It may feel eerily close to home at times but BBC One’s new political thriller Roadkill is entirely fictionalised. Starring Hugh Laurie as Tory minister Peter Laurence, the drama delves into the world of Conservative-governed Britain, discussing the price of political success and the lengths to which people are willing to go in order to secure their place at the top. The four-part miniseries manages to breathe new life into this age-old tale of power and greed, mixing elements of mystery, scandal and sabotage into each hourlong episode.
Opening with a scene on the courthouse steps, we first meet Peter Laurence in the aftermath of a libel case. Having sued a newspaper for claiming he was evading tax via offshore accounts (among other things), we see the politician proudly discussing his win with the press, presenting himself as a man of the people who doesn’t stand for secrecy or cover-ups. However, soon after the crowd dissipates, Peter is informed that he has received a call from an incarcerated woman who claims to be his daughter. Deciding to investigate, Peter heads to the prison with his trusty advisor to interview the inmate. On arrival he is greeted by a woman who claims that her cellmate is Peter's long-lost child, whose mother he had a brief relationship with in the 1990s.
Quickly dismissing the claim as nonsense, Peter leaves the prison to attend a meeting at Downing Street but private discussions in the car make it clear that the woman's claim may hold some weight. Still, with no damning evidence to prove he’s the father, the pair smugly write off the accusation and head for Westminster to meet the prime minister (Peaky Blinders' Helen McCrory). It transpires that the libel case has made the Tory leader keen to find out more about Peter's past, which he confidently assures her is "squeaky clean". His confirmation of a skeleton-free closet comes as welcome news to the prime minister, who explains she is planning a cabinet reshuffle which could see Peter promoted from transport secretary to a "great office of state", much to his delight.
Switching lanes to the other side of London, we learn that Charmian (Normal People's Sarah Greene), the journalist responsible for publishing the story about Peter’s personal finances, has cost the newspaper £1.5 million in damages. While she insists that the information published is true, a switchover in evidence left her without substantial proof in court, meaning her reputation and job security is now in serious jeopardy. Struggling with her sobriety due to the day's disastrous court hearing, Charmian goes to an AA meeting, where she happens to run into one of the lawyers assigned to work on Peter’s case. He offers his advice off the record, claiming that the verdict at the trial was unjust and encouraging Charmian to dip deeper into the details of the minister’s discrepancies.
Strange as it may sound, the drama’s narrative is somewhat reminiscent of Love Actually (and not just because they both feature politicians played by famous Hughs). The first episode introduces us to a multitude of main characters with individual storylines and motives which contribute to the wider plot. Much like a Richard Curtis rom-com, the audience has to solve the mystery of who is connected to whom and how, with each character somehow involved in Peter’s personal or political life. This dot-to-dot makes the pace of the drama welcomingly fast, as the viewer pieces together the trajectory of the seemingly unrelated plotlines.
The series’ screenwriter David Hare has made it clear that the story isn’t based on any real Tory cabinet members but it’s hard not to make comparisons to party politicians past and present. Diving deep into Conservative concepts like astute ambition and personal gain, the show says a lot about the detrimental effects these mindsets can have on others. But it isn’t all doom and gloom: the series integrates its messages into fast-moving, cleverly written and sometimes comedic scenes. The idea of a Westminster-based thriller may have you heading for the hills, given the current state of the world, but I can assure you that the first episode of Roadkill proves it to be an entertaining and easily digestible take on political power in Britain. Just maybe don't binge it all in one go.
Roadkill premieres at 9pm on Sunday 18th October on BBC One and will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer soon after.