“Dopesick” is a big undertaking, exploring the opioid crisis from multiple angles, which includes the Government personnel seeking to combat it, OxyContin addiction, Purdue Pharma’s inner workings. It is distributed in different places, it’s an engrossing eight-part series, made all the more so by Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings and the Sackler family’s attempts to avoid further consequences.
Danny Strong, who produced “Empire”, along with a star-studded cast and directors like Barry Levinson and Michael Cuesta, did the majority of the heavy lifting in adapting Beth Macy’s book, writing or cowriting the majority of the episodes and directing a few. The result is a rich mosaic of OxyContin’s high-stakes marketing and Purdue’s financial clout in defying regulators and luring doctors into prescribing ever-higher doses, with predictable tragic outcomes.
It’s a one of the difficult projects, as it seeks to focus on individual characters but it is also presenting the sweeping toll on communities, as well as the frustration of Justice Department and DEA employees working on parallel tracks, knowing the drug is addictive but encountering one roadblock after another in prosecuting those cases.
Dr. Samuel Finnix, played by Michael Keaton, is a country physician in a rural Virginia town who is initially hesitant to prescribe OxyContin before being gradually persuaded by a persistent sales rep (Will Poulter), who eventually has his own conscience pangs amid Purdue’s elaborate sales techniques and lavish seminars.
The other key players include Kaitlyn Dever as Betsy, one of Finnix’s patients who suffers a mining injury that leads to her increasing dependence on the drug; Peter Sarsgaard as Rick Mountcastle, the US Attorney leading the case; and Rosario Dawson as DEA agent Bridget Meyer, who keeps running afoul of her superiors and other agencies, with some regulators clearly recognizing the value of “being friendly to a potential future employer,” as she sarcastically observe