It was inevitable that we’d get Industry’s take on the 2021 GameStop short squeeze, and I am happy to say this episode does not disappoint. Why? Because this isn’t just a pop-culture callout. It’s the reason why writers switch up sentence length in a paragraph or why Matthew McConaughey’s early-aughts career as a rom-com guy preceded “Time is a flat circle.” What I’m talking about here is variety — you know, the spice of life. After last week’s emotional deep dive across all characters, we have this week’s fast, tense, nervy-b of an episode, which has a single-minded focus on a Fast Aid short squeeze.
Harper and Jesse’s back-and-forth over Fast Aid is the meat of the episode, but before we get there, a quick rundown of what is happening with Gus and Yasmin. Yasmin has seemingly shaken off the weirdness of finding out she has a half-sibling last episode (thank you to all the commenters who pointed out that it was a half-sibling not a stepsibling) and is instead swanning her way out of FX and into private-wealth management. At the pub, Yasmin and Celeste drink endless martinis. When Kenny tries to join them, Yasmin chews him out. Celeste balks a bit at her reaction but turns the conversation to their mounting sexual tension. Unlike Yasmin in season one, Celeste wants to address things head-on. Hence her getting Yasmin to admit that she masturbates while thinking of Celeste.
As she prepares to leave the FX desk, Yasmin gets a series of funny, charming, and awkward gifts from Jackie, Venetia, and Kenny, including a silver dildo and a stapler in a Jell-O mold. I don’t know what the dance Kenny does is in reference to, but it is painfully awkward to watch. Yasmin leaves for “lunch,” which turns out to be Celeste coming over to her home for a glass of water. The glass of water quickly turns into extensive, extremely hot sex. Afterward, Yasmin is glow-y and preening, amazed that she’s the kind of person who would have sex with a married person. Except it turns out things aren’t quite as transgressive as Yasmin seems to think. Celeste tells Yasmin she’s in an open marriage, so all the orgasming the two did together on their lunch break was actually completely aboveboard. Yasmin’s face falls; suddenly she’s not as special as she thought she was.
Back in the office, Yasmin gathers her things from her desk to go upstairs to private wealth. Venetia comes across the framed photo of Rob wearing Yasmin’s underwear on his face that Rob gave Yasmin last season. Yasmin laughs it off and says it’s a joke, but clearly it rattles Venetia, not to mention I think it unsettles Yasmin. After all, it’s a callback to when she was dominating Rob, not when she was being submissive to Celeste. Do I sense a little wistfulness? As Yasmin leaves the floor, Kenny chases her down and gets choked up, apologizing to her again for his behavior last season.
Gus is visited at Aurore’s office by his sister, who comes bearing Champagne and Chinese food, and the two get to talking about careers. Again, Gus says that he’s not going to take the promotion he was offered because he sort of likes making a difference. His sister is surprisingly cool with it and tells him she’ll see him in Eton, where they’re gathering for a family member’s confirmation. Gus continues to love his job to the point where he offers to personally cover the counseling of one of his regular constituents. Later, he talks to Leo as he gets ready to take the train to Eton — turns out Leo didn’t get into Oxford. Gus urges him to tell his father, and when Gus’s train is canceled due to a frozen track, Leo gets Jesse to send a car for Gus.
Is Gus the only truly, innately good person on this show? Maybe, but it doesn’t look like he’ll get to stay in local politics after all. At the confirmation, Gus’s sister changes her tune and tells him it’s “time to stop dancing.” His parents are tacitly “permissive” of his sexuality, so he needs to play ball and get into a career that will actually satisfy his family. I’m starting to see why and how Gus will fit into Harper’s story line — he’ll be involved with whether Rican or Fast Aid + Amazon get off the ground — but god do I want to watch more of him. It’s so quietly heartbreaking to see him be such a good boyfriend, roommate, and even counsel person’s assistant, only to go to this unbearable-looking confirmation and be told his family tolerates who he is.
Now, about Harper. The bad news is that the finance lingo flies thick and fast in this episode and I only understood a third of it. The good news is that you don’t need to understand it all in detail, because the sinking feeling in your stomach as you watch Harper get herself into a bind she can’t undo does not require much explanation. Remember: Harper told Jesse to go short on Fast Aid, but to direct it through Goldman, not Pierpoint. In this episode, we learn that even though Harper expected Fast Aid’s share price to plummet, Reddit investors have banded together to invest in Fast Aid out of a sense of nostalgia, causing the price to rally. Basically, this means Harper’s advice to Jesse was very, very wrong.
So yes, Jesse is pissed, but it turns out he’s not necessarily pissed because Harper led him financially astray. Jesse visits the desk and talks with Harper in a conference room where we learn he is livid that Harper has been ignoring his calls since she got back from Berlin. Harper says she had some personal things, but Jesse is beyond having any sympathy. (Did he ever have any sympathy?) DVD joins their chat, and when Jesse asks him what he would do if someone told him to short Fast Aid, DVD says that he’d cut ties with whomever gave Jesse such bad advice, not knowing that Jesse is talking about Harper. Jesse leaves, but DVD can tell something is up, though Harper refuses to tell him what’s wrong. In a bid to win her trust or cement their closeness, he tells her that the London desk is not long for this world and that he’s picked her as someone who should be “beamed up to the mothership” a.k.a. taken to New York. He wants to be a team with Harper, whether personally or professionally, but he needs Harper to be honest.
Fast Aid continues to tick up, and Harper goes outside for a smoke break to blow off steam. Who should be there but her former mentor-tormentor Eric, who is having a crisis. It turns out, despite all his contacts, he is having no luck moving firms with the hope of getting back on the floor. Seeing Eric in a slump shakes Harper, who tells him that being defeated doesn’t suit him, that he only has himself to blame. Eric counters by saying that his defeat is his responsibility, yes, but also DVD’s. I don’t know that I totally buy this — yes, DVD outmaneuvered Eric, but it seemed like Adler was going to push Eric out regardless. To me, it appears more like Eric is sowing seeds of discord between Harper and DVD.
Eventually, Fast Aid comes off its high. This is where I stop being able to follow exactly what is happening financially, but it doesn’t matter. What you need to know is that Harper conspires to screw over Pierpoint, instead making Jesse a profit, in a bid to get Jesse to commit his continual business and loyalty to her, not to the bank. These machinations happen over the phone, and though Harper is initially successful in getting Jesse what he wants, it turns out DVD was patched into her line and listening the whole time. He tells her to get off his desk — she’s shown her true colors as someone who is more interested in her own success, even at the expense of the firm. Harper seems not to care. She got what she wanted after all … until the Reddit investors rally again, making Fast Aid’s price go up. Her plan to turn Jesse a profit fails.
Sometimes I forget just how young Harper really is. After her colossal failure on the desk, Harper goes to Bloomberg Invest, where Jesse is slated to give a talk. She asks him to say the right things, to move the market so things still end up in his favor. I realized she sounds like Eric here — talking a big game about the “first flush” of a new career. But I don’t think that has ever been what Jesse wants from Harper. In the same way that Jesse says he never came to London to work, only to be closer to his son, Leo, I think Jesse wants whatever it is in Harper that sees the “atavistic” primal nature inside him, the parts of them that are similar in this way. It’s not so much about the money as it is a game of financial-emotional chicken. So it’s not a surprise when he opts to go be with his son in a time of need, ghosting the Bloomberg talk and leaving Harper high and dry.
Do you know what else isn’t a surprise? The person Harper turns to in her moment of need: her twisted pseudo-father figure, Eric. She enters his office and asks if together, the two of them are worth a bid away. I guess Harper and Eric are taking their show on the road!
• Brava to the costume designers. This is not the first episode I’ve paused to get a closer look at something a character is wearing (this time, Celeste’s beautiful silvery bralette; last episode, Yasmin’s exquisite travel sweats), but I love the way each character’s closet speaks not just to who they are in the moment but who they’ve been and who they’re aspiring to be.
• What book is Eric reading in his office? I tried to zoom in on that but couldn’t get a close enough look.
• Industry sure loves its wet, squelchy sex noises.