Void of the whys, ‘The Dropout’ treats the the queen of millennial scammer with kid gloves

Category: Television


When I first saw Elizabeth Holmes in Alex Gibney’s 2019 documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, my first thought was, “Is this a new AI?” Then, everything about her — from her unflinching stare without blinking to a strenuously forced baritone without a hint of emotional intelligence — made my blood run cold. And when she purported to disrupt the health care industry with a desktop blood-testing device that quickly performs hundreds of scans on a micro-dose of blood, I blurted out, “Yeah, right!.” It sure sounded like an empty promise from an empty vessel.

Adapted from ABC News’ investigative true crime podcast of the same name, Hulu’s The Dropout tracks Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) from high school through her meteoric rise as the golden child Theranos CEO to the spectacular fall from grace. The eight-episode miniseries chronologically investigates the hows behind her 15-year audacious systemic fraud sprinkled with ‘disruptive pixie dust,’ but fails to disclose the whys of her white-collar crime sagas.

The Dropout is peppered with anecdotal insights into how she becomes an evangelical revolutionary: her parents put her on a pedestal and expected her to ‘perform’ at the highest level; the advisors/followers drank the Kool-Aid, but eventually discarded like trash; the venture capitalists showed her how the game is played in Silicon Valley; her secret boyfriend/COO Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews) ran Theranos with an iron fist; her adversaries, naysayers, and whistleblowers wanted to expose her for a fraud and chicanery and were bullied/harassed/abused. It implies that her reflexive and knee-jerk reactions to the so-called ‘adult supervision’ are responsible for her drastic transformation from an intensely driven, socially awkward tech nerd into a ruthless visionary-turned-fraudster.

In other words, The Dropout portrays Elizabeth as the unfortunate product of the ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ or ‘winning at all costs’ culture, and at the same time it justifies her dress-for-success makeover to mimic her idol Steve Jobs to combat misogyny in tech industry.

If you’re interested in the whys behind the recently convicted fraudster, I’d recommend listening to the podcast. Holmes’ testimony offers more valuable tidbits in figuring out who she is and connecting the dots. The queen of millennial scammer tried her best to charm the jury into her distorted version of reality where her wins are hers and her sins and losses are everybody else’s. No apologies. No remorse. No guilt. No shame. No nothing. So much for a Palo Alto Marie Curie! Humble much?

The first three episodes of The Dropout are streaming on Hulu. One additional episode will drop every Thursdays for the remainder of season.

About the Author

Meg Mimura is a TV critic who actually watches shows zealously in search of thought-provoking and paradigm shifting human drama worth our precious time. She is a member of Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter.