The second episode of Roadkill continues along in much the same vein as the first, full of ridiculous subplots, some over the top grandstanding from Hugh Laurie’s self-serving Peter Laurence, now officially the Minister of Justice, multiple car crashes of both the literal and figurative variety, and just enough of Helen McCrory’s Prime Minister to keep me from chucking the whole thing in the bin.
The thing is, playwright David Hare is obviously an immensely talented writer, but I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps truly is better suited to the stage, where the glue that holds his big theatrical moments together isn’t quite so obvious? (This is maybe another way of me saying that even at just four episodes, I suspect this show is going to be too long? I’m not sure.)
Anyway, this week, a bunch of stuff happens. Too much stuff, if I’m honest, since there are multiple subplots that I couldn’t be less interested in at the moment and honestly zoned out during. Though the show has been setting up scrappy – and publicly humiliated – reporter Charmian Pepper as a sort of feel-good antagonist for Laurence by sending her off to America to do the investigative job she should have managed before the trial that kicked off this series, and showing her finding incriminating evidence, it also seemingly kills her off in the same episode at the hands of a sketchy lobbyist. (Or rather, the car whose path she ran into because she was drugged and chased by said sketchy lobbyist.)
Granted, there’s every chance that Charmian somehow miraculously survives the hit and run that appears to have ended her life. Roadkill seems precisely the sort of show that would do that, after all, and with only two episodes remaining, there’s not a lot of time left for someone to retrace all her boring investigative steps about the half-million pounds Laurence apparently made to talk about pharmaceuticals and the discreet privatization of the NHS.
And, to be honest, I don’t even like the character that much, but she certainly deserves a better ending than being shoved off the wagon by a guy who spiked her drink, stalked through the streets of a strange city by a random dude insisting he “just wants to talk”, and getting hit by a car. But, then again, perhaps it’s just another example of this show’s sort of nihilistic view of the world manifesting itself in the story.
Elsewhere, the media gets ahold of those photos depicting Laurence’s daughter Lily snorting cocaine in a nightclub, which leads to a father-daughter fight about personal responsibility (irony is truly dead, I guess) and the revelation that the apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial family tree.
Angry at her dad for distancing himself from her and her public drug antics, Lily decides to start stalking him around London, which leads to her discovery of his affair. I mean, she doesn’t have to really work that hard at it since the sum total of her investigation involves asking his driver, who insists that she can’t rat out her boss for like .34 seconds before spilling everything. (Have, say, any of the journalists obsessing over him ever thought of this trick? Just curious.)
Lily’s decision to inform her mother about her father’s affair is petty and cruel, but we don’t know enough about her to really judge whether it’s a malicious move or simply a girl acting out to get some attention from a father who seems determined to ignore her. The motivations of Peter’s wife, Helen, are similarly unclear – though she seems to have known her husband was unfaithful, minus the specifics, of course, whether it actually bothers her or simply keeps him out of the life she’d rather be living, is anyone’s guess.
Prime Minister Dawn Ellison rakes Laurence over the coals for his impromptu speech about prison reform what feels like mere hours after his installation as the new Justice minister, and makes a few heavy-handed comments about how the Tory party is basically known for their zeal when it comes to locking people up. I know I mentioned this last week, but if this is Hare’s attempt at a realistic portrayal of conservative politics, well…boy, I don’t know.
On some level, Laurence’s views on drugs and prison are interesting, because they are unconventional enough to feel genuine, unlike the many cynical positions he seems to hold because they’re popular or expedient. But the decision to shut down any real discussion of the issue by carte blanche declaring that Tories simply love to put people in prison is…well, let’s just call it diminutive.
Laurie and McCrory remain the best scene partners in this series, and if the show were smart it would find more reasons to throw them together, perhaps instead of the illegitimate daughter subplot that everyone is treating like a ticking time bomb for reasons I can’t entirely understand.
Sure, young convict Rose is interesting enough on her own and has certainly inherited her father’s clever mind and ability to manipulate others. But it’s still not clear what role she has to play in this show – does anyone think the sudden arrival of a third daughter he has never met will suddenly spur Peter into treating her any better than he does the two he already has? Is her existence meant to humble or embarrass him in some way? The idea that an illegitimate daughter is a death knell for his political hopes is…well, honestly, in the year of our Lord 2020, it’s almost quaint.
“What’s the one thing I have learned? You can get away with anything if you just brazen it out!” Laurence declares, reveling in the statement as though it’s some sort of brand-new information we haven’t watched play out on the daily for the better part of the last decade.
Whether Roadkill means for us to find all this shocking, or to just hope against hope that one of his many scandals will ultimately bring Peter down, isn’t entirely clear. The hamfisted deer in the headlights metaphor that closes the hour – and presumably gives the series its name – can work in either direction, whether you feel inclined to cast the political system or Laurence himself as a victim of his own hubris. Either way, who knows where this story goes from here.