The Consultant could use a consultant

The Consultant (Prime Video)

Prime Video’s workplace satire is never as scary, funny, or dark as it needs to be.

When Christoph Waltz is at his best playing a villain in films like Inglorious Basterds, he presents as gentle and almost naively sweet before revealing an endless capacity for cruelty. At his worst, as with his Blofeld, he presents as all menace and violence and ends up with the effectiveness of a kitten. The former is delightful to behold; the latter can crash an entire film. Unfortunately, The Consultant forces Waltz to be the menacing kitten.

To be clear, Waltz probably shouldn’t bear the responsibility for the series’ shortcomings. His turn as Regus Patoff starts intriguingly enough, arriving at CompWare in the wake of its “genius” owner’s shocking death. However, the show seems to be in a rush to demystify him while taking its time with everything else. Before the end of the first episode, the secret of his name—something of a groaner—is unveiled. And if you missed the none-to-subtle image that gives it away, don’t worry. A few episodes later, a character will literally tell unhappy computer programmer Craig (Nat Wolff) what it means.

The Consultant (Prime Video)
Brittany O’Grady and Nat Wolff sporting that “we’re not sneaking off to make out, honest” look. (Prime Video)

The show continues at that pace, setting up something mysterious or dangerous about Patoff only for the reveal to be fairly benign. Not promoting a healthy workplace, to be sure, but barely worse than the actions of other entries in the “metaphorically monster boss” genre like Swimming with Sharks. Compared to literal monster bosses like Al Pacino’s Satan in The Devil’s Advocate, Patoff barely ranks. As a result, the dominant emotion The Consultant conjures is frustration. Then the cycle of “oh, he’s finally gonna do something truly horrible!” becomes exhausting. Then one feels merely resigned.

The only genuinely otherworldly details end up so stripped of meaning that they incite little more than a scratch of the head. Sure, a golden skeleton and a secret basement typewriter room are strange, but that’s all there is to them. Certainly, they should be scarier?

[T]he dominant emotion The Consultant conjures is frustration.

Those who have read the series’ source material, the novel by Bentley Little, will likely be surprised by the series’ lack of teeth. Fans of the book will undoubtedly be disappointed as it, in Little’s way, is far bloodier, grosser, and disturbingly sexual. Those who read it and did not come away a fan, including this critic, will likely still feel underwhelmed. A little bit of unnerving devilishness and uncomfortable sexual activity would be appreciated.

To make matters worse, the series feels largely devoid of stakes. Craig and his co-worker Elaine (Brittany O’Grady) struggle to stay one step ahead of Patoff while resisting the temptations he puts before them. However, when they fall for his enticements, the behaviors and consequences are largely minor. The ending, without spoilers, is an unsatisfying half-measure. Similarly, what they uncover is vaguely interesting but never shocking.

The Consultant (Prime Video)
Christoph Waltz looks down on you. (Prime Video)

The final nail in the show’s coffin is that it bills itself a comedy. Simply put, The Consultant is funny maybe two or three times throughout its eight episodes. Clever, perhaps, half a dozen other times besides that. The idea that it is anyone’s idea of a comedy, workplace, dark, or otherwise is difficult to believe.

Simply put, what The Consultant does right—strong visuals, good set dressing, smart casting—can’t overcome what it does wrong. Series creator Tony Basgallop nails the kind of twisted and uncomfortable vibes this series needs so much better with his work on Servant. His scripts too frequently strand the actors without material equal to their skills or worthy of the show’s manufactured sense of dread. Not even consultant-extraordinaire Regus Patoff could put this endeavor on the right track.

The Consultant will be ready to improve your business February 24 on Prime Video.

The Consultant Trailer:

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Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a freelance writer and therapist from the Nutmeg State, hailing from the home of the World’s Smallest Natural Waterfall. In addition to The Spool, you can read his stuff in CC Magazine, Marvel.com, ComicsVerse, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. And yes, he is listing all this to try and impress you.

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