This week’s episode of The Dropout finally delivered the intensity and intrigue it has so desperately needed. While predictable in its delivery, its injection of morally sound fresh blood has raised the stakes in Theranos’ survival, the first domino kicking off the impending downfall of a Forbes favorite. Where “Flower of Life” briefly introduced Tyler Schultz (Dylan Minnette), “Iron Sisters” delivers a dynamic duo in both Tyler and Erika (Camryn Mi-young Kim), the newest lab hire within the company. They are the driving force in this episode, Sunny (Naveen Andrews) and Elizabeth (Amanda Seyfried) falling to the background. It is powerful and it is potent, giving those who fight for justice a leg to stand on.
Take a Back Seat
“Iron Sisters” opens with Elizabeth Holmes speaking to the camera, the marketing campaign making her the face of the company in full force. As she answers questions from the gentleman behind the camera, there is a nervous excitement in her face, the blank canvas behind her creating a dynamic eye-line. There is an instant understanding, without even seeing the final product, as to why this add campaign will succeed.
As we continue to take in the moving image before us, there is a hidden eeriness as well, the camera lights causing Elizabeth’s eyes to appear almost serpent-like. Almost as though the camera can see what others can not – the con artist hiding behind the facade. “Flowers of Life” showed Elizabeth taking a drastic turn from her own moral compass, finding relief in Ian’s death (“now he can’t testify”), and stealing another company’s technology to hide the failings of her own. It is a striking image, especially as the words she speaks match the facade, platitudes designed to entice and intrigue.
This marketing creation will come in and out of the episode, the platitudes only growing, Elizabeth seemingly falling to the background of corporate creation. While her role in the episode does grow as it progresses, we see how she has changed. She is strong, intimidating, and conniving, confident in her power and ploy with those around her. Yet, she is not the only one that seems to take a step back.
Sunny seemingly falls out of the limelight in “Iron Sister”. He is seen moving in the background, rather than being front and center. He, like Elizabeth, only moves back to the foreground when intimidation and strength are needed to manage and stronghold those “outliers”. The departure of Elizabeth and Sunny from a mostly foreground narrative setting speaks to the distance that has been created within Theranos. When the series began, there was an intimate nature to the interactions of Elizabeth and her staff, and intimacy that has severely grown distant with each passing episode, each addition of security, and each restriction placed on the Theranos staff. The further away she and Sunny are also speaking to how untouchable they have seemingly become. Just out of reach from consequence.
Blow the Whistle
This episode is rooted in telling the stories of those dedicated to bringing Theranos down – whether it be due to moral requirements or retaliation. For Tyler and Erika, their morality drives them to begin asking questions, attempting to bring as much attention to the problems within the company as they can – even if it means reaching out to Elizabeth directly. They are not as easily convinced of the charade Sunny and Elizabeth have fabricated over the years.
The intensity comes not only in their juggling of denial and acceptance but in their decisions to do something about it. Yet, there are forces that go beyond Elizabeth and Sunny, Tyler’s Grandfather unwilling to hear the circumstantial accusations of his young grandson. Erika faces the seemingly same prospects as Ian Gibbons, telling the truth risking her livelihood, both in-home, finances, and career.
While both Minnette and Camryn Mi-young Kim deliver noteworthy performances, Mi-young Kim stands out, her morally driven character solid and resolved, yet not superhuman. One scene, in particular, captures her struggle to hit send on an email she and Tyler drafted to send to Elizabeth, forcing her to be aware of their concerns. A panic sets in, Mi-young Kim allowing her character to experience the fear and anxiety of this moment, viewers watching how one decision can change the course of her future flash before her eyes.
But it is not just Tyler and Erika that drive the fall of the first domino. Dr. Fuisz (William H. Macy) has kept his promise to try and bring Theranos down, teaming with Stanford Professor Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf) and widow Rochelle Gibbons (Kate Burton). While Dr. Fuisz has been able to make contact with a Wall Street reporter, he needs something substantial to corroborate his claims – a source. And as the source comes into the picture, inspired by the bravery of others, and Tyler and Erika return a call to the Wall Street journalist, it seems that Theranos’ time has run out.
This was the best episode of The Dropout thus far. For the first time, I was excited for the next episode, looking forward to seeing the pieces crumble into place. There has been such an interwoven facade created and has remained seemingly structurally sound. Yet, while one facade can break through glass ceilings so too can a pebble of truth.
Have you seen the latest episode of The Dropout? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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