Even though she doesn’t know it, the Walgreens launch is the beginning of the end for Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried). The Edison is still not functioning, and Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews) and Elizabeth decide to use Siemens machines to run all blood from their Walgreens Wellness Clinics. They are still operating under the belief that they’re not lying because they have faith that Edison will work one day. The duo also doesn’t tell Walgreens they’ll be using Siemens machines. They feel as though they’re upholding their end of the bargain by delivering the results they promised.
This episode, Iron Sisters, introduces an important whistleblower and unites people who have been wronged by Elizabeth in the past. Erika Cheung (Camryn Mi-young Kim), is a recent Berkeley graduate with a degree in biology. She’s thrilled at the prospect of working with a female CEO at a tech company. On her first day, Erika is given some advice by fellow recent grad, Tyler Shultz (Dylan Minnette): cover the camera on her computer so they can’t watch her. While it may sound too much like a conspiracy theory, we see that Elizabeth, in her ever-increasing paranoia, does have her security team spying on people through their computer cameras.
Elizabeth’s biggest (and most unlikely) adversary comes in the form of her childhood neighbor, Richard Fuisz (William H. Macy), who refuses to believe that any of Theranos’ tech works. He seeks the help of Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf), the professor at Stanford to who Elizabeth originally pitched her idea to. Richard and Phyllis have known each other for years and visit Ian Gibbons’ (Stephen Fry) widow, Rochelle (Kate Burton) in an effort to get information about Theranos. Phyllis is not thrilled to be partnered with Richard but overlooks it for the good of their mission. The banter between Macy and Metcalf provides a delightful, unlikely buddy-cop movie within the larger, more serious drama.
This episode feels unnerving at times, almost like a thriller, given the espionage that’s going on in the darkened hallways of Theranos. Elizabeth seems to be everywhere at once, always watching and listening in case someone tries to tell the truth. At her thirtieth birthday party toward the end of the episode, guests all don terrifying masks of Elizabeth’s face. Her picture is printed on the cookies as well. She’s inescapable and trying to turn herself into something larger than reality.
What makes the story of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes so fascinating is its tangled web of feminism, science, the American Dream, and scams. Scenes from this episode show the high praise that was showered on Elizabeth for the glass ceilings she shattered and the way she was touted as the picture of feminism. It shows how easy it was for her to bend the idea of feminism to her will. When talking about how Phyllis didn’t believe in her idea, Elizabeth claims that Phyllis doesn’t support women. Tyler doesn’t believe that Elizabeth could really understand the depths of the lies of Theranos because she’s a rich white woman. By promoting Elizabeth, all the old, rich, white men get to pat themselves on the back for supporting women.
Seyfried’s performance continues to be revelatory, especially in the scenes that recreate the Errol Morris-shot advert. It’s similar to the one Morris shot for Steve Jobs. There is a close-up of Elizabeth’s face, and her bright red lipstick, wild hair, and green eyes are a stark contrast to the white background. From off-screen, Morris calls out suggestions to Elizabeth: talk about her family, her friends, etc. The shot is claustrophobic, the panic in her eyes evident. It’s all about Seyfriend’s performance and it’s magnetic. The show is expert in filling out the world around Elizabeth Holmes, but it’s Seyfried’s performance that really makes it stick the landing.