What do consultants even do, anyway? My friends who’ve done consulting internships say mixed things. Personally, I have no idea, and neither do the characters in The Consultant, a new thriller series on Amazon Prime.
After mobile gaming tycoon Sang is gunned down in his office, his employees, including “Creative Liaison” (a self-appointed role) Elaine (Brittany O’Grady) and programmer Craig Horne (Nat Wolff) drift aimlessly until a mysterious consultant named Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz) arrives. Then things get weird.
The show follows Elaine and Craig as they navigate their jobs, now under the watchful eye of Patoff. It turns out that Patoff’s unique managerial style is at once brutal and inscrutable, and the two are quickly sucked into a vortex of unhinged chaos and unchecked ambition as Patoff stirs up trouble in the office and his employees’ personal lives: Ruining engagements, implicating coworkers in crimes and other nefarious deeds.
The Consultant relies heavily on Waltz’s sinister charisma to carry its conspiratorial narrative. His character is replete with strange tics, an unnerving smile and bizarre speeches befitting the actor’s signature villainous aura that’s earned him so many awards over the years. He’s simultaneously repulsive and oddly alluring, and one can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt – even as he works his evil magic on those in the office.
Elaine and Craig are supposed to balance out Patoff’s evil presence, but they quickly succumb to his influence. The Consultant excels at showing fundamentally flawed characters making bad decisions in futile efforts to climb the corporate ladder. Craig is initially the most suspicious of Patoff’s agenda, but quickly falls into line when Patoff shows interest in his new game prototype. Waltz, as Patoff, acts as a conductor smashing characters together into a trainwreck of ambition – slowly building a web of schemes, betrayals and rivalries that horrify as much as they excite.
Where The Consultant struggles the most is its pacing; it builds up big reveals, only for them not to be referenced again. An action-packed sequence gives way to more office drama. An exploratory field trip reveals little new information. If the show had stuck to one setting – the office – it likely would have been more consistent and focused in its narrative. (Also, viewers would get to see more of the very cool set that parodies both sterile corporate towers and hip tech campuses.)
Ultimately, The Consultant is an entertaining, self-contained series that shines through its villain – even if some other elements fail to merge into a coherent package.
Thumbnail credit: Prime Video