Nonexistent justice

Hulu miniseries “The Dropout” fails to match the excitement of original podcast

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

When difficulties arise and begin to shatter a person’s aspirations like a glass mirror that was struck with a hammer, it is difficult to stay dedicated to anything. However, some people possess the unwavering power to pull through. This is what Elizabeth Holmes, Harvard dropout and former CEO of the technology healthcare company Theranos, thought she was doing. 

When Holmes founded her company in 2003, she claimed that her technology was able to run hundreds of health tests based on only a small finger prick and one drop of blood. This was not the case; it couldn’t accurately run a single test. 

For eleven years, Holmes was able to trick people into believing that her company was producing a revolutionary medical testing device including the Theranos Board of Directors, investors, employees, scientists and even the very clients she tested her technology on. 

It was not until 2015 when the journalist John Carreyrou published a story in the Wall Street Journal, which was based on information from Theranos whistleblower and former employee Tyler Schultz, that the illegitimacy of Holmes’ company was brought into the spotlight. 

Following the article, Theranos’ downfall began to attract the attention of the public on an astronomical scale. Thus, the Wall Street Journal decided to create a podcast titled “The Dropout,” which gained such a widespread following that it was soon adapted into a Hulu miniseries starring Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes. 

When watching the show, it is hard to separate Seyfried and the character because of her extremely accurate portrayal of the once esteemed CEO. She nailed every aspect of who Elizabeth was from her voluntarily altered deep voice to her manipulative tendencies. 

The show itself presented the audience with the same level of accuracy that the podcast did and sometimes, it made elements of the story clearer than the podcast itself. Listeners of the podcast may sympathize with Holmes more than the viewer of the series because the show did not paint her to be the victim that she tried so hard to be. 

The podcast presented Holmes as one who was able to hide behind her abuse allegations against former boyfriend Sunny Balwani in an attempt to push all of the blame off of herself. Yet, the show told a different narrative. 

In the show, Holmes was the one who manipulated Balwani and was the reason that he resigned from the company. She tricked him and cut him off to make him seem like the sole problem when in reality, it was both of them. They were equally as manipulative and damaging to the integrity of Theranos as a company. 

It was refreshing to see Balwani’s deceitful actions and the suffering he caused Holmes paired alongside the harmful things she did to him emotionally and to his career as well. The show did not tell the story from a single narrative and did not paint one person as the ultimate evil even though it is easily all traced back to Holmes. Everyone who knew about Holmes’ corruption and stayed silent played a role in the blatant trickery and the ultimate destruction of the company. 

However, despite the show’s ability to further explain the nuanced relationships and events that led up to Theranos’ downfall, it lacked a very important element that the podcast did not: the trial of Elizabeth Holmes. 

The very essence of “The Dropout” and the element that excited the listeners of the podcast the most was the overwhelming anticipation that grew inside of them each week as they waited to see if Holmes would pay for her lies and crimes. 

While the show was well-produced and phenomenally brought to life by Seyfried and castmates including Dylan Minnette, Naveen Andrews, Sam Waterson, and many other astonishing actors, it failed to capture the same nerve-racking feeling that the podcast was able to create. 

No aspect of the trial was shown. All that was shown was a black screen and captions that explained the court proceedings following the exposure of the company in a true documentary style. This was a huge missed opportunity for the show. It desperately needed that extra emotion and intensity to allow it to go above and beyond that of the podcast that it originated from, but sadly, it fell short. 

Holmes’ actions are deceptive enough before the trial, but her attitude of dismissal and failure to remember simple events in the trial described in the podcast is far worse than anything shown in the show. Due to the show’s inability to highlight this part of the story, it automatically lost some of its worth and did not truly live up to the title of “The Dropout.” 

If the show were to be officially renewed for a season two, which could highlight the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, it might stand a chance at rivaling the podcast. However, in its current state, the show fails to capture the entirety of the podcast’s exciting energy.