Review/Emmy Preview: ‘The Dropout’

Too Wacky For Fiction, This True Story is Worth Dropping Into

The Dropout | Credit: Hulu | Credit: HULU

Watching Amanda Seyfried transform herself into Elizabeth Holmes the person and then ELIZABETH HOLMES the CEO (with her distinctively baritone-but-monotone voice and eerily innocent eye contact) is undoubtedly one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen this year. 

Is Holmes a brilliant con artist who convinced a lot of supposedly brilliant businesspeople (more than $700 million worth) to believe in her vision for Theranos — a pie-in-the-sky nonexistent technology that was supposed to produce massive amounts of health data from a single drop of blood? Or was she so excited and deluded by her own idea that she failed to see the science and the reality that it never actually worked? 

Regardless of what you believe is the truth about the then 19-year-old Stanford dropout who founded the company in 2003 — with blue chip investors like George Schultz (former Secretary of State), the Walton family (as in Walmart), Rupert Murdoch (Fox News), and Betsy DeVos (Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education) — and built it up to a $10 billion valuation ten years later, only to have the whole house of cards explode in a series of civil and criminal lawsuits proving that Theranos was a complete fraud — the story is compelling in the “this is way too wacky for fiction” way that threads across almost all of this year’s Emmy Nominees for Best Limited Series. 

Mark Twain’s old gem, “Truth is stranger than fiction” is certainly true in the case of these series. The Dropout’s fellow nominees Dopesick, Inventing Anna, and Pam and Tommy are all based on true stories, with The White Lotus as the only fictional offering in the bunch. 

The Dropout’s eight episode Hulu series certainly makes for compelling TV (and the podcast it was based on is also terrific). Not only is the story jaw-dropping, the cast is particularly good. In addition to Seyfried’s amazing performance, Naveen Andrews’ portrayal of Sunny Balwani has layers upon layers of arrogance and insecurity, and Dylan Minette, who was so good in Thirteen Reasons Why, is equally good as George Schultz’s conflicted grandson Tyler. If you haven’t watched it yet, I would definitely recommend dropping into The Dropout.

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