Friday, August 18, 2017
Orange County Screenwriters Association


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Cardinal

cardinal caI admit that I am a sucker for these shows.  A body is found or a person is killed and a flawed detective has to solve the crime.  Along the way will be surprises, twists, solid drama and a killer you probably could guess - well, maybe.

"Cardinal" is just such a series Giles Blunt’s acclaimed crime novels "Cardinal" takes place in the cold climes of the North Bay, Ontario.

Let me also say that 10 episodes can be a long sit.  With ten episodes the attenuation of actual narrative thread is almost always guaranteed.  "Forbrydelsen" at 20 episodes didn't seem long at all; The American version, "The Killing" did.  So maybe it's just the way the story is told.  But I like that I like that "Cardinal" is six.  That means that we won't have to put up with much filler and we'll get more actual connected story.

As mentioned, you know the plot.  Girl's body found.  Old case that was never solved.  Previous detective who couldn't solve the crime the first time around is brought back.  He's bitter, cynical but still focused on the one case he couldn't resolve.

CardinalBilly Campbell plays the central character Cardinal.  His newly minted partner is, Kristen Thomson, a Canadian actress who you may know from the series "Flashpoint."

Now all this does seem familiar even though the way the little girl died is quite gruesome however there is a twist.  I won't say what it is or how it all comes out (because I don't know) but the end of episode one had me sitting up straight because the filmmakers just threw a curve that made me pay even more attention.

I read that each ep was budgeted at 1.8 meg and it shows.  Great production values.  It was shot in Ontario so the snow is ass-deep in every scene which adds to the bleakness of the crime and Campbell's character's malaise.  One scene is particular is stunningly shot - I've never seen anything like it before.

"Cardinal" doesn't wallow in the malaise.  There's a crime, new clues and Cardinal is determined to solve it.  There's even a great moment where his superior says (words to the effect) of go ahead and enjoy the moment when you'll tell me I told you so.  Meaning, he's been redeemed on at least a few of his contentions about this crime the first time around.  Great and so human which just adds to the feeling of veracity.  Plus, Cardinal is not exactly in love with the idea of his new partner which we've seen before but the way the relationship is written is fantastic. 

The first thing he does when he discovers that he's been saddled with a partner with no homicide or investigative experience is hand her his dozens of unsolved lesser investigations.  He's burying her in busy work.  But that's real, right?  I mean who will work on those cases if he doesn't?  You hardly ever see that detail mentioned in most shows.  Detectives have dozens of ongoing cases - one case cannot consume them as in TV unless they are given some sort of special dispensation and/or they hand off the other cases.  Thomson's character does fight back in such a human way as she's being marginalized.  And it's straightforward and simple.  That's what I really loved about the touches on this police drama.  They felt real(ish.)

imallgesThere's also a moment when Cardinal has to go to the mother of the dead girl to tell her that they will release her body soon.  He says that they will give the investigation all the resources at their disposal.  She says you said that before in such a flat, believable affect that you really feel the awkwardness in the room.  As it must be in real life.  The unresolved anger of a parent who loses a child - who do you blame if not yourself or the killer?  The cops who didn't keep your little girl safe nor gave you a focus for that anger.  Excellent, subtle touch.

Plus, plus, plus...this show's got a ton of really good, believable moments that really make you squirm.

I really enjoyed the first episode of "Cardinal."  It was well-written, well-executed and it felt like there was a lot to come soon.  That's why I feel like the six episode arc is going to be great - they have to get on with it, not drag the story through the symbolic snow for episode after episode of red herrings and side trips that mean nothing.

"Cardinal" is a Canadian production and those are just getting better and better.  Starting to love their TV stuff more than just about any other country.

I'm hoping that this all bears out my expectations.  I'll let you know if it doesn't.

 

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