We will do it get to that last moment (because OMG what a closer scene!), but this recap doesn’t start with the details of where Industry left its characters at the end of this flawless season but with the thesis that clearly dominated this eight-episode offering. For wherever Harper, Robert, Rishi, Danny and Yas ended up, their storylines collectively painted a grim picture of what it means to try to live and work in a system that, as one character puts it , corrodes you in real time.
Perhaps Celeste said it best when she was appalled that Yas tries to signal virtue with her choice of clients: “Do you want to operate within the system and be successful or do you want to dream that you can change and be left behind?” In many ways, Industry asked this question many times throughout the season. The role models these young professionals had – everyone from Eric and Jesse to Nicole and Celeste – represented the value and gravitational pull of the status quo. Things have been done a certain way for decades (if not more!) and accepting them has been the only way to move forward and progress in this world.
Time and time again, we’ve been shown that being a cowardly individualist is a surefire way to get your way. That’s how Harper got herself out of a lot of sticky situations. And, for much of this episode, it looked like she would once again dodge a bullet and come out on top. Of course, that would have meant burning Danny, abandoning Rishi, and even having to come to terms with the fact that she had inadvertently (maybe!) committed a very obvious case of insider trading. But that would have allowed her not only to stay at Pierpoint and London, but also to do so alongside her mentor, whom she came to trust. Only she should have known all along that such trust is a fickle fiction in this business. Whether Industry something we learned from season two is that relationships at Pierpoint are (and can never be) anything but transactional. Just as she had easily thrown Danny and Rishi under the bus, Harper realizes far too late that she too was rejected by Eric once she proved she could no longer be of use to him.
But maybe that’s too cynical a reading of what happened in that final scene. Could there be some kind of paternalistic impulse at work here too? Does Eric truly care for Harper by coming to terms with his own deception and forcing her to start afresh on his own terms, ideally away from the corrosive power of Pierpoint and his employees, himself included? My bet is that it’s a bit of both; selfless care and selfish survival are not mutually exclusive here. Not that it makes Eric’s last chess move any less piquant. There is a lesson to be learned here on how to stay afloat in this business. And it’s not pretty, especially since this was the second time Harper was played by someone she thought she could trust, or someone she didn’t think she should be wary of. Seeing her realize in real time that Jesse had used her should have served as a foreshadowing of how she would soon discover that she had never really been so much in control of her destiny (or her career, or even her position in the world). company) as she thought.
This feeling of helplessness in the face of a system that rewards rough moves like the ones Jesse and Eric play was also felt by Yas and Robert. The former tried to make her work more in line with her values only to be told that just as there may be no ethical consumption under capitalism, there may not be employment. ethics (or financial trade) either. As long as you’re dealing with the kind of wealth (and the wealthy people who own it) that Pierpoint handles, you can never draw a line on ethical, let alone personal, parameters. Such a realization would have hit Yas like a ton of bricks if she hadn’t also blown her life up trying to prove to her father that she could defend her own regained moral center. The lesson here is equally insidious: Silent, performative signaling of virtue is okay as long as you’re perched atop a favored tall horse.
As for Robert, despite all his efforts, it is clear that he cannot leave Nicole. Especially since he can’t seem to disentangle his own feelings for her from the “predatory” image he’s tried to form of her in his head. Much like Celeste, Nicole is straightforward about how she moves through the world. Of course, she has her hand when she’s drunk, what about? “Things happen, and then things go well,” she explains. Is there a better mantra for impunity that privileged people (whether in money, power, or possibly both) exercise so carelessly on any given day? Maybe that’s Yas’ dad talking. Or Eric. Or Jesse, even.
And they are the ones who get what they want. Their proteges and underlings (despite Gus!), on the other hand, end up having to swallow their pride and admit that they may not be ruthless enough (yet!) to make the system work nor blindly naive enough to think they can actually change it.
Whether Industry ends with this season finale, the two-season HBO wonder will serve as a chilling investigation into contemporary work culture. It’s not just a Death of a seller-type take the way workers are chewed by a system. Instead, it’s something all the more disheartening: a portrait of an institution—and the people that institution creates, nurtures, and depends on—that corrodes those who inhabit it in order to sustain itself. It’s a tragic story precisely because it seems so inevitable. And familiar.
- Sometimes a little moment of calm grabs you for what it tells you about a character. Like Harper arriving at Eric’s office to ask for water only to grab the whole jug of water and swallow it, a rare case of the young employee losing her temper in front of her mentor.
- “She was a woman when she wanted me.” This whole #MeToo/NES story has been a highlight of the season. Mainly because the show has never shied away from tackling the thorny issues of consent and agency, and because it kept pointing out how these many cases hinge on power imbalances and depend on stories. that those involved tell themselves and others.
- I never touched it mainly because it was clumsy, but out of all the people we’ve met over the course of the show, Jesse has got to be the most despicable, right? It’s a race to the bottom in the series, I know. But somehow his smarmy demeanor, not to mention the flippant cruelty he doles out with a smirk, is unsurprisingly off-putting in a way that puts him head and shoulders above the rest of those soulless, ambitious assholes. (Also, after that “poisonous” comment, you need to put the now “happily married” Rishi up there too).
- I was so happy to see Yas and Harper get along at the wedding – laughing at their own cruel comments towards each other, no less!
- Series co-creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay penned this episode and deserve all the praise I’ve racked up on the show’s second season. Expanding the world of Pierpoint while making the company a microcosm for a morally bankrupt system without ever making the show feel like giving you a TED talk on late-stage capitalism would be an accomplishment in itself. To do this while creating a fun, sexy, and exciting character-driven TV series is nothing short of remarkable. And yes, I will continue to rank it alongside Mad Men as one of the best workplace series of the 21st century.
- So… renewal of season 3, when HBO?