Cardinal leaves you just as cold as the location that it is shot in and for the first episode of a series, it fails to keep your attention. It’s filled with dreadfully slow pacing, scenes that overstay their welcome and characters that are as dry as cardboard.
In a small Northern Ontario town shed in snow, Detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is investigating the death of 13-year-old Katie Pine, alongside Detective Lise Delorme, who suspects him for wrongdoing. It could have been an intriguing story about a detective who once was forced to leave due to focusing too much on one case and his partner suspecting him. But no, Cardinal turns into a slog.
The characters are one note. There is no sense of personality from the supporting cast as each of these characters simply give information to Cardinal and have no substance. Take Delorme for example; there’s nothing to take from her as she says bland lines throughout the entire first episode. There are attempts at humor here and there like two people fighting despite getting a new television from the store and Cardinal noting that to Delorme, but the joke falls flat.
Billy Campbell playing Cardinal is hit-and-miss. Without saying a word, you can tell how his character is feeling and Campbell is so effective during these moments. For example, as details are given about how the victim was treated, you can see how tormented he feels about the case. The humanity within him throughout the episode is sapped away as he struggles with his demons. However, his hushed voice is really distracting and contrived for a genre that is full of these caricatures. It lacks emotion and the writing behind the voice just makes the character so unappealing to follow. There is little reason to root for him, especially towards the end, and that is a major reason why this series will probably not be a hit.
The writing is dreadfully slow and despite how much time it gives to potential character development, the script leaves little room. Try to remember one or two names from this show after watching it, and that would be impressive. Like a non-playable character in a video game, they’re just information carriers and that’s it.
However, this show does have a style to it. It’s slow, but at the same time, creates an atmosphere that is unmatched. It feels uncomfortable with its darker tones of editing and cinematography, and it gives extra time to show the reactions of the townsfolk rather than simply cutting away into another shot.
If you’re in the mood for a criminal drama, go watch Elementary, Longmire, or even NCIS. The characters are further fleshed out in these shows and their plotlines pull you in far more than Cardinal’s. This is one investigation that’s not worthy of your time.