Imagine a TV show that features a well-known and readily available medicial drug as the main antagonist. Not a fictional story, but a faithful account of events that actually happened. Now, turn on Netflix and search for Painkiller.
A compelling and deeply unsettling exploration of the opioid epidemic, Painkiller portrays the rapid rise of Oxycontin, a semi-synthetic drug developed in the 90s by Purdue Pharmaceuticals and used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Featuring the evergreen Matthew Broderick as Purdue’s president Richard Sackler and an inspired Uzo Aduba (remember Orange is the New Black?) as tenacious investigator Edie Flowers, the series confronts the dark underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry with unflinching honesty.
Broderick’s portrayal of Sackler gives us a complex character, whose actions are shrouded in corporate interests and moral ambiguity. He navigates the role with subtlety and depth, making Sackler at the same time repugnant and, in some strange way, pitiable.
On the other hand, Flowers brings a necessary element of righteousness – perhaps a tad too much at times – to the series, serving as a counterbalance to the morally compromised characters around her.
The storyline in Painkiller expertly interweaves multiple narratives, from the personal struggles of opioid addicts and their families to the relentless and arduous pursuit of justice.
Moreover, the six-part series offers a comprehensive view of how the opioid crisis has impacted society, capturing the stark juxtaposition of the opulence of corporate boardrooms and the grim realities of addiction. The series is visually striking, with a palpable sense of urgency that keeps viewers completely engaged.
While certainly addictive (no pun intended), the show is not without its flaws. At times, the pacing can feel uneven, and some subplots may leave the viewer longing for more development. However, the minor shortcomings do not diminish the overall impact and importance of the series.
All in all, Painkiller is a hard-hitting and timely mini-series, as it brilliantly manages to shine a harsh light on the individuals and corporations responsible for perpetuating a public health catastrophe, one that is still unfortunately ongoing.
A definite must-watch for anyone seeking to understand the human cost of corporate greed and the urgent need for accountability in the pharmaceutical industry.