Skip to main content

The Consultant review: a darkly comic, disappointing thriller

Christoph Waltz stands at the top of a staircase in The Consultant.
The Consultant
“Amazon Prime's new workplace thriller, The Consultant, unsuccessfully tries to bridge the gap between acid-tongued satire and pulpy genre entertainment.”
  • Christoph Waltz's charismatic lead performance
  • A slick, cohesive aesthetic and visual style
  • A lackluster season 1 finale
  • One-note supporting characters
  • Numerous confusing logic jumps and plot holes

Anyone who has ever had a terrible boss will likely have a hard time watching The Consultant. The new Prime Video dark comedy series, which is based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Bentley Little, takes the cringe-inducing clichés of toxic workplace culture to their absolute extremes. From domineering bosses and unorthodox, unethical work schedules to an overwhelming, enforced fear of job loss, The Consultant is full of so many shocking HR violations that it might as well come with a trigger warning targeted at anyone who still has nightmares about the conditions of some of their past jobs (this writer included).

Altogether, The Consultant’s satirical, keen-eyed jabs at America’s toxic corporate culture might seem like too much to bear. That would be the case, at least, were it not for the moments of comedic, winking outrageousness that are littered throughout the series’ 10-episode first season. Written and run by British TV veteran Tony Basgallop, The Consultant aims to be both a treatise on the dangers of undying corporate devotion and an acidic piece of pulpy genre entertainment. The series, unfortunately, doesn’t always ride that line as well as it should.

Brittany O'Grady and Nat Wolff stand in an office together in The Consultant.
Michael Desmond/Prime Video

While flawed, The Consultant does prove that typecasting an actor in a role they’ve already perfected can sometimes be for the best. That’s the case, at least, when it comes to Christoph Waltz’s performance as The Consultant’s eponymous corporate fixer, a mysterious man of unknown origin named Regus Patoff. With his strange quirks, obsessive interest in neatness, and ability to verbally manipulate anyone who comes into contact with him, Regus isn’t all that different from some of Waltz’s most iconic roles, including Inglourious Basterds‘ Hans Landa.

If Waltz’s casting as Regus is predictable, The Consultant makes it clear that there never really was another man for the job. Waltz is pitch-perfect in his latest role, which requires him to alternate between blatant malevolence and moments of polite manipulation with a Cheshire Cat-esque sense of glee. Waltz, predictably, does so without ever breaking much of a sweat. The Consultant doesn’t, however, handle its characterization of Regus quite as well as Waltz does.

From the moment he first arrives on the scene, it’s clear that Waltz’s odd corporate consultant is a person — or being — of callus efficiency. Dressed in an impeccable suit and carrying a simple briefcase, Regus arrives at the Los Angeles headquarters of CompWare, a mobile gaming company, just a few nights after the company’s founder and CEO was shot and killed in his own office. Regus’ arrival is witnessed only by Elaine (Brittany O’Grady), an ambitious assistant, and Craig (Nat Wolff), a slacker coder who is instantly suspicious of Waltz’s fixer. Craig, to his credit, isn’t wrong to be a bit paranoid about Regus’ methods and intentions.

Brittany O'Grady stands on an office walkway in The Consultant.
Andrew Casey/Prime Video

Not only does Regus seem totally unbothered by the brutal murder of CompWare’s CEO, but he immediately inserts himself as the company’s new, de facto leader. Regus’ executive decisions, which include the firing of any remote workers who don’t immediately report to CompWare’s offices, range from coldly heartless to underhanded and downright criminal. Ultimately, though, it’s O’Grady’s Elaine and Wolff’s Craig, as well as Craig’s unsuspecting fiancée, Patti (Aimee Carrero), who are tested the most by Regus’ presence and discomforting business methods.

Across its first 10 episodes, The Consultant doesn’t run out of ways for Waltz’s Regus to manipulate Craig and Elaine. However, the series goes out of its way to build a mystery around Regus’ origins that not only proves to be lackluster, but also pushes The Consultant’s already thin sense of logic to its breaking point. While it makes sense for Craig and Elaine to be initially accommodating toward Regus, their continued willingness to go along with even his most dastardly of plans strains whatever sense of realism Basgallop might have been trying to achieve.

The Consultant’s willingness to bounce back and forth between razor-sharp moments of satire and purely pulpy action sequences — like an explosive jewelry store robbery and nighttime kidnapping — provides it with a sense of tonal unpredictability that makes watching it, at the very least, an often engaging experience. The series’ moments of pure genre fun frequently muddy and dull its more reality-based takedowns of workplace culture, though. The Consultant, as a result, ends up feeling like little more than a stylish, but hollow exercise in genre storytelling.

Christoph Waltz looks down through a glass floor in The Consultant.
Courtesy of Prime Video

Season 1 of The Consultant does boast a lineup of talented directors, including WandaVision helmer Matt Shakman, who directs the series’ premiere installment. Charlotte Brändström (The Rings of Power) and Karyn Kusama (Yellowjackets), meanwhile, direct some of the show’s later installments, and both maintain the same slick visual style throughout The Consultant’s climactic episodes that Shakman establishes in its first. Unlike most modern prestige TV series, The Consultant doesn’t overstay its welcome, either. The series’ first season is comprised of just eight half-hour installments that never feel egregiously long or short.

Basgallop fails to stick the landing in The Consultant’s season 1 finale, though, which attempts to wrap up the series’ existing storylines while simultaneously setting up a potential future for itself. The closing moments of the show’s eighth episode not only leave many lingering questions either unanswered or unaddressed, but they also unconvincingly sweep some of its biggest plot holes and logic jumps under the rug. Its anticlimactic conclusion leaves The Consultant feeling oddly slighter than its eight-episode length and capable cast would otherwise suggest. It’s a series that, despite featuring one truly standout lead performance, is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.

The Consultant is now streaming on Prime Video. Digital Trends was given early access to all eight episodes of the series’ first season.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
Like Amazon Prime Video’s Fallout show? Then watch three shows and movies starring Ella Purnell
Lucy enters a house in Fallout.

Fallout has proven to be one of the bigger hits in Amazon Prime Video's existence, and it's also one of the most anticipated shows the streaming service has to offer this year. The series, which is loosely adapted from the popular video game franchise, stars Ella Purnell as a newly invented character who has to set off on a quest that will take her to the surface of a postapocalyptic version of Earth.

If you watched Fallout and found yourself intrigued by Purnell, in particular, then you're in luck. She's still a relatively new face in Hollywood, but she's starred in a number of projects in recent years, many of which have required her to hide her British accent. These are three you should definitely check out if you're a big Purnell fan.
Yellowjackets (2021-)
Yellowjackets (2021) Official Trailer #2 | SHOWTIME

Read more
The best thrillers on Amazon Prime Video right now
Four people sit at a table in Marrowbone.

When it comes to new and classic thriller films, one of the best streaming platforms for indulging in the genre is Amazon Prime Video. Since the service’s inception, Prime Video has been accruing a massive library of titles. These heart-pounding films and thoughtful think-pieces cover all walks of life, from modern times to ancient settings. And it’s our job to make sure you’re watching all the best thriller flicks Prime has to offer! 

Each month, we update this roundup to throw the spotlight on a handful of new Prime Video thrillers that we think are well worth a watch. So be sure to check back in a few weeks to see what’s been added, as well as what’s been removed.
Amazon Prime may have a robust catalog, but it doesn't have everything. Luckily, we've also curated roundups of the best thrillers on Netflix and the best thrillers on Hulu.

Read more
Fallout’s breakout star is Walton Goggins. Here are 3 movies and shows you need to watch now
Walton Goggins as the disfigured Ghoul in Prime Video's Fallout.

The video game adaptation trend continues with Amazon Prime Video's Fallout, and Walton Goggins was among the hit streaming show's standout performers. His casting as the former Hollywood actor and mutated ghoul was pitch-perfect for the dystopic world's atmosphere and sardonic humor.

One of the best character actors around, Goggins typically specializes in morally ambiguous or outright evil characters. Aside from Fallout, the actor has played compelling roles across film and TV over the last decade. Check out these critically praised movies and TV shows if you're looking for more of the Fallout star's career highlights.
Justified (2010-2015)

Read more