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Industry: Investment bank drama is ‘exhilaratingly reprehensible’

Lucy Sweet “can’t get enough of the moral bankruptcy” of Industry, a TV show that’s as confusing as it is exhilaratingly reprehensible

My life is filled with plenty of high-powered decisions such as ‘shall I get the green washing-up sponges or the non-stick yellow and white ones?’ and ‘custard cream or Jammie Dodger?’ Then there’s the top-level negotiation I have to do every day. Trying to get a teenager to wear a jacket with a hood during a torrential rainstorm. Attempting to reach some kind of agreement with the bags under my eyes, which are starting to make me look like Fred Elliott from Coronation Street after a particularly rough night down the Rovers. And playing hardball with the self-service machine in Sainsbury’s, which keeps telling me to take the last item out of the bagging area EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY DID.

The other day, though, the stakes were raised. I was walking to work past a Shelter charity shop and saw a yellow velvet chaise longue in the window. Now I’m not in the habit of buying chaise longues before I’ve had my first coffee – in fact, I’ve never bought one – but it was a total bargain and also, pre-9am, my brain is like the inside of a Findus crispy pancake and I’m highly suggestible, to the point I once laughed at a joke in Everybody Loves Raymond

But the thrill of asking to reserve it, even though the shop wasn’t officially open yet, sitting on it in the window and arranging collection, made me feel amazing. Who is this crazy rule breaker who lives outside of the law and lounges around in shop windows? What will she do next? Fly to Benbecula? Bet her life savings on a horse?

Maybe, I wondered, as I installed myself on my new/old sofa to watch TV, this is how the characters in Industry feel all the time. If you haven’t seen this scandalous tale of young graduates at London investment bank Pierpoint & Co, you should definitely put your money on it. It’s a bit like a behind-the-scenes glimpse into The Apprentice house at about 4am, just before Sir Alan phones Team Synergy and Team Agile and tells them to meet him at Borough Market to sell sausages – but a million times more filthy. There are jeroboams of champagne, lines of white powder as far as the eye can see, outrageous power moves, eye-popping sex and a hell of a lot of tailoring.

The second series is still as confusing and exhilarating as the first. I have no idea what anyone is going on about. I just sit there with my ear trumpet, squinting and gurning, shouting “What’s an IPO?” and “What’s an NFP?” Written (as it could have only ever been) by former investment bankers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, there’s a lot of quick-fire, baffling City-speak about notionals, risk blotters, crypto and Dogecoin, as well as more numbers than the maths round in Countdown.   

But luckily, a lack of understanding of how the markets work is no barrier to enjoying the show, because it’s all about sexy young people on the make, and who doesn’t love that? The main character, Harper, is everything you want in an anti-hero – dangerously mercenary, but also vulnerable and lost. I can’t get enough of the moral bankruptcy of it all, the hideous people tearing lumps out of each other, and the emotional toll of leaving your humanity at the door while you make millions for hard-headed investors. It’s all so enjoyably reprehensible. 

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I mean, I bet these are the kind of people who’d buy two chaise longues before 9am and then two more at 5.30pm. And both kinds of washing-up sponges. I can’t even begin to imagine. 

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

Industry is on HBO and BBC iPlayer

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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