Merry Christmas from Industry! It’s August in our world but December in theirs, with Tchaikovsky and baked goods alike. I take back whatever I said last week about starting to lose sight of whether episodes are good or not because of my investment in the characters. This week’s show is a genuine stunner that manages to wrap hilarity, uneasiness, devastation, and sex all in one big bow. It’s also an episode where each character has genuinely important things going on, so I’m going to dive right in.
First off: Eric has been “promoted” to a cubicle where he supposedly handles client relations. Rishi calls it “baby kissing,” but when Harper visits Eric to get his okay to replace an Equity guy on a business trip to Berlin, Eric is not so much kissing babies as he is miserably tolerating his nasal assistant who is hanging art. Yes, Eric has his own office, and yes, I guess he technically is higher up in the structure of Pierpoint, but God, is this heartbreaking. The fight is just barely flickering under his steely surface as he okays Harper’s participation on the business trip.
Moving on, Gus is also maybe getting promoted: Aurore is moving from local politics to more important nationwide things, and she wants to take Gus with her. Specifically, she’s chairing an antitrust committee because, guess what? Amazon is trying to buy all of Fast Aid, but the government is not so keen on a Bezos health-care monopoly and would prefer to give Rican their support. This is the windfall that Harper is betting on! But more importantly, Gus is not so keen on the promotion because it turns out he likes helping people in a local and tangible way.
Next we have Robert, who in any other episode would have the saddest story line, but not this one because everyone is tussling with inner demons this week. Rob is headed back to Oxford to attend a recruitment event and hopefully convince some new blood to join Pierpoint. But on the way there, he gets an unexpected phone call: Clement Cowan, his former mentor from season one, is dead, and he’s left items in his will for Rob. The funeral is the same day of the Oxford event, and so Rob will not attend. The subtext here is that Clement likely overdosed — for those who’ve forgotten, Clement was the sour Scottish banker on the desk who took Rob under his wing, bought him his first tailor-made suit, and also happened to have a heroin problem. He was fired at the end of season one, and though it doesn’t seem like he was on Robert’s mind all the time, it’s an obvious shock when he finds out that Clement is dead. I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together, but it’s probably seeing Clement shoot up in the back room of a suit shop last season that’s contributing to Robert’s season-two sobriety.
Venetia, the new grad on Yasmin’s desk, is also an Oxford grad and as a result, is also on the trip with Robert. The two have a vulnerable chat where we learn that Robert’s mother was the person who wanted him to go to Oxford. We also learn that she’s dead. Also, Robert used to sing in the choir and he’s from the Oxford area! All these things — the holiday season, the proximity to home, the sudden death of Clem — lead Robert to go visit his father at the bar where he works. Things start off promising until his dad blows him off for other customers, giving his son no special treatment. This sends Robert off on a tear, drinking and snorting coke like it’s season one, and making an ass of himself at the recruitment dinner. Venetia, who thought maybe she’d found a genuinely nice person to hang out with, is crestfallen.
What I’ve described so far is a lot! The wildest part is that I haven’t even described the pulsing heart of this episode, which is Yasmin and Harper’s trip to Berlin. Business background: The two are headed to Berlin to pass Anna, the socially conscious investor from earlier in the season, on from working with Yasmin, who is moving to private wealth management, to working with Jackie, her funny, foulmouthed co-worker. Harper is tagging along on the pretense of trying to poach Anna as a client for her desk.
So Harper, Yasmin, and Jackie head to Berlin, where they stay in Yasmin’s father’s apartment, which is giant and gorgeous. The three head to dinner, and when Jackie retires for the night, Harper and Yasmin have a bit of a heart-to-heart. Yasmin talks about getting back in touch with her dad and how it’s ostensibly good but also makes her feel like her past has been a lie. This is when Harper confesses to Yasmin that she’s actually in Berlin to find her brother — in fact, she chose the restaurant the two are in because she had a hunch he worked there. It’s a rare moment that sparkles with the charged friendship the two shared in season one. As they leave the restaurant, Harper goes back in one more time to confirm her brother doesn’t work there. She goes past the servers and the cooks into the back room where someone is washing dishes. That someone turns around. It’s her brother, John Daniel.
What follows is the beginnings of an awkward reunion. John Daniel doesn’t seem happy to see Harper. If anything, he actively tries to get rid of her, but Harper, as we know, is tenacious, and so the trio end up at a Berlin club. John Daniel continues to try to avoid Harper, Yasmin takes drugs and becomes annoying, and for a second it looks like the whole endeavor might be a bust. But then John Daniel relents and takes Harper back to the now-closed restaurant where he works. The two share a warm, mischievous camaraderie, a reenactment of their siblinghood. As John Daniel cooks something for the two of them to eat, he announces to Harper that he’s six months sober — or at least he was, until he started drinking at the club they were just at. From there, the conversation devolves, and it becomes clear that the two shared an abusive mother, and that John Daniel blames Harper for much of the anxiety he experienced when he was forced to play tennis. The story Harper had been telling herself, that she was a cheerleader for her brother who went AWOL, begins to unravel.
One thing leads to another and Harper and John Daniel wind up at John Daniel’s dealer’s home. Outside, it’s morning. The dealer is leaving for work, but he lets the siblings stay in his apartment as John Daniel smokes meth. I need to acknowledge here that merely summarizing the plot points of this interaction doesn’t do it justice. Myha’la Herrold deserves her flowers for this episode and this scene in particular, where we see the steely, self-interested Harper churn through a variety of selves: the adoring little sister, the disillusioned young woman, the professional who is trying to fake it ’til she makes it. As John Daniel rages at her, she eventually rages back, telling him how furious and grief-stricken she was, thinking he’d been dead this entire time. Whatever Harper had been hoping for in reuniting with her brother, it wasn’t this.
While Harper confronts her brother, Yasmin confronts her past. Still high from the drugs she took in the club, she rifles through her father’s desk until she finds the address of her old nanny. She shows up at said nanny’s house and proceeds to have a conversation full of vagaries that hint at a stepsibling that Yasmin never knew she had, the specter of her father as a sexual predator, and what the NDA her nanny was made to sign actually covers. Remember, it’s not just one NDA and woman that her father is implicated by, but many. Yasmin came to Berlin hoping to find nostalgia in the house she spent time in as a child. Instead, she’s getting clued in to what happened around her when she was younger.
At the meeting with Anna, the ostensible real reason the two came to Berlin, Yasmin and Harper are shell-shocked and exhausted-looking as Jackie tries to keep things light. The episode ends back in London, where DVD tries to ask Harper how Berlin went and is brutally shut down as “Carol of the Bells” plays in the background.
I don’t have much else to add this week with the exception of: Rishi and DVD didn’t get promotions. Is dissatisfaction at Pierpoint riding high?