The Consultant TV Review

Christoph Waltz plays a malevolent boss in Prime Video’s psychological thriller from the creator of Servant and the director of WandaVision

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tloeEw9eGts&t=1s

Plot: When a new consultant, Regus Patoff, is hired to improve the business at the App-based gaming company “CompWare,” employees experience new demands and challenges that puts everything into question… including their lives.

Review: Fans of horror fiction are familiar with author Bentley Little, but mainstream audiences are not. The prolific author has published over twenty-five novels. Only one of his short stories have been adapted on screen (“The Washingtonians” was an episode of the anthology series Masters of Horror). Now, his 2016 novel The Consultant has become a Prime Video series from the creative team of Tony Basgallop (AppleTV+ series Servant) and director Matt Shakman (WandaVision). With Christoph Waltz in the title role, The Consultant is equal parts Severance and The Devil’s Advocate. A workplace satire blending horror, psychological thriller, and dark comedy, The Consultant is a mysterious puzzle of a series that does not quite live up to its potential but leaves the door open to excel in future seasons. Still, this first season presents a macabre and eerie story that will keep you guessing from the first episode to the last.

The Consultant is set at the fictional video game company, CompWare, where young mogul Sang (Brian Yoon) dies shockingly. With the employees of CompWare unsure what to do, mysterious consultant Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz) arrives and takes control of the vacant leadership role. Patoff is a strange man who smells the employees, makes bizarre demands, and struggles to climb stairs. But, as unusual as his tactics are, he charismatically wins over some employees and terrifies others. Executive assistant Elaine (Brittany O’Grady) and programmer Craig (Nat Wolff) begin investigating who Regus Patoff is and begin uncovering more questions than answers. With each successive episode, the mystery deepens, and unusual occurrences multiply as the story heads toward the inevitable reveal of who this consultant really is. While the series focuses primarily on Patoff, Craig, and Elaine, there is also a substantial supporting role for Aimee Carrero (The Menu) as Craig’s fiancee, Patti.

The eight-episode first season of The Consultant upends the traditional hour-long drama series format by unfolding in half-hour episodes. The shorter run time of each chapter was successful for Servant and allowed each chapter to build momentum while keeping the mystery tightly wound. There is a surreal feel to this series that is reminiscent of both Servant and Severance but also the supernatural menace of The Devil’s Advocate and the psychological mind games of Mr. Robot. An undercurrent of satire and comedy beneath this story keeps the tone unsettlingly shifting between making you want to laugh and feeling uncomfortable doing so. All of this hinges on the leading performance of Christoph Waltz. Waltz has become synonymous with playing bad guys and monsters, and Regus Patoff may be the best balance of the actor’s ability to play characters as uncomfortably serious. At times you wonder if Patoff is a demon or the devil himself, and other times he seems like he may be the worst boss since Michael Scott.

With slight changes to the source material, The Consultant is designed as a multi-season story rather than a limited event series. Going into this show, knowing that the ending may not tie up everything in a neat bow is important lest you be underwhelmed by where this tale leads. While I knew what to expect from Waltz in the lead, I was pleasantly surprised by the other three lead actors. Brittany O’Grady, who gave a solid performance in the first season of The White Lotus, shares the protagonist role in this story with Nat Wolff. O’Grady plays Elaine as someone who wants success but struggles with decisions that could condemn her personal and professional integrity. Nat Wolff gets to explore a true journey of horror that echoes the performance of his brother, Alex, in Hereditary. While this series is not quite the same type of horror as Ari Aster’s movie, there are similarities. Aimee Carrero is also quite good in a smaller but pivotal role that ties into the finale.

Tony Basgallop wrote all eight episodes in The Consultant‘s first season while directing duties were split amongst five directors. Matt Shakman helmed only the premiere episode, while Karyn Kusama tackled the finale. Dab Attias, Alexis Ostander, and Charlotte Brandstrom each directed two episodes, and all managed to keep the consistently sinister look of the CompWare office and surreal hidden rooms and focus on the descent into madness that the characters all endure. The score from Jeff Russo is equal parts playful and uncomfortable, a feeling that Christoph Waltz exudes throughout the entire season. In each chapter, moments of dread made me theorize just where this story was going. Readers of the novel will find that much of this story aligns with the book but that Basgallop has also crafted a wider narrative that could carry on for multiple seasons, each one changing elements to keep the story fresh.

The Consultant sets up multiple mysteries, some of which are explained but many of which will keep you guessing until the final minutes of the season. I love Christoph Waltz’s playful and devilish performance. Still, I also love Brittany O’Grady and Nat Wolff portraying characters struggling in ways opposite of what you usually see in a story like this. Some will be underwhelmed that this story is not as scary as it could have been. Still, I really love that between this series, Severance and Servant, we have entered into a new era of psychological thriller stories that weave anxiety, dread, and paranoia into must-see television. While The Consultant could do a lot more in subsequent seasons to deliver answers to what is going on this season, the setup is intriguing enough to make me want to come back for more.

The Consultant premieres on February 24th on Prime Video.

8
Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5882 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.