Photo: Simon Ridgway/HBO
Industry, HBO’s fast-paced drama about young London financial traders, was already a fun and exciting watch in its first season, and it becomes even more so in season two. The new episodes, which premiered last night, continue the show’s commitment to glistening eye candy: it’s kind of a show of fancy restaurants and explicit sex scenes, like Succession but with more of an up-down divide and even more disregard for his surroundings. The protagonists, particularly Harper (Myha’la Herrold) and Yasmin (Marisa Abela), tend to find themselves in intense situations of hard work and partying, and the series is excellent at accentuating these visual contrasts. But what really sets Industry as a show about wealth and power, and in particular the twisted and devious machinations that go into creating wealth and power, are its dialogue and sound design.
There’s an appealing, hugely effective, almost Altman consistency to the way people speak Industry. Language flows through the show, slipping through a range of English accents into Italian, French, German and Arabic and perpetually wallowing in the utterly incomprehensible (to me) language of financial trading. Does anyone need “CPS side money flow or color slash ideas?” Harper asks in the season two premiere, adding “as you know the lay-up trade over the last few months has sold the dollar.” In the background, a male voiceover shouts, “Is anyone here young enough to give a Shit about memestocks? »
I barely know what a short sale is. At some point in 2011, I briefly understood the phrase “margin call”; that knowledge has long since left me. Police procedurals have made legalese a ubiquitous American vernacular, and I’ve been bathed in TV medical jargon long enough for characters to frantically scream about heartbeats and blood signs and staring pupils and I can follow the action without thinking too much about it. These devices have the advantage of quickly connecting to a physical result, often visible: the patient succeeds or not; the person is released or they are not. But the frantic pace of IndustryThe financial language of is both indifferent to explanatory handling and totally disconnected from any immediate and concrete reality. Something-something-something has been trading for a long time? It’s a five-alarm fire and careers are at stake, although for the life of me I couldn’t tell you exactly why.
Far from being alienating, this linguistic density only adds to Industrythe call. When the characters react to the stress of being on the floor, Industry makes it palpable: there are voices everywhere, picking up phones and whispering to them with the desperate urgency of someone who can sense the whole world on the brink of collapse. There is a sense of a rollercoaster where everyone’s fortunes rise and fall, not in concert but in close proximity; the noise never stops and the fluidity with which the characters move in and out of different languages further emphasizes the feeling of global chaos, without borders and incessant Industry created for his characters. Even when their vocabulary sounds like silver-flavored white noise, the stakes are still apparent in the vocal performances, when the tone starts to shake and the words start coming faster and faster. It’s not about what “selling the dollar” means; it’s about the confidence with which the new young trader speaks these words.
Although it is impossible to watch Industry without subtitles – you’d miss too many sexual innuendos, for one thing, and the most intimate family drama takes place in languages other than English – the sheer number of those languages keeps the viewer slightly off. Unless you actually pronounce each one that appears in Industry (in which case: congratulations!), we end up following the show as much by the emotions as by the particular details. It’s the auditory equivalent of “no thoughts, just vibrations”.
Industry is an incredibly watchable show, but for my money (which is largely allocated in a risk-averse mutual fund portfolio), the main attraction is the pleasure of listening. It’s not so much a radio play as a fully immersive sound bath, one of constantly stirring tension and the occasional relief of someone in the background shouting about NFTs. That’s what makes Industry stand out from other fast-paced dramas: its soundscape is as distinctive as anything about its visual style. And despite the show’s stress, this sound design is almost heartwarming, as any white noise or cafe background noise can be. Industry envelops you, and it feels good — even if everyone is always on the verge of losing everything.