Dirt: Industry post-season chat

What might be next for the show?

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Industry week recap: Day 5: Finance vocabulary. / Day 4: Instant fandom. / Day 3: Texts we’ve sent about Industry. / Day 2: Industry’s London. / Day 1: Industry’s logo animation.

[SPOILER WARNING DUH]

Kyle Chayka: So, Industry week has ended. Industry is, in more than one sense, over: It feels like the media chatter about it has peaked and the show was already renewed for a second season. Like a mayfly, Industry lived briefly and reproduced. In the context of streaming, did it win?

Daisy Alioto: It was a winner for me. I think we’ve witnessed the streaming equivalent of a movie that underperforms in theaters (remember those?) the first two weekends and then starts selling out because it’s perfectly suited to the moment in some way. I would be interested to see the line graph of streams for Industry. Dumping all of the remaining episodes mid-season over Thanksgiving weekend was a risky move–I would say it paid off.

Kyle: Yeah, HBO usually tries for the old model of weekly release and building hype — seemed to work for The Undoing! — but this had a slow trickle and then total binge-mode, which might have saved it, or at least did a lot to capitalize on the hype it was starting to get. I'm not sure the plot could've sustained a slow burn, it's a binge of a show!! 

I've heard of a lot of people (including you) rewatching Industry right after they finish it. Why did you do that, what role does rewatching play in streaming right now?

Daisy: I’ve been thinking hard about your rewatching question because I am not typically a rewatcher. Why this show, and why now? I watched Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You earlier this year, religiously. Actually, they weren’t releasing the episodes fast enough for me and I dug out an old laptop so I could find an illicit stream of the episodes the BBC had already released without infecting my computer. That said, I would never rewatch it. The trauma is too personal. I binged it because I wanted to know what happened, but that was in spite of the subject matter.

I think a lot of people, especially those who have personal experiences that align with the show, might only want to watch it in small doses. But that’s the thing about streaming–you’re controlling your own dose. You decide how much of something you want to watch. When it comes to watchable bleakness, Industry is like Dickens to me. Of course we’re going to reread a Dickens as some point, because it’s about the machinations of bleakness, but something more personal like The Incest Diary, I will never read that book again.

Kyle: That makes me think about the general impersonality of Industry. There is this bleakness and blankness to the whole show; I think the only other show with so many staring rictuses is The Crown, which is about people who must repress their sense of self. What do we think that is, a Gen Z aesthetics thing? A finance thing? A side-effect of ketamine abuse? In a way, the characters are just illustrations of the machine they're caught in. 

Daisy: What was 2020 if not one long staring rictus? I’ve never done cocaine or taken ketamine, but watching Industry I had the sensation that is universally recognized as being on drugs. As you know, this year I was hired and laid off and then sort of hired again short term which means that for over 12 months I have either been in the heightened adrenaline state of “interviewing” or the equally heightened adrenaline state of “starting a new job.” Interacting with a lot of new people is sort of dizzying, especially if you are like me and are interested in “figuring people out” more than basically any other subject. So for an “emotional quant,” a term I just came up with, 2020 has been an absolute bender. 

You used the word “accelerationism” writing about the Industry logo earlier this week, and I think that’s where so much of the bleakness and excitement comes from on the show. There’s interpersonal accelerationism (“I want to know what I am going to mean to you RIGHT NOW”) and there’s the systemic version. I think a lot of people are intrigued by their own debasement, and they handle this in various normal (Robert) and abnormal (Greg) ways — capitalism is a party to that. 

The economic system of winners and losers, even when being a “loser” means you’re essentially left to die, is a ritual humiliation we (Americans, and to an extent Brits) are conscripted into at birth. It’s nice to watch people game it. Harper is like the D.B. Cooper of capitalism, to reference something else I recently streamed. 

Her brand of accelerationism is to go straight to the belly of the beast. “Let’s get this over with.” The most surprising thing about Harper is that she’s a true believer in meritocracy. Or she’s a true believer in the strategic value of meritocracy, to put it like a total psychopath. Eating before you’re eaten is a way to retain dignity for some people–others find it through religion or art, or a made up system of good and evil like Q. 

I’m going too long here, but I think the mistake a lot of people make, especially leftists, is thinking power is uninteresting when it’s presented in an entertaining package like Industry. Well, I think power is VERY interesting. Possibly the most interesting thing in the world. I’m not impressed by it though, there’s a difference. 

Kyle: Contemporary leftism still lacks a sense of glamour, which may or may not be the point. Industry is the opposite of any kind of "dirtbag" aesthetic — Yasmin's boyfriend Seb is the person we media workers would most recognize and identify with (at the beginning he "works in media"!) but the show reviles him for being lazy and kind of not accelerationist enough — not entertained by his own debasement in a system. Whew! He still sucks though. 

As Harper says in the show, she thinks capitalism has moral value and efficacy. Where do we leave her, at the end of the season? By going with Eric over Daria, she chooses the accelerationist path, cruising together along the highways of capital and hoping she can pull out her own reward before everything crashes. 

Daisy: Yeah, Seb is definitely a dirtbag. His own degree of "privilege" is inconclusive, he definitely doesn't mind being a clinger-on to that chinless guy that plays Edward on The Crown. The choice between Eric and Daria is the choice between two value systems and Harper's place in them. She sees herself as surviving on her own merit, and Eric's worldview better supports that. Daria is more interested in cultural categories and Harper doesn't want to be a token. Hopefully, in the second season we will find out more of her backstory, especially the twin that may or may not exist, and we'll better understand how her psyche was forged. What would you like to see in the second season? 

Kyle: I'm kind of glad Daria got ejected at the end of the season, though I think the Eric return was a little too neat. (A friend texted me disappointed when Eric seemed to leave the plot; I didn't spoil it.) I think in season two we will see more of Harper's American past — maybe another friend or family member visiting London, who casts doubt on her academic credentials? — and her continued path upward in the bank, in cahoots with Eric, who will eventually become a full villain. The indoctrination arc reminds me of Greg from Succession, another underdog who everyone thinks will eventually take over the family business. How high will Harper's bildungsroman take her? Sadly we won't know until the next Industry Week. 

Comment on this post with your own Industry takes!

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