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LIFESTYLE & ENTERTAINMENT

A wild ride where people will do anything for their careers

There will be blood in Industry, which does a great job of showing how insufferable the upper class can be in an investment banking setting – but also how far others are willing to go to be accepted by this group
Thu, Mar 11, 2021

One thing the folks at HBO are going to do? What they do best, of course – deliver a high-stakes, no-holds-barred slice of life ripe with existential crises, social commentary and cheap thrills with deadly consequences.

The network has done it again with an inside peak at the Russian roulette world of millennials in investment banking in the dirty-sexy-money series, Industry.

The eight-part show follows a group of bright young graduates of varying backgrounds as they are selected to be interns at Pierpoint & Co, an elite financial institution in London.

It not only has an exemplary track record for crunching numbers and clinching deals, but also for creating a fraternity built on playing corporate chess and twisting knives in backs, while going to any lengths to secure the bottom line and making sure the optics don't show it.

Here, they must Hunger Games it to the top if they want to secure permanent positions as company henchmen, but the journey isn't as cut and dry as their KPIs. Navigating office politics is the true test, where risk is measured based on where you're from, who you know and how you wear your starched suit.

Clout is currency, networks are marionette strings and your worth is exactly proportionate to your productivity and output. We all know the LinkedIn lingo 'results-driven' and 'outcome-oriented' are fancy ways of saying "if you can't keep up, you may as well cop out" – and that's nothing short of the Pierpoint way.

The graduates and their personal and professional lives act as conduits for the larger themes of the story  – mainly how privilege is not one-dimensional, 'haves' and 'have nots' are not always binary and your access to resources, networks and wealth is only as far as the status quo will allow.

And you know I love a series about messy, private school silver-spooners, but it's even better when it's self-aware enough to not believe its own fiction exists in a vacuum.

Industry does a good job of showing how insufferable the upper-classed in an investment banking setting can be, while showing where privilege cannot be negotiated for the graduate interns.

Harper Stern, a black woman and US immigrant with other complications of her own, struggles with the hard truth that being smarter than your peers isn't enough – it's also about playing a part that was never made for you or people like you, and so you can never really live up it.

Hari Dhar, another working-class character and 'model minority' is desperate to prove he belongs when even mere proximity to privilege isn't enough to qualify your set at the table.

Yasmin Kara-Hanani's unseen father is a publishing mogul, so she has the 'appropriate' background for the cutthroat industry. But by virtue of being a woman, she is sexually harassed, mocked and humiliated by both her peers and mentors as the designated office salad runner.

Gus Sackey is a black man but he's also an Eton/Oxbridge export and that's enough wielded influence to earn his spot – except, he's also harbouring a secret that threatens to destabilise the notoriously conservative and often bigoted sensibilities of his environment.

And then there's Robert Spearing, the personification of the saying "have the confidence of a mediocre white man" – he should be a cookie-cutter image of the Pierpoint employee and a perfect cultural fit for the company, but his lack of critical thinking skills and struggle to form a personality outside of being 'one of the boys' bores even his most average contemporaries.

And why should he care? There's nothing for him to lose, and it's an interesting contrast to those around him who risk everything just to be there when he can waltz in hours late smelling of vodka and regret.

Fitting in at a place like Pierpoint is foregoing your humanity to listen to endless drivel and laughing at jokes you don't find funny, lest you be called out for not being a 'team player'. It's all about the unspoken, unwritten rules of knowing when to hold your tongue and when to be a 'yes' man.

This is the social fabric of the open-plan office, Industry just takes it up a notch. Scathing indictment of capitalism or an ode to it? You decide.

After an incident involving one of the graduates, with too many cans of Red Bull and an undisclosed amount of the stimulant Modafinil, a chain of events sets off at the institution where the heritage and dirty laundry of this empire start to air out.

Together, the graduates will self-medicate on drugs, liquor and sex to numb the choices they have to make to survive.

For those who've seen it, fear not if you think the story ended where it ended (which was wild), because season two is on the way. If it's anything like its predecessor, I can say I still don't care a damn about stocks and FTSE 100s but Industry makes me want to – if only a little bit.

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