Painkiller, Netflix's latest scripted true-crime series, follows the onset of the opioid crisis following the development and release of Oxycontin. The limited series explores the epidemic from all sides, from the executives and employees at Purdue Pharma, to the victims and families whose lives were changed by the painkiller, to the investigators who worked to bring justice. The complex series doesn't pull punches as it depicts both the destruction that the opioid brought to communities and the greed of wealthy executives who aggressively marketed the drug, especially Purdue president Richard Sackler and members of the wealthy Sackler family.
Though Painkiller comes to an end after six episodes, both the opioid epidemic and the legal battle against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers are still ongoing. As viewers have turned to the Internet to learn more about the true story behind Painkiller, many have wondered whether the show could return for another season. Read on for what we know about the possibility of a Painkiller season 2.
Could there be a second season of 'Painkiller'?
As of right now, Netflix hasn't released any information on if there will be a season two of Painkiller, and the show is still billed as a limited series. However, there have been instances of very popular miniseries being expanded into anthologies, à la The White Lotus. One notable example for Netflix is The Watcher, which was initially a true-crime limited series before it was renewed for season 2.
However, the Painkiller finale presents the six-episode season as a completed story. The show frames the plot as the testimony of Edie Flowers (Uzo Aduba), who is sharing everything she knows about the Purdue case with a new set of investigators working on the next legal battle. Her narration offers necessary context about the scale of the crisis, and once she's finished speaking, she seems to leave the case behind her, wishing the new legal team luck and returning home. Between Edie's ending and where the other main characters end the season (staying vague here to avoid spoilers), the final episode is a natural end for the story that has been told.
What could season 2 of 'Painkiller' be about?
Even though the Painkiller finale serves as a solid ending to the show, the ongoing opioid epidemic and trial against Purdue does give the show's creative team more to explore if they decide to continue. Maybe season 2 could focus on the deposition of Richard Sackler (with Matthew Broderick returning), or more the ghost of Arthur Sackler's reaction to his legacy being tarnished. Another serious possibility is the show becoming an anthology which follows other scandals involving big pharma corruption.
Are there other shows or books about the opioid crisis?
Viewers who fell down a search engine rabbit hole following Painkiller have a lot of material to choose from among books, documentaries, and series about the opioid crisis. Of course, there's the source material for the Netflix series, which was based on Barry Meier's nonfiction book Pain Killer by Barry Meier, and Patrick Radden Keefe's New Yorker article “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.” Keefe also wrote a subsequent full-length book titled Empire of Pain, which focuses on the rise and fall of the Sackler family itself.
Some standouts among the documentaries about the Sacklers and the opioid epidemic include The Crime of the Century, a two-part docuseries which includes testimony from former Purdue employees; Heroin(e), an Oscar-nominated film which follows three women battling the epidemic in West Virginia; and The Pharmacist, a four-part series about a small-town pharmacist who becomes an activist after the death of his son. Another must watch is All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which covers artist Nan Goldin's mission to have the Sackler name removed from NYC's biggest cultural institutions.
For anyone who wants to stay on the scripted route, the excellent 2021 miniseries Dopesick was based on her book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America. It also covers the opioid epidemic through a similar lens, presenting storylines featuring Richard Sackler (played her by Michael Stuhlbarg), Oxy users who became addicted to the drug, conflicted members of Purdue's salesforce, and investigators going after the company. However, while Painkiller was very flashy and quickly paced (with one too many montages), Dopesick has more room to breathe with a longer eight episodes. It also further explores the crisis through a physician's point-of-view, via Michael Keaton's Emmy-winning role of an Appalachian doctor.
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