After Adam makes his way to corporate HQ in the opening minutes of “WeCrashed” and subsequently storms out of the disastrous meeting, intent on keeping his grasp on his company at all costs, much of this early sequence reverberates throughout the remaining hours of the series. We may not yet fully understand the context behind that newspaper report (although the headline, “Adam Neumann Built WeWork — And May Destroy It,”
is damning enough) or recognize many of the complex character interactions we only glimpse throughout the scene, but rest assured that all will be revealed when this scene pays off down the line. Until then, we flashback over a decade in the past to discover how Adam initially got his start on the streets of Manhattan as a hustling pitchman (he calls himself a “serial entrepreneur”), hawking absurdities like knee pads for crawling infants and collapsible women’s heels which don’t always collapse as they should.
It’s here where we also get our first proper introduction to Anne Hathaway’s Rebekah Paltrow, the character and performance that will undoubtedly go on to alternately beguile and infuriate viewers. (Yes, the real-life Rebekah is, in fact, the cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow and this goes on to play a sneakily integral role in her arc.) From their initial meet-cute, however, she sees right through Adam’s shallowness, providing a much-needed fresh perspective of someone who’s able and willing to call him out on his nonsense when his ego needs to be kept in check. Of course, this doesn’t last as long as we might like. Despite Rebekah rejecting his advances time and again, Adam’s impulsive choice to waltz into her workplace and call out her boss for exploiting her labor as a yoga instructor instantly wins her affections. The unavoidable reality that the very foundation of their relationship is based on money, however, ought not to go unnoticed.
Riding the line between genuine affection for each other and a willful buy-in into each other’s bulls**t (Rebekah constantly throws around cloying phrases like “manifesting,” “positive vibrations,” and “negative energy”), the turbulent dynamic between Adam and Rebekah neatly parallels the increasing setbacks and successes in Adam’s startup venture. Following the modest progress of his and co-founder Miguel McKelvey’s (a steady and effective Kyle Marvin) nascent GreenDesk company and their epiphany of the sprawling WeWork empire, Adam and Rebekah’s wedding ultimately fast-tracks all sorts of complications. Impressively, an entire episode is dedicated to exploring Rebekah and a subplot concerning her mounting family troubles, stemming from legal headaches and potential jail time for her rich father Bob (Peter Jacobson) as well as her own insecurity about measuring up to her famous cousin and, most tellingly of all, her own “unicorn” husband.
Far from relegating her to the role of a henpecking wife or even a Lady Macbeth figure (like I assumed going in), “WeCrashed” gives consistent time and space to Rebekah’s rich interior life. As undeniably privileged and unrelatable as she becomes, there’s a deceptively endearing and even somewhat moving quality to her dream of amounting to something meaningful in life. An aborted attempt at professional acting, philanthropical pursuits of varying success, a tumultuous friendship with businesswoman Elishia Kennedy (America Ferrera, a clear highlight in her brief supporting role), and some stomach-churning instances of petty power-grabs lay in store. All of this succeeds thanks to Hathaway’s expressiveness, pitch-perfect intuition, and incredibly convincing range leading the charge … and usually outshining her much more flamboyant, but oftentimes one-note co-star.