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Cardinal is a Canadian Police Procedural drama that premiered in 2017 as a joint-production between CTV (which airs it for the English-speaking audience in Canada) and Super Écran (which airs it for the French-speaking audience). Based on the works of author Giles Blunt, it stars Billy Campbell, Karine Vanasse, Kristen Thomson, Allie MacDonald and David Richmond-Peck.

Originally slated to be a single miniseries, its success led to it being picked up for three additional seasons.

Critics in Canada have hailed the show as an equal counterpart to Nordic Noir thrillers like The Killing.

Set in Algonquin Bay, Ontario, the series follows Detective John Cardinal of the Algonquin Bay Police Department, a deeply burdened and troubled man, as he seeks to unravel complex mysteries and deal with his equally tangled personal life. He and Detective Lise Delorme later take on complex cases in the town. The show has been on the novels Forty Words for Sorrow, Black Fly Season, By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine.

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The show has aired four seasons, the last one being in 2020.


This show contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Woody is a criminal who steals other people's stuff for a living, but when he finds a tied up and tortured Keith, he tries to untie him and help him escape.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Season 4 ends with Cardinal alone and heading into the darkness to once more investigate a murder.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Season 3 has the ABPD investigate the activities of a Canadian-American doomsday apocalypse cult led by a discharged female soldier from the US.
  • The Atoner: John Cardinal stole a pile of illegally earned money from criminals he once arrested and since then has felt deeply ashamed of it. Even though he used the money to pay for his daughter's education and his wife's mental healthcare, he eventually considers turning himself in for it and quit being a cop.
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  • Big Bad Duumvirate: In season 1 which is based on Forty Words for Sorrow, Eric Fraser and Edie Soames. Although Eric is more responsible as the murders are all his idea.
  • Butt-Monkey: Constable Fox. He's forced by Cardinal to take his boots off at a crime scene on a frozen lake, and is later pranked into taking a dead frozen racoon into Dyson's office.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Woody, the burglar from the serial-robbery subplot in the first episode, comes back as the focus of the fourth episode's B-plot. He attempts to rob Edie and Eric and gets killed while attempting to free Keith, making this also an example of A Death in the Limelight.
  • Dirty Cop: The first season's major subplot is Delorme trying to determine whether or not Cardinal is on the take.
  • Duct Tap For Everything: In the first series, it's how Eric and Edie tie Keith up and gag him.
  • Fan Disservice: Keith London spends much of the first series naked ... and getting tortured by Eric and Edie in her grandmother's basement.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The OPD (Ontario Police Department) is based on the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), but wear uniforms and patches that one can make them for being an officer from the Toronto Police Service.
  • Fair Cop: Detective Lise Delorme.
  • Gorn: Quite a bit.
    • In the first series, the torture of Keith London definitely counts - he has a finger cut off and is stabbed in the stomach before escaping and having to hide during the Canadian winter. Given that he's naked, he's very lucky not to succumb to hypothermia as well as blood loss.
    • In the second series, Cardinal discovers a headless corpse which appears to have been mutilated in accordance with some sort of occult ritual. Later, he finds a severed head from a different victim.
    • In the third series, the partially-decomposed bodies of the missing rich couple are fished out of the lake.
  • It's Personal: Delorme discovers that her investigation on behalf of the RCMP is in fact a personal crusade on the part of her contact who blames Cardinal for a sting operation that was blown with a cop killed.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between the AB police and the RCMP. Justified that the latter is a federal police force brought in to check on allegations of a Dirty Cop.
  • Killed Off for Real: While a lot of people die in the backstory, all of the "current" victims survive. This makes it even more shocking when John's wife, Catherine appears to commit suicide at the end of Season 2.
  • Maybe Ever After: John and Lise end seasons four with Lise heading to Toronto. They agree to see each other though.
  • Mob War: Part of the first season's backstory was the investigation to allegations that Detective Cardinal provided info that helped jumpstart a gang war in the 1990s.
    • In the second series, Ray and Leon are trying to muscle in on the local drug trade, leading to friction with the local biker gang who controls it.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Spectacularly averted in the case of Lise Delorme. Karine Vanasse usually plays French characters when she's on English-language TV, but here she gets to use her natural Quebecois accent.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Algonquin Bay is a fictional counterpart for North Bay in Ontario.
  • "Nothing" is Scarier: The revelation of two teens killed in AB has shocked the community and scared them out of their wits.
  • Plot Armor:
    • In Season 1, despite Eric and Edie's habit of torturing and killing teenagers, their most recent victim, Keith London, survives being brutally tortured over multiple days, having chunks of his flesh torn out while being Forced to Watch, being shot at several times, and finally, being stabbed in the stomach and having to hide in the middle of the Canadian winter while naked with a stab wound.
    • In Season 2, Teri (aka Red) and her brother Ryan. Teri is shot in the head in the middle of the woods, but she survives with amnesia. Then she is kidnapped, held hostage, and tortured by the gang, she's shot at multiple times by the gang members, but she is unhurt when Cardinal comes to save her.
  • Ship Tease: With John and Lise in series four (after John's had sufficient time to mourn his wife's death, which occurred at the end of series two and was proven to be murder rather than suicide over the course of series three). While they do spend the night together, the show ends with Lise transferring to Toronto and John remaining in Algonquin Bay.
  • Shown Their Work: Whenever a police officer in Canada is suspected of being involved in a criminal case, the department or agency would depend on either an independent agency from outside the province/territory, or have officers involved from out of the area.
    • The presence of a Native-managed casino is real. They're used to help Natives living in their territory get money as a means of sustaining the communities.
  • The Oner: "Keith" has one when Detective Cardinal and Lise search for the killer in a school.
  • The Show of the Books: Every season is based on a different Cardinal book. Series one is Forty Words for Sorrow, series two is Black Fly Season, series three combines By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine, and series four is Until the Night.
  • Sigil Spam: You can see the red maple leaf in the uniform, including rank lapels and cap in the AB uniforms. Truth in Television that most police forces in Canada use this in their logos or on their uniforms.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In "John Cardinal", Detective Cardinal accosts Constable K. Fox who goes to a crime scene without being cleared off by forensics officers, potentially contaminating the evidence. He tells him to remove his police-issued winter boots and leave the scene.
    Cardinal: Constable, I'm gonna need your boots.
    Constable Fox: My boots?
    Cardinal: And then I want you to go home. You're dismissed.
    Constable Fox: Sir.
    Cardinal: You have kids? Pets? Carpet in your TV room?
    Constable Fox: I have two kids.
    Cardinal: Their DNA is now contaminating the crime scene, the unprocessed crime scene - that you chose to enter.
    Constable Fox: Sir, I swear, I...
    Cardinal: Let me tell you something. If one day we're lucky enough to get this guy, I can't have you serving up freebies to his defence attorney. So off they come.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In Season 1: John Cardinal: It's revealed that Lise is recruited by the RCMP to hunt down for a corrupt officer, specifically to check on rumors if Cardinal was a Dirty Cop or not; Woody: Cardinal learns that Lise that she didn't leave financial crimes and is scheduled to go back once her stint to investigate him is over.
    • Season 2: El Brujo: Catherine Cardinal, John's wife, appears to have killed herself after finding out the truth that Cardinal was protecting her from the mob war.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The AB police is hunting for a serial killer who has no qualms in going after teens who go off the grid throughout the first season.
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