In its first season, Industry was the consummate workplace show. Its characters put in endless hours at Pierpoint & Co., the fictional bank that harnessed their relentless drive to succeed. We didn’t see much of the cast outside the context of their occupation, and they saw themselves as one with their jobs—particularly bootstrapping Americans Harper (Myha’la Herrold), a young graduate, and Eric (Ken Leung), her boss on the cross product sales desk. Harper and Eric have built new lives for themselves across the Atlantic, and it’s clear they’d rather not think about what they left behind.
Now in its second season, Industry must adapt and expand. The HBO surprise hit’s first sign of growth is quite literal; Industry’s initial batch of episodes averaged around 50 minutes apiece, while the first episode of the follow-up, which premiered on Monday, is closer to 60. But in fast-forwarding from the ruthless culling known as Reduction in Force (RiF) to the aftermath of quarantine, Industry evolves in a deeper sense. It’s still about the work; slowly but surely, though, it turns its focus to the TV ensemble’s other primary focus: family.
Work and family, of course, are not mutually exclusive. Succession—a show Industry is frequently compared to and, this season, explicitly invokes—is all about the chaos that ensues when your siblings and parents are also your colleagues. Nor does Industry suddenly transform into This Is Us, offering plenty of the high-octane antics that gave Season 1 its propulsive thrill. Having survived both RiF and a global pandemic, Harper and her colleagues are handed yet another reminder that their employer is indifferent to their individual wellbeing. “Trading from home showed us we can do more with less,” their boss, Bill Adler (Trevor White), coldly explains, so the CPS teams in London and New York are pitted against each other in a fight for survival. To help keep an eye on London’s progress, Adler deputizes Danny Van Deventer (Alex Alomar Akpobome), a clean-cut Wharton alum who goes by DVD. Harper and Eric are no longer the only Americans on the floor.
Unlike its first iteration, Industry no longer has to convince us to care about these people and their success. Writer-creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, themselves former bankers, no longer have to explain the profession or instill in us its norms. The trans-Atlantic bake off should hang over the action, but in truth, we’re already invested in more interpersonal affairs. For example: Last season, Harper backed her emotionally abusive boss over Pierpoint’s in-house reformists out of naked self-interest. How has her and Eric’s dynamic changed now that he technically owes her his job?
To answer this, Industry introduces a rival for Harper’s admiration. Hedge fund manager Jesse Bloom (Jay Duplass) made a killing from the market upheavals that came with the coronavirus; on a show whose protagonists are all amoral at best, Bloom elevates detachment into high art. (Duplass, a nebbish type who recently played an effete academic, is slightly miscast as an uncouth American. He just doesn’t have that Bobby Axelrod energy, though the sight of Bloom’s 15-screen rig in the middle of an English manor house conveys his character for him.) More indicative of Industry’s new direction, though, is why Bloom has come to London: to reconnect with his estranged teenage son.
Harper and Eric’s relationship—and now, Harper and Jesse’s—has always had filial undertones. In Season 2, Industry turns that subtext into text. Parent-child relationships are everywhere the show turns; as Eric contemplates his newly vulnerable position, we follow him home to his young daughters. (To illustrate he’s off the clock, his widely memed sweatshirt also makes an appearance.) At first, Industry was content to portray its characters in line with their self-image as automatons of their own invention. Now, it’s peeling back the facade, going straight to the source of their dysfunction. Everyone on Industry has a void that six-figure bonuses can’t fill. To paraphrase Tolstoy, each void just looks a little different.
Take Harper, a Mr. Ripley-esque figure with a fabricated CV to match. The young savant fled upstate New York to escape an overbearing mother and the absence of her twin brother, a tennis prodigy. But when Harper stumbles upon a mysterious Instagram account, she realizes her family trauma has followed her across the ocean. Harper cherishes her lack of attachment; she spent lockdown holed up in a hotel suite, resisting calls to return to the office. Unfortunately, not everything in the outside world can be filtered through her computer screen.
Harper’s longtime foil is Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela), a posh publishing heiress in pursuit of a career to call her own. Yasmin’s family fortune has always informed her point of view, from her fluency in several languages to her easy rapport with ultra-wealthy clients. This season, however, we meet the man who made her inheritance. Amid a divorce from Yasmin’s mother, Charles Hanani (Adam Levy) decides to correct his absence from his daughter’s life. His reemergence coincides with Yasmin’s foray into Pierpoint’s private wealth management office, headed by the glamorous Celeste Pacquet (Katrine de Candole). Yasmin’s soft skills were a liability on the rough-and-tumble trading floor, but here they’re an asset—though she may be less interested in the job than her new boss, an older woman she meets after hours and initially mistakes for a high-end prostitute. (The jokes write themselves. After all, PWM is just another way of making the .01 percent feel cared for.)
Even secondary characters fall neatly in line with the season’s overarching theme. Working class Robert (Harry Lawtey), an Oxford townie, discusses his childhood with a single mom obsessed with breaking him into the upper crust; his revelations shed light on why he’s repeatedly drawn to dominant women. Gus (David Jonsson), whose time at Pierpoint was derailed by an ill-advised affair, reveals his father is the Ghanaian ambassador to Angola. While attending their brother’s graduation from Eton College, his sister pressures him to get back on track. It’s his responsibility to pass on the privilege they grew up with, she argues—and besides, it’s the least he owes his parents for turning a blind eye to his homosexuality.
From the start, Industry has been interested in cycles of harm. The show began with calls for systemic change when a new recruit dies from overwork, then traced the slow demise of said change at the hands of the status quo. That interest in institutional toxicity carries over into Season 2; the show introduces a first-year as naively optimistic as her older counterparts once were, and a familiar face returns to mistreat the Pierpoint crew as they mistreated her. But by widening its lens, Industry shows how those cycles extend far beyond the office’s four walls. Hurt people hurt people, as they say—and before they put on their Savile Row suits, the hurt starts at home.