31 Pilots in 31 Days: Industry

When it was originally on: 2020-present

Original network: BBC 2 in the UK, HBO in the U.S.

Where you can stream it now: HBO Max

Had I seen it before: No.

What IMDb says: Young bankers and traders make their way in the financial world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse.

Why I picked it: I’ve seen several ads for Industry that market it at some version of “the best show you’re not watching yet.” Sure enough, it does have an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, but only a 49% on the audience scale. Industry has high ambitions, but tIt’s not a particularly well-known show,

What I liked: I love shows that are about something bigger ya know? Industry seems to be an exploration of meritocracy and whether one can exist. The pilot has this interesting mix of people who think they actually have to work hard and be good at the job, and others who have a sense of entitlement to their positions. Whether the show has a more optimistic world view and we get to watch the entitled people have their comeuppance, or the show is a more pessimistic exploration of how power systems screw over perfectly qualified individuals, Industry has that potential to be about something bigger.

I also love their choice to center the show not just on the finance industry, but specifically a class of recent university graduates who are in some sort of career launch program. Early in the pilot, we’re told that in 6 months, half the people in this class will lose the gig. Great pilots raise questions we have to keep watching to answer and “who will survive that round of cuts?” is a great question.

There’s also an inherent generational gap built in too. We’re introduced to a few of the senior traders who are charged with managing these younger traders. It’s already seeming like one of those senior traders might emerge as a proper mentor figure to Harper, whereas some of the other senior traders see the younger class as a nuisance, and could easily turn into proper antagonists if given enough time. Again, that exploration of how younger people and older people interact in a workplace feels bigger, and relatable to almost everyone regardless of age. I hope they flesh out more of the older characters as they go.

Our central protagonist is also quite compelling. Harper Stern is an American who believes that trading is meritocracy, and that her IQ is enough to earn the opportunity. We see a great combination of book smarts and street smarts; she can come up with good investing plans and effectively pitch them to a client; she has the tenacity to pitch that client even when a junior hire usually wouldn’t. Yet Harper also has a secret. She ended up forging her college transcripts, but we’re not entirely sure why. Has she been to college at all? Did she go to college, but not finish? Will she actually be able to keep this a secret? It also raises other questions… why would an American who went to school in upstate New York choose to pursue their finance career in London instead of New York City? Harper is simultaneously someone we can like and root for while also feeling like we’ve only just scratched the surface of her character, and there’s plenty more exciting layers to explore.

There’s also a character death within this pilot that I thought was quite impactful, and I’m somewhat impressed they pulled it off as well as they did. They actually do enough leg work to develop this character that we can be sad when they die, and I was genuinely surprised that they got to this in the pilot when so many other writers might’ve held this back for later. There’s something to be said for signaling to an audience just how dark you’re willing to go if you do in fact plan on going dark. It’s also such a major event that it’s inevitably going to have ripple effects into other episodes, and watching how everyone else navigates this death is a big incentive to keep watching.

What I didn’t like: There are a lot of characters that are introduced but not particularly well developed. It’s like they felt compelled to tell us that Industry would eventually become an ensemble show, but didn’t have time to develop anyone outside of Harper and Hari. Now, centering the pilot around Harper was probably a good idea, again I think she’s a good protagonist. That said, there’s a lot of plot lines they could’ve held off until later episodes without weakening the pilot, and they just feel like clutter here. I’ve also seen enough pilots that do manage to convey tons of character information in relatively little screen time, so it’s a little disappointing that they did manage to give so many other character their own moments without me feeling like I learned much of anything from those moments.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! There’s a lot of potential here, so it’s at least worth another couple episodes to see if they can realize that potential.


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