Moody ‘Car­di­nal’ won’t let go of an un­solved mur­der


Car­di­nal is TV’s ver­sion of a riv­et­ing sum­mer beach read — in a very chilly pack­age. Hulu’s six-episode weekly mur­der mys­tery ( Fri­day,

out of four), based on the nov­els of Giles Blunt, fo­cuses on po­lice de­tec­tive John Car­di­nal (Billy Camp­bell, The Killing), whose tena­cious search for a miss­ing in­dige­nous teen girl in a snow-cov­ered, north­ern On­tario com­mu­nity even­tu­ally puts him on the trail of a se­rial killer.

Car­di­nal is a fa­mil­iar mur­dermys­tery type, the dam­aged but ded­i­cated de­tec­tive whose in­abil­ity to let go of a dead-end investigation threatens his ca­reer but ul­ti­mately leads to solv­ing the crime.

How­ever, the Cana­dian se­ries adds an in­trigu­ing twist: the in­ves­ti­ga­tor also is the in­ves­ti­gated, as Car­di­nal’s be­hav­ior in a pre­vi­ous case may come back to haunt him.

Camp­bell, whose salt-and-pep­per beard and un­kempt hair bring his hand­some­ness down to mere mor­tal pro­por­tions, mas­ter­fully in­hab­its a tired, weath­ered man strug­gling with his wife’s men­tal ill­ness and the phys­i­cal dis­tance from a lov­ing daugh­ter who at­tends school in Toronto. Pro­fes­sion­ally, de­spite frus­tra­tion with the brass, he’s a re­lent­less in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

View­ers meet Car­di­nal dur­ing a ho-hum shop­ping-cen­ter stake­out, when he’s shaken from his stupor — lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively — by de­tec­tive Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse, Re­venge) and news that the teen girl’s frozen body has fi­nally been found, af­ter the Al­go­nquin Bay po­lice de­part­ment had moved on to other in­ves­ti­ga­tions and Car­di­nal, an­gered by that de­ci­sion, has been de­moted.

The re­opened case re­vi­tal­izes Car­di­nal. So does Delorme, who lacks his ex­pe­ri­ence but matches him in savvy and per­sis­tence. The joust­ing and bond­ing be­tween the se­nior An­glo in­ves­ti­ga­tor and his younger French-Cana­dian part­ner gives Car­di­nal emo­tional depth.

View­ers meet the mur­derer, Eric Fraser (Bren­dan Fletcher), early in the se­ries, which fol­lows the po­lice and the sus­pect on separate paths des­tined to in­ter­sect. Some plot co­in­ci­dences seem too pat, but the in­trigue pulls view­ers into the episodes, writ­ten by ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Aubrey Nealon ( Or­phan Black). Tor­ture scenes are trou­bling — and still too com­mon in TV and movies — although some of the grue­some­ness is hinted at or shown af­ter the fact.

The win­try set­ting works on lit­eral and me­taphor­i­cal lev­els, as a pic­ture of na­ture’s cold beauty and a defin­ing el­e­ment that grounds Car­di­nal in place and mood. (The abun­dance of snow and ice, fea­tured in gor­geous cin­e­matog­ra­phy, might help heat­stricken view­ers drop their in­ter­nal ther­mostats a few de­grees.)

Seem­ingly end­less birch forests de­fine Al­go­nquin Bay’s re­mote­ness, while a thick snow­pack, frozen lakes and opaque, low-hang­ing clouds echo the char­ac­ter’s con­fined, muf­fled emo­tional core — which only his wife, his daugh­ter, the teen vic­tim’s mother and now Lise can pen­e­trate.

For view­ers fear­ful of com­mit­ment, Car­di­nal re­solves its crime over its six-episode first sea­son. For­tu­nately, the se­ries has been re­newed for two more sea­sons, leav­ing time to in­ves­ti­gate other crimes from the nov­els and the char­ac­ters’ messy lives, in­clud­ing Delorme’s fas­ci­nat­ing (and Car­di­nal-like) strug­gle to bal­ance the pro­fes­sional and per­sonal.

That’s good news for view­ers, whether they’re watch­ing at the beach house, the ski chalet or any place (or sea­son) in be­tween.


Billy Camp­bell plays John Car­di­nal, a dam­aged but de­ter­mined homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor, in Hulu’s Car­di­nal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.