Roadkill episode 1 recap: who is the real villain in this twisty political thriller?

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Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode one of BBC One’s Roadkill, so do not read on unless you are fully up to date with the political thriller

The first must-watch installment of BBC One’s Roadkill dropped bombshell after bombshell after bombshell.

The episode kicked off with government minister Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) celebrating a successful win in a newspaper libel case after journalist Charmian Pepper (Sarah Greene) changed her story on the witness stand. 

His barrister Rochelle Madeley (Pippa Bennett-Warner), though, isn’t convinced of her client’s innocence. At all. And so, when a mysterious woman calling herself Margaret approaches her with evidence against Peter, Rochelle doesn’t exactly turn her away. 

Roadkill recap: Charmian (Sarah Greene) is poised to do some hardcore digging on Peter’s shady plans for the NHS.
Roadkill recap: Charmian (Sarah Greene) is poised to do some hardcore digging on Peter’s shady plans for the NHS.

PM Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) doesn’t necessarily believe Peter is guilt-free either. Whether he was trying to privatise the NHS or not, though, doesn’t seem to matter to her. All she wants is for Peter to promise that he will never take the media to court ever again. Which he does readily enough when she hints that an imminent Cabinet reshuffle could benefit his political career.

Unfortunately for our anti-hero, though, his life seems to be falling apart – or is being picked apart by enemies, at least. 

First up, there’s Steff (Gbemisola Ikumelo), an inmate at Stephill Prison who meets with Peter and drops a massive bombshell: he has an illegitimate daughter and, yeah, she’s also doing time.

Then there’s recovering alcoholic Charmian, who – despite being fired after costing her newspaper some £1 million in legal fees – has convinced former boss Joe Lapidus (Pip Torrens) to fly her out to Washington so she can do some hardcore digging on Peter’s shady plans for the NHS.

Peter’s chauffeur, Sydney (Emma Cunniffe), seems friendly enough, but she clearly has her own opinions on the Conservative MP. Luke Strand (Danny Ashock) may have been part of Peter’s defence team, but he’s steadily feeding information about his client to members of the press. And Joy Pelling (Yolanda Kettle) loves working for the minister. Which makes it all the more galling that Peter is only keeping her in employment so she doesn’t spill all of his deepest, darkest secrets to the press.

Throw in the fact that Peter’s special advisor Duncan Knock (Iain de Caestecker) is sleeping with Julia Blythe (Olivia Vinall) – as in, yes, the ever-watchful private secretary to the prime minister – and you have a recipe for one of the twistiest, turniest TV thrillers in years.

So, has the first episode of Roadkill left you with more questions than answers? Don’t worry: Stylist’s digital editor-at-large Kayleigh Dray is here to do her utmost best to unravel them all.

First things first, who is the young woman claiming to be Peter’s daughter? 

Fine, the show never explicitly states whom Steff is speaking on behalf of when she approaches Peter. However, it drops more than enough hints that his alleged daughter is fellow inmate Rose Dietl (Shalom Brune-Franklin) via a series of lingering shots and meaningful looks exchanged between her and Steff.

Is she telling the truth about him being her dad? And why is she in prison?

We don’t know much about Rose. At all. We don’t know why she’s in prison, we don’t know what her relationship is with Steff, and we definitely don’t know if she’s telling the truth about Peter. Although, based on his reaction, it’s fair to say that it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that this sleazy MP would have fathered a child he doesn’t know about. Perhaps even multiple children, if we look to real-life events for inspiration (ahem).

All we really know about Rose is this: she has more than enough foresight to cover the CCTV cameras in the prison canteen when the riots begin. And she’s keen to stop Steff from getting involved in the violence and lengthening her sentence, even if Steff isn’t bothered herself.

Roadkill recap: Is everyone out to take Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) down?
Roadkill recap: Is everyone out to take Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) down?

What’s up with Julia? What’s her big secret?

Peter seems to know, instinctively, that Julia doesn’t like him. He even asks Dawn to send the private secretary out of the room during their meetings – a request which the prime minister politely rebuffs.

The big question is this: what history is there between Peter and Julia? And what has driven the latter to dig deep for dirt on the slippery MP? Because, let’s face it, that’s almost 100% the reason she’s sleeping with Duncan.

How did Charmian get hold of Peter’s diary?

Charmian may have been forced to say otherwise in court, but she knows that Peter was in Washington when he claims to have been in New York. She knows it because she read it in his diary. 

But, when her boss tries to convince her to reveal who gave her the diary in the first place, Charmian refuses to give up her sources. We know it must be someone close to Peter, though, because only those in his inner circle would have access to such an important document. 

Joy seems to be the obvious suspect, as she’s shown handing Peter his diary early on in the episode. But this feels almost too obvious: a red herring, if you will. So, was it Duncan? Or Peter’s wife, perhaps? Or maybe it was even his mistress, Madeleine Hall (Sidse Babett Knudsen)?

Roadkill recap: PM Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) is unconvinced of Peter's innocence.
Roadkill recap: PM Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) is unconvinced of Peter's innocence.

And who edited the diary?

Someone edited the details in Peter’s diary to cover up the fact that he was in Washington, or so claims Charmian. Duncan seems the obvious culprit here, as he doesn’t just look up to Peter: he sees him as his ticket to the top, too. But we’re thinking Joy could also be a contender for the role of amateur editor (see below for more on this).

What does Joy know about Peter and Duncan?

Joy has serious dirt on the duo, because Duncan has warned Peter he absolutely cannot fire Joy under any circumstances.

“She knows what we did,” he reminds his boss. 

This could mean that she knows they made plans to sell off the NHS, or that she knows they tampered with evidence – perhaps was even compelled to tamper with evidence herself. But then again…

Well, she and Peter shared a strange moment, where she told him about her three young children and he softly reminded her that he’s all too aware of their presence. Could he and Joy have had a clandestine affair of their own at some point? Could one of those young children also be his? Only time will tell, we guess.

Was Peter really trying to privatise the NHS?

Almost definitely. Which makes him the true villain of this piece, in our opinion. Next!

Who is “Margaret”, and what does she have on Peter?

“Peter Lawrence has a past, just like everybody else,” the waitress warns Rochelle over the phone. “And his past is a sight more sinister than yours or mine. Look into it.” 

It’s worth noting that, in the final few moments of the episode, it’s revealed that Margaret is dating Sydney. As in, yes, Peter’s chauffeur. As in, yes, the woman who hears every conversation that goes on in the back of her car. As in, yes, the woman who might share the odd titbit about her boss come the end of the working day with, say, a loved one?

Then again, though, it may just be that Margaret stumbled across her information elsewhere. She does do silver service, after all: we’re sure she must have attended many an important political function, and witnessed many a political scandal-in-the-making as a result.

Can Luke be trusted?

Luke seems like a good guy, doesn’t he? He bumps into Charmian at her AA group, has hot sex with her, stays for breakfast, and offers her some free legal advice. Likewise, he puts Margaret in contact with Rochelle in the first place.

But… yeah, this means that he’s orchestrating two of the key players working against Peter. Which, in our opinion, makes him highly suspicious. 

What’s his vendetta against Peter, really? Because we have a feeling it may skew on the personal side…

Roadkill recap: Rochelle Madeley (Pippa Bennett-Warner) gets a mysterious call from a woman named Margaret.
Roadkill: Pippa Bennett-Warner as Rochelle Madeley.

How much does the prime minister know about Peter’s past?

The PM revels in making Peter MOJ (that’s minister of justice to you, keep up!) after a) he’s taken the media to court, b) recently visited Stephill Prison, pre-riots, and c) she led him to believe that he was getting the plummy job of foreign secretary.

But does she really know anything about his shady past? Hardly. Indeed, McCrory told the Radio Times that her character “doesn’t realise how dangerous he is” at all. 

“I think she realises that he is popular and that he is highly ambitious, as she is, and he is without scruples, as she is. But what she doesn’t realise is how many supporters he has,” she says.

This suggests that, when Peter eventually makes a play for her job, it’s going to knock her for six. Not unless Julia alerts her to it beforehand, of course…

And, finally, will Charmian nail Peter Lawrence once and for all?

All we can say is, she better bloody do. This guy needs his balls nailed to the wall (metaphorically-speaking, of course), and fast.

The next episode of Roadkill will air Sunday 25 October at 9pm on BBC One.

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Images: BBC One

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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