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The Consultant Review: Clock In for Prime Video's Cleverly Bizarre Corporate Thriller

The twisty series makes the most of Christoph Waltz

Keith Phipps
Christoph Waltz, The Consultant

Christoph Waltz, The Consultant

Michael Desmond/Prime Video

With so much competition — from other shows and from devices and other entertainment options — TV series have to work hard to keep viewers' attention. One way to do that: Start the first episode with a jolt. The Consultant, a new Prime Video series adapting a novel by prolific horror writer Bentley Little, opens with a scene so shocking it would be probably best left unspoiled if describing it weren't necessary to set up the premise of the show. The spoiler averse should probably know that before plunging forward, but here are a couple of notes before you bail: 1) It's one of many, many twists within the show (which this review won't spoil). 2) If you're the kind of viewer who likes shows filled with insane swerves and out-there developments, you're going to want to check this out whether you read any further or not.

With that out of the way, as the series opens, it's a seemingly normal day in the bustling Los Angeles offices of CompWare, an apparently successful publisher of addictive mobile games. Elaine (Brittany O'Grady) leads a small group of schoolchildren to the offices of Mr. Sang (Brian Yoon), a 20-year-old genius who designed his first game at 13 and has built an empire atop it. As Sang visits with the kids, Elaine and Craig (Nat Wolff), a coder with strong opinions but weak ambitions, debate the pros and cons of the temperamental Sang's character. The Compware story takes an unexpected turn when one of the children kills Sang by pulling out a gun and shooting him in the head, saying, "I want my mommy." Is there anyone who could resist wanting to know what happens next?

What happens next: With Compware in disarray, a traumatized Craig is unable to sleep. Jogging to the office one night, he finds Elaine is similarly putting in late hours. While sharing some weed, they find themselves greeting an unexpected visitor who reveals his name as Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz), a new consultant hired by Sang before his death. He heads directly to Sang's office, or as directly as he can: Patoff has trouble walking up and down stairs, for some unexplained reason, and needs assistance, despite seemingly being perfectly mobile on flat surfaces. As Patoff takes control of the company, the eccentricities start to grow even more alarming.


The Consultant


  • Clever writing keeps viewers on their toes
  • Even the protagonists are shaded with moral ambiguity
  • Christoph Waltz is fantastic and perfectly cast


  • The conclusion feels like it's holding a little back in hopes of a second season

Created by Tony Basgallop, a British veteran best known on this side of the Atlantic for creating the M. Night Shyamalan-produced series Servant, The Consultant is as fast paced as it is darkly comic, mixing corporate satire and moral dilemmas and letting it all play out in a glass-and-screen-filled office that, by the time the series gets going, looks like a nightmarish twist on the headquarters of Mythic Quest. At once clever and ridiculous, its 30-minute installments play out like chapters in a slick page-turner.

The series makes a couple smart choices. For one, its protagonists — Craig, Elaine, and, on the margins of the action at first, Craig's pious girlfriend Patti (Aimee Carrero) — are all good people, but they're not that good. Though they suspect Patoff has sinister intentions and are creeped out by his behavior, they also see an upside to his arrival. For starters, the paychecks start showing up again. Beyond that, Craig finally gets one of his game ideas through the pipeline, and Elaine sees a chance to move up the corporate ladder. (Her past role as Sang's assistant transforms into "Creative Liaison," a title of her own invention but one no one questions under Patoff's leadership.) 

Even when they witness some potentially felonious behavior, like an evening Craig spends with Patoff that ends with some criminal actions that are hard to explain away, Craig remains on board. Sure, it might mean making a deal with the devil (metaphorically, probably), but maybe it's one that will work out for them in the end.

Brittany O'Grady and Nat Wolff, The Consultant

Brittany O'Grady and Nat Wolff, The Consultant

Michael Desmond/ Prime Video

The other smart choice, of course, is Waltz, who's cast in a role that fully exploits his unique presence, from his easy smile to the delicate, carefully enunciated delivery of his dialogue. (That Waltz serves as executive producer probably doesn't hurt.) Waltz can make Patoff trying, and failing, to play a video game hilarious without really doing that much, just as he can give a line like "You can't please all the people all of the time" a menacing spin, however benign the context, or invest a lot of meaning in the fully punctuated pause he places before ending a sentence with the name of the person he's addressing. ("You're having a panic attack. Craig." Etc.) 

It would be worth tuning in just to watch him, even if the series didn't whip so skillfully from one bizarre revelation to the next as its characters tried to figure out just how far they can follow the new boss and still sleep at night. (Assuming, that is, he doesn't do them in as they try to make up their mind.) The only downside: It all builds to a good-enough conclusion that would work reasonably well as the story's end but leaves a lot of threads dangling (undoubtedly to leave places for future seasons to go) and can't help but feel a little anticlimactic because of it. With luck The Consultant will have future seasons to make up for it.

Premieres: Friday, Feb. 24 on Prime Video
Who's in it: Christoph Waltz, Brittany O'Grady, Nat Wolff, Aimee Carrero
Who's behind it: Tony Basgallop (creator)
For fans of: Corporate dramas, twisty thrillers, The Twilight Zone
How many episodes we watched: 8 of 8