“Industry” Season 2 Targets the Intoxicating Power of Harper Stern

In this way, she is more kindred with someone like Eric or Season 2’s hedge fund mogul Jesse Bloom, who regard her as savvy, albeit slightly dangerous. All three players recognize that in order to maintain their professional relationships, they must expect the most self-serving behavior from each person, and navigate from there. It creates a cruel orbit in which none of them are ever truly safe, but they are successful, reaping the benefits they bring to one another.

Harper’s likability has much to do with her the harsh realism of her character. In the real world, someone in her position could succeed in her environment by employing her extreme methods. Just as well, her demise also mimics the real world.

Throughout season 2, she oscillates between Eric and Jesse, gambling her future at Pierpoint amidst whispers of a London and New York office merger. After gaining Jesse as a game-changing client, she leverages an exit strategy at competing firms, partnering with trader Rishi (Sagar Radia) and executive director Daniel (Alex Alomar Akpobome). 

Nick Strasburg/Courtesy of HBO

However, by the finale, Harper overestimates her hand and attempts to throw Daniel and Rishi under the bus to save herself, anticipating that her weighty client will protect her. Only this time, she loses. Jesse uses Harper’s ill-gotten intel to manipulate the market, thus putting the entire desk at risk for insider trading accusations. Jesse treats Harper the way they both knew he was always capable of. With no remaining allies inside of the company, Harper is fired by Eric, her last gamble — he was the person she bet would ensure her security. The season ends without us knowing whether Eric’s actions were merciful, as a way to protect Harper from greater legal action for her miscalculation with Jesse.

Harper’s arc in season 2 satisfies the audience’s appetite for all stages of an antiheroine’s rise and fall. We watch her climb and celebrate her wins, only to be faced with the free fall of isolation. With every small step towards vulnerability, she shifts her focus to an increasingly ambitious goal post to distract from the questions she refuses to answer about herself. 

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