Season 2 of “Industry” uses language like magic
Photo: Simon Ridgway/HBO
Spoiler for the Industry season two finale, “Jerusalem,” below.
I’m waiting for the moment when my brain starts processing the meaning of stock market words. I thought maybe it would happen during Billions with his speeches about deleveraging and assets under management and capital gains like stabs in the stomach – everyone talking to each other, discussing their desires and dreams and anxieties and then boom! Something to do with high frequency trading algorithms! At various times I assumed it would click during Succession with the constant back and forth over bear hugs and controlling stakes and stock prices, the Roys are unable to express their emotions to each other except in the form of market value. Both of these styles work for their respective shows, but neither will be the thing that ultimately teaches me what an interest rate swap is. Industry That’s when I realized I was never going to get past the most basic understanding of a short squeeze, and its heartbreaking Season 2 finale is what convinced me I never, ever want to.
The second season of the HBO series achieved the kind of accelerated escalation that all second seasons strive for and few achieve. If it were just about the breakdown of Yasmin’s bond with her father – giddy, then furious, then plaintive but resolute – this story alone would have been worth watching. And all the messy, oddly endearing affairs of newcomer Jesse Bloom trying to get his son into Oxford struck notes of tenderness the show lacked while playing directly into his obsessions with classism.
But the thrilling big scene of this finale – Bloom’s sharp, astonishing and not-quite-legal market maneuvers – is Industry at its best money. After spending the entire season trying to build a partnership with the mega-investor, Harper seems to have let him down. They’ve cooked up an elaborate short play that has to do with a physical pharmacy company called FastAide. Harper advised Bloom to short the shares of this drugstore chain on the assumption that FastAide stock would fall, but she had no idea it would become a meme stock and thousands of Reddit investors would swoop in. would rally to drive the stock price up. Additionally, it looks like Amazon is set to acquire FastAide, and news of the deal would send its price skyrocketing.
Bloom’s short position means he will lose millions of dollars. Harper begs him to stop. Meanwhile, her attempt to get a job at another investment firm doesn’t pan out, so it looks like she’s headed for an epic crash and burn alongside Bloom.
Until. Until! Harper tries to convince Bloom that it’s vitally important for him to stop his short stance by making it clear that the only thing everyone assumed would hold up this deal with Amazon – an antitrust investigation by the UK government – wouldn’t happen. not.
The next time we see Bloom, he’s on the set of a CNN financial news show talking about the awesome meaning of his investment. At the same time, he texts Harper to buy all available shares of Rican, a telemedicine company. Harper runs to the floor and starts yelling at Rishi to buy everything. Buy everything! Do what the man on TV says! And then Bloom leans back in his chair on the TV set and says, “Anywhere else in this world, Amazon’s purchase of FastAide would be undone. I’m just glad that in a place like Britain they still take anti-competition rules seriously. Harper, speechless, stares at two screens on a Bloomberg terminal. In one screen, the graph collapses. In the next, he flies away.
Bloom took his short position on FastAide, bought a ton of Rican stocks, looked into a TV camera and talked about how great it is to have anti-competition rules, and that was enough to turn a dire financial situation into a fast and dominant situation. victory. He’s also completely screwed over Harper, who realizes she’s just helped Bloom perform a superb insider trading.
All of these details are (and I can’t stress this enough) that I barely understood while watching the episode. What I saw instead was Bloom talking about a new reality coming into existence. Nothing has changed at all in the physical world of the series; nothing can ever really change. Magically, however, Bloom says something on the television and the graphics on Harper’s screen begin to crash. The specifics of the financial jargon itself aren’t important — or rather, my ability to understand them immediately does nothing to hinder my enjoyment of the show. The only thing that matters is that Bloom used language in a way that gave him more power and Harper less.
I remember first bathing in TV lingo for endless blocks of Emergency room on cable: Medical terminology was a thicket of fast-paced, detailed, high-stakes information, and without years of medical procedures still imprinted in my brain, few of them had any real meaning to me. But eventually these medical words were added to a tangible reality: the patient lives or dies. Doctors pass or fail. Medical jargon is descriptive and its power only extends to an immovable point where words can no longer fix what is wrong. For the current rash of shows full of financial jargon, however, the characters have seemingly endless power to talk about any circumstance. If only you could find the right combination of magic words – make exactly the right decisions at the right time – you could win it all or lose it all.
Whether Billions uses talk money as a weapon and Succession uses business language as a measure of love, IndustryFinancial jargon is a form of witchcraft. It is a version of performative speech that is also a very real form of power in our world, and the movement of financial markets ultimately shapes much of our physical reality. But in the world of Industry, it’s an addictive sweet spot between immense power and pure imagination. Does it matter if I understand how all the magic happens? Not particularly! All that matters is, unlike a medical drama with its annoying physical strength, IndustryThe financial lingo of is so mysterious and nonsensical that I can never really tell when the magic will suddenly run out. That’s why this season finale is so shocking: Yasmin’s key has stopped working; Harper sits across from a human resources employee who takes her job away. For Industryprotagonists, the magic words finally fell apart.