Dropout (Hulu) Review: How a Fascinating Overachiever Gets Divorced from Reality
The limited series docudrama covers the true story of Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes who invented a way to diagnose multiple diseases through blood or something like that, and then cut corner after corner to the point where she went from wide-eyed dreamer to over-stressed manager to someone who could unequivocally be classified as the bad guy.
Played by the always-talented Amanda Seyfried, Holmes is portrayed early on as an overachiever with curious asocial tendencies. She comes off as a social pariah when she insists to her fellow students in a Mandarin immersion program that they speak Chinese like an unpaid dorm RA. The message is clear: Friends are secondary to her goals. She even practices a form of code switching by deepening her voice with male funders. It’s hard to put a finger on what or who Elizabeth Holmes is but she’s a fascinating enough figure (even for someone like myself who had no knowledge of her real-life counterpart) to try to pick apart.
More so, as a plucky underdog with few social friends and a woman with diminutive stature in a man’s world she initially makes for a good underdog as she genuinely wins the respect of accomplished scientists decades her senior (at least at first).
Then, of course, there’s her inevitable downfall. While the show does a good job of forecasting how her inability to give up would lead Holmes to divorce herself from reality when things go wrong, the demise gets overly long and protracted through several episodes. For a number of episodes, the corner-cutting of Elizabeth Holmes seems like the natural course of action: She doesn’t want to screw over her employees or investors by having the company fail. At some point, her cycle of short-term patching without seeing the big picture makes her the least interesting part of the story.
Fortunately, new blood in the form of two green recent college graduates (Dylan Minnette and Camryn Mi-young Kim) serving as interns shake things up pretty explosively in the sixth episode. Minnette’s character is the product of nepotism whereas Kim comes from poverty and she has too much to lose by being a whistle-blower. The two start out as sleuths resembling a Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew (with more bio-technobabble, of course) before turning into Woodward and Bernstein.
Heading into the final two episodes, there’s hope that this series could close out on a high note.