THE DROPOUT (S1E7) “Heroes”: Into The Fire We Go

The Dropout finally found its legs in last week’s episode, “Iron Sisters” bringing the intensity and high stake drama the series has so desperately been missing. While the face of Theranos is finding its strength in its CEO, the fractures and cracks that have been forming have finally begun to break, the foundation and manipulation of a multibillion-dollar company finally crumbling. As whistleblowers rise and vengeance gives strength, the end has finally come for Theranos. With “Heroes”, however, the inevitable fall can be held off only so long before others are willing to walk into the fire to save those who can not speak for themselves.

The Real Heroes

“Heroes” opens with both Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) and Sunny (Naveen Andrews). Everything seems perfect. Interviews with former and future presidents, expensive homes and cars, and health cleansing meals speak to the benefits of the illusions they have both crafted together. Yet, as you digest this illusion, viewers see the fractures – their appearance falling apart and the illusion in your face more than ever.

THE DROPOUT (S1E7) “Heroes”: Into The Fire We Go
source: Hulu

As we watch Sunny scream at his employees and Elizabeth lie to those around her, we begin to see the contrast the episode wants to open on. These two are far from heroes, their illusions and fractures showed while David Bowie‘s “Heroes” plays. And as the camera settles on Elizabeth running, we no longer see the inspiring young woman the series began with, but rather a child and a scammer running away and running out of time.

Further contrasting this opening, “Heroes” settles on one of its actual heroes – Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Since we last left him, he has made some serious headway in his article. He has discovered sources that not only validate his story but could deliver the death blow to Theranos. Various doctors speak to the devastating medical and financial turmoil their patients have been left to deal with in the face of faulty Theranos blood tests. Mark Roessler (Kevin Sussman), Ericka Chung (Camryn Mi-young Kim), and Tyler Schultz (Dylan Minnette) have not only answered questions regarding the inner workings of the company, but Mark has promised to deliver internal emails.

The only thing John hasn’t obtained is one-to-one contact with the Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. While he remains hesitant, in the protection of his story and his sources, his editor reminds him that they have to prove, after the release of the article, that they did everything they could to reach out to the CEO. Proof that they gave every opportunity for the head to deny or substantiate claims made against the company – a chance to give her own side of the story.

THE DROPOUT (S1E7) “Heroes”: Into The Fire We Go
source: Hulu

The power of journalism goes beyond a one-sideed reporting, encompassing as many sides as possible to deliver the most truthful story. It is a powerful examination within The Dropout to include this moment, this conversation between writer and editor. In a world where the credibility of reporters is constantly in question, it is a reminder to all of not only the power of journalism but its dedication to its own code of ethics and reporting.

Intimidation and Above the Law

From the moment the email is sent to Theranos with questions John would like to ask, the dominos begin to fall in escalating succession. As Mark attempts to leave undetected with internal emails, he is discovered as the news of the developing article is broken to Elizabeth and Sunny. While Sunny and Elizabeth initially try to keep their cool and remain pragmatic, the questions clearly indicate who the sources are, they can feel the heat turning up and reckoning on the horizon.

The news of the article, Mark’s departure with corporate internal emails and the subsequent intimidation of sources once again brings viewers to examine the seemingly unchecked power of big corporations – in this case, big tech. The power they wield to draft legal documents in an instant, to manipulate the opinions of those around them, coerce others, and the unchecked intimidation is shocking – especially as this is based on true events. As viewers hear the devastating effects experienced by patients through misdiagnosis and undue medical expenses, you see the victims left in the wake of capitalistic greed and manipulation. And as you consider the powerless nature of these victims to speak up, the series brings viewers right back to the power of the NDA.

THE DROPOUT (S1E7) “Heroes”: Into The Fire We Go
source: Hulu

The Non-Disclosure Agreement – a binding legal document that, when signed, prevents the signee from ever disclosing information to outside parties – is a constant element throughout the entirety of The Dropout. A casual mentioning early on, it becomes the iron-clad weapon of intimidation, leaving new victims in its wake. As Tyler, Ericka and Mark find that speaking to the reporter is the only way to get the world to know what Theranos is doing, subsequently saving lives, they potentially risk a devastating lawsuit for themselves.

As they are presumed to be the sources, they are reminded of their NDA agreements, this form of intimidation forcing many to “dropout” and distance themselves from the words they have already spoken, backing out of their support of the article. Families begin to turn on presumed rats, their ethically and morally based decisions meaning little in the face of exposing greed and manipulation. As viewers watch each source weigh between doing what is right vs the ramifications of defying the NDA, we are left once again to wonder why a document as powerful as this still exists. Why this one piece of paper stands above the law and protects and elevates corporations with it.

While The Dropout has been a pretty straightforward linear examination of a corporate scandal, this is where the series finds its strongest examinations and platforms of conversation – the NDA. We are left not to question how the scandal of Theranos came to be, but to understand how it was allowed to last for so long. And in proxy, how so many other scandals survived as well.

Conclusion

We are one episode away from the conclusion of The Dropout, a reckoning finally on the horizon. Yet, as the series is coming to a close, it leaves more of a bad taste in one’s mouth. We now know how and why it happened, and soon what the ramifications were, but see no real change. No protections for those who would stand for others, and no dissolution of papers that would shield a company.

Though it’s is not coming to an end without embracing the idea of hope. That, no matter the consequence, there will always be those willing to fight, to defy the restrictions of others, their moral compass pointing and driving them to do what is right.

Have you seen the latest episode of The Dropout? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

New episode of The Dropout premier on Hulu every Thursday!


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