Netflix’s horror-drama series, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ brings the final chapter of Flanaganverse to the audience, delivering yet another chilling, disturbing, gruesome, and saturated-with-monologues series where the past comes to haunt its protagonist. The center of the story is the Usher family, headed by Roderick Usher, whose house falls in front of his eyes, as one by one, his children are picked off by a mysterious woman, played by Carla Gugino. While the show is clearly fictional, the portrayal of the Usher family and the foundation of its pharmaceutical empire, Fortunato Pharma, bears some similarities to real life. Here’s what you should know about the real-life inspiration behind it.
Fortunato Pharma’s Backstory
In the Netflix series, Roderick Usher and his company, Fortunato Pharma, make billions of dollars after selling a drug called Ligadone. It is a painkiller targeted at people who suffer from mild to chronic pain. It is advertised as a non-addictive drug, but over the years, it becomes clear that Ligadone is addictive, and the company tried to cover up that fact by branding its withdrawal symptoms as side effects. While the show never directly references its real-life counterpart, it is clearly structured to look like the success story of Purdue Pharma with OxyContin.
Roderick Usher is most likely a stand-in for Richard Sackler, who, with Purdue Pharma, came under scrutiny when the company was accused of falsely advertising OxyContin as a non-addictive drug, which then kicked off the opioid crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the past few decades. A couple of shows (‘Dopesick’ and ‘Painkiller’) and a few documentaries focusing on the crisis and Purdue Pharma’s involvement have already explored this premise. ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ views it from a different and highly fictional angle.
While the Mike Flanagan series might have used the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma, and OxyContin to create a baseline for the Ushers and their fall, the show leans away from reality and into the supernatural as the plot thickens. Flanagan has used this as an opportunity to throw many Edgar Allan Poe references into the story, one of which is the name Fortunato. It is borrowed from Poe’s story ‘The Cask of Amontillado,’ in which one of the characters is named Fortunato.
The show’s creator has also used elements from the short story’s plot, which become instrumental in how things turn out at the pharmaceutical company and the act that leads Roderick and Madeline Usher to be at the top where no one can touch them. Like Fortunato, Ligadone is fictional, a counterpart for the real-life OxyContin. It doesn’t seem to have any references to Poe’s works and could be just a name that the writers came up with because they couldn’t use OxyContin in the show for obvious reasons. Considering all this, we can say that Fortunato and the Ushers are loosely based on Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers, but the show tweaks the story to give it a supernatural twist.