The workplace drama dials up the intensity in the high-stakes world of finance

streaming, what to watch

(Image credit: HBO)

The Bear has become one of the most talked-about new shows of the year thanks to its grittily realistic portrait of the restaurant industry, collective thirst for the tattooed lead character Carmy and the frenetic, almost brutally fast-paced action. It was eight half-hour episodes of total stress — and I loved every second of it.

If, like me, you’re seeking another TV show that provides an adrenaline rush, HBO is dealing out Industry season 2. Like The Bear, it’s a workplace drama featuring a mix of combustible personalities, specific lingo and extreme pressure to perform.

With season 2 having just debuted this week, this is the perfect time to catch up on Industry — and get that kick we’re all missing while we wait for The Bear season 2.

What is Industry about?

The series begins with the arrival of young college graduates who’ve been hired by the prestigious Pierpont investment bank. They’re working on a trial basis and competing for a very limited number of permanent jobs. On their first day, they’re given a version of that age-old speech: “Look to your left, look to your right — one of you won’t be here by the end of this.” 

The grads come from all walks of life. Harper (Myha’la Herrold) is an ambitious Black woman from New York hiding a few secrets. Yasmin (Marisa Abela) hails from a wealthy Lebanese family and speaks fluent English, Arabic, Spanish and French. They’re joined by upper-crust gay Oxford alum Gus (David Jonsson), working-class Robert (Harry Lawtey) and striving immigrant-raised Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan). 

One doesn’t make it to RIF Day (the reduction in force that will fire half of them). Not because they can’t hack it, not because they botched a deal — but because the pressure is so intense, they end up popping pills and spending nights at the office until they’re found dead in the office one morning.

But even a tragic death is just a blip. After all, the market will still open, and the new recruits have money to make, clients to appease, bosses to impress and coveted job slots to win. 

Season 2 (which just aired episode 1 on Monday, August 1) looks like it dials up the intensity even more, with the arrival of a fresh batch of grads. Harper is forced to return to the office after working remotely during COVID, and finds her nemesis Yasmin is even frostier than ever. But Harper has a big fish she’s reeling in — a pandemic-profitting hedge fund manager (Jay Duplass) — and if she lands him, her stock at Pierpont will surely rise.

Industry reviews: What critics think

Industry season 1 notched a decent 76 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) , with a critical consensus reading, “Though Industry’s social critiques tend toward the superficial, sharp writing and an excellent ensemble make it easy to enjoy its soapy workplace drama anyway.”

The Mail on Sunday’s Deborah Ross (opens in new tab) wrote, “It feels true, even if you don’t know if it’s true and the direction is fast, modern, unflinching.”

Ian Freer at Empire (opens in new tab) said, “Sometimes the show is a bit try-hard in its attempts to feel cutting edge, but overall Industry is fresh and fast fun.”

Season 2 seems to be getting more positive feedback. Vanity Fair’s Joy Press (opens in new tab) writes, “Who knew it was possible to take so much pleasure in watching people banter and brawl and have panic attacks over stuff that means absolutely nothing to you?”

Carrie Battan at the New Yorker (opens in new tab) explains, “Part of what makes the show so compelling—beyond its icy visual palette, a dreamy soundtrack, a cast loaded with fresh talent, and a script packed with obscure financial jargon that’s fun to repeat—is the way it refuses to tiptoe around workplace behavioral taboos.”

Why you should watch Industry

Want an adrenaline rush? Industry will inject it right into your veins, in 50-minute episodic doses. 

The intensity of working at Pierpont really reaches out and grabs you. You can feel the panic in your core when a trader learns some deal is about to go south. It’s mind-boggling to think they’re dealing in hundreds of millions of dollars on a daily basis. Then, on top of all that, they’re competing with their deskmates to keep working there. Backstabbing is as common as drinking coffee. 

Industry also provides a fascinating peek into a world that I will never be a part of and can barely understand. Like The Bear, the investment bank employees have their own lingo. Instead of yelling “Yes, chef!” and “Corner!,” they say stuff like “printing biz” (closing a sale), “half a yard” ($500 million) or “axes” (buying or selling positions). I will never, ever understand shorting stocks — and yes, I’ve seen The Big Short — but it almost doesn’t matter. But the “what” of it is less interesting than how it affects the characters.

streaming, what to watch

(Image credit: HBO)

The characters’ lives beyond the office are just as compelling. They definitely live by the mantra “work hard, play hard,” as everyone seems to blow off steam by throwing around cash at fine restaurants, downing booze, snorting cocaine and having inappropriate sex. All the vices are represented to their max. 

Basically, if The Bear, Succession and Euphoria had a threesome, Industry would be their wild child.

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