Length: 8 x episodes (49-52 minutes each)
It would be fair to say that people who work in finance, particularly those involved with the stock market, have a certain… reputation.
Thanks to movies like Wall Street (1987), The Boiler Room (2000) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - not to mention real life disasters like the 2008 Global Financial Crisis - these folks tend to be viewed as a bunch of soulless, ferret-faced, back-stabbing cockroaches who would gleefully sell their own mothers for a handful of pocket change.
While HBO’s stylish new series Industry doesn’t exactly dispel that impression, it does suggest the truth is a little more complicated.
Industry follows the adventures, professional and personal, of a group of young graduates competing for a limited number of permanent positions at flash investment bank, Pierpoint & Co, in the heart of London.
Among the cast of hopefuls are Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), a young African American woman with a past she’s trying to escape, Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela), a rich girl with a taste for kinky shenanigans, Gus Sackey (David Jonsson), a deeply conservative gay black man in love with the wrong bloke, and Robert Spearing (Harry Lawtey) a booze and drug-addled chunk of horny tofu.
We follow these lambs to the slaughter as they encounter the harsh, often alienating, world of high finance, all while trying to juggle familial relationships, personal relationships and extremely destructive, ill-advised roots.
Add to that, a deeply toxic work environment and regular hoovering of nose beers in the dunny, and drama rises to the surface with predictable regularity.
At first glance, Industry appears to be another edgy drama in the typical HBO mode. There are loads of sex scenes, all of which would upset your nan* (*Look, we don’t know your nan. Maybe she’d be into it?), there’s swearing galore and enough drug use to fill a bush doof several times over.
But as the season progresses, it becomes a far more nuanced and interesting show.
See, Industry takes place in contemporary times, which means banks are aware of their public image. So when, for instance, an employee carks it on the job after literally working himself to death, Pierpoint & Co’s management goes into performatively woke overdrive, trying to “make a safe workplace” for staff it regularly exploits. It’s a bleakly humorous but well observed bit of irony.
This kind of social commentary continues with Harper’s increasingly troubling relationship with mentor/abusive boss, Eric Tao (Ken Leung) whose mercurial whims and manipulation often veer into narcissistic territory.
It can, at times, be tense, unpleasant viewing, particularly because you’re never entirely sure if you like these people or not, but it is fascinating. Themes of consent and accountability are explored in deft ways, and the whole experience becomes quite addictive.
Performances are uniformly excellent, with Myha’la Herrold in particular doing very effective work and Ken Leung providing a fascinating look at a man whose soul has corroded through years and years of screwing people over and rationalising it to himself.
Are these good people? Erm, no. Are they bad people? Sometimes? It’s a tough question to answer and your personal assessment of this is one of the things that keeps the show ticking along so well.
Watching a show about manipulative garbage people engorged with a sense of self worth doesn’t sound like a good time. Yet, due to some clever writing, slick direction, and excellent acting it somehow is.
Intriguing, exciting, occasionally horrifying, Industry is a fascinating look at the people who, for various reasons, work on the darker side of unfettered capitalism.
And hey, if we’re lucky the recently announced second season will deal with them all having a sook as they’re bankrupted by a bunch of sweaty nerds on reddit!
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