By the time Harper (Myha’la Herrold) ended up sealing a make-it-or-break-it deal over the phone with Jesse Bloom (Jay Duplass) in front of the entire trading floor—a thrilling, pulse-pounding sequence, at that—I found myself even more in awe of Industry, not just as television but as cultural anthropology. Here is not only a world I know nothing about but one I am almost adamant against getting acquainted with. And yet I am transfixed week in and week out with the arguably arbitrary way in which the folks at Pierpoint & Co. do business.
I say arbitrary but there are a whole other slew of adjectives I could use instead. I mean, this is a group of people who say—unironically!—that their job is “to help people make the decision that we know they need to make, often much faster than they’re comfortable making it.” In fact, hearing Eric (Ken Leung) so simply explain how he understands his job was one of the many instances in this second episode of the HBO show’s sophomore season that made me realize just how skillfully its writers (in this case, creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay) are at illustrating the at times deluded self-fashioning that characterizes successful people like Eric. Anyone who posits its relationship with clients in metaphors that reduce people to objects they need to manipulate (“People are just knots of fear: we loosen them, we win”) is clearly unaware of how he actually sounds.
And indeed, this episode revolved around our key core of characters (Harper, Robert, and Yas) re-examining who they wish to be by confronting who they wish to model themselves after. Harper, who’s long seen Eric as her de facto mentor (a relationship that’s fed the rumor mill around the office), is slowly finding that his type of ruthless, take-no-prisoners approach to business may not be suited to the way things may run at Pierpoint in the future. (Or, to take a more cynical approach, she’s slowly realizing she may need to land on her feet on her own lest Eric’s sinking ship take her down with her.)
Then there’s Yas (Marisa Abela), who’s struggled with figuring out how to do her job without needing to dull her own background in the process. (That last name of hers does so much work. Who wouldn’t want to move away from being thought of solely as “the publishing heiress”?) Meeting Celeste (Katrine De Candole) and being offered a chance at dabbling in personal wealth management opens her up to a way of seeing what she’s long understood as personal liabilities and weaponize them instead into welcome assets. Her charm—not to mention her ease with languages—clearly set her up to be a force to be reckoned with, if only she’d allow herself to be the woman Celeste has forged herself to become.
And on the other end of the spectrum is Robert (Harry Lawtey), who keeps trying to play the game like he thinks it’s played. Halfway through a conversation with a client about the way her upbringing has impacted how others in the industry look at her, Robert gets called out for having spent time watching YouTube videos to better correct his pronunciation. Industry, of course, is a show about money. Well, about those movers and shakers who, as if by magic—or luck and instinct and maybe even some canny forecasting—manage the capital that helps the world go round and round. And so it makes sense that some of its most insightful interactions would involve its characters coming head to head with the way money alone doesn’t actually denote wealth. Robert, as we know, did not grow up with money. He’s clearly tried to hide his background (see, for instance, his use of “risible” last episode, which shows how he’s tried to pass himself off as a literate young man with ambitious aspirations).
That a discussion about class solidarity (amid the world of finance, no less) devolves into a thorny sexual encounter where the power imbalance should nudge us all into using less euphemistic language is yet another example of the way Industry captures what happens when people are forced to think of their lives, their livelihoods, and every one of their relationships as transactional in nature. It’s what leads people like Yas to present self-awareness as self-actualization, making blunt statements like “We’re all cunts, aren’t we? Let’s just lean into it.” God, these people are monsters, and Industry, much like Succession accomplishes in its own right, wants us to be appalled yet entranced by these petty machinations. And yes, I’m all in.
- Part of it is the allure of Katrine De Candole, but I have to say Celeste may be the most exciting addition to this season. Who is this woman? Why is the fact that she’s a cipher so entrancing to both Yas and myself? Can she please take me out for a business dinner that doubles as an “interesting experiment” that teaches me about my self-worth and also gifts me amazing shoes that I will then wear while having sex, imagining the life for myself I can now dream up that doesn’t force me to dim myself (or my obvious place of privilege)? A boy can dream.
- pogdaddy911 is a great Instagram handle, no?
- If your significant other gifts you a bust of yourself…I mean, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s such an obvious indictment of your pompous self-image (do you also quote Shakespeare at the office?) that maybe you’re a lost cause anyway and deserve being talked down to by a junior colleague.
- The racial dynamics at work at Pierpont have mostly been tacitly addressed throughout Industry’s run (take how Harper ties her hair in a bun at the office but not when she’s out socializing with her colleagues). But it’s telling that, with a fellow Black American colleague around, we may be getting a chance to see not only the nuances of such camaraderie (the two clearly came from decidedly different financial brackets) but also the way in which intersectional identities operate within a system that has long been exclusionary toward women like Harper. (See also: the way Harper relates to her queer roommate, who clearly both relishes and is appalled by the skinny white boys he fucks.)
- “I don’t want to cum on my suit, it’s new.” I’d say that’s my favorite line in the episode (who among us has not been there, Robert?) but I think Harper’s matter-of-fact “Please don’t misread this call as a sign of intimacy” may take the cake instead—mostly because I love how Herrold so carefully marries earnestness with cynicism. She’s always plotting yet she comes across as authentic; it’s all always a ploy or a play but you so rarely know what her next move will be. Especially since, as the end of the episode shows us, she may only be hanging on by a thread.