Story Recap – What happened in Painkiller Season 1? (Episodes 1-6)

By Marc Miller
Published: August 10, 2023 (Last updated: February 17, 2024)
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Story Recap – What happened in Painkiller Season 1? (Episodes 1-6)

We recap the Netflix series Painkiller Season 1 (Episodes 1-6), which contains spoilers as it details what happened.

The Netflix series Painkiller is based on Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe and Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic by Barry Meier. The series stars Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and Taylor Kitsch (The Terminal List).

Acclaimed director Peter Berg directed all six episodes of the first season of Painkiller. The show focuses on the rise of the opioid epidemic in America, taking a critical look at the manufacturing of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma. If the story and the principal players sound familiar, they should. The events were covered in the acclaimed Hulu miniseries Dopesick, starring Michael Keaton.

READ: TV Shows like Painkiller

The series is devastatingly effective when it comes to relaying information about the lengths and disregard shown for human life. Much of the credit should go to Berg, who does not hold back or pull any punches when it comes to his artistic license in depicting Purdue Pharma’s crimes.

Please enjoy this recap of the Netflix series Painkiller Season 1.

Recap – what happened in Painkiller Season 1? (Episodes 1-6)

Episode 1 – “The One to Start With, The One to Stay With”

“The One to Start with, The One to Stay With” strongly criticizes the pharmaceutical industry, specifically Purdue Pharma’s actions in bringing a drug to the marketplace. The episode focuses on the marketing strategies employed for opioids by Richard Sackler (Broderick) as outlined by a federal investigator, Edie (Aduba), who looks into health insurance fraud cases.

Episode 2 – “Jesus Gave Me Water”

“Jesus Gave Me Water” outlines the dark absurdity of Richard’s thought process and the human cost of opioid addiction. Painkiller continues to dramatize and reveal the lengths that Purdue Pharma went to approve OxyContin to help their bottom line—choosing to use manipulation instead of sticking to scientific evidence. Also, Glen overdoses from an increased dosage strength of OxyContin.

Episode 3 – “Blizzard of the Century”

In the “Blizzard of the Century” episode, Edie’s investigation into Purdue Pharma reveals that the company and its marketing reps made more money by having physicians increase milligram dosages rather than the number of prescriptions. Edie brings the case against Sackler to her boss. Glen continues using OxyContin, Shannon is called to the corporate office, and Jess dies of an overdose.

Episode 4 – “I Believed?”

In the episode “I Believed?” Edie catches Purdue Pharma executives lying under oath to Congress, claiming ignorance of OxyContin abuse. She discovers Sackler’s “gospel” NEJM research article defending the drug’s low addiction rate was just a letter to the editor. According to the series, Jick was unaware that his letter became the “gospel” of Purdue Pharma’s pain management videos.

Glen’s opioid addiction has worsened, resorting to buying illegal opioid pills off the street and snorting them. Glen tells his wife he will bring Tyler home, blaming himself, and she tells him he has to quit taking opioids. While driving to pick him up, Glen takes some OxyContin, arriving at Jack’s place in the opioid “nodding out” state.

Episode 5 – “Hot! Hot! Hot!”

In the episode “Hot! Hot! Hot!” Purdue Pharma arrogantly refuses to settle with the West Virginia Attorney General and persuades Jay McCloskey to be a consultant. Edie thinks she has the inside track on a witness who will testify against Howard Udell, but they are unreliable because of their OxyContin addiction.

Glen hits rock bottom, and his wife Lily has kicked him out of the home. However, like most addicts, hitting rock bottom appears to have “sobered” the husband and father in sobering up. However, Shannon’s OxyContin journey only begins. While at a Purdue Pharma party in Miami, she is given OxyContin pills in the bathroom and relents after an attorney general is now on the payroll.

Episode 6 – “What’s in a Name?”

In the season finale, “What’s in a Name?” Painkiller concludes with Edie and the prosecution settling a sweetheart deal with Purdue Pharma. The executives plead to a misdemeanor, and the company is only held accountable for one count of misbranding medication. Glen dies of an OxyContin overdose in a gas station parking lot. Edie makes amends with her brother.

We see that in 2019, Purdue was charged with a four-billion-dollar fine, and the Sackler family gave up control of the company. There have been three hundred thousand deaths from OxyContin overdoses. Every day, forty people die of an opioid prescription overdose. As of 2023, Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy is still pending. The Sackler family is worth eleven billion dollars.

No member of the Sackler family has been criminally charged with the opioid epidemic or any individual OxyContin deaths.

That is the full story recap of what happened in the Netflix series Painkiller Season 1 (Episodes 1-6). What are your thoughts on the story? Please comment below.

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