Roadkill is a series that’s comprised of just four episodes, the sort of short length that makes you think that it has to be a show that knows what sort of story it’s telling and what its ultimate endgame is. But three-fourths of the way through the thing, it’s really hard to feel even remotely confident that it does.
The cliffhangers from last week’s episode shake out exactly the way we expected – struggling reporter Charmian Pepper is dead and all-around dirtbag Peter Laurence ends up with his arm in a sling, because that’s the way these stories go, generally.
Charmian’s death vaguely motivates barrister Rochelle to do the right thing and decide to go after Peter herself, but that’s as much of an in-memoriam as the poor girl gets, outside of a handful of people randomly mocking her alcoholism. Will we ever find out who truly killed her? The show doesn’t seem terribly interested in the question, so I’d maybe not hold your breath.
(Don’t even ask me how her dictaphone full of incriminating evidence made it back to England in one piece, or why it wasn’t crushed along with her body in the accident that killed her. Of course, the show also doesn't care enough to answer those questions, so we're on our own there too.)
Instead, the bulk of this hour is devoted to the slow devastation of Peter’s personal life, which is great television from a dramatic perspective, but barely ties into any of the overarching narratives this show’s been trying to build in any real way. But, given that it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this show doesn’t really have a point, it’s certainly not a bad way to pass the time.
Messy Laurence daughter Lily convenes a family dinner summit, even forcing her erstwhile sister Susan home to attend, all so that she can fully expose her father’s infidelity, embarrass her mother in front of the whole family and make herself feel better about her own personal failings. The four-hander dinner scene in which the Laurences all snipe at one another is one of the best sequences the show has yet done, split between the righteously furious Lily who seems determined to justify her poor choices by way of her father’s general crappiness; the snarky Susan, who seems to performatively hate the lot of them; and the removed Helen, who seems angriest about being forced to face the reality she’s built her life around not knowing.
Everyone is the most extra throughout the entire thing. There’s Helen’s insistence that she didn’t mind being ignored and cheated on, so long as she got to, you know, stage her Handel performances or whatever and not have the neighbors pity her. Then there’s Lily’s detailed deconstruction of the way her father is at fault for her own series of damaged romantic relationships, one of which may or may not have ultimately resulted in domestic violence. By the end, Peter’s sudden confession to a completely different infidelity than the one that brought the meeting together – and the existence of a subsequent illegitimate child – just feels like the natural, insane end to proceedings.
One has to wonder how this family has even survived this long – surprise the answer isn’t love or even the remnants of once genuine affection, it’s mutually assured destruction. Helen, you see, lied for her dirtbag husband at his trial, vowing he was in New York when he was really busy grifting in Washington, D.C.
Even the characters you thought you could at least safely feel bad for turn out to be horrible people. This show is mentally exhausting, y’all.
On the plus side, after Helen kicks Peter out of the house for…the night? The foreseeable? Until he needs her to testify for him again?...he heads to Madeline’s where his mistress is none too happy to see him. Apparently, she’s not as happy to be his forever bit on the side as he once assumed, and was really just waiting for him to properly ask her whether she wanted to be more than the other woman for him.
Elsewhere, Peter’s illegitimate daughter Rose is itching to meet her father, particularly after her one prison friend tragically dies in an overdose and she starts threatening the prison with what I assume is meant to be a government intervention or review or something but doesn't really go anywhere, especially once the prison staff figures out that she's in some way connected to Laurence's recent visit. We learn that Rose is in prison because she too is a former grifter, one who seems to think very highly of her own skills at manipulation.
There’s something that ought to be sort of sweetly charming about this character, whose bravado and tough front turns out to be a cover for the fact that she just wants to be accepted and validated by her biological father. Instead, it’s just a plot that feels superfluous to the rest of the show – it’s not like Peter is suddenly going to care about her, is it? He’s ruined two daughters already, why would we ever hope he gets anywhere near his third?
With just one episode left, it seems relatively impossible to guess how Roadkill is going to wrap up. This hour seems to hint that some kind of justice is creeping up on Peter, from Rochelle’s retrieval of Charmian’s dictaphone full of incriminating interviews to Duncan’s visible hurt after being raked over the coals by his boss. (He does, after all, know where all the proverbial bodies are buried.)
Yet, nothing about this show so far has indicated that it's particularly interested in things like justice or consequences, so I’m not sure why we should expect it to start doing so now.
What do you think will happen in the Roadkill finale? Let’s discuss in the comments.