The Dropout (2022) is an 8-episode series based on the true story of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos. Theranos is a Silicon Valley unicorn startup which was once valued at $9 billion. The company then fell after multiple accounts of fraud by Elizabeth Holmes and COO Sunny Balwani was brought into light.
Streaming on Hulu and Disney+ Hotstar
The Dropout - Series Review
With the wake of multiple true crime movies and series like Inventing Anna and Bad Vegan in 2022, The Dropout thrives as a series that tells one of the greatest frauds in Silicon Valley. Anna Delvey may have defrauded acquaintances and financial institutions for $275,000, but this was incomparable to Elizabeth Holmes’ feat. Theranos raised over $700 million and had 800 employees. This, naturally, makes for an interesting premise.
Plot and Pacing
The series is also quite loyal to the actual major events that happened, including Elizabeth and Sunny’s relationship, Edmond Ku’s firing and Ian Gibbon’s unfortunate suicide. One common problem that comes with true crime series that focuses on one person is that the person will often be placed under a more sympathetic light, so that the viewers could see “where they were coming from”. This oftens dilute their crime slightly in the show. The Dropout too, portrays Elizabeth in a more sympathetic way in the beginning of the series, showing us that her idea and vision for Theranos was to help people. However, she slowly changed over the course of building her empire.
In the series, Elizabeth used Siemens’ machine and traditional blood testing because she was under too much pressure to deliver the product. She was simply waiting for R&D to come through with her visionary product. Perhaps this is true and we will never know Elizabeth’s true intentions, but more of the story could’ve focused on the impact of her fraudulent ways, such as the false reports to Theranos patients to really make the audience see the implications of her actions. Nevertheless, the second half of the series did a great job in showing Elizabeth for her sociopathic ways, like saying “we won” after the news of Ian’s suicide.
This then brings me to my next point about the pacing of the series. The first half of the series started out great, with solid pacing and character build up. However, the last few episodes, particularly the last one, felt incredibly rushed. Besides firing Sunny, we did not manage to see how Elizabeth dealt with Theranos’ failure after the CMS reports. Next thing we know, Theranos was an empty office. Implications of the frauds were mentioned briefly at the end of the episode, rather than delved into in the series. I personally would love to see how they communicate their failure to employees and the board.
The strength in this series is truly in the performance of the cast. Everyone from the main to the supporting cast nailed their respective characters well. However, the loudest round of applause would go to Amanda Seyfried for her portrayal of Elizabeth Holmes. She managed to capture Holmes’ voice, demeanor and even the weird vibe that she carries around her. Having looked through the actual footages that Seyfried was replicating, I found Seyfried’s portrayal of Holmes incredibly uncanny, from her eye movements to her body language.
All in all, The Dropout is a great series. Although it has its fault, the series truly made them seem forgivable by having an amazing premise, being true to the original story (for the most part) and through its outstanding cast. It is enjoyable and hard hitting at the same time. Definitely worth a binge.