Louis Theroux’s ‘Heroin Town’, review

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Image courtesy of IBA UK via Flickr

Louis Theroux has returned to screens with a ‘Dark States’ trilogy that is set to peer into some of America’s darkest secrets.

The BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker has a new series airing on BBC Two from last Sunday (that is, 8th of October) to Sunday 22nd. Unlike last year, when audiences saw Theroux explore stories of England including alcoholism, brain injury and Jimmy Saville, the filmmaker has returned to America, where he will dive deep into some of the social issues troubling some of its cities. With the first episode already being so well received (some people have even been calling on him to get knighted), it is set to be another thought-provoking hit.

Theroux promises just as much, saying: “I immerse myself in some of the most dysfunctional and disturbing aspects of American society. [The episodes] combine hard-hitting actuality with intimate interviews.”

The series’ first programme, which has already aired, was titled ‘Heroin Town’. Theroux travelled to Huntington, West Virginia, to explore the consequences of America’s crackdown on over prescribing painkillers, in which a lot of people, desperate, have turned to opiates. The episode itself focuses on the individual lives of those affected and those working to help solve this problem, covering everything from the arrests to the recoveries to the overdoses. Theroux follows one woman, an ex-user, who has had to take lighter drugs due to her pregnancy; another ex-addict, Mickey, admits he stole from his kids once to get high. This is all too real for this town, in which the overdose rate is 13 times that of the national average.

A moment in particular that got viewers was when Theroux sniffed a block of heroin, commenting mildly that it smelt a bit “vinegar-y”. As always, his awkwardly polite and understanding demeanour has warmed both the audience as well as the people being interviewed, and has allowed us to face the harsh realities of addiction without judgement. Social media viewers claim to have been moved to tears by the latest episode of the series.

The next two series are set to only improve from an already amazing series. This coming Sunday will see Theroux exploring the illegal sex industry of Houston, Texas, in Trafficking Sex, where he will confront both law enforcement and the women working in the industry to better understand why. The third and final episode is titled Murder in Milwaukee and investigates the extreme racial division and poverty seen in Wisconsin city, whose homicide and gun crime rates are unprecedented. He is set to speak to both officers from District 5, where the murder rate is 12 times the national average, as well as the victims of two police shootings.

BBC Two controller Patrick Holland said: “It is always a real event to have a new series from Louis on BBC Two.

“This trilogy promises to be hugely timely and challenging, it has never been more important to engage with the forces shaping modern America.”

The latest episode ‘Heroin Town’ is available to watch online on the BBC Two IPlayer.