Industry is a new 8 episode show from HBO that will premiere on the 9th November 2020 (HBO in the United States and BBC Two in the UK). As part of London Film Festival, we were treated to a sneak peek of episodes 1,2 and 4. Set in an investment firm in London, it follows a group of young graduates as they try to navigate the cut-throat environment of finance.
The team behind the show have spared little expense and despite being set in the UK, it has the high production value we have come to expect from HBO. Everything from the sets to the editing feels stylish, and I found myself remembering why I love the London skyline so much. It’s equal parts everything that has kept me away from city working (the vile bosses, the client dinners) and everything that has me longing to get back to a pre-covid London (the fancy bars and fancy dinners).
We follow a range of characters who vary from nuanced to utter cliches and it’s unclear how much of these cliches will be broken down throughout the 8-episode run. In the 3 episodes, we were privy to, they focus slightly more on a different character each week, though Myha’la Herrold’s Harper seems to be the main lead and feels the easiest access point for an audience with little to no finance knowledge.
It’s unfortunate that the most interesting character arc and subplot is used only as a catalyst in the first episode and not returned to in any depth in subsequent episodes, leaving the pilot feeling more intense and exciting than others. Further plots such as a will they won’t they romance between the show’s most boring characters subtracts from what makes the show exciting, but perhaps by the end of 8 episodes, it will feel warranted.
There are small grazes at topics such as class, sexism, sexuality but nothing is thoroughly explored, at least in these initial episodes, which may leave some unsatisfied.
Despite its very specialist subject and the occasional round of fast-paced dialogue that sounds like double Dutch, strong acting and a well-developed score help bring the audience along so that we never miss the big beats and can feel the tension and stress of these young graduates, even if we don’t quite understand the difference between buying in pounds or dollars.
It’s not quite up there with HBO’s instant classics, but I found it equally watchable and spent almost 3 hours with these characters without really losing interest – so there is promise. Will it work in a post-covid world? That I’m not sure about. It feels nostalgic already for a time that was, and that might not exist again.