The preeminent financial services institution in London, Pierpoint & Co., is interviewing its new class of interns and we meet the young graduates Industry will be following this season. Harper and Gus exude confidence and impress while Yasmin and Hari stumble under questioning. Robert shrewdly plays the odds and applies to the department with the least number of applicants and thus the least competitive. Fortunately, they are all able to make enough of an impression to be hired.
Harper has the potential to be a rising star. She’s already earned the respect of her department head and VP of Cross Product Sales, Eric Tao, who has taken her under his wing. This leads to some friction with her direct supervisor, Daria, who feels marginalized by the two’s relationship. At Eric’s urging, Harper makes a pitch to a big client during a dinner and at garners some interest and curiosity. Enough to warrant a more private conversation over drinks.
However, on the car ride home, the client makes a pass that is rebuffed creating an awkward turn for an otherwise, productive evening. Harper is worried she jeopardized a prosperous account and doesn’t follow up on their business. If that wasn’t enough, she’s been in conflict with HR because she hasn’t submitted her college transcripts. Maybe because she never graduated and she has a friend from home forge one for her.
Searching for Validation
For the most part, Robert’s a happy go lucky guy. When he’s not exchanging longing looks with Yasmin (who so far has been the gopher picking up drinks and lunch for her group), he’s brushing off teasing from his superiors about his clothes. He only seems interested in grabbing the attention of his boss, Clement, with no success. During a happy hour, one of his coworkers advises him not to worry about gaining Clement’s approval and to concentrate on bringing in business and revenue if he wants to earn a permanent position.
Robert enjoys a good time and hits the club for an all-nighter of dancing, sex, and drugs. After getting off the train to head into work, he at least has the decency to lay some newspaper down before he pukes all over the place. During the morning meeting, his zoning in and out and ramblings attract the wrong kind of attention. Clement finally speaks to him but to dress him down in the restroom. In an odd way, it makes Robert happy even though he is scolded. When he’s about to head back to his desk he makes a grisly discovery in one of the stalls.
The Industry isn’t for Everyone
Hari and Gus earn positions in the Investment Banking Division, the so called “Ivory Tower”. While Gus tries to achieve a work/life balance, his colleague feels the need to put in more face time at work. Fueled by pills and energy drinks he spends long hours in the office and even takes power naps in the bathroom.
All these unhealthy habits take its toll on Hari. He’s even flagged by his boss for spending too much time at Pierpoint and asked to leave the building. Following a night of drinking, he confesses to Harper his need to work twice as much to compensate for his humble upbringing and state school education.
It seems all those hours pay off when his boss selects him over Gus to attend a meeting with some high-end clients. Unfortunately, he has a nervous breakdown when he finds his presentation packets contain the wrong font on one of the pages. Hari retreats to the bathroom and frantically calls the printer to correct the mistake to no avail. The stress combined with his damaging work lifestyle is too much to bear and Robert finds the young graduate dead in the restroom.
Harper is crushed by Hari’s passing because they were friends and neighbors. What agitates her the most is seeing it is business as usual at Pierpoint even though someone has died. She struggles with quitting the job but has second thoughts when she overhears Yasmin and another graduate degrading her and Hari for being inadequate compared to the other interns.
To prove her worth, she finally calls her big client from before and is able to get her to commit to the proposal earning her first deal. Eric pridefully congratulates his protégé and to celebrate, Harper reserves a suite at a luxury hotel for the night. After taking some Instagram photos of her room, view, and room service, she recommits to the job and finally uploads her counterfeit resumé.
Industry didn’t hold back by killing off one of their graduates in the first episode. It was clear that Hari was in over his head and on the way to a rude awakening. The camera even zoomed in to the screen when he selected the wrong font. But I was leaning towards a firing because he couldn’t hack it. His death ups the stakes to this high-pressure sink or swim world.
The parallel shots between Hari and Robert during their late-night endeavors are well done and highlight the extremes at Pierpoint. Both are types of destructive behavior and it is an interesting narrative choice to have them intersect in the restroom and have Robert be the one to discover the body.
The episode also explores the fascinating power dynamics the graduates encounter. Harper grapples with her personal dignity and her professional aspirations when she turns down her client’s advances. Then there’s the whole scene between Robert and his boss where Clement uses the urinal with his pants all the way down while addressing his underling. That’s surely one way to show you don’t care.
“Induction” does end on a high note with Harper making the most of an opportunity. What a triumphant moment making that first sale and gaining the boss’ approval. You can’t help but root for the character who might not have the same accolades as her peers. Although what does it say about the cut throat world of finance that even Harper moves on from her friend’s death so quickly.
The season premiere spotlights some intriguing power dynamics the young interns face in investment banking and how cold but rewarding the industry can be.
Industry airs Monday nights on HBO.
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