Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (2024)

Inspired by true events and real-life figures, the six-part drama follows the people whose lives have been altered by the painkiller OxyContin, as well as the legal battle that ensued in the courts.

Matthew Broderick stars as Richard Sackler, the president of Purdue Pharma, which developed OxyContin and helped spearhead its success, while Uzo Aduba stars as Edie Flowers, an investigator for the US Attorney's Office, and Taylor Kitsch appears as opioid addict Glen Kryger.

But as much as the six episodes delve into the lives and motivations behind various characters, what actually happens to them at the end of Painkiller? Read on for a full breakdown of the series finale and where Painkiller leaves our main characters.

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Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Shannon?

Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (1)

The series finale opens with Shannon following a big night out. Partying with co-workers and doctors, Shannon quickly learns that a lot of her colleagues take OxyContin themselves as a crushed party drug, despite claiming that it's not addictive and that people who are crushing up the tablets are abusing it.

After falling in the pool and having to be rescued out of it, the final episode opens with Shannon meeting Edie in a diner. She apologises to her and says that she believed she was "helping people" but admits that the lure of money got in the way of her morals.

Edie very plainly asks Shannon if she 'looks like a psychiatrist', but when Shannon walks out, she's plagued by visions of Richard Sackler and returns to Edie. She comes back into the diner with a weighty envelope filled with emails, call notes and everything she has from day one, saying she'll do anything Edie needs.

We then see Shannon being interviewed officially by Edie, giving insight into the company culture and what Richard wanted his sales reps to do.

US Attorney John Brownlee (Tyler Ritter) and Edie take their findings to the rest of the team and everyone is excited about finally being one step closer to bringing a trial against Purdue Pharma and, eventually, Broderick's Richard Sackler.

After Edie and her team confront Purdue Pharma about their findings, Shannon's mentor Britt (Dina Shihabi) confronts Edie in her apartment. Britt slaps Shannon onto the floor, asking her what she was thinking - but tells Shannon that she shouldn't be judged and she's not a bad person.

The last we see of Shannon is when she attends the final court date and despite everyone being hopeful about the outcome, we soon learn that a settlement has been reached.

What happens to Edie and the investigation into Purdue Pharma?

Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (2)

Edie is part of the legal team pursuing Purdue Pharma for its marketing and branding, specifically going after the characters of Michael Friedman, Howard Udell and Paul Goldenheim.

We then see the Sacklers and their team start to worry about being taken to court, but they soon lawyer up with some of the finest attorneys money can buy.

In the haze of the trial, Edie finally opens up the letters her brother has sent her over the years from prison. We see her open them all and look thoughtfully at them.

The next day, feeling invigorated on a personal and professional level, Edie goes into court and you can hear her narrating that "there will be no settlement". Meanwhile, we also see Richard Sackler eating and throwing popcorn, clearly not concerned at the matter before him.

As Edie enters the courtroom, there's a lot of chatter, and Brownlee doesn't greet Edie when she waves at him as she takes a seat.

In the present, she tells the lawyers about that day and we soon see in the flashback that the judge plainly tells the court that a settlement has been reached. He says that Purdue have agreed to "plead guilty to one count of fraudulently misbranding OxyContin".

Edie explains that Brownlee had to strike a deal, and the judge announces that Friedman, Udell and Goldenheim have agreed to plead guilty to one count each of misdemeanour misbranding.

"And that's how the f**king game's played," Edie says in the present. "Half a million people die and guys like Richard Sackler make a phone call in the middle of the night and absolutely nothing changes."

In the shot of Sackler throwing things into a glass, we soon see the popcorn change to pills and Edie confronts Brownlee about what's going on, shouting at him in the courtroom. Brownlee then gives a press conference stating that he thinks justice has been served and that Purdue Pharma will market things honestly going forward.

Edie states in the present that Purdue were making $30 million a week - but that the worst part about the settlement was that they weren't required to stop, and they could keep making OxyContin. She says she became "done with playing the game" so she got out, leaving her job.

The next we see of her is visiting her brother in prison. Because of their previous tense encounters, her brother isn't pleased to see her - but she tells him that she was angry with him and judged him for his actions as a 19-year-old caught up in dealing drugs, rather than as an adult now.

She tells him she read the letters and apologises for not listening to him, despite him being her only family. "I thought you were bad – turned out I didn't know what bad was. I know now," she explains, making reference to Purdue.

In the present, she tells the lawyers that she hopes her insight has helped them and wishes them sincere luck with their proceedings. The final shot we see of Edie is as she returns home in the present and walks up to her house, being greeted by her brother Shawn who tells her that he's glad he made her go to speak to the lawyers.

What happens to Glen in Painkiller?

Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (3)

Some of the final moments of the episode lie with Glen and his family as he tries to beat his OxyContin addiction. We see that he's gone back to work, is re-establishing his relationship with wife Lily and step-son Tyler and is now living temporarily in a motel.

But one night, as he's trying to sleep, he's woken up by loud music coming from the room next door. When he knocks on the door, it opens to reveal that everyone inside it is unconscious and Glen soon sees a bag of OxyContin on the bedside table.

You don't know what he does immediately after, as the next shot is of him in the morning, calling Lily to ask her what she wants him to pick up for dinner that night.

He doesn't seem well and explains to Lily that his neighbours have kept him up. He tells Lily he adores her, hangs up and kneels down on the floor. We then see that he's got lines of crushed OxyContin prepared on his bedside table.

Later, we see that he's stopped off at a store and when he returns to his car, he gets out a tin filled with OxyContin tablets. He crushes one and snorts it in the car - but when he does so, he hears flashbacks from the Purdue Pharma advertisem*nt he was part of and we see clips of his family.

We hear Glen's heartbeat slowing and a man passes by his car, shaking him through the open window. Another man tries to wake Glen - but he's dead. We hear the police radio state that it's a Code 10-55, meaning it's a case for the coroner, before saying it's a suspected overdose.

What happens to Purdue Pharma and Richard Sackler at the end of Painkiller?

Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (4)

The end of the finale references the real-life case the drama's based on, bringing up genuine news reports stating that "Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019 as a direct result of the multi-state lawsuits".

It states that the Sacklers agreed to pay a settlement of $6 billion and have had to forfeit ownership of Purdue Pharma.

The final scenes are of a tired-looking Richard returning home to find the ghost of his uncle Arthur sarcastically telling him "well done for ruining the family's business". Arthur tells Richard he was weak and proceeds to beat Richard up, punching him continuously in the face while claiming he has "destroyed the legacy".

The series brings up another text card stating that "it's estimated that over 300,000 people have died over the past 20 years from overdoses involving prescription painkillers like OxyContin and that over 40 people die in the US from prescription opioid overdoses every day".

It also states that as of March 2023, final approval for Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy is still pending and that no member of the Sackler family has ever been criminally charged in connection with the marketing of OxyContin or any overdose deaths involving it.

But back in Painkiller, Richard is sitting on the sofa, of course not being beat up by his dead uncle. Instead, he can hear the smoke detector continue to beep and The Sound of Silence plays as he makes his way up his stairs.

The final shot is of the Sackler name, animated in bricks which are slowly crumbling.

Read More

  • Painkiller producer on Netflix drama: ‘A crime hiding in plain sight’
  • Painkiller review: An important cautionary tale – but TV has seen this before
  • Meet the cast of Painkiller

Painkiller will be released on Netflix on Thursday 10th August 2023. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV guide and Streaming Guide to see what’s on tonight.


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Painkiller ending explained: What happens to Glen, Shannon and Edie? (2024)
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