Greed and deception run rampant in Dopesick, a dramatic miniseries created by Danny Strong — based on a book of the same name by journalist Beth Macy — which follows the depressing truth of the opioid epidemic resulting from Purdue Pharma’s misleading marketing of OxyContin. Nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, the eight-part series follows three different storylines from the 80s to the early 2000s.
There’s the story of Dr. Samuel Finnix, the hardworking and compassionate doctor played masterfully by Michael Keaton who is struggling to make the right decision for his patients in rural Appalachia despite intense pressure from young pharma rep Billy Cutler (Will Poulter). There’s also the story of Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his family, the chillingly nonchalant owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, in their efforts to push the sale of OxyContin at all costs, despite the many safety concerns that come up. The third storyline follows the efforts to investigate Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family by U.S. attorneys Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker), as well as Drug Enforcement Administration deputy director Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson).
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The jumps in storyline and timeline make the series slightly difficult to follow if you’re not paying attention, and viewers may benefit from familiarizing themselves somewhat with the history of the opioid crisis in order to better keep track of the complicated plot. But the effort is all made worth it by the gut-wrenching writing, the deeply empathetic view towards life in rural Appalachian communities, and the profound emotional connection between Dr. Finnix and his ill-fated young patient Betsy Mallam (Kaitlin Denver), a young girl who was injured while working in the mines to save up money to leave her homophobic hometown with her girlfriend. This series, streaming on Hulu, is frustrating and heartbreaking, and greatly informative about an extremely dark time in American history – certainly worth watching, but don’t forget the tissues.