There’s something about Hulu’s The Dropout that keeps you on the edge of your seat. That same thing makes it impossible to turn away. Part of it is the outstanding performances, of course. But this isn’t just a vehicle for great performances, it’s a rollercoaster of a ride that, somehow, ends up also being a precautionary tale on the dangers of believing your own lies.
There’s a lot to be said for this entire cast, but particularly Amanda Seyfried as determined, yet destructive Elizabeth Holmes. It’s easy to admire her at first. She has good intentions and is the kind of go-getter we’ve been conditioned to look up to. But it’s also very, very easy to see the writing on the wall. This story isn’t going to end well.
More importantly, it shouldn’t.
Like any good antihero, however, Elizabeth Holmes almost makes you root for her. And even when you aren’t, even after you’ve recognized that way lies pain — something a little bit of research will make clear — there’s still a big part of you that cannot possibly look away from the train wreck you know is coming.
Despite being populated by great actors who are all giving more than convincing performances, perhaps the strength of The Dropout lies in the story its telling. The answer to Netflix’s Inventing Anna, the show never attempts to center its male protagonists and it seems very comfortable not just with the story its trying to tell, but also with the framing its decided on.
It’s partly that the writers/directors seem to understand that Seyfried is imminently capable of pulling this character off, partly that there’s an awareness that this kind of story has an audience. The podcast the show is based on was, after all, a huge hit. The story itself, the facts of the case, were interesting enough. And that’s without adding the woman, the relationships, the ways the lies went from one tiny one at one specific moment to a house of cards that always seemed ready to topple, but didn’t for a long, long time.
On the flip side, this means that it’s hard to truly see the repercussions of Elizabeth Holmes’ actions. The show has its focus, it has its star, and it never truly wavers from the chosen narrative. If this were a documentary, that would be a problem. As a mini series, it’s possible to enjoy its singular focus, as long as one understands that what one is watching is the making-of a grand disaster.
No, there are no heroes around. There are barely sympathetic figures. But there are interesting, flawed ones. That might just be enough to make this show worth it.
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The first three episodes of The Dropout will be available to stream on Hulu March 3rd, with new episodes available every Thursday after that.