“Induction” gets HBO’s new financial drama off to a solid start with a note of tragedy, as budding financiers have to weigh up what they’re willing to sacrifice for success.
This recap of Industry season 1, episode 1, “Induction”, contains spoilers.
I must confess that when I read the premise of Industry, which is about a group of young graduates trying to make it in the cutthroat world of finance at a preeminent London investment bank after the 2008 financial crash, I thought, “Ah, how very HBO.” What struck me about “Induction”, the premiere, was that aside from some obligatory moments of sex and full-frontal nudity, it doesn’t really feel like a HBO drama at all. It’s a far cry from the money-hungry careerism of something like Succession and also the freewheeling young-adult rebellion of, say, Euphoria. It’s instead pitched somewhere in the middle, like a demented, drugged-up teen comedy, but with all the swanky hotels, parties, and boardroom meetings of a serious workplace drama. Sprinkle into that some dire physical and professional consequences and you have a recipe for a very solid drama, even if it takes a while to bed in.
That process of laying the narrative table begins with a literal round of interviews, which is as good a way to introduce the characters as any. Fronting the ensemble is Myha’la Herrold as Harper, an American import who puts her IQ on her CV, much to the interest of the firm’s managing director Eric Tao (Ken Leung). Priyanga Burford, always a pleasure to see, plays another company higher-up and is the most notable face among a cast that also includes Marisa Abela as hoity-toity Yasmin, who works in foreign exchange sales, Harry Lawtey as good-looking party-animal coke-head Robert, who’s smug but something of a joke to most of his peers, and Nabhaan Rizwan as the stressed-out Hari, who’s trying to log as many hours as possible by working at his desk all night chugging Red Bull and napping in the toilets. This mob all must prove themselves indispensable to the company before RIF (“reduction in force”) day when half of them will be permanently hired and half won’t. With the stakes and the ticking clock established, “Induction” moves on to the specific problems that each of these three run into during their earliest days at the company, some of which prove more drastic than others.
Harper, for instance, is expected to provide transcripts that – while we don’t know why – it becomes clear she’s having to forge. If only that were the least of her problems. She’s also still trying to maintain a long-distance relationship and, at a client dinner, ends up getting groped by the client herself in the back of a car. But despite her holier-than-thou performance at the initial interview, we get a glimpse of deeper humanity in Harper, especially when she finds a steaming Hari in the hallway and looks after him while he sobers up a bit. That kind of compassion might not make her a better financier, but it makes her a better person.
Not that it does much for Hari, though. As soon as he’s awake he’s in an Uber and gulping a fistful of pills on his way back to the office, and he continues to burn the candle at both ends. So, too, does Robert, who gets wildly out of control when he’s supposed to be schmoozing a client and ends up having sex in the bathroom and bumping cocaine. On his way to work the next morning, he has to double over and spew his guts into a newspaper, later rubbing more coke on his gums and steeling himself in the mirror for a 7 am meeting that he makes a fool of himself in. It probably says a lot that the morning still goes better for him than it does for Hari, who, after realizing he has made a printing mistake on his pamphlet, collapses in the bathroom from a heady concoction of stress, no sleep, and various uppers, and he dies.
You’d think this would put everyone else off, but it seems to have the opposite effect – now there’s an empty space. After spending a lot of time deliberating over uploading her faked transcript, Harper eventually bites the bullet after catching the sales bug by securing her first bit of big business – with Nicole, no less, the woman whose advances she rejected earlier in the episode. Who’d have thought it? As we see hear chomping a big burger in a swanky London hotel suite, looking out over the city’s glimmering lights, we realize she has reached a turning point. Perhaps Industry has too.
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