Painkiller (TV series)

Painkiller is an American drama television miniseries created by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.[4] Based on Patrick Radden Keefe's New Yorker article "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain" and Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic by Barry Meier,[5] the series focuses on the birth of the opioid crisis, with an emphasis on Purdue Pharma, the company owned by Richard Sackler and his family that was the manufacturer of OxyContin.[6] The Sackler family has been described as the "most evil family in America",[7][8][9][10] and "the worst drug dealers in history".[11][12]

Created by
Based on
  • "Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty"
    by Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic
    by Barry Meier
Directed byPeter Berg
ComposerMatt Morton[1]
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerChris Hatcher
  • Geofrey Hildrew[2][3]
  • Garret Donnelly
Production companies
  • Blue Harp
  • Film 44
  • Grand Electric
  • Jigsaw Productions
Original release
ReleaseAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)

Painkiller premiered on Netflix on August 10, 2023.[13]

Cast and characters



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"The One to Start With, The One to Stay With"Peter BergMicah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
A physician prescribes OxyContin to one of his patients, who has unmanageable pain. He informs the patient that the effects of OxyContin last longer than the Vicodin the patient was taking, and as a result, they won't have to take OxyContin as frequently. He also mentions that it causes the same side effects as other opioids, particularly constipation. Richard Sackler is vilified over the prescription of OxyContin to patients who need to manage pain and to drug addicts.
2"Jesus Gave Me Water"Peter BergMicah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
Arthur Sackler, Richard's uncle, is accused of wanting to sell OxyContin to as many people as possible to increase profits for his company, Purdue Pharma. Providers offer physicians coupons to distribute the Schedule 2 narcotic. A doctor tells Shannon Schaeffer, a vendor, that "Oxycodone, that's what's in OxyContin. Morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, diacetylmorphine, that's heroin. All come from the opium poppy". Curtis Wright IV drags out approval at the FDA.
3"Blizzard of the Century"Peter BergWill Hettinger and Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
John L. Brownlee reviews the legal case against Purdue Pharma. Schaeffer's mentor reminds her, "They're drug addicts. They existed long before OxyContin, and they'll exist long after OxyContin". A prisoner reminisces about the 1990s crack epidemic in the United States. OxyContin addicts are becoming unemployed, committing robberies, auto thefts, filing for disability, and so on.
4"Is Believed"Peter BergBoo Killebrew & Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
After the death of a young woman, Shannon Schaeffer tells a prescribing physician that "She [the woman's mother] can't look at herself and say, 'I messed up. My daughter was a druggie'. She needs to blame someone". Purdue advertisements claim that less than 1% of users develop an addiction to OxyContin, which is contradicted by statistics.
5"Hot! Hot! Hot!"Peter BergBoo Killebrew & Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
The public and media notice and start applying pressure on Purdue Pharma. Glenn spirals downward with increasing doses of OxyContin, eventually turning to the black market, with dire consequences. Shannon sees deeper into the workings at Purdue and becomes disillusioned. Edie convinces her boss that OxyContin is a public health problem, and together, they come up with a strategy to go after the company.
6"What's in a Name?"Peter BergMicah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah HarpsterAugust 10, 2023 (2023-08-10)
Richard Sackler warns the corporate officers of Purdue Pharma that, "They will dismantle everything we've built—brick by brick".



Production began in Toronto in April 2021 and wrapped in November 2021. The series was directed by Peter Berg.[16]



On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 51% of 53 critics gave the series a positive review, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Painkiller honors the victims of the opioid crisis with effective dramatic beats but is undermined by its stale satirical flourishes, resulting in a tonally confused bit of muckraking."[17] On Metacritic, the series holds a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18]

Writing for American Council on Science and Health, a pro-industry group, Cameron English criticized the series, alleging that it unfairly pins the blame for the opioid crisis on Purdue and the Sackler family.[19]

See also



  1. ^ "Matt Morton Scoring Netflix's 'Painkiller'". Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  2. ^ "Exclusive: Painkiller Editor Geofrey Hildrew Was Told to Be Fearless in the Editing Room". Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  3. ^ "'Painkiller' editor Geofrey Hildrew on immersing the audience into the story". Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  4. ^ "Watch Painkiller | Netflix Official Site". Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  5. ^ Porter, Rick (October 4, 2021). "Taylor Kitsch Boards Netflix's Opioid Crisis Drama 'Painkiller'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  6. ^ Biggs, Jade (August 11, 2021). "OITNB's Uzo Aduba is starring in a Netflix series about the opioid crisis". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  7. ^ Saul Lelchuck (September 21, 2021). "Are the Sacklers the Most Evil Family in American History?". Bulwark Media. Archived from the original on September 2, 2021. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  8. ^ David Smith (December 11, 2021). "OxyContin and the story behind America's 'most evil' family". The Irish Examiner. Irish Examiner Limited. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  9. ^ Joanna Walters (December 18, 2020). "'An evil family': Sacklers condemned as they refuse to apologize for role in opioid crisis". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Archived from the original on December 17, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  10. ^ "Some members of Sackler family under fire over ties to opioids". CBS News. April 11, 2021. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  11. ^ Zachary B. Wolf (September 3, 2021). "The worst drug dealers in history are getting away with billions". CNN Politics. Cable News Network. Archived from the original on September 2, 2021. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  12. ^ Chris McGreal (December 17, 2019). "The Sacklers were drug dealers who put money over morality. The Purdue deal is no different". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 17, 2019. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  13. ^ "Uzo Aduba, Matthew Broderick and Taylor Kitsch Star in 'Painkiller' This August". Netflix Tudum. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  14. ^ Cordero, Rosy (October 4, 2021). "'Painkiller': Taylor Kitsch, Ana Cruz Kayne, & Tyler Ritter Among New Cast of Netflix Limited Series". Deadline. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  15. ^ "Painkiller Casts Uzo Aduba, Matthew Broderick in Netflix Opioid Crisis Series". Collider. July 8, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  16. ^ Otterson, Joe (July 8, 2021). "Uzo Aduba, Matthew Broderick to Lead Netflix Opioid Crisis Drama 'Painkiller'". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  17. ^ "Painkiller: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  18. ^ "Painkiller: Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  19. ^ "'Painkiller': Netflix Miniseries Tells Shameless Lies About Opioids". August 16, 2023. Retrieved August 18, 2023.