The Dropout is pulling back its focus from Elizabeth Holmes, the ill-fated founder of Theranos. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As clearly talented as Amanda Seyfried is, there’s only so much moral complexity that can be explored in a woman who caused so much damage that impacted very real people.
This being said, The Dropout still has such an interesting way of portraying Holmes. This week’s episode gave us a literal close-up of the character while filming a promo video. Paradoxically, she’s getting ever more distant and unrelatable even as she desperately tries to make herself seem down-to-Earth and relatable. The more she tries to present this relatable image to the audience, the clearer it becomes that it’s all a façade.
We got a whole new perspective on Holmes through Theranos’ brand new employees, Erika Cheung (Camryn Mi-Young Kim) and Tyler Schultz (Dylan Minnette). Minette, of 13 Reasons Why fame, plays Tyler Schultz as aspirational. This character is so wholly designed around the female gaze and is the ultimate feminist ally as he uses his position of privilege and power to blow the whistle on Theranos. Not to skip too far ahead, but Schultz talking with journalist John Carreyrou (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is definite foreshadowing for where this series is going.
The star of “Iron Sisters” by far, though, was Camryn Mi-Young Kim. Erika Cheung is another who became a key whistleblower as Theranos. She’s played here as incredibly sympathetic. It’s so clear that she wants to do the right thing and genuinely cares about the patients Theranos is supposed to be helping. Her experience with the devastating effects of poverty, racism, and sexism makes her all the more determined to make a better world. Even though it’s clear Cheung was meant for far greater, her dismissal from Theranos is heartbreaking after seeing all of the efforts she put in.
The most delightful moments in an emotionally intense episode came with the team-up Richard Fuisz (William H. Macy), Rochelle Gibbons (Kate Burton), and Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf). It was like watching your top three grandparents form a team and seeing the ensuing chaos in real-time. Seeing them in action, determined to reveal the truth about Theranos, was a stark contrast to the worship of youth which was at least partially responsible for Holmes being so idolized in her day.
More than any previous episode, this one was a deeper dive into the idea of scientific ethics, and how completely these concepts were ignored by everyone involved in Theranos throughout the project. We’ve already been shown the real-world impact this company had on patients looking for vital information about their health. Now, we’re shown how essentially cherry-picking data and eliminating “outliers” made the process invalid from the beginning. Diluting blood samples and using already-patented machines; all of these decisions indicated that this supposed healthcare company was run by people who not only paid little attention to the science itself but valued the profits they were making over actual utility.
Finally, what made this episode one of the most compelling yet was its use of the horror genre to portray some of these real-life events. The music and lighting were classic examples of the horror genre, and it was so effective. The mysterious person appearing in the lab when Cheung was told she was working alone at night and Holmes herself appearing out of nowhere when Schultz was trying to confide in his grandfather was insidious. The horrifically creepy masks of Elizabeth with the cutout eyes were just the cap on what was a fantastically creepy vibe that was more than appropriate for this story of people doing horrible things.
Ultimately, if you weren’t convinced before that The Dropout has an excellent handle on Elizabeth Holmes’ character and motives, this episode was proof beyond all doubt. Fuisz sums up Holmes extremely well… pretty, blonde, and unthreatening to the status quo. This is what made her so dangerous from the beginning. This entire story is a lesson in the havoc white feminism can wreak.
With only two more episodes left in the series, there is plenty more commentary to be made. If the majority of the episodes are any indication, The Dropout is more than up to the task.
- As someone who’s about to turn 30, that 30th birthday party was very much not the vibe I’ll be going for…trust me, you won’t find any creepy masks of my face anywhere in sight.
- The car scene was strangely endearing. Sure, it was tense and it was definitely clear what was at stake. There was such a hopefulness there, that not absolutely everyone involved in this enterprise were horrifically terrible people.
- I’m still not over how incredibly well this series captures the music of this era. Listening to these beats make the early-mid 2000s seem like so far away, and yet as if they were just yesterday.
What did you think of The Dropout 1×06, “Iron Sisters”? Let us know in the comments below!
The Dropout airs Thursdays on Hulu.
Read All Of THE DROPOUT Reviews –
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×01 Review: “I’m in a Hurry”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×02 Review: “Satori”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×03 Review: “Green Juice”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×04 Review: “Old White Men”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×05 Review: “Flower of Life”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×06 Review: “Iron Sisters”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×07 Review: “Heroes”
- ‘The Dropout’ 1×08 Review: “Lizzy”