It is hard to shake a sense of disgust while watching Industry, HBO’s series about young investment bankers vying for a permanent position at a top London firm. One of the few female candidates is sent repeatedly to collect lunch orders. A working-class man is mocked loudly for his budget suit. Another subsists on pills and minutes of sleep stolen in the workplace bathroom, desperately trying to impress his superiors. Everywhere you turn, the exploitation of late-stage capitalism is running rampant.

It is strange, therefore, that Industry takes a lukewarm approach to such self-evident horror. Following in the line of prestige shows like Succession and House of Cards, Industry leans heavily on strong performances and gripping narratives to draw the audience into its dark, unpleasant world, yet it lacks the audacity and dark humour of its predecessors in making such bleakness worthwhile.

There is no doubt that watching these determined, attractive people flirt, party, and play the odds is deeply compelling – and there is skill in making it so – but it is this very watchability that feels safe. Excellent performances aside, so much of what makes Industry engaging is its unadulterated depiction of the cutthroat decadence this world contains, using the very language and iconography of unfettered wealth to its own end. But is there really glamour and intrigue to be found amidst so much ugliness? Shouldn’t we be past portraying success and money as sexy?

It is an easy narrative to sell, that these financial firms are filled with abuse and corruption. More difficult is exposing their root cause, the broader power structures that have allowed this inhumanity to thrive. “You are a world killer,” one of the candidate’s managers tells her as she closes a deal. If only Industry had dug deep into what that really means.



CAST: Myha’la Herrold, Marisa Abela, David Jonsson, Harry Lawtey, Nabhaan Rizwan

DIRECTORS: Lena Dunham, Tinge Krishnan, Ed Lilly

WRITERS: Mickey Down, Konrad Kay

SYNOPSIS: A group of young hopefuls vie for a permanent position at a top investment bank in London, navigating its toxic environment in order to fulfil their ambitions.