Cardinal

Misunderstand me if you choose.

The cop procedural is a well-worn and perennial path to success. Malevolence and violence are as much a part of good people as bad. Exploring the line between those of us who choose not to indulge in those menu items and those who do is the ultimate hook; our dark side is mysterious, and all the more so for being a readily harvested forbidden fruit.

Writers and their subsidiary backers know the universal appeal of easily digestible television death. Fascination with dark motives and the worst side of our nature will never subside. An animal capable of species destruction and introspection about such an event will survive only if constantly faced with the horror of which we’re all capable.

Canadian television shows follow the predictable path of most nationally-based productions. They are held hostage to a political context – in the border-defined sense – with story falling to secondary rank. They’re Canadian detectives, investigating a Canadian murder, in Canada.

Fair enough. If you’re a state-run place like Ontario or Quebec, or Australia or the UK, government power speaks. Promoting statist values comes as a condition of access to the money.

Contrast that old-style tv-making philosophy with the first season of Cardinal on Hulu. Different from other Canuck cop dramas from the off, there’s no little magic running as a thread through this show. Who cares about the plot? Watching Billy Campbell whisper his way around ever more horrific violence he cannot control could be a simple case of excellent acting. But it’s not. Something special is at work here.

Also at play are the peripheral elements of quality tv. Introductory scenes, introductory and incidental music, lighting, photography, direction; every little thing adds up to something. Oh, and the story.

Horror emanates from the association we viewers can make with the psychopath murderer and his betwixt cipher. The awfulness is portrayed as being far too close to reasonableness.

Let’s not bypass the power of Karine Vanasse. A stillness in the malestrom of horror, she has lines from the gritty god of realism, but delivers them with silky ethereality.

Cardinal, on Hulu.

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