Far from HBO’s other youth-centric show (that would be the visceral and bold “euphoria“), HBO’s latest attempt at capturing the Gen Z zeitgeist,”Industry, “Comes closer to the short-lived”How to do it in America, “In treating both professional and sexual life of 20 year olds as semi-interesting dramatic fodder and in terms of quality, as the two shows are (or were, in the case of America) crafted and ultimately unforgettable. “Industry” tracks five college graduates navigating the high stakes financial world in London and is very specific with the presentation of the trading floor, which is no surprise given the co-creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay previously lived in finance. But when the characters are interesting shouting banking jargon across the room, they stay thinly drawn outside the office, resulting in an interchangeable list of attractive actors who fall in and out of bed with little on stakes.
READ MORE: Mickey Down & Konrad Kay on “Industry”: Making the world of finance cinematic and universal [Interview]
In the four episodes shown for review, Down and Kay’s drama flirts with the moral and economic problems inherent in a profession that requires total indoctrination as graduates seek to make their mark at Pierpoint & Co. But too often the show goes back to “SkinsQuarterly edition. The show follows the American transplant Harper (Myha’la Herrold) while navigating through a postgraduate internship full of “Wall streetTalks from mentor Eric about the failure rate and the long hours in the program (Ken Leung – by far the best part of the show).
Alongside the protagonist, Harper acts as an intruder, with fraudulent IDs increasing her chances of climbing through the class-based hierarchy. However, those dramatic stakes are essentially wiped out in the middle of the season, which neatly rounds up the show’s only ongoing dramatic stakes. Also, Down and Kay are frustratingly vague at handing out backstories that allude to Harper’s childhood poverty but never fill in the blanks. All five graduates are often reduced to type as the creators refuse to put their lives into context. Yasmin (Marisa Abela), the daughter of wealthy parents in Notting Hill, clearly deals with control issues as she teases the dominance in her flirt with colleague Robert (Harry Lawtey) but is passive in her actual relationship with her freeloading “journalistic” friend. Furthermore Robert’s roommate Gus (David Jonsson) is perhaps the most thinly outlined, showing few traits outside of an affair with a young male vice president at the company who is still in the closet and has a serious girlfriend.
READ MORE: Industry Trailer: The World of Finance offers plenty of drama in the upcoming HBO series
The show is most interesting when it comes to the make-it or break-it mentality of trading stocks. Neither recent graduate is an inherently cinematic yet morally vague profession as Harper and her cohort seek out clients and do business. He questions the ethical issues that Eric advocates, appearing as a relatively more informed version of Gordon Gekko. Those looking to delve deep into the problems of free market capitalism won’t find anything new here as the characters are too busy trading and tweaking to stop and ponder economic ills.
Despite brief references to Trump-era isolationism and Brexit, “Industry” is strangely conservative and ahistorical when it comes to portraying reform in an industry that has largely adopted a laissez-faire stance. In the fourth episode, in which Yasmin tries to relate her work experience to a new round of prospective graduates, she is asked about the sexism inherent in the industry. Still, she takes the standpoint of a boys’ club that can change from within and demean the college student in the process. “Industry” takes the same stance and does not question the morality of the profession. In a way, this is an unfair criticism of the fair, as Conrad and Kay are much more interested in showcasing young professionals at various stages of the move than studying how unregulated capitalist corporations lead to a conservative social and political ideology. But with their previous professional backgrounds, Kay and Conrad taught the show with financial chatter. For the uninitiated (including myself), “industry” is strangely hyper-specific about the field they choose and the borderline stereotype it treats those who work there.
Lena Dunhamwho directs the pilot brings the strongest visual eye to the screened episodes. A late pilot’s death, telegraphed throughout the runtime, seems to realign the group’s dynamics, but the remaining three episodes essentially occur on the water and provide clues as to the character’s backstory but never really rely on anything convincing down. Perhaps those back roads, including Gus ‘affair, Harry’s hard party, and Yasmin’s sexual adventures, will return in the second half of the season, but halfway through the time, you have only vague knowledge of these characters’ lives and little care whether they succeed or not. Only Harper is half worked out, though the writers often reduce it to an insatiable urge to prove yourself based on their upbringing.
“Industry” is by no means a failure, but it is thematically streamlined to avoid the moral gloom that can be seen in our era of peak TV. The show is heavily dependent on the specifics of the financial world, but ironically it could be swapped for any other stressful profession. “Industry” is more interested in exploring entry-level rotating bedfellows and has little to say about the industry that it features. [C]