Dopesick creator on wanting to end his gut-wrenching Hulu series with a bit of redemption
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the finale of Dopesick.
Somehow, against all odds, Dopesick ended with a message of hope. The Hulu limited series, which tackled the rise of the opioid epidemic across eight episodes, might not have concluded with the Sackler family, otherwise known as the founders of Purdue Pharma, behind bars, but creator Danny Strong knew he wanted to find a silver lining in the many devastating stories he and his team of writers were telling. He also knew he wasn't going to tie things up with white text on a black screen.
"The goal was that it was the origin story, right? I wanted to document those crimes and what happened to the prosecutors," says Strong. "So then, where do you actually end the story? I never knew."
He continues, "I knew I wanted to cut back to one of my main characters in the present day and resolve the show on his arc, not resolve the show on factual information. That's why there's no scroll. I really wanted to end on the journey of Dr. Finnix [Michael Keaton] and what that journey meant for this story."
Then there was the added challenge that the real-life saga on which the project is based is still ongoing. "I was waiting for current events to play out," says Strong. "Then when the bankruptcy [news] came in, it seemed to me that was sort of the perfect ending for where we are at this point in the story — which is that [the Sacklers] get away with it."
"For me, that was the only way that arc could end, and any other version of it felt false," Strong says. "There was a moment in which someone high-level felt it was important that she not die. I didn't get it. I just didn't understand what the problem was. It felt so false to me to have her and Finnix survive. So there's two versions here, right? There's his journey and her journey, and the point of having them both be addicted is to tell two different [stories] of addiction."
The series is filled with wins and loses, and because Strong can't rewrite history, he had to find a way to strike the right tone with its finale.
"It was certainly challenging," says Strong. "With so many dark moments and through this American tragedy, I felt like there was something that could be learned from what had occurred, and something that could move us forward in some way. So I just wanted something to be said that was not depressing. And I do think that even though the Sacklers get away with it, there is some satisfaction knowing that they were run out of town, that they were exposed, that they are these American villains.
Strong adds that he not only wanted to pay tribute to this case, but also show how it laid the groundwork for future prosecutions: "There was a lot of wins to be had here, even though there wasn't the big win."
He continues, "There were a lot of different things at play. There was a very dark tone through the course of the season. I viewed Episode 7 as the darkest episode, but I viewed [episode] 8 as: There is going to be some redemption here."
Part of that redemption centered around Michael Keaton's Dr. Finnix, who was finally able to become a doctor again.
"I always knew this was the journey," says Strong. "He was going to start healing people because of the journey he went on. The show opens with the camera pulling back and a discussion of pain — that we have to rethink it and that we have to numb it. And we end the show with a very different person making a very different statement about pain. Instead of pulling back, we're pushing in. And we're talking about how through pain, we can maybe learn more about ourselves — and that when we do numb it, we numb who we are."
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