Warning: contains spoilers.
Whichever way you slice it, Doctor Foster’s first series was a hit. Viewer numbers crept to over ten million during its five-episode run. Critics raved about the domestic noir, with especial praise for a captivating central performance by Suranne Jones as a woman who discovers her husband has been having an affair. The Mike Bartlett drama received Bafta nominations for Best Miniseries and Best Leading Actress. Jones won. A second series was ordered, and is due to arrive very soon.
The first series is currently available to watch on Netflix UK for anyone who wants a refresher, but for fans without five hours to spare, we’ve boiled down the key events to remember below as a handy reminder.
Dr Gemma Foster, GP and senior surgery partner has been married to property developer Simon Foster (Bertie Carvel) for fourteen years. They have a twelve year old son—Tom—and a lovely house in Simon’s childhood home of Parminster. Simon’s company is redeveloping his old high school into a block of luxury flats.
In episode one, Gemma discovers a long blonde hair on Simon’s scarf and a pink lip balm in his pocket, fuelling her suspicion that he’s having an affair. There follows a carousel of potential mistresses (his blonde PA, their blonde neighbour, the blonde wife of a local businessman with whom they socialise…).
Then, at Simon’s fortieth birthday party, Gemma’s suspicions lead to her discovering a second mobile phone in his car boot on which are photos of him with 23-year-old Kate Parks (Jodie Comer), the blonde daughter of local businessman Chris Parks. Gemma leaves the party in haste, knocking the wing mirror off her expensive car as she goes. She packs his suitcases and leaves him to discover them in the hallway upon his return from the party. When he comes back drunk, he saunters straight past the cases and passes out upstairs. The next morning, the suitcases are unpacked and everything seems normal. Gemma has a plan.
At work, Gemma helps a young patient—Carley—whose physically abusive boyfriend refuses to move out of her house, by visiting and threatening to hurt him. She also swaps a prescription for sleeping pills in exchange for Carley following Simon and reporting back on his assignation with Kate. She later pays Carley to befriend Kate and gain her confidence to keep her updated on the affair.
Gemma tells her colleague Ros, a schooldays friend of Simon’s, about his affair but it turns out that Ros already knows and Simon told her it had been going on for three months. She speaks to another colleague, Jack, an alcoholic suspended from work who is suicidally depressed and grieving for his dead partner, and they discuss Simon’s sexually prolific history with women, and his father, who repeatedly cheated on his mother. Through the photos on Simon’s phone, Gemma realises that their neighbours Neil and Anna also know about the affair, as does Simon’s PA, Becky.
At the surgery, Gemma swaps patients with her colleague to treat Kate. During the check-up, she discovers that Kate is pregnant and helps her to make an appointment for a termination. Later, guilted into it by Simon’s convalescent mother, has Ros tell Simon about Kate’s pregnancy.
Gemma confronts Simon about the affair and asks him if he is cheating but he denies everything. This prompts her to take further steps in her revenge plan.
Gemma sets up a dinner date with their married neighbour accountant Neil, with whom she sleeps in order to blackmail him and gain access to her and Simon’s accounts without Simon finding out. She discovers that Simon’s property development project is nearing bankruptcy and that he’s raided their savings and forged her signature to remortgage the house without her knowledge. A mysterious investor—White Stone—had been backing the project to the tune of millions of pounds.
Simon’s mother is the resident of a care home because of being in constant pain. She also knew about his affair with Kate and tells Gemma that it’s actually been going on for two years. When Simon’s mother dies after taking an overdose of sleeping pills, there’s a brief but unfounded suspicion that Gemma helped her to an assisted death.
Led to believe through her surveillance that Kate terminated her pregnancy without Simon’s knowledge because he refused to come clean to Gemma about their affair, and it resulted in Simon breaking up with Kate, Gemma decides to try to make it work. She tells the divorce lawyer she met in a bar (whose wife she called, breaking patient-doctor confidentiality, to tell her about the suspected brain tumour he was keeping quiet) that she won’t need his services as they’re going to start again.
Simon quickly gets back together with Kate, which, in addition to her being suspended from work due to a rash of anonymous negative online ratings (eventually revealed to have been written by neighbour Anna, who was fully cognisant of Neil and her cheating) and a formal complaint by Carley’s abusive boyfriend, pushes Gemma over the edge. She goes impromptu to her hometown on the coast to visit Mary, the woman who helped her after her parents were both killed in a traffic collision when she was sixteen. At Gemma’s request, her former colleague Jack is staying with Mary while he dries out. She walks into the sea and attempts to drown herself, but emerges with a new-found desire for revenge.
Back in Parminster, Gemma arranges for her and Simon to go to dinner at Kate’s wealthy parents’ house, where she breaks the news of Simon and Kate’s affair, and the terminated pregnancy, to maximum dramatic effect. Simon’s mysterious White Stone investor is revealed to be Kate’s father, who illegally pulled strings at the council to enable Simon to purchase the site for his development.
Gemma works out that Kate is still pregnant and was lying about the termination to test Simon. Gemma blackmails Kate’s dad with her knowledge of his illegal dealings with the council and stops him from financially supporting Simon any longer. She also blackmails Kate’s dad to pay her back all the savings and the house mortgage Simon spent on the project, and to give it to another developer.
Gemma sends Tom to Kate’s house one morning before school, so that he finds his dad in bed with the other woman. She then picks him up from school and drives him to a remote location where it’s made to look as though she may have killed him in an act of mad revenge on Simon. She hasn’t, and Tom is safe, but Simon hits her in the ensuing argument, causing heavy bleeding to her head.
The next time we see Gemma and Tom, it’s months later and she has left her job, telling a patient from episode one that she is no longer Doctor Foster. She signs divorce papers and runs into a heavily pregnant Kate in the town, who tells her that she and Simon are moving to London for a fresh start with their baby. He can’t tell Gemma himself because of a restraining order she has taken out after he attacked her. The final scene has Gemma giving CPR to a man who’s collapsed in the town after a heart attack, when she identifies herself as Doctor Foster.
Doctor Foster series two airs later this summer on BBC One.