Thursday, March 10, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Dropout' - Walgreens Enters Negotiations with Theranos as Ian Voices His Concerns in 'Old White Men'

Hulu's The Dropout - Episode 1.04 "Old White Men"

Walgreens is enticed by Elizabeth to seal the deal on a new partnership with Theranos. Ian tries to investigate what's going on behind closed doors.

"Old White Men" was written by Dan LeFranc and directed by Michael Showalter

By switching the perspective, this show reaches a new level of interest and engagement with its subject matter. The executives at Walgreens have to decide if they are going to invest in Theranos. They are given a proposal that could completely change their business. Everyone is enticed by the idea of one droplet of blood being enough to detect so many diseases. It can revolutionize patient care. Every business is competing to land that exclusive deal. They want to be the face of this new invention. Wellness centers can be a part of every Walgreens in the country. Elizabeth can make that a reality. And yet, it's unethical for this product to be used on humans. Elizabeth has already conducted trials with terminal cancer patients. That led to the departures of many people on the team. They could no longer stand by and allow this to continue. They can't be a part of it. A mountain of paperwork prevents them from speaking out. That means the people at Walgreens have no reason to doubt the claims Elizabeth and Sunny are making. It's become nothing more than a boardroom deal. They have to come in with the right offer to avoid one of their competitors beating them. Wade and Jay hate CVS. They don't want to lose to them. The market already suggests the public is making the move. They have to do something big to maintain their relevancy. It's all positioned as a few white men having their midlife crises. In doing so, it can impact the health of people throughout this country. They are prepared to take a risk. Jay believes something valuable must be going on within Theranos. That's the only explanation for the intense security. The business is shrouded in cloak and dagger. The people in these meetings have to stagger their exits so no one spying can deduce what's happening on the inside. That also creates the illusion the business is being threatened. Theranos has its own competitors that would like to steal this product. In reality, Elizabeth and Sunny are covering for the fact they can't offer anything. Nothing in the lab would suggest they can deliver within a year. That's not realistic. It's what all the contracts suggest. Everything is conditioned on that assumption. It's what Elizabeth and Sunny lead everyone to believe. They prevent anyone from getting in the lab. Moreover, the people in the lab can't even leave that area for hours when these meetings are happening. Growth can explain why Ian no longer has a close friendship with Elizabeth. Things are happening above him that he doesn't need to know to do his job. His input is necessary. He knows what's practical. One look at Elizabeth's plans send him spiraling.

Elizabeth continues to succeed though. She ends the episode in a meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. In him, she sees the necessary weight to support easing through the regulatory process. Everyone questions why the company isn't starting that work now. That comes from experience. They know it takes years for the government to approve any new treatment. The FDA has to be meticulous. Of course, various companies have found workarounds throughout the years. Sometimes all it takes to sail through is minor adjustments to already existing products. Do that enough times and the final version looks nothing like what was already approved by the agency. Elizabeth hopes to gain traction mostly by accumulating clout. If Walgreens and Safeway are willing to invest, then it should be much easier to convince everyone else she has the goods to back up her claims. It's a feedback loop that keeps growing. It poisons relationships. Ian believes he can go to Channing with his concerns. He no longer has access to Elizabeth. He can't question what she's doing. He thinks he can rely on a personal friend for a good sense on the stability of the company. Ian believes everyone knows the technology is years away. It doesn't make sense to be making these business deals now. It's not ready to be marketed to people. Everyone wants to will it into existence. They don't take Ian's concerns seriously. Him speaking out only leads to retaliatory action. That's Elizabeth at her most cruel and vindictive. She needs to silence Ian. He is ultimately brought back only because the rest of the lab threatens to quit. Sunny boasts that everyone is replaceable. Everyone quitting would also send a bad signal. Elizabeth and Sunny are more concerned with the optics. When they see that threat, they target it with extreme precision. Ian can't be trusted in the lab. He's given a meaningless desk job. He won't change the world in that position. He still believes in the work. He wants to continue cultivating the project with the team. He is given no choice but to accept this cruel treatment. He is friendly when others are so callous and cruel. They are the ones ultimately rewarded. Even then, Elizabeth can't take her eyes off the one person who can threaten it all. It's reasonable to inspect the lab and how the product works before Walgreens signs off on the deal. Instead, it comes into fruition mostly because the people running a veteran company fear the younger generation is blowing up traditions which will ultimately put them out to pasture. That fear propels them into a terrible deal. The audience can see that train wreck. No one can stop it.