Painkiller: What To Know About Netflix's True Crime Miniseries Before You Watch (2024)

Painkiller: What To Know About Netflix's True Crime Miniseries Before You Watch (1)

The opioid epidemic is an issue that has affected (and continues to affect) so many people and at such a tragically wide level that one limited series was not enough to emphasize its urgency. Following the release of Hulu’s Emmy-winning original, Dopesick, another new take on the subject called Painkiller is now available to watch with a Netflix subscription. Learn how this new Netflix original TV show distinguishes itself from other programs inspired by the same true events, and more essential facts to consider, before you check it out for yourself.

Painkiller Is A Limited Series Based On The Opioid Epidemic

Developed by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster — the Emmy-nominated writing duo behind the 2019 Fred Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodPainkiller is a miniseries largely inspired by the book, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic, by Barry Meier. It traces the history of Purdue Pharmaceutical's development and distribution of Oxycontin and depicts its devastating effects from multiple perspectives — some factual and some created for dramatic effect.

A Scripted Series Featuring A Star-Studded Cast

Painkiller is dramatization of the tragic events surrounding the opioid crisis featuring portrayals of many of the real people involved, such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off cast lead Matthew Broderick as Purdue Pharma’s former president and chairman, Richard Sackler, and Marvel movie star Clark Gregg as his late uncle, Arthur Sackler, Sr., whose memory haunts him as he develops Oxycontin.

Emmy-winning Orange is the New Black cast member Uzo Aduba plays attorney Edie Flowers (a fictional composite character seeking Purdue’s downfall), Taylor Kitsch plays a mechanic and family man falling victim to addiction named Greg Kryger (also invented for the series, according to Digital Spy), and fellow Netflix veteran Dina Shihabi (from the short-lived horror series, Archive 81) plays Purdue sales rep, Britt Hufford who takes West Duchovny’s Shannon Schaefer under her negatively influential wing.

Real People Affected By Opioids Open Each Episode

Perhaps the most important people featured on Painkiller, however, are not actors at all, but real, unnamed individuals with a personal connection to the events that inspired the show. They introduce each episode announcing that some facts have been fictionalized for the series, before sharing the true stories of loved ones they have lost to drug addiction.

Peter Berg Directs The Whole Series

Bringing a distinct, cinematic style to Painkiller is Peter Berg — director of acclaimed, fact-based films like Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day — who helms each episode of the show. The filmmaker, who is also an executive producer on the series, actually got his start as a director with an episode of Chicago Hope before later receiving an Emmy nomination for directing the pilot for the series adaptation of his film, 2004’s Friday Night Lights. Berg more recently helmed two sports docuseries — Showtime’s Boys in Blue and Player 54: Chasing the Dream for ESPN2 and ABC.

The Series Consists Of Six Episodes

Even as a raw and intimate depiction of its subject matter, Painkiller keeps its story tight and concise. There are only six episodes in total, each falling within the 45-60 minute range.


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Painkiller Is Rated TV-MA

While certain moments of fabrication are clear, the series’ depictions of addiction and its effects on various people are highly realistic and it does not shy away from disturbing details and scenarios, such as the injuries that lead to people's involvement with Oxycontin. Because of this — in addition to perverse language and sexual content — Painkiller has received a TV-MA rating.

As of August 10, 2023, audiences can stream Painkiller on Netflix now.

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.

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Painkiller: What To Know About Netflix's True Crime Miniseries Before You Watch (2024)
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