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Series / Roadkill

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Look behind the smile.
Roadkill is a 2020 BBC miniseries about cabinet minister Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) and the dark past that haunts him.

Helen McCrory (in her final acting performance before her death in April 2021) plays PM Dawn Ellison, who doesn't trust Peter.

Tropes present in Roadkill:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Depending on who the viewer supports. On one hand, Peter successfully gets away with every crime or moral failing and becomes even more powerful as a result. Lily, Sydney, and Duncan end up suffering or getting dismissed as a result of Peter's success. On the other hand, Peter's friends have more control over him than he thinks and his wife's refusal to dissolve one of his private accounts could prove the end of his career if it gets exposed.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Peter's daughter Lily getting caught doing drugs at a party, right after he's been placed to run the Justice Ministry, is frequently noted by his critics. Its part of why Duncan insists on investigating the possibility of an another daughter in prison.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: The warden of the Rosa's prison is of particular note. When she isn't ruthless, Rosa notes that the facility has little support despite its large funding and the staff is poorly trained, to the point a guard admits she doesn't know how to use a defibrillator when a prisoner goes into a drug overdose. But rather than improve conditions, she refuses Rosa's official complaint, implies that the prisoners gave up their rights when they became criminals, and uses her authority to gain an advantage over Peter Laurence.
  • Decoy Protagonist: It seems as if Charmian is one of the two protagonists, the Intrepid Reporter with a Dark and Troubled Past who's going to take down Peter. But halfway through the second episode of a four-episode series, right after she's found an important witness to Peter's corruption, she's hit in the street by a truck and killed.
  • Distant Finale: The ending of the last episode comes eight weeks later, with Peter triumphing and becoming Prime Minister, but with his wife still holding the incriminating papers to Stanfield Titles.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: Rosa's cellmmate Steph quickly falls into despair when it becomes apparent her sentence has been extended and it only gets worse for her from there.
  • Fictional Counterpart: All Talk radio presumably stands in for LBC.
    • Government offices are slightly renamed - the Department for Transport becomes the Ministry of Transport, whereas the Ministry of Justice becomes the Department of Justice.note  Unlike in some other examples, the royal coat of arms in each departmental logo is not redesigned, but filmed so that they are subtly blurred. Also, Laurence is consistently called "Minister" and never "Secretary of State", with no mention of the attached office of Lord Chancellor either.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Zig-zagged with Lily and Susan. Initially, Lily seems more responsible as the respected college student, while Susan vanished on a drug binge. Then Lily gets caught at a drug-filled party, while Susan has cleaned up and works in helping the environment. Their attitudes further complicate the roles: while Lily is horrified by the flaws in her family, Susan is laidback and amused by the chaos around her.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: A scene at the grim women's prison mess hall is followed by a cut to a fancy government soirée where Margaret Moore is toting around a plate of hors d'oeuvre.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Deconstructed. Charmian’s pursuit of Laurence’s crimes and insistence on protecting her sources like any good version of the trope... but when she can’t back up her story, the insurance company for the newspaper won’t pay out for the lawsuit. Part of the reason she has to pursue the truth is to save her job after she’s cost the newspaper over a million pounds. Even after Joe picks up where Charmian left off, the financial risk proves too great for the paper and they bury any Peter stories.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Peter's problems start in the first episode when he receives word that someone in a woman's prison is claiming to be his daughter.
  • The Mole: Sydney, Peter's chauffeur. She hates him and is spilling his secrets.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Part of why people adore Peter is due to how respectful he is to people regardless of class. But while he's pleasant to their faces, he's also perfectly happy to plot to sabotage the NHS, hurting those same constituents that love him, for the sake of profit.
  • Obsessively Organized: Peter is notably picky about even a slight stain on someone's clothes and people eating in front of him. While he plays it off as nothing important, he grouses loudly to Duncan in private about people getting sloppy.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Vanessa, a career Civil Service bureaucrat and undersecretary at Ministry of Justice, who regards Peter as an interloper and pushes against his reforms.
  • Out-Gambitted: By the season finale, Peter's family has fallen apart, the paper is about to release Charmian's evidence, and his enemies are positioned to expose Rosa if he steps out of line. Then Peter chooses to simply reveal the existence of his daughter on live tv and fully accept her. The touching act quickly makes it impossible for the paper to expose him without looking petty or for his enemies to control him. Even his wife seems to forgive him, despite her reservations. Within two months, his popularity skyrocketed him to become Prime Minister.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Rosa is startled when Peter pulls out a phone in the prison meeting room, saying it's not allowed. Peter's only reply is "I'm the Minister of Justice."
  • Smart People Play Chess: Peter and Adam the party chairman are playing chess at the end of episode 3, in a scene that demonstrates their political scheming.
  • That's an Order!: Peter has to say this to Vanessa when she resists re-inserting his prison reform proposals into his budget bill.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Charmian is an alcoholic. Sober a few months, she goes to a meeting in the first episode after getting fired from the newspaper.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Laurence mentions that Brexit is over and Britain has moved on. It's not mentioned, but presumably the Coronavirus pandemic has been survived also.
  • Visual Title Drop: At the end of episode 2, while distracted by a stressful phone call from his wife, Peter hits a deer.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Despite being a self-professed libertarian interested in cutting costs, Peter appears to genuinely believe that privatizing Britain's health care will improve life for Britons. He's also disgusted with British prisons and hopes to improve lives for prisoners with his reforms.