This piece contains spoilers for the Season Two finale of “Industry.”
“We’ve made a strong recommendation to your manager,” the human resources administrator tells Harper Stern. “There’s only one course of action in this scenario.”
The look of betrayal, mixed with fear and disbelief, is written all over Harper’s face.
“I have to let you go,” Eric Tao says. “You’re fired, Harper.”
The camera frames Harper from behind: We see her neat bun and crisp, tailored blazer, but not her face. The Joubert Singers’ “Stand on the Word” plays as the screen goes black. In what feels like a karmic return, after three years of scheming as a junior banker, Harper (Myha’la Herrold) is out of Pierpoint & Co.
In the second-season finale of HBO’s “Industry,” audiences are left on a thrilling, heart-wrenching cliffhanger as the fate of our favorite graduates remain unclear. As Robert Spearing (Harry Lawtey) tries to be a better man, he only becomes more codependent with an abuser. When Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela) decides for once to have a backbone, she ends up cut off from the teat of her publishing tycoon father. While Gus Sackey (David Jonsson) arguably sells out for the finer things in life, Harper faces the threat of being forced to go home.
The eighth and last episode of the show’s second season is a testament to the growing pains of independence — both financial and emotional — and what happens when an ambitious young adult is forced to grapple with morality versus survival in real time. In the pursuit of self-actualization and stability, you end up becoming reliant on something or someone new, be it money, a donor or something else altogether.
At the start of the Season Two finale, audiences watch as Harper, Eric (Ken Leung), Danny Van Deventer (Alex Alomar Akpobome) and Rishi Ramdani (Sagar Radia) make a play to leave the seemingly sinking ship that is Pierpoint’s London branch. In Episode Seven, with the New York branch apparently poised to subsume them, Eric says: “The merger isn’t a merger. It’s a slaughter.”
Over the course of the season, Danny realizes his privilege and grapples with the fact that he is a cog in a system that perpetuates violence and overlooks abuse, leading to a tearful epiphany on the toilet. Following his stunted performance, an aging Eric is forced to ascend to the upper levels of Pierpoint’s executive offices — his worst nightmare — and leave behind the trading floor.
Harper, who is driven up the wall by her volatile client Jesse Bloom (Jay Duplass), knowingly helped Jesse give Rishi the wrong read. Now, as always, she is trying to save herself from going home.
Meanwhile, following the reports of a client named Nicole (Sarah Parish) assaulting the intern Venetia (Indy Lewis), Robert is doing his best to stand his ground and sever the relationship. When Nicole calls to place a large order, Robert tells her to cease contact, but Danny tells him to move forward with the purchase, since it doesn’t change what happened. Be it mommy issues, a submission kink or relating to another white working-class individual who has toiled to the top, Robert initially took a liking to Nicole — that is, until he learned that she had assaulted Harper first.
However, when work, pleasure and abuses of power mix, Robert is unable to escape from Nicole’s grasp, calling her when he’s at his lowest: in jail for substance possession. Following a routine traffic stop, a bag of coke falls from his wallet and the officer picks it up. Robert’s phone dies, and Nicole’s is the only card he has in his wallet. She responds to the call and picks him up. Fuming at Nicole’s pleasure in the ordeal, Robert erupts, calling her a predator and an “unfillable void of need.”
“For every one of the people that you use, who recoils when you touch them, there might be someone like me, who sees you and yet reciprocates, and just for a little bit, you get to live,” Robert tells Nicole. “Those other kids don’t get to see your bedroom. Do they? And let me tell you, from the privileged position of you letting me in, it’s the loneliest fucking place I’ve ever seen.”
She quips: “And yet you felt so at home.”
Pulling over and opening the door for him to exit, Nicole tells Robert to “fuck off” and to stop being a victim. Weakly and silently, he closes the door, and she grabs his genitals, calling him a “good boy.”
Speaking of submission: Yasmin, the publishing heiress dominatrix, had sex with her boss Celeste (Katrine De Candole) just days after transferring to the private wealth management sector. The sexual tension between these two was palpable throughout the season, so this woman-loving-woman relationship was spotted from a mile away. After Yasmin learns that her father has a mountain of sexual assault cases against him, which is why the family’s finances are frayed, she tells Celeste she doesn’t think they should represent him or work with clients like her father anymore.
“My point is, every dollar, every client, you probe deep enough, an advantage has been taken … Do you want to operate within a system and be successful?” Celeste asks. “Or do you want to dream you can change it, and be left behind?”
At a bar, Yasmin accuses her father, Charles (Adam Levy), of grooming her former nanny Teresa. She asks when her father started noticing Teresa as a sexual being. “She was a woman when she wanted me,” he says, and claims they were both consenting adults. He says he has nothing to feel guilty about, and that Yasmin’s mother paid off Teresa out of shame. When Yasmin probes him about his conscience, Charles reads her for filth.
“If we’re going to go through this whole ‘let’s see the world as it is’ — bollocks — are your eyes now opened? OK, good. Look at yourself. How about some damn gratitude for making you?” he begins. Eventually he delivers the dagger: “Maybe ask yourself how someone with such average grades from such an average university ended up in Pierpoint on a desk you didn’t apply to. Not so oblivious now, am I?”
Taking a stand for what appears to be right, Yasmin tells her father she wants nothing more to do with him. That evening, Yasmin tells Celeste that none of this is professional and they should cease doing business with him.
But Celeste tells Yasmin she’s “too tired to work with crusaders” ― and moreover, without Charles, Yasmin’s seat comes at a cost to her. It crushes whatever sentimental or transactional value Yasmin may have thought their relationship had.
“He’s your value to me,” Celeste says in French. “You forget how many girls there are just like you.” The veil is torn, and Yasmin storms out. Hours after the heated bar encounter, she goes home to find that the locks have been changed and she’s been frozen out of their bank account. The headstrong girl who yelled at her father that she was “making herself” now actually has to do it, entirely on her own.
At the Sackey-Spearing household, Harper berates Gus for details regarding his tenure working at the MP’s office as the telemedicine Rican deal looms. She learns that Amazon is set to acquire competitor Fast-Aid, as there is no regulatory anticompetition committee inquiry scheduled. Harper goes to Jesse’s home, encouraging him to pull his stock (and thereby committing insider trading). He pats her down to see if there’s a wire, and dismisses her.
“Maybe I never knew what you wanted. Thank you for the opportunity,” she says.
With Jesse ― who was the quartet’s ticket to escaping Pierpoint and joining another company ― out of the picture, Harper and Eric devise a plan. In a last-ditch effort, Jesse texts Harper to find any remaining shares of Rican and buy them. In a CNN interview, capitalizing on the confidential information Harper leaked to him, Jesse speaks an anticompetition inquiry into existence.
With the parliamentary buzz surrounding the deal, Gus’ boss Aurore (Faith Alabi) is rewarded with a recommendation for health secretary. Full of himself, he says: “I can be loose-lipped when it suits.” Consequently, Gus is rewarded with job termination. Aurore tells him it’s merely pragmatic — and she reminds him to keep Jesse in his debt.
Harper, the woman who notoriously trusts no one, let her guard down and trusted her client to use the information for his own personal gain and to prove her loyalty to him. Yet Jesse used it to sway the entire market. She runs upstairs to Eric, frantic. There, he tells her she has two options: meet with executive Adler (Trevor White) and make a play to stay in London, or cut Jesse off and start afresh. Once again, for Harper, going home is not an option.
At the meeting, Eric and Harper pitch “a new superteam” consisting of the best hedge fund leaders and the youngest, cheapest talent: macro hedge fund sales. Harper suggests that Rishi and wunderkind Danny are headed to the competitor, who only wants them if Harper retains Jesse, and should be cut as a form of punishment. Eric reminds Adler that if this is not executed, news could leak regarding the “culture of suppression” and the “legal liability candy store” at Pierpoint regarding Nicole’s inappropriate behavior.
Knowing full well that she has just set Rishi up for unemployment, Harper attends his countryside wedding, sharing drinks with him at a table. She gets a call from Eric that Adler accepted their proposal and Rishi and Danny are out, but she plays it off as her father calling her. Out of guilt, she blurts to Rishi: “You’re really A-list at your job, you know. Everything’s gonna work out for you.”
The two snort a line of coke in the bathroom, where Harper tries to assuage Rishi’s pre-wedding jitters by telling him to compartmentalize his marriage.
“That’s psychopath logic,” he says.
In an act of passion, pity or desperation for human touch, they have extremely brief, cramped sex.
“I’m sorry. I just… had to get the poison out,” Rishi tells her.
“Me too,” Harper says.
In the wedding pews, Harper and Yasmin rekindle their contentious friendship, laughing over the horrific things they said to one another previously.
Back in London, Gus is sitting at dinner with Jesse and his son Leo (Sonny Poon Tip), whom Gus is dating. Using his Oxford connections, Gus got Leo into the university, so they’re celebrating. When Leo leaves the room, Gus tells Jesse that he’s lost his job. Jesse, who knew and understood that Harper got the confidential trading information for her housemate, enlists Gus as his personal assistant, welcoming him to a lavish life of private jets and fancy meetings.
“Now that you’ve officially joined me on the dark side, you can sit in these meets with me,” Jesse says. “You can be proud of yourself, too. These were the rooms you were born into, lest we forget.”
Earlier in the season, Gus had grappled with fulfillment and making a change over making a buck and appeasing the expectations of his immigrant parents. After his sister steered him away from public service and social work, Gus has made his decision: to be in servitude to his bank account.
Following the wedding, everyone else at Pierpoint returns to the city. Yasmin grabs dinner with Venetia, apologizing for her callous behavior and for gaslighting her when she reported the assault. Venetia discloses that she will likely no longer be staying at Pierpoint as the CPX and FX desks merge, and Yasmin says she’s “eyeing the exit” as well.
“Do you ever think you can feel yourself corrode in real time?” Venetia asks. Out of pride and seniority, Yasmin offers to cover the bill — £221 — but once Venetia gets up, so does Yasmin, dining and dashing because she has no money.
On her first day back since the bathroom sex, Harper sees Danny attempt to enter the building, and his access has been denied. The wunderkind has been terminated as planned. However, arriving at the CPX side of the room, Harper sees that Rishi is still there. She asks what he’s doing and he responds, “You tell me.”
Eric approaches Harper and says, “Follow me for a sec.” They enter the elevator, chatting casually. Eric explains that Rishi is staying, but Harper notices something is off. Eric claims that he’s lightheaded and under the weather. He knows what’s about to happen.
The two exchange words and banter in the elevator, Harper reminiscing about her isolation days in the hotel room and thanking Eric for everything. He says, “I’m doing this for you.” He then walks her into a room, where there’s a man sitting at a table, and fear begins to rise in her spirit. She pleads with Eric: “Please, this cannot be about Jesse. I didn’t know that he was going to —”
Eric tells her to take a seat. What the evaluator tells her has nothing to do with her botched deal from last season or the insider trading allegations. Rather, it has to do with her forged transcript from Binghamton University, where she had a panic attack due to her brother and stormed out of the final exam. The evaluator says, “Your duplicity in this manner contradicts the founding principle of Pierpoint’s business: honesty and integrity.”
Objectively, Harper’s behavior is often heinous and chaotic, to say the least. In Season One, she botched a massive deal. In Season Two, she misled Rishi and committed an egregious ethical error. At that level, an incomplete college transcript is unacceptable. However, there is room for nuance and multiple truths.
The hypocrisy of Pierpoint — a place that begets and encourages vile behavior — impugning Harper’s “honesty and integrity” is another instance of how the institution will never love you. No matter how much you try to co-opt, adopt or fuel their practices, as a Black woman, the sword will always fall on you, if it doesn’t simply stab you in the back.
What remains unclear is how the information was discovered. Throughout the season, Eric was increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of Harper outpacing him, gaining ground at Pierpoint with a world-famous client like Jesse. Despite capitalizing on Harper’s mind and desperation to create a solution that Adler agreed to, her mentor Eric possibly made no efforts to keep her in the fold; rather, he likely pushed her out as she transitioned from his pet to threat in an effort to assert control and dominance.
The cliffhanger leaves us with questions: Will Harper trust anyone ever again? What does this mean for her professional future and her immigration status? Will she have to return home and re-enroll in school — or fight to the death in London? Now, Yasmin and Harper have ostensibly learned their lessons and are off to fend for themselves, while Gus and Robert contend with their demons. As Phyliss McKoy Joubert sang, that’s how the good Lord works, I guess.