting more, but its naturally sad to see a show end when its so good.

I’m not really much of a fan of these crime dramas- I think they universally suffer from a propensity for a genre-wide crime drama escalation war, in which the serial killers get smarter and more cunning and the murders more elaborate and gory until it approaches the level of farce- I think much of this is due to the continuing impact of films like The Silence of the Lambs and Seven. Its a bit like the Lord of the Rings films ‘needing’ bigger and louder battles and Star Wars films needing bigger and more spectacular space battles, until it all collapses under the excess. Certainly the second season of Cardinal suffered from that, and the third to a lesser extent. Fortunately Into the Night dials things back considerably, and while still quite complex, at heart its a pretty basic tale of revenge, and one with some emotional gravitas too. Sometimes less is more, and I certainly that is true of this fourth season. Besides that, this is just simply a damned fine story with great writing and sense of drama/mystery/tension, with a bit of horror thrown in.

Billy Campbell again returns as Police Detective Cardinal, a man haunted by his past who with his younger partner Lise Delorme  (Karine Vanasse) investigate crimes in the fictional city of Algonquin Bay – an area of great beauty on the edge of the wintry wilderness. This season emphasises that wintry aspect, with a series of deaths unfolding in which people are abducted and then left to die of exposure in remote isolated locations. The detectives have to find some link between the victims and a pattern to the locations of their deaths, and the complicated but professional nature of the abductions quickly lean them to suspect these are contract killings. Who hired the killer, and why, becomes as much the focus as the identity of the killer himself.

As usual the show is beautifully shot – you can feel the cold just from the snow-swept imagery and it conveys a wonderfully tactile, atmospheric sense of being there. The script is tight and rarely wavers into the ridiculous – often if I watch these crime dramas I suffer a few moments of ‘WTF?’ that breaks the tension/sense of reality (again, that pressure to ‘better’ past dramas and raise the stakes post-Seven etc). The two leads are as great as ever (can’t understand why we don’t see more of Campbell, and Vanasse is surely destined for more success) and this season even throws in a regular face from The Expanse. I left the show with a sense of satisfaction at a great season but yeah, some considerable sadness if this is indeed the end. You never know of course, never say never and all that.