“The Giant Squid” is Industry firing on all cylinders, convincing you to buy into the petty lives of the most deplorable people imaginable.
This recap of Industry season 2, episode 2, “The Giant Squid”, contains spoilers.
The reason HBO’s Chernobyl worked so well is that it built its drama atop a very complex and specific set of circumstances that it never expected us to understand. I know very little about nuclear fission, but Jared Harris’s “LIES” speech from the finale felt like a Shakespearean soliloquy, despite the fact he was addressing a courtroom about the exact series of chemical events that led a nuclear power plant to melt down so catastrophically. HBO’s Industry works in much the same way. The crowning moment of “The Giant Squid” is a make-or-break deal that Harper manages to make with Jesse Bloom in full view of the Pierpoint trading floor, and I can safely say that while I understood basically none of what they were saying, I was absolutely enraptured.
Industry season 2, episode 2 recap
Last week I flippantly implied the show was half Succession, half Euphoria, which I stand by, but I also think the comparison undersells Industry to some extent. There’s obviously some writing wizardry going on here to make such a group of obviously appalling people so appealing. And that intimate sense of not just the titular industry, but how very wealthy and powerful people contextualize and rationalize their place and role in it, is really the secret.
See, almost everyone here knows they’re awful. Yas even says it aloud at one point. But there’s a level above, occupied by people like Eric, where the responsibilities of the job have deluded them into believing that they’re fulfilling some kind of important, noble function, rather than helping people with far too much money either make more of it or lose it all. Harper returning to the office at the end of the episode to the enthusiastic applause of her co-workers, after so long spent walking onto the floor hiding within the noise of her headphones, is really her taking the first few steps toward becoming a person who no longer recognizes themselves.
This is what happens, I suppose, when every aspect of your life becomes transactional. If the deal gets done, then who cares what made it happen? We see this all over the place in “The Giant Squid”. Yas’s father returns out of the blue, and while they obviously have all kinds of longstanding and unaddressed personal issues, a somewhat touching reminiscence at dinner turns to Yas bluntly asking daddy if he’s thought about having Pierpoint manage his wealth. Robert wines and dines Nicole, lets her give him a hand job, and calls her “Mommy” just to get his name on a big sale. Even Gus is willing to let his skinny white one-night stand racially demean him, since whatever he gets out of the conquest presumably outweighs the insult.
What these people have to figure out now is who they want to be in order to make the biggest transactions. Harper can’t languish around as Eric’s protégé anymore, especially since his nominal authority seems to be waning, and Yas, now that her biggest client is in her bed but no longer in her books, can’t just coast on her “publishing heiress” curb appeal. This is how we get her mentor-mentee relationship with Celeste; it’s what attracts Harper to Jesse Bloom; it’s there in how Robert immediately becomes subservient to Nicole (and gets over his sexual hump in the process). Remember, these aren’t the wealthy people who make the world go around; they’re the rank-and-file who make the wealth go around. They can – and will – be whoever they need to be, whatever their clients want. But they never stop to ask what the real cost might be.