A hotel pool, the stock exchange floor, lines of cocaine in a living room and popping molly in the club: So begins the second season of HBO’s Industry, a show centered around employees of the fictional investment bank Pierpoint & Co. in London.
Industry follows recent graduates of different class and racial backgrounds as they navigate the breakneck pace and cutthroat nature of the financial firm, which is based on giants like Goldman Sachs.
A crash course in Industry and its immaculate vibes
The pilot, which premiered in November 2020, set the tone for the show with (spoiler alert) the sudden, shocking death of one of the young new employees, Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan), from overwork or overdose.
The show doesn’t shy away from similarly unsavory details, like screaming matches in boardrooms or sexual advances at professional dinners. In fact, Industry shines a light on those moments, holding the camera for an extra beat when you desperately want it to cut away. The characters are messy, selfish, horny for both sex and money. They snort cocaine and chug alcohol nearly as often as they rip offensive jokes on the trading floor.
I love it.
I devoured the first season of Industry during the bleak time before COVID vaccines were widely available, when I was trying to distract myself from reality. I was comforted by the unlikable characters and dry humor — qualities that have earned the show comparisons to another HBO hit, Succession.
However, what I would really compare Industry to, and what it immediately reminded me of, was Skins, an English teen drama that aired on the UK network E4. (You can now watch it on Hulu.) Skins was an ensemble that touched on serious topics like mental health, sexuality, and substance use. If Degrassi: The Next Generation “went there,” then Skins jumped off the cliff.
Industry is like if some Skins characters grew up and decided to sell their souls in growth stocks. There’s Yasmine (Marisa Abela), a recipient of generational wealth who speaks five languages fluently. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Robert (Harry Lawtey), an Oxford graduate from a working-class Welsh family.
The central POV, however, is from an American: Harper (Myha’la Herrold, who was in this summer’s Bodies Bodies Bodies), a Black woman who steps into several new worlds: the UK, Pierpoint, money. Harper’s freshness shouldn’t be mistaken for naivety, though. She, like the other characters, often does things to serve her own interests, as vicious capitalists are wont to do. She schemes against her coworkers — and sometimes her boss Eric (Ken Leung) — as much as she fucks and does drugs.
Robert (Harry Lawtey) is from a working-class family in “Industry.”
Credit: Amanda Searle/HBO
Industry‘s first season is akin to Euphoria blended with the stonks meme (as I wrote in a tweet “liked” by co-creator Mickey Down). As Down recently said in an interview with Complex, “I saw a lot of comments about Season 1 feeling like it was a lot of vibe with not that much story. If you notice, the story only kicks in around episode five. So we were conscious this time of having a story engine, which drove us through the whole thing.”
While that may be true, the vibes were immaculate. Still, it seems like the comments were taken to heart: The second season, which is currently airing on HBO, expands the world of Industry with more plot and more characters.
Expansion (and COVID-19) in Industry Season 2
The show picks up in a post-COVID world — well, “post” enough where Eric tells Harper to quit working from home (which for Harper is still just a hotel) and get back to the office. Initially, this move annoyed me, as I wanted Industry to continue where it left off and to bypass COVID. As the season has gone on, however, it’s refreshing and sometimes deliciously smarmy to see the current world reflected in this universe. One of the new players, for instance, is a billionaire known as “Mr. COVID” (Jesse Bloom, played by Jay Duplass) because he profited so much from the pandemic.
While billionaires are among the ranks of Industry‘s characters, they’re thankfully not the main focus of the show — unlike on Succession or Showtime’s Billions, yet another fiscal bro drama. Instead of sticking to those elite glass-walled offices, many scenes happen on the actual stock exchange trading floor.
This doesn’t mean characters aren’t obsessed with obtaining and keeping their riches, though. And it definitely doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high; I’d argue they’re even higher when you’re not ensconced in a sky-high suite. Pierpoint employees are the ones handling those billions, and if they mess up, they’re so incredibly screwed.
Even if finance isn’t your thing — and it surely isn’t mine — you’ll still be able to follow Industry. You don’t have to know every term in order to get the gist of what’s happening. Like Succession, there’s jargon thrown around (crypto and Elon Musk both figure in Season 2), but you can rest assured that it’ll end with a biting joke we can all understand.
For your fix of interpersonal drama with high financial stakes, look no further than Industry.
Industry airs on HBO.