Warning: This article contains spoilers for Industry season 2, episode 3, titled "The Fool."
Harper Stern's (Myha'la Herrold) winning streak continues on Industry.
After Jesse Bloom's (Jay Duplass) business comes to Pierpoint, things start moving quickly at the bank. With a new deal looming, Eric Tao (Ken Leung) and the higher-ups want things to go to plan: for Bloom to sell the shares he bought at a profit to the client they had planned to work with, Felim Bichan (Andrew Buchan). It's all supposed to go down at a retreat in the countryside that Eric had no plans to invite Harper to until Jesse stepped in. While away from the city, Harper is pushed aside by her mentor and discovers the bank plans to play Jesse.
Taking her big move in the previous episode a step further, Harper comes to Jesse with a new plan. What they pull off pisses off Eric and Felim because it requires Jesse to pull out of the deal as planned, but the windfall of the big move makes Pierpoint a lot of money. "As it's been from the beginning, Harper is really out to support herself and herself only," Herrold explains. Pierpoint's London office is under review, not to mention a potential merger, so landing Jesse is Harper's way of making herself indispensable at work.
Harper's cutthroat move with Jesse this season has only hurt one person: Eric. "She makes 10s of millions of dollars for the bank through Jesse. She's just not sharing the coverage [with Eric], so in a lot of ways, it makes her sort of a hero at the bank because everyone thinks that this was an impossible thing to do, and she's done it," Herrold says about Harper's big trade at the end of episode 2.
The Harper-Eric relationship has always been hard to understand. "There hasn't been a clear answer to what they want from each other or feel about each other," Industry co-creator Mickey Down explains. Eric sees a talented person that he could mold into a good salesperson, an opportunity Harper jumps at because her college education isn't Ivy League (in fact, she's lying about having finished college at all). "It's both an altruistic thing and also a sort of selfish thing in that he was to turn people into little versions of [himself]," Down adds.
Trust is not something that comes easy, particularly for Harper. "It has been her experience that you can't trust anyone. Even the people you thought you could or have a personal relationship with. But especially not the people you got dirt on or who have dirt on you," Herrold says about her character. Part of Eric and Harper's complex dynamic is what they hold over one another, which includes opportunities for Harper to advance at work and the fact that Harper is the one who saved Eric's job in season 1.
If you look at Industry season 2 as a coming-of-age story about the grads, then Harper breaking away from Eric makes sense. "He underestimates her and isn't giving her what she wants, and it's almost a teenage moment of breaking off from the family to explore the world and see how capable she is without them," O'Brien explains, as she sees an almost familial bond in Harper and Eric.
But that bond isn't necessarily mutually beneficial. Co-creator Konrad Kay looks back on something Duplass said in an interview about his character being post-success and Harper being pre-success. "There's something very vampiric about wanting to latch onto someone who's pre-success, but as you nurture or mentor that person towards success, you get a real sense of your mortality, which both Jesse and Eric really hate when they see that in Harper," he explains. Part of Eric's struggle is his inability to let go. "[Eric] seeks to not only nurture those below them, but also control them," Kay says about this twist on his relationship with his mentees.
Harper is now left to maintain her recent success as Pierpoint's London office enters an era of uncertainty. Without Eric, she will only have herself to rely on.
Industry airs Mondays at 9pm ET on HBO.
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