Dopesick is a horrifying representation of a flawed system. A grim account of human failure. A telling case study of the vicious capitalist system.
This review of Hulu miniseries Dopesick does not contain spoilers. The review is based on the first three episodes. Hulu will be dropping three episodes on October 13 and then releasing one episode a week every Wednesday.
After the resounding success of the final season of Goliath, one would steer away from a thick narrative regarding the opioid crisis, but Dopesick is so gripping and appealing that we must endure another depressing tale of a preventable tragedy. It is a crisis that continues to grip America today in a crippling epidemic while big pharma companies line their fat pockets. It’s such a sad state of affairs and one that represents the darkness of capitalism. The status-quo tends to put the onus on doctors and patients — “it’s their responsibility, just like alcohol.” Unfortunately, statements like that hold less weight the more that is uncovered in non-fiction and fictional terms.
Hulu’s Dopesick is inspired by the true reality at hand, leaning towards how America got hooked on a lie. Some deem the growth of opioid addiction to be “The Crime of the Century,” which is also the title of an HBO documentary that makes that weighted accusation. Folks, let me level at you. Dopesick is a horrifying representation of a flawed system. A grim account of human failure. A telling case study of the vicious capitalist system.
The premise is based on Purdue Pharma having to flex its family business to survive. Richard Sackler (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) pushes his family and colleagues to release a new opioid drug for moderate pain. Historically, opioids were used for patients with terminal illnesses or suffering from high, insufferable pain. Changing the threshold of opioid use is the birth of the epidemic itself. The story narrows to the Virginia mining community, the DEA offices, and the showmanship of salespeople pushing the drugs to naive doctors.
This series is not exaggerated by any means. It manages to scrape away at the systems to show a human massacre at slow attrition. Dopesick shows the unintentional evils of our ways. How giving salespeople a target makes them unlikely instigators of manslaughter. How saving a family business means sparking millions of people to crave a medication that was only meant to relieve them of temporary pain. Richard Sackler is a chilling character to watch; he shows little regard to his consequential plans, and the lack of emotions he displays is gruesome. He always says, “let’s free pain from this world,” providing a chilling feeling down one’s spine.
A star-led cast supports Dopesick, but more importantly, it isn’t flagrantly thrown in our faces to make a point (see Scenes From a Marriage). This is an earnest attempt to tell the story of a preventable tragedy in the USA. A disaster so incredibly deep-rooted that’s it’s challenging to recover from, as generations of families now succumb to the tragedies of the system. Michael Keaton plays the fumbling doctor, desperate to help his community and a victim of effective salesmanship. Billy Cutler plays an ambitious salesperson. Kaitlyn Dever is a victim of the opioid crisis while battling with her homophobic father. Peter Sarsgaard and Rosario Dawson are on the other side of the war, attempting to stop the new opioids before it becomes a problem.
This is certainly a series to embrace and reflect on. It’s not an easy foretelling.
What do you think of Hulu miniseries Dopesick? Comment below.