In Cardinal, a Canadian crime drama that’s having its U.S. premiere on Hulu, Billy Campbell lowers his voice to a slow rasp — a rumbly monotone — and leaves it there. He murmurs every line as though he’s both weary and apprehensive about being overheard — not the most reassuring demeanor for a guy who’s supposed to be in charge of a homicide investigation. Campbell’s police detective John Cardinal seems as though he might be hiding something, and the show wants you to be both charmed by and leery of him.
Based on a well-received mystery novel by Giles Blunt (Forty Words for Sorrow), Cardinal is set in some remote-looking, snow-banked section of Canada, where Campbell’s Detective Cardinal is investigating someone who’s been killing children. In the opening episode, Cardinal gets a new partner, police detective Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), who — well, I’ll quote Cardinal’s teen daughter, upon meeting her: “Is that your new partner? Dad, she’s hot!” Delorme is also not what she seems: politely reserved on the outside, but a potential threat to Cardinal.
With his salt-and-pepper beard and carefully mussed hair, Campbell has been set up to play a brooding character designed to bring a flutter to the hearts of murder-mystery fans. I found the crimes too similar to a dozen recent TV whodunits, and Campbell’s solemn croak an irritating affectation. But enough Canadians enjoyed this mystery to get the show renewed for a second season even before it made its American premiere, so maybe you’ll be more inveigled than I was.
Season 1 of Cardinal is streaming on Hulu.
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