Prime Video's The Consultant Is a Little Weird, a Little Unsettling, and Mostly Mediocre

TV Reviews The Consultant
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Prime Video's <i>The Consultant</i> Is a Little Weird, a Little Unsettling, and Mostly Mediocre

I’ll say this for Amazon Prime Video’s The Consultant—it keeps you watching for longer than you should because you really want to know exactly what the hell is going on. A responsible critic watches 2-3 episodes of a show before writing a review, at least, and at the end of the third episode, I can report a faint impulse to keep going, to sink deeper into the strangeness and the mystery of whatever it was I had just spent almost two hours puzzling over. But hot on the heels of that thought came the correction: I actually am not enjoying it very much, so maybe I’ll read about it on Wikipedia one day. (Note: probably not.)

That’s the basic headline here: Intriguing, but frustrating to the point that the payoff juice doesn’t seem worth the commitment squeeze.

What’s kind of annoying about this show is that nothing is really done poorly, per se. Sitting squarely in the “dark workplace comedy” genre, this is the story of CompWare, a game design company whose CEO, a reclusive South Korean genius, is shot and killed in the opening minutes by a child who blames/credits the devil. As the company begins to disintegrate, a mysterious consultant who calls himself Regus Patoff (“it’s Crimean,” he says) enters, occupying the main office and insisting that the show will go on. Played by Christoph Waltz, Patoff is a deeply disturbing character, and the chief pleasure of this show is watching Waltz let his creep flag fly. He is very good, and by “very good” I mean “very disturbing,” in some very fun ways.

The Consultant is notable for its lack of prominent characters, and the rest of the action mostly revolves around Elaine (Brittany O’Grady), the self-appointed “creative liaison” to the CEO and then Patoff, and Craig (Nat Wolff), a frustrated designer who is at first annoyed, then taken in, and finally terrified by the new consultant. Both characters are fine, both actors are fine, and the same can be said for the only other even remotely prominent figure in the first three episodes, Craig’s fiancee Patti, played by Aimee Carrero.

The problem here is that nothing ever takes off. Patoff is a symbol for something, either the devil or vampire capitalism or both, if those are indeed the same thing, and the show’s slow pace and eerie settings—the records room among the servers is particularly disturbing—certainly create an atmosphere, but it doesn’t cohere quickly enough into anything resembling a good story. By the time you’ve been thoroughly creeped out, there’s nothing there to carry your interest forward.

There’s an interesting conundrum at play here which might be hampering shows like The Consultant. First off, if it’s meant to be a show about evil, or the presence of the devil, it seems as though culture has leapt past any interest in that brand of discomfort. The devil as a human entity is most frightening in times of security, times of plenty (Devil’s Advocate was made in 1997), but in times like ours, where at the very best people live with a vague sense of dread about the future, what captures the imagination is apocalypse narratives, as you can tell from the glut of said shows populating the television landscape. We don’t need the devil when the world is ending. If, on the other hand, this is a parable about the innate evils of capitalism, all you can say is that they’re late to the party. That type of commentary had its moment back when there might have been some doubt about the sinister nature of market forces. Today, we get it, and in order to resonate, the story has to be exceptional; the symbolism alone won’t do it.

Unfortunately, the story here is not exceptional. Impressively claustrophobic, dystopian, and discomfiting? Yes, absolutely. But that’s about all it’s got, and that’s not enough.

The Consultant premieres Friday, February 24th on Amazon Prime Video.

Shane Ryan is a writer and editor. You can find more of his writing and podcasting at Apocalypse Sports, and follow him on Twitter here .

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