The opioid epidemic is something everyone has heard about. That doesn’t mean anyone actually knows what truly happened. Luckily, Hulu’s “Dopesick” is a historical drama that gives a horrifying but edifying look at how Oxycontin was able to destroy the lives of too many. With a show focusing on the epicenter of an opioid crisis,be ready to be completely astounded by what is uncovered. Just be prepared, because it’s frustrating.
The eight-episode limited series, based on the book by Beth Marcy, outlines how the Oxycontin addiction crisis came to fruition by specifically focusing on a doctor from Southern Virginia, Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton). The crisis is depicted from numerous angles: the developers of the drug, the prosecutors who are trying to hold the Oxycontin manufacturers accountable and the doctors and patients using the drug. There is quite the ensemble cast in the show, with a plethora of talented actors each playing people on different sides of the epidemic. In particular, Kaitlyn Dever, who plays the young and wretched Betsy Mallum, manages to subtly break viewers’ hearts as they watch her deteriorate in her already bleak life.
When handling a topic as intense and relentlessly dejected as an opioid crisis, there isn’t any reason to focus on the trivial moments. “Dopesick” clearly understands this notion and gets straight to the point. Unlike most miniseries, the first episode doesn’t play into the part of explaining every character and their backstory. Rather, the first episode acts like any other episode: diving into what the issue is at hand and focusing on how it came to be. The show does an excellent job at frankly describing every corrupt and immoral way Oxcycotin was created and promoted. Every scene either makes audiences profoundly saddened by the world they live in or profusely furious with the pharmaceutical industry.
Certain moments can get a little overwhelming to watch. The show goes back and forth to different periods of time quite frequently, and even though it’s clearly evident what moment of time a certain scene is in, the constant shifting in the timeline can make the experience more tense than it needs to be. It would, however, be remiss of me not to applaud the cinematography. Every shot is filmed in a completely nuanced way to accent the emotion of the scene. And the wide shots of a snowy, small town Virginia are unbeatable.
If you choose to watch “Dopesick”, there’s no doubt that you’re a more empathetic and informed person because of it. And of course, not everything about this show is perfect. The storytelling can get a little chaotic and every scene doesn’t always hit the nail on the head. Nonetheless, portraying such a vulnerable and uncomfortable topic allows for an honest discussion and it is what makes this show so compelling.
New episodes of “Dopesick” premiere every Wednesday on Hulu.
By Cyna Mirzai