Louis Theroux’s beloved wry smile is finally back on our screens. This time, however, he’s left his extremely subtle put-downs and witty remarks at home ready for his next encounter with scientologists, the alt-right or Chris Eubanks. Now, he’s back for some grave and earnest documentary journalism to uncover the backward and harsh realities in one of the world’s most powerful countries. Dark States promises to reveal “the other side of America.”
Just 30 seconds into ‘Heroin Town’ and we are introduced to a woman whom we already know her heroin addiction started through an over prescription of pain killers following a car accident. She confides in Louis about begging the doctor for help with her pain-pill addiction “the doctor cut me off, cold turkey.” Already, the documentary uncovers a possible reason as to why so many of the town’s residents are heroin addicts. This episode is set in the town of Huntington, West Virginia, where one in four residents are addicted to some form of opiate and the rate of fatal over-doses is 13x the national average.
“Would you suck a dick to get high?”
There are times where a no-context meme worthy quote appears, for example, when he questions Petty Betty on her name choice or when he innocently asks, “Would you suck a dick to get high?” However, the moments soon turn unsavoury and sombre as it is revealed Petty Betty started using at 12, whilst the answer to the latter question is not so funny.
We meet Katillia and her boyfriend, who at first sight appear to be in as normal a relationship as any, despite his calmness to her addiction. But later we are left with the actuality of physical abuse and her complacency due to the shelter and drugs he so willingly provides. Katillia, under her breath after asking him to leave the room, describes herself as his “pet.”
The documentary manages to explore a range of people from all walks of life that have fallen into deadly grips of addiction as well as the family members that get hurt along the way. As Louis points out, whether you are addicted or not, in Huntington nearly everyone is affected by heroin. We even meet Nate, perhaps the only person in the show who unashamedly tells Louis he’s comfortable with his life. However near to the end of the episode he admits to being “delusional” as his jokey demeanour fades and we start to see his contrite side. The episode ends with Louis holding a ten day old baby, Archie, who has inherited a drug dependency. Louis’ loving smile is a reminder of the care that many helpless victims of this crisis desperately need.
“Huntington, West Virginia – where one in four residents are addicted to some form of opiate and the rate of fatal over-doses is 13x the national average”
Louis Theroux uses this documentary to highlight the true severity of drugs that we sometimes seem to overlook or happily ignore. He overrides the drug addict stereotypes and instead lays the blame on a system that would allow pharmaceutical companies to exploit the vulnerable.
Overall, it may be gloomier than his past documentaries but that may be because we are not looking at these people as eccentric characters like we may have done during previous Theroux-docs. This time, we are learning about these people as victims of a crisis. There is no aloofness, no mockery – just sympathy.