With “The Giant Squid,” Industry Proves It’s Essential TV
(5/5) “The Giant Squid” proves why Industry is such masterful television, delivering high-stakes tension while dealing with the nuances of power dynamics and toxic workplace culture.
Season 2 Episode 2 of Industry is like a choreographed dance, with the moves being calculated power plays. The episode follows Rob, Harper, and Yasmin as they continue to fight for respect at Pierpoint and vie for power. The older adults around them see them as objects to toy with, but in "The Giant Squid" they begin to weaponize these misconceptions and use them to their advantage. Each of them embarks on dangerous moves to manipulate and secure major clients: Yasmin lures her estranged father into handling his finances with her at Pierpoint, Rob entertains a sexual relationship with the predatory Nicole to secure her as a client, and Harper’s behind-the-scenes scheming finally earns her respect. Ultimately, “The Giant Squid” marks a major shift for Rob, Yasmin, and Harper as they learn how to successfully use and manipulate the older adults who discount, mistreat, and underestimate them.
The episode begins with Harper continuing to struggle with her anxiety as she tries to get back into her groove at work. She shows up to Jesse Bloom’s talk to hopefully win him over, but, in the presence of others attempting to woo him as well, she freezes and fumbles when it’s her turn to speak. She seeks him out again at his tennis court and freezes up once again when he hits her back with questions. Through Myha'la Herrold’s masterful embodiment of the character, her pain and frustration are palpable. Her toxic relationship with Eric is currently on the rocks, and she knows she needs a big sale to get back into his good graces.
Yasmin continues her flirtatious dance with Celeste, a figure she finds an alluring mentor of sorts. Celeste masterfully weaponizes her sexuality in male-dominated spaces, something Yasmin finds fascinating. She’s tired of being a victim in her workplace and constantly objectified by her male superiors. Celeste takes Yasmin to a client dinner, and noticing Celeste flirtatiously placing her hand on top of one of the men's hands, Yasmin does the same to the other male client. He pulls it away, firmly telling her he is not that kind of client. Yasmin is embarrassed and immediately apologizes to Celeste after the men drive off, but Celeste is completely understanding. Celeste calmly says gets it - it’s a confusing space to navigate. How do you get people to take you seriously but also play the dangerous game of using your sexuality to advance? Celeste has mastered it, and Yasmin seems to feel like this woman not only understands her but also embodies the woman she wants to be.
Celeste takes the sparkly pumps off her feet that Yasmin complemented earlier and gives them to her. As Yasmin becomes more entranced by Celeste, it is still yet to be seen what Celeste’s true intentions are. She could very well be manipulating Yasmin for her personal gain, or she could be completely genuine. For now, it feels like a mostly good thing - Yasmin is gaining confidence and learning how to maneuver these male-dominated spaces. It’s an interesting and nuanced exploration of what it’s like to navigate a workplace where you are constantly objectified and belittled because you’re a woman. As they say their goodbyes, Celeste tells her, “you don’t have to like someone for them to be useful to you.” This quote is a powerful thematic summation of the episode, as the younger adults learn how they can manipulate the predatory and abusive adults around them for their advancement.
Rob is practicing this mantra as well as he struggles to make his first sale. He’s in talks with Nicole, who sexually assaulted Harper in a car after a client dinner last season. She flirtatiously asks him to dinner to talk further about potentially buying from him. After dinner, just as she did to Harper, Nicole makes a sexual advance on Rob. He decides to let her, knowing it will inevitably lead to him securing the sale, and it does. He’s effectively using her sexual interest in him to his advantage, and we’ll see what inevitable trouble that causes as the season progresses.
While satisfying, these victories for Harper, Yasmin, and Rob have undeniable darkness looming over them. Using and manipulating people who are doing the same to them is an inevitably dangerous path. For now, we get a moment to bask in the three of them beginning to take some of their power back. Yasmin wears the glittery heels Celeste gave her as she has sex with Maxim. The shoes are a sparkly, profound symbol of her evolution as a character as she becomes more confident, bold, and overall unwilling to take anyone’s sh*t anymore. She runs into Kenny as she walks into the office the next morning. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, she smiles and tells him to behave himself, effectively making him uncomfortable. In a brilliant callback to her failed attempt to manipulate the male client by placing her hand on his, she does the trick again, this time with her wealthy father to get him to use Pierpoint to manage his finances.
This time, it works. The episode ends in what Industry does so incredibly well: a high-stakes sales call that carries the intensity of life or death. Harper gets a call from Jesse Bloom, and with a reluctant assist from Yasmin (a small step toward reconciliation for them), and all eyes on her, she gets the sale. Harper is in tears – all of her stress and worry dissipate. After this moment of catharsis, she rushes to the bathroom and sits in a stall. She’s overwhelmed, breathing heavily, and her hearing is muffled - a reminder that her anxiety is unfortunately still alive and well, despite this moment of triumph. “The Giant Squid” proves why Industry is such masterful television, delivering high-stakes tension while dealing with the nuances of power dynamics and toxic workplace culture.