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  • Industry’ Review: Battle Of The New Recruits
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    The initial public offering of HBO’s “Industry” will likely be met with amused skepticism by those who actually work at a “pre-eminent financial services organization” like the show’s fictional Pierpoint & Co. For the rest of us, it won’t matter: An often exhilarating, eight-part drama centered in the City of London, the series presents a world that’s thoroughly believable, frequently appalling and fully enthralling. This is, in large part, because it doesn’t care what you know: Viewers are dropped into a maelstrom of numbers, jargon and deals and as a result will be swept up, and away.

    The work of first-timer show creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, “Industry” is staffed with enough complicated characters to promote perpetual narrative motion. But for all its novelty—there are not, after all, that many shows about brokers, traders, bankers, clients, et al.—the series is structured on the most traditional of frameworks. It could be the military, it could be a sports team, it could be the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: When diverse characters are thrust together with only one thing in common, the outcome is anxiety, drama and interpersonal warfare. The mission at Pierpoint is making money. The obstacles are frequently human.

    Diversity is a dominant theme of “Industry,” the title of which may be a gag—what does Pierpoint make, after all, besides deals? The industry of “Industry” is the quality demanded of the 20-odd young people whom the company has brought in, as is its custom, to compete for full-time jobs amid the blast furnace of its sales floor. Pierpoint is a pure kind of meritocracy: If your ideas succeed at making money, the reasons other people hate you will eventually be overlooked. But it’s a grueling, nerve-gnawing grind—one character will be dead on the men’s room floor before the end of episode 1. It promotes an off-hours lifestyle of hedonistic abandon among its scurrying drones. But it also rewards initiative, intelligence and pluck, all the virtues exhibited by Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), the lone American intern, one of the few Black people in sight and a young woman whose backstory seems poised to bite her in the curriculum vitae.

    She has been paired, as have all the new recruits, with an older, seasoned Pierpoint vet—in Harper’s case, Eric Tao (the charismatic Ken Leung). The pairing doesn’t seem random: Eric is not only a supervisor of color (and one with an American accent), but he’s also sympathetic to Harper’s various perceived handicaps at such a traditional bastion of pinstriped Britishness—her sex, her nationality and her state-college education at a place where the Oxbridgean snobbery is palpable.

    There are many kinds of challenges at Pierpoint: Yasmin (Marisa Abela) is not only sweet but rich, so no one takes her seriously. Robert (Harry Lawtey) “talks like a miner,” as one old-school boy puts it, so how’s he supposed to get ahead? Robert’s roommate and pal from “uni,” Gus (David Jonsson), is not just Black and gay but reflexively smarmy. He’s also in love with Theo (Will Tudor), who has a girlfriend. No one among them exhibits any control over their libido or their drug appetites, at least through the first half of season 1 (only four episodes of which were available for review). What a viewer will be waiting to see, if not eagerly, is who falls off the cliff and why.

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