In its second series, Industry’s stock climbed tremendously. Three years after we last saw them, the Pierpoint graduates are no longer fresh-faced and bright-eyed. Now, they’re world-weary and drug-addled, chasing the highs of money and success – bringing a desperation to this finance drama that cemented it as one of the best shows on TV this year.
There have been a crop of brilliant series about people with too much money, but what about those they employ to manage their millions and billions? What makes Industry different from the likes of The White Lotus and Succession is that we see the cutthroat workplace machinations that keep the likes of Tanya McQuoid or Logan Roy in the black – and it’s not pretty.
Between fancy dinners and shooting weekends, we watched these financial analysts battle to earn their place at the caviar- and cocaine-topped table. Backs were stabbed, fortunes gambled and souls were sold in service of money – and it was thrilling, juicy and, ultimately, devastating.
What a searing critique of capitalism. Almost every character is utterly convinced it is their ticket to a better life, whether materially or spiritually. Despite being ground down and tossed around at the whims of Pierpoint, they remain devoted to it, their humanity chipped away in pursuit of a hefty bonus or trading-floor ovation.
We regularly saw one of the most diverse casts on television engaged in frank – if fleeting – discussions about workplace racism. Eric (Ken Leung) briefly mentions the anti-Asian slurs he faced from his mentor, half shrugging it off – even though it is clear he was affected. Robert’s (Harry Lawtey) sexual dalliance with an older, ultra-wealthy and important Pierpoint client, Nicole (Sarah Parish), was full of #MeToo undertones and, in a conversation over dinner, the series delivered one of the most incisive discussions about class assimilation ever put to screen. Its probing of complex social issues was remarkably casual, always true-to-life and never less than impressive.
This is down to Industry’s masterly writing. Not only did the show make financial gibberish (fairly) easy to comprehend, it was full of dialogue that pops, plot machinations that were dizzying yet seamless and characters that were truly awful – but extremely likable.
Harper (Myha’la Herrold) is well on her way to being an all-time great antihero, rivalling the moral complexity and relatability of a Tony Soprano or Walter White. Her innocent appearance betrays her near-psychopathic pursuit of success. She is scheming and self-interested, her actions often deplorable, but it’s hard not to root for her: an underdog who is just playing the game better than her peers.
In many ways, Industry’s second series came out of nowhere. Almost two years on from its debut, it felt as if its time may have passed. Boy were we wrong. Buzz built steadily throughout this second season, each episode more exceptional than the last. The fifth, in particular, directed by Caleb Femi, was a stunner. It featured an incredibly accurate club scene, with flashing lights turning faces into figments and subtitles zipping on and off screen before you could read them. It also contained a crushing emotional revelation. The double-bill finale was the cherry on top, capping off the series with a wedding and a shocking final twist.
A Pierpoint bigwig says at one point: “Do you want to operate within the system and be successful – or do you want to dream that you can change it and be left behind?” It’s a question that sums up what this show is all about.