Three reviews of Hulu’s The Dropout based on your knowledge of the Elizabeth Holmes scandal.

At this point, most people know the story (and crimes) of Elizabeth Holmes. After all, the former Theranos CEO and con artist has been the subject of two books, two podcasts, two documentaries, an episode of 60 Minutes, and several investigative journalism pieces. Holmes’ meteoric rise and fall is now the subject of Hulu’s new miniseries The Dropout, which premieres as she is found guilty of four counts of defrauding investors.

Such a pipeline isn’t uncommon these days – this TV season will see a handful of shows like Inventing Anna or WeCrashed, based on stories so compelling they can’t be contained in a single medium.

The Dropout, like some of the other projects, is backed by a host of big names. The pilot was written by Elizabeth Meriwether (New Girl) and Michael Showalter (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) directed over half of the episodes. Elizabeth Holmes is played by Amanda Seyfried, who is joined by Naveen Andrews from Lost, Stephen Fry, Sam Waterston from Law and Order and Alan Ruck from Succession as various members of her brain trust. (Along with a slew of other high profile character actors in the seven episodes shown to critics out of a total of eight.)

However, the TV delay still involves a big bet on whether audiences will stay tuned, or on a show able to provide more perspective on a story that may well be contentious in the public eye by the time it hits the airwaves. . Is The Dropout up to the task? This could be determined by how much you’ve engaged with the floor so far.


What I know of Elizabeth Holmes is basically a Mad Libs con game: she dressed up as Steve Jobs (on purpose?), and she spoke in a funny voice. She created… an app? And he’s in…jail? Hidden? Because… it was… bad?

I mostly recognized her as part of a long line of 2010s crooks turned media sensations, the kind that became popular fixations because we love a floor where we can’t decide who’s the biggest jerk : the trickster in his arrogance, or the rich people who let them fly so far on clearly empty promises.

So The Dropout was initially frustrating for me. It’s framed by Holmes’ 2017 deposition, after everything went wrong for her – it’s essentially a biopic delivered piecemeal, accelerating its early life just slowly enough to convey its unusual vibrancy and sound. unorthodox obsession with tech moguls like Steve Jobs, and stopping to dwell on the moments that led to the formation of his company, Theranos.

This structure is based on the assumption that you are familiar with the material in a way that I am not. I had no idea what Theranos was or was supposed to be (ironically that seems to be a big part of the real problem here). It’s not enough to put me off – The Dropout is simple, similar to The Social Network but less stylish – but I don’t know how I would sell it to someone who wasn’t already intrigued by the idea “From an Elizabeth Holmes Show.

Which is a shame, because Holmes, played by Amanda Seyfried, is a fantastic character: sympathetic yet horrifying, a moral invertebrate who isn’t without compassion but is also willing to compromise on almost anything if the imagined endings seem enough. good. Like Seyfried, almost everyone on The Dropout produces great work; it’s just a shame that the show, like its subject matter, is all about tautology. Because Elizabeth Holmes was worth the time of countless writers, podcasters, and documentarians, The Dropout is worth your time. And Holmes, like most scammers, got that time and money just by saying she deserved it. —Joseph Rivera


If, like me, you only read the early titles of Elizabeth Holmes (and perhaps a misplaced follow-up or shared tidbit from a sister well-versed in the world of podcasting in the years since), it’s easy to forget how massive Theranos is. lies were. The initial report in The Wall Street Journal by John Carryeou is damning, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the years that followed, the Holmes name became synonymous with an obvious type of fraudster, one who was deceptive in everything from his blood-testing machines to his voice. What I love about The Dropout is how he can (and sometimes can’t) walk away from taking his crimes for granted. That, like a would-be advisor berating her for taking Yoda seriously, isn’t really the point, is it?

Seyfried’s performance as Elizabeth rarely makes the CEO convincing as a people person; the screenplay does more heavy lifting than Seyfried in terms of presenting Elizabeth as an inspiration to men (and women). Instead, she seems to be an expert at switching between victim and powerful actor. She’s constantly churning out nonsense that could fuel a bullshit factory like the one Holmes ran, whether it’s strategically crying in front of her board to keep her CEO seat or quickly blaming underlings. .

It’s a fine line to walk, sure, but it’s one the whole show hinges on. While The Dropout consistently attributes the impetus for the conspiracy to Holmes and Balwani, it is careful to demonstrate how the structure of bureaucracy provided cover in the same way that a funhouse hall of mirrors does. It’s hard to tell how much of the established fact is fabricated within the confines of the scripted drama.

Maybe that’s how it should be. What The Dropout excels at is balancing the micro-decisions that Elizabeth and Sunny (the show frequently traces the whole conspiracy to those two) make for their business with the macro-consequences of the fallout. Dropout’s Elizabeth is constantly reminded that she’s an outsider – as a dreamer, young, and especially as a woman. However, the series is careful not to condone them or even allow a world in which its deception is anything other than a desperate attempt to gain prominence. This can eat up a lot of the oxygen in the series, which isn’t always a bad thing. Among the excellent walkthroughs provided by the first seven episodes of The Dropout is an idea of ​​how such a lewd lie could be supported by so many. It balances the origin of the lie without excusing it more than most scam reviews. And yet, I still have little sense of the people whose lives were at stake – or, to be honest, if that deep comedic voice was even close to the real thing. —Zosha Millman”’


When you’re so familiar with a subject, the dramatizations of it can fall flat because they simply tell a story you’ve already heard told better, in a more interesting way. The Dropout showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether and director Michael Showalter, on the other hand, clearly understood that the point of series like The Dropout is not to recreate the reality of what happened, but to transform those events. into art that reflects the essence. of this reality.

I Never Believed The Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Actually Did These Things When Amanda Seyfried’s Holmes Seductively Dances In Front Of A Steve Jobs Poster In His Teenage Bedroom Or Rubs An iPod On His Face In his college dorm (although I wish I were wrong). Nonetheless, these offbeat moments perfectly capture Holmes’ notoriously unsettling presence as well as his obsession with Jobs. In its dramatization of Holmes’ journey, The Dropout is clearly not afraid to make bold creative choices. But, with Seyfried’s captivating performance as the anchor, I didn’t care if the show hit every swing or provided an eye-opening perspective on the Founder; it was simply a pleasure to watch.

Although Seyfried’s Holmes is a charismatic and compelling track, The Dropout never asks viewers to fully sympathize with her – nor does it allow them to forget how dangerous the cheats she committed were. As the series progresses, The Dropout dedicates more time to its supporting cast, highlighting the scope of those affected by Holmes’ actions and the very real cost of his deception. This is especially true for the show’s portrayal of Ian Gibbons (Stephen Fry), the chief scientist of Theranos, who killed himself the day before he testified in court about “revolutionary” blood-testing technology. of the business, which never actually worked. . Fry is absolutely heartbreaking as Gibbons, and his performance is one of many standouts from the ensemble cast.

The Dropout offers a stylistic, fast-paced, and sometimes surprisingly comedic examination of the rise and fall of Theranos by embracing both the absurdity and gravity of Holmes’ story. It doesn’t add anything to what I already knew about Holmes, but it also doesn’t feel like a rehash of previous reporting. In a time when tales of stranger-than-fiction fraudsters and CEO extinctions abound, The Dropout stands out as one of the few worth watching — even for those who already know the case intimately. Sadie Gennis

Donald E. Patel