Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever will break your heart in Hulu's harrowing drama about the origins of the opioid crisis in America.

Dopesick begins with multiple beginnings. In 1996, Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg), having sunk millions of his family's money into the development of OxyContin, begins pushing Purdue Pharma to triple its salesforce to ensure the pill's success. Newly hired sales rep Billy Cutler (Will Poulter) starts making the rounds in Appalachian mining towns, pitching this new "miracle drug" to small-town doctors including Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton).

Dr. Sam thinks this purportedly less-addictive opioid could help his patient Betsy (Kaitlyn Dever), a young miner who suffered a back injury on the job. A few years into the future, a dogged Drug Enforcement Administration agent (Rosario Dawson) and two dedicated assistant U.S. attorneys (Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker) launch separate investigations into a steep rise in violent crimes and child abandonment cases linked to OxyContin.

Hulu's harrowing eight-part series, developed by Danny Strong and inspired by Beth Macy's 2018 best-seller, captures the staggering scope of America's opioid crisis, and the almost Sisyphean battle to take Purdue Pharma down. It's nearly impossible to wrap one's head around the insidious ways Perdue Pharma fomented a growing acceptance of opioid use in the medical community, all based on their false claim that fewer than 1 percent of patients would become addicted to OxyContin. But Dopesick (premiering October 13) deftly corrals the vast addiction epidemic through intimate, deeply engrossing stories of human devastation.

Kaitlyn Dever in 'Dopesick'
| Credit: Antony Platt/Hulu

Keaton is phenomenally poignant as Dr. Finnix, a genial widower and devoted doc, the kind of guy who'll stop by an elderly patient's home every night to make sure she's taken her meds. Of course, he wants the best for Betsy — he delivered her, for Pete's sake! —  and if Purdue Pharma says Oxy will safely take away her pain, why wouldn't he prescribe it? Keaton and Poulter have a sweet and appealing chemistry, as the good doctor takes a grandfatherly liking to the politely persistent Billy. But their business relationship is built on a lie — no matter how unintentional on Billy's part — and Keaton makes us feel the agony of Dr. Sam's inevitable regret. 

Dever adds another remarkable performance to her growing résumé as Betsy, whose descent into desperate addiction is almost too painful to watch — for us, and for her confused and agonized parents (Ray McKinnon and Mare Winningham, both quietly heartbreaking). Like all who fall victim to OxyContin, Betsy is trapped inside a body that is no longer hers.

Stuhlbarg plays Sackler as a sort of socially awkward Bond villain, all soft-spoken menace and relentless hubris. (Last month, the Sackler family forfeited ownership of Purdue Pharma as part of a $4.5 billion dollar settlement, but the family continues to deny any wrongdoing.) At one point in the series, Sackler extolls the success of OxyContin at a family meeting, boasting that it's on track to become the company's first billion-dollar drug. When he revealed the poster-sized photo of Purdue's next product — a supersize, 160 milligram Oxy tablet — I yelled "No!" at my screen like I was watching someone about to open the wrong door in a horror film. But Dopesick is even more terrifying, because the monster at the heart of this story is real. A-

Dopesick premieres Oct. 13 on Hulu.

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