Cardinal: Until the Night, review: this mediocre Canadian noir should have been left out in the cold

Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse star in Cardinal: Until the Night - BBC
Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse star in Cardinal: Until the Night - BBC

For those tired of Nordic noir, how about the Canadian version? You still get cold weather, thermal outerwear and murders, but you don’t have to concentrate on the subtitles.

The first three series of Cardinal ran on BBC Four and now it has been deemed worthy of a move to BBC Two in a trio of double bills. I’m not quite sure why. It has the feel of a daytime series or one of those cheap films they show at two in the afternoon on the more obscure drama channels, except every now and then we get a very grim shot of a maimed corpse, and no daytime show would so cruelly dispense with a little old lady as happened in episode two. The victim in episode one was a politician reported missing by his wife, who ended up being tied to a log in the snow and freezing to death.

The politician and his wife had an open marriage. Could this be a clue to his killer? Well, you’d think so, but cop duo John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) didn’t seem to be investigating it. They were busy having scintillating exchanges in the car. Her: “Are you OK?” Him: (soulful pause) “Yeah.”

The series is based on Giles Blunt’s crime novels, set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay in Northern Ontario, and I suspect the stories work well on the page. On screen they fill an hour-and-a-half in satisfactory fashion, while doing nothing remarkable. Campbell has just enough charisma to carry the series, in a distinctly unshowy style – he started his career as a Dynasty character who died at the Moldavian royal wedding massacre, so perhaps he’s been toning things down ever since. I think there is supposed to be some romantic tension between Cardinal and Delorme, but it manifests itself as her announcing she’s moving to Toronto, and him telling her he’s happy for her when he isn’t really, and then we cut to more snow.

Where other shows have made a feature of their snowy locations – Fargo, Fortitude – here it just means they can do murder-by-hypothermia and everyone wears a parka with a furry hood. It also makes for horrible lighting – instead of considering whether or not the widow’s ever-present police friend was in on the crime, I found myself wishing she had consulted a Farrow and Ball colour card when decorating her house.

The whole thing was so chilly that it left me craving a show that is the absolute opposite of this in every way: Death in Paradise.