The high-finance drama Industry exists on a fluctuating spectrum: wired between trash TV and prestige television.
There are times when the series' corporate politics and jargon feel like intelligent accidents in a base and sexual world, one that makes you concerned about who's screwing whom. But equally, the sex itself – brilliantly straddling submission and domination, mostly represented by traders Robbie (Harry Lawtey) and Yas (Marisa Abela) – is like explicit enticement. Mere foreplay before the adrenalin of investment banking.
The episodes drift between being a millennial Big Short and a wealthy version of Love Island. At times, it settles on a Wolf of Wall Street compromise (Yas even impersonates the tribal hum by Matthew McConaughey). All of this is punctuated, naturally, by enough cocaine to dose a few dozen elephants.
Harper (Myha’la Herrold) and Eric (Ken Leung). Photo: BBC
And yet, despite the tonal imbalances, Industry continues to succeed as a multi-sensory rush. The label 'prestige' doesn’t feel quite right, even with a budget big enough to pay for the cliché, but there are many moments and entire episodes that make you reconsider.
Yas, Robbie and Harper (Myha’la Herrold) are now third-year recruits at the Canary Wharf branch of the fictionalised Pierpoint & Co. Embracing the real-world struggles of Covid, the series' writing flourishes in that bleak, post-lockdown mood. It's exemplified by Harper, who spends the first episode contained, without obligation, in a four-star hotel. The isolation has only made her more angry and less patient (relatable), and it's a dangerous mix with her sociopathically ruthless personality.
With a new merger proposed between the London and New York offices, the staff focus on gaining external clients.
Harper meets the hedge fund man-child Jesse Bloom (Jay Duplass) and tries to get him on board, under the anxious eye of her boss Eric (Ken Leung). Robbie contacts Pierpoint client Nicole (Sarah Parish), who groped Harper in season one. Yas has ambitions to ascend to an upper floor, so befriends one of the company’s Private Wealth Managers Celeste (Katrine de Candole) – leading to a professional relationship with buckets of sexual chemistry between them.
Jay Duplass enters season two as hedge fund manager Jesse Bloom. Photo: BBC
The ‘post-Covid’ vibes are fascinating to relive, with characters recounting the interior summer of 2020 (was it really two years ago?). The introduction of ‘DVD’ (Alex Alomar Akpobome), a New York employee who evaluates the merger as the American eyes and ears, provides a new conflict. There's even comedy in his condemnation of the London branch's lawless egotism.
Despite these new features, the first three episodes are initially unpromising and even uninteresting. Everything proceeds like business as usual. Episode three, where the Pierpoint team attend a shooting retreat, feels like a bland impersonation of Succession.
This season eventually finds its strengths when expanding internationally – to New York, to Berlin – and diving into the hidden anxieties and traumas of the central characters. The peak of season two is certainly episode five, where genuine humanity spills out. That humanity is conveniently swept away when the work needs to resume.
But after this zenith point, the world of trading and its complicated sexual dynamics tangle around each other, growing equally as complicated. The writers perfectly capture the post-#MeToo workplace culture with such absorbing, frustrating nuance.
This second season returns the addictive quality of the first. Even viewers ignorant of high finance (i.e. this critic) will be enthralled by risky trading strategies as much as the vices behind them. It’s still a mystery that Industry is good, considering the seemingly contradictory tones and elements affixed to it. But the new and existing appendages work together to form a horny and thrilling Frankenstein’s Monster of a series – one that continuously shocks itself to life.
Industry season 2 airs on Tuesday 27 September at 10:40pm on BBC One.
|What||Industry season 2, BBC One review|
27 Sep 22 – 27 Sep 23, ON BBC ONE / iPLAYER
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