Why you should catch up with Industry
James R | On 27, Sep 2022
Season 2 premieres on 27th September 2022. This review is based on the first half of Season 1 and was originally published in November 2020.
“Half of you won’t be here in six months.” That’s the warning from veteran trader Eric (Ken Leung) when a new wave of graduates join the investment bank Pierpoint in London. It’s closer to a promise than a threat, as HBO’s Industry doesn’t shy away from the pressures of a high-finance workplace in our high-stakes modern world.
The graduates are competing to secure a limited number of permanent positions at the firm, which sets them up to compete with each other and do what it takes to get one step ahead. All this doesn’t sound like anything new, but debut writers Konrad Kay and Mickey Down find fresh impact in office tensions by rooting everything in the stresses and strains of young people today. This generation of renters have already experienced crisis after crisis, facing impossible housing costs and a constant sense of dismissal from those who have gone before and don’t see why they should help the new faces coming after. The result is an unhealthy level of expectation, as twenty-somethings have to prove their worth to themselves as well as to others, needing to forge their identities as well as find success, each of them desperate to mark their mark on the world – and taught that they need to put in 200 per cent of the work to do it, or else risk being a failure.
Think Mad Men for millennials – it’s a thrillingly timely dissection of what it’s like for graduates starting out, regardless of their profession. Combined with the pressure-cooker environment of a financial institution and you have an even more nail-biting affair. The scripts scathingly skewer questions of gender, race and privilege, all of them underpinned by class prejudices, but ground them in everyday anxieties such as agonising over the font size in a document, knowing when to pitch an idea at dinner or finding the courage to speak up in a meeting. By the time we’re watching them decide when to make a trade amid volatile currency markets, expect your nerves to be well and truly frayed.
Directors including Lena Dunham keep the pacing slick, but none of the layers would work if the cast weren’t absolutely on point. Marisa Abela is superb as the people-pleasing Yasmin, trying to find her voice on the currency desk, while Harry Lawtey is intense as the working-class grad Robert Spearing, who develops a toxic relationship with Yasmin. David Jonsson dives into the nuances and challenges of being a gay Black man as Gus Sackey, Conor MacNeill enjoys playing the bully as Yasmin’s manager, Kenny, and Leung is an intriguing mix of cruel and encouraging as Eric. But the star of the ensemble is Myha’la Herrold as Harper, a smart outsider who has the determination to show why she’s got a place in the office, but makes a string of bad decisions and mistakes on the way to doing it.
The result is stuffed full of sex and drugs to a gratuitous degree, but it’s an astute exploration of the boundaries between life and work, between friends and colleagues, and between lovers and enemies, and an eviscerating snapshot of what happens when those lines become blurred. Half of these characters won’t be there in six months – some of them might not even be there next episode – but expect yourself to stick around until the finale, and beyond.