Dopesick features powerful performances from Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever in this must-watch Hulu limited series about addiction.
This series, created by Danny Strong and based on Beth Macy’s book, humanizes the opioid epidemic in a way that I never thought could be possible. Through eight episodes, we’re watching things play out on several fronts: a small Virginia mining town, the DEA, Purdue Pharma, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Virginia. It is compelling television and a must-watch. Depending on the time, one can finish the series in a day or two.
While some characters are fictional, they draw on people in real life. DEA agent Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson) is fictional although now I’m curious to know if the DEA had a high ranking person of color during this time. Similarly, a quick Google search tells me that neither Dr. Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton) or Betsy Mallum (Kaitlyn Dever) are real people either. However, Finnix is a composite of many doctors but Stephen Loyd plays a big inluence. That’s just the way it is when books get adapted into TV or film. However, it does not take away from the powerful series. When it comes to the plea deal in the final episode, a number of people get up to testify. I’m curious as to if some of the people were affected by addiction in real life.
Overall, there is also not much of a racial component to the series. This is mostly because they focus on Appalachian towns that are predominantly white. A lot of this comes down to public healthcare and the fight against opioids. Addiction is a serious problem. It certainly extends beyond rural communities. Black drug addicts in urban cities usually end up serving jail time. I say this as a caffeine addict myself–it’s certainly not the same as opioids but quitting caffeine is not easy. It’s because of this that I can understand why Dr. Finnix and Betsy become addicts. Even with Dr. Finnix, you also can’t help but see the guilt when you look at what happens to the community. It’s enough that he leaves town! The doctor in him still wants to help people beat their addictions and start the recovery process.
The Sackler family needs to be held accountable for their actions. Removing their names from museums and such is not enough. They knew their drug was addictive and lied about it! Where are the consequences?!? It is not enough that some executives get off with a misdemeanor. The part that makes me angry is how main Justice didn’t want to go after Purdue Pharma. It was the local office doing the heavy lifting. U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee (Jake McDorman), and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard), and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker) are heroes for going after Big Pharma. Without them, it’s highly unlikely that anyone at Purdue Pharma would have suffered any consequence. But again, nobody at Purdue spent any time in prison.
The final episode touches on the class-action lawsuits filed by the State Attorney Generals. However, there is some recent news because of a new settlement this week. Unfortunately, it shields Purdue Pharma’s owners from lawsuits. On one hand, I’m glad to know that they’re paying an bigger amount of money. But on the other hand, criminals need to spend time in prison for their actions. This settlement does not protect the family from criminal charges. There should certainly be criminal charges in the future! How many deaths are on Richard Sackler’s hands? Too many. He is also a criminal and should be in prison. It is not an understatement to describe Sackler as a James Bond villain. To this day, the Sackler family denies ANY wrongdoing. Unacceptable! We would not even have a massive opioid epidemic without their actions. I cannot stress this enough.
CREATOR: Danny Strong
DIRECTORS: Barry Levinson (101-102), Michael Cuesta (103-104), Patricia Riggen (105-106), Danny Strong (107-108)
SCREENWRITERS: Danny Strong (101-102, 108), Danny Strong & Beth Macy (103, 107), Jessica Mecklenburg (104), Danny Strong & Benjamin Rubin (105), Danny Strong & Eoghan O’Donnell (106)
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Danny Strong, John Goldwyn, Michael Keaton, Barry Levinson, Warren Littlefield, Beth Macy, and Karen Rosenfelt
CAST: Michael Keaton, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Poulter, John Hoogenakker, with Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson
All episodes of Dopesick are streaming on Hulu. Grade: 5/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.