Will There Be A Painkiller Season 2 On Netflix?

The new show presents a fictionalized retelling of OxyContin’s impact on America.

Uzo Aduba in 'Painkiller.' Photo via Netflix
Keri Anderson/Netflix

Netflix’s new series about OxyContin and the opioid crisis, Painkiller, revolves around a “horrible contradictory idea,” according to executive producer Eric Newman. “[The epidemic was] killing just as many people and wrecking just as many lives, and the players were just as nefarious. But because it was legal, it was just a healthcare crisis,” he told Netflix. “Unlike drug traffickers who are never dishonest about who they are and what they do, this group pretends to care about the welfare of human beings. They’re doctors. I think it’s actually the greatest betrayal of public trust in history.”

The six-episode series, which dropped Aug. 10, explores that history with the help of fictionalized characters and conversations depicting OxyContin’s impact on America. Painkiller ends with some sense of finality for its main characters — but it also reminds viewers that the opioid crisis is ongoing, and that more than 40 Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses every day. (The CDC said it was an average of 44 in 2020.)

Given the epidemic and the fact that Purdue Pharma continues to make headlines, it seems there’s enough real-world material to warrant a second installment. But will there be a Painkiller Season 2 on Netflix?

For now, that seems unlikely. Netflix has described Painkiller as a limited series — i.e., the streamer ostensibly planned for it to be a contained story. However, if you want to learn more about the people and events depicted in Painkiller, you can read the source material that inspired the series: Barry Meier’s Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic, and Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.” Meier and Keefe worked on the series as consulting and executive producers, respectively.

In a Netflix Q&A, Keefe praised the way Painkiller complements his and Meier’s respective works.

“Part of the strangeness of doing this kind of reporting is that you spend a lot of time thinking about these people who you’re writing about, but often, you don’t actually get the opportunity to sit down in a room with them,” he said. “You have their emails, you might have their testimony, you might have a deposition, and those are the materials you work with. But to see a dramatic portrayal like we see in this show, and to see great actors embody the people we’ve spent so much time thinking and writing about, is a special kind of magic.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).