Review: Dopesick Premiere Episodes Track The Tense Origins Of The Opiod Crisis
Currently, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has seen the world change in many different ways. However, before this, America struggled with a drug epidemic that has been tied to the rise of crime, addiction and many other socio-economic factors Some that are still affecting the nation today. The Dopesick premiere episodes introduce us to this new Hulu original series that deals with the beginning of how regular pharmaceutical drugs kick started an opiod crisis. More importantly, how prescription drugs created addicts in the everyday person through misinformation and essentially lying to people for profit. The new Hulu series is interesting if not incredibly anxiety-inducing with its music that never lets up. It’s definitely leading somewhere, and I’m actually pretty excited to see, and how it gets there.
So here’s my spoiler-free review of the first three premiere episodes of Dopesick.
The Dopesick Premiere Episodes Take Their Time Establishing The Premise
Image via Hulu
Dopesick starts pretty slow. And I mean painstakingly slow. And there’s a lot of time jumping, in the beginning to keep track of, and it gets a little confusing but eases up within the first episode itself. The story seems to track back and forth from 1996 to early 2002 and onward. The episodes begin with the intention of a drug manufacturer to make a pain killer end all kinds of pain. Sounds great so far.
But then we cut to 2005, where a small-town lawyer Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) is deposing many different people who are all talking about the painkiller, which has seemingly, in the years since the intention to make it, caused some problems. To say the least. Dopesick is all about this; how Oxycontin, a drug made to manage the pain of those suffering, became one of the country’s most accessible and legally available drug that kickstarted a massive epidemic in America.
The Story Tracks Like A Documentary, But Less Manipulative
Image via Hulu
Given its subject matter, it’s very easy for these premiere episodes of Dopesick to feel like a preachy and manipulative look at a dangerous thing that no one saw coming. “Little did they know, it killed!”— sort of narration in documentaries always feels exploitative. Whereas Dopesick is a lot more subtle. So much so, that I would even say those uninformed about the drug crisis in America might not be able to make the connection to why Oxycontin is such a big deal. But the show does a great job of easing the information to the audience.
It’s the third episode of Dopesick that really drives the point home. The show takes some big swings through the character drama and the effects of prescription drug abuse. The very real-world effects. Which is really unlike the other instances of drug abuse that we usually see depicted on the screen. I think that’s what is really making Dopesick appealing to me; its slow delivery system and its utter subtlety when it comes to dealing with something that has such broad implications on society.
Dopesick Has A Dope Cast
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A nuanced story needs a very well-balanced and skilled cast to tell it. And the cast of Dopesick is pretty incredible. Leading and executive producing is the brand new-but also old Batman himself, Micheal Keaton. Keaton plays the doctor of a small mining town, Dr. Finnix, who big Pharma wooed and seduced into prescribing this addictive painkiller to their patients. One such patient is Betsy (Kaitlyn Dever) who ends up needing pain management after a mining accident.
On the other side of things are the developer, makers and pusher of this drug. The creator behind it all is Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his family-owned pharmaceutical corporation. On the lowest rung of the ladder is Billy Cutler (Will Poulter) who is Finnix’s sales agent for Oxycontin and the young idealistic go-getter that has concerns. The chemistry between Keaton and Poulter is interesting and keeps things pretty exciting. Both so far seem unwilling participants in this major big Pharma conspiracy. Although Cutler is definitely much more guilty as he’s pushing these pills onto Finnix. But the young man still questions it. I have a feeling he’ll have more problems with the ethics of what he’s doing as things (will obviously) get worse.
Layered Performances Make For An Even Subtler Story
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But the trailblazers of the story are the lawyers. Mountcastle and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker) are small-time lawyers who have stumbled upon the actions of this big Pharmaceutical company and are planning on bringing them down. The difficulty in doing that, is basically what I”m thinking will take up the story in this season. And so far, judging by the Dopesick premiere episodes, it’s a really good show that objectively portrays all sides of the story. We’ve even got Ahsoka herself, Rosario Dawson as one of the first law enforcement officers who discovers how the existence of Oxycontin is impacting society in general.
The Dopesick Premiere Episodes’ Nuance Goes Beyond The Story
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Dopesick goes beyond just fictionalizing and documenting a real-world incident as part of what looks like it’ll be a whistleblower type series. The bad guys here, the big Pharma company, personalized by the creator in Sackler, is not depicted as evil or gross. There are no major world domination plans— well, actually there is, but their intentions are noble. Sackler actually wants to affect and help people suffering from pain. Sure, secondary reasons of greed and power take over, as it tends to do, but it all began as a means of pure-hearted intention. The execution of that and losing sight of what happens is where the devilish behaviour begins.
Overall, the premiere episodes of Dopesick capture pretty well what to expect from the series. The layered performances of all involved are interesting and incredibly effective in conveying the story. I’m definitely tuning in week to week to see how this story plays out.
Dopesick premieres on Hulu starting October 13.
Are you looking forward to Dopesick? Find out how an opiod crisis really began, and let me know what you thought about it.
Featured image via Hulu.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.