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Painkiller — Season 1, Episode 1 Recap

Movies & TV

By Mia Wilson

- Aug 20, 2023

In the premiere episode of "Painkiller," prosecutor Edie Flowers finds herself in the midst of lawyers Bill Havens and Brianna Ortiz. The trio dives deep into the complex web surrounding Purdue Pharma's role in the opioid epidemic.

See Also: Heartstopper — Season 2, Episode 1 Recap

They consider consolidating all lawsuits against Purdue Pharma to ensure justice for the affected families. Edie, however, views this as a mere financial remedy rather than true justice. Brianna seeks Edie's expertise to strengthen their case, leading Edie to recall the 1998 revelation of OxyContin's emergence.

Edie's investigations had been aligned with the US Attorney’s office. She notes that Purdue's strategy was deploying local representatives to advocate for OxyContin prescriptions to injured patients.

Flash forward, Glen, a local tire shop owner, sustains injuries while trying to protect his stepson, Tyler. Following a surgery, Glen grapples with debilitating pain despite physiotherapy and medication.

Within her narrative, Edie delves into the Sackler family's history. Dr. Arthur Sackler, the founder and Richard’s uncle, ventured into drug production to alleviate diverse types of pain. Under Dr. Sackler's guidance, Purdue underwent a branding makeover, subsequently introducing pharmaceuticals like Thorazine, Aspirin, Heroin, and Valium that amassed vast wealth. As Edie recounts, Dr. Sackler not only left behind a trail of iconic drugs but also stamped his legacy on museum walls through art. His life came to an abrupt end in 1987, having driven himself to the ER during a heart attack.

Richard Tackler, his nephew, then took the reins, launching OxyContin roughly ten years post Arthur’s demise. The family, having inherited debts, saw Richard liquidate Arthur's investments for Purdue's full ownership, which possessed a short-lived patent for the morphine-based MS Contin.

Richard envisioned MS Contin's potential in pain alleviation. Edie later clarifies that regardless of Richard's inspiration behind OxyContin, the drug emerged due to slight modifications to MS Contin. Richard was undeterred about the drug's side effects, even positing OxyContin as a milder painkiller compared to MS Contin. Edie implies that while Richard revamped the drug autonomously, its marketing bore his late uncle's signature.

The marketing strategy for OxyContin involved recruiting dynamic young women to sway doctors towards prescribing the drug. Among the freshly recruited is Shannon, a recent college graduate drawn to the drug's purported benefits. Under Britt's mentorship, Shannon begins training, aiming to maximize prescriptions and, in turn, commissions.

As the story unfolds, Glen struggles with his pain, prompting a subsequent doctor's visit. The prescription this time? OxyContin, to be consumed twice daily.

Edie critiques Purdue's tactics, highlighting the erosion of the sacred doctor-patient trust. The episode culminates with Glen's desperate search for more pills.

The episode offers a grim look into the pharmaceutical world's underbelly, examining the thin line between medical aid and drug misuse. Edie's animosity towards the Sackler family is palpable, evident from her discomfort with Richard's chair. Shannon emerges as a pivotal character, her innocence juxtaposed against the murky realm of drug marketing. One can't shake off the impending doom shadowing Glen's narrative.

As viewers, we're prompted to reflect on the blurred boundaries of trust and manipulation, anticipating the subsequent episodes with bated breath.