Any Amanda Seyfried project is cause for minor celebration, and Hulu’s newest, The Dropout, brings Seyfried into 2022 in a major way. Last year, Seyfried approached a harrowing story of post-partum depression with emotional maturity, resulting in an incredible performance in A Mouthful of Air. Now, she fills the shoes of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, chronicling Elizabeth’s journey to revolutionize the healthcare industry after dropping out from college. Wet Hot American Summer alum Michael Showalter directs the first four episodes of the series, while Francesca Gregorini and Erica Watson take the reigns for the rest. It may be a little slow to get into the meat of the story, but The Dropout wastes no time chronicling Elizabeth’s leave from school at the conclusion of the very first episode.
What is Theranos, one may ask? This is certainly the first question that popped into my mind, as I knew next to nothing about the true story of Elizabeth Holmes. The answer is more simple than one would assume: Theranos is simply a mixture of therapy and diagnosis. Holmes, who would eventually become America’s youngest female self-made billionaire, began concocting the idea for her project way back in 2001. At the top of her game and already in a graduate-level research group advanced far beyond her years, Elizabeth wants to make it so that one can test their own blood from home with just a drop. Usually, however, when something sounds too good to be true, it often is.
The story of Elizabeth Holmes is not quite as cutthroat and devious as I had anticipated. One can feel frequently that Holmes desired to do things for the greater good, and that was especially the intent behind the creation of Theranos in the first place. Somewhere along the line, she lost her way. Whether that may be in faking a demo to earn money from investors, raising money under the guise of accessible healthcare, roping in a partner, or attempting studies on cancer patients without a functional protype, the missteps Holmes eventually makes are egregious and innumerable. Amanda Seyfried aims to make the viewer care for the character through her fierce commitment to making Theranos happen in the first place. Holmes refuses to give up even in the face of numerous failures and setbacks. Seyfried injects the character’s public persona with a distant, calculated vocal cadence.
Critics were given access to the first seven episodes, so the only part of this tale I have not witnessed is its final hour. I can comfortably say that The Dropout gets better as it progresses. By those last two, I was fully invested in seeing this empire come crashing down. My favorite supporting players ended up being Sunny (Naveen Andrews, Heroes), an over-involved and potentially troublesome love interest, as well as Stanford graduate and Theranos intern Tyler (Dylan Minnette, 13 Reasons Why, Scream.) The scenes this duo shares with Elizabeth are among the best, including a bone-curdling confrontation that will have people talking. I still maintain that The Dropout probably could have been edited into an excellent feature film, but the back half of the show proves the story of Theranos is one that deserves to be seen.
The Dropout drops on Hulu with its first three episodes on Thursday, March 3rd, then premieres a new episode each subsequent week.