The job market out there is hell. The company you work for probably has no concern for your welfare. Your boss may seem like a monster. Even if it started out as a good place to work, odds are it won’t feel that way forever. What’re you gonna do about it, quit? You really think the next place will be any better, if you can find another position at all? Is it smarter to stay put in a bad situation? How miserable does it have to get before you walk away?
Headlined by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Amazon’s darkly comic thriller series The Consultant explores such anxieties of the modern workforce. Even at a time when workplace dramas and comedies of all types litter the broadcast, cable, and streaming landscapes, this one stands out with a devilish twist.
|Number of Episodes:||8|
|Release Date:||Feb. 24, 2023|
|Watched On:||Amazon Prime Video|
After its young CEO is murdered, the situation looks dire for CompWare, a small software studio that cranks out time-waster mobile games for smartphones. With no other leadership to take over, everyone assumes the company will shutter its doors at any moment. Résumés are frantically updated and all the employees begin scrambling to search for new jobs in a tight market. Left particularly fazed by this is Elaine (Brittany O’Grady from White Lotus), the chief’s “Creative Liaison” (read: assistant). Although she knew her boss could be erratic and sometimes difficult to work for, she liked the guy and feels lost without him.
Hanging out at the office late at night with one of her co-workers, a coder named Craig (Nat Wolff from The Stand), the two are shockingly interrupted by the arrival of a peculiar man in a business suit announcing himself as Regus Patoff (Waltz), a corporate consultant the late CEO had hired to advise “on all matters of business.” Apparently, he did so without bothering to tell anyone else in the company. Regardless, Patoff has the appropriate contracts and paperwork, and certainly acts like he’s in charge. Wasting no time, he calls for an early morning all-hands-on-deck meeting to introduce himself. As his first order of business, he declares that all remote employees have exactly one hour to get into the office or their positions will be terminated. He then wipes the slate of all current and pending projects.
Obviously, this is concerning. Even so, most people are happy to still have jobs at all. But as Patoff begins making sweeping changes and enforcing sometimes bizarre rules seemingly designed just to pit the workers against one another, Elaine and Craig take it upon themselves to investigate exactly whom this Regus Patoff really is and what claim he has to take control like this. Is he actually trying to right a sinking ship, or burn it to the ground? Is he a legitimate consultant, or a corporate saboteur? Could he be the literal Devil? He may even be a robot. The story gets pretty weird the deeper they look into it.
If perhaps typecast as a menacing oddball, Christoph Waltz is nevertheless delightful in the title role. His Patoff is a very strange man of many eccentric behaviors. (He has a particular difficulty using stairs.) Despite not seeming to know much about software, video games, or anything the company does, he immediately sets about restructuring the entire office for purposes that make sense only to himself. He even awkwardly insinuates himself into Craig and Elaine’s personal lives. What his ulterior motives or his endgame could be are a puzzle the characters must solve.
Based on a 2015 novel by author Bentley Little (conveniently for sale at Amazon right now, of course!), The Consultant is quirky and funny, but more mystery thriller than sitcom. It also goes to some pretty strange places. The series is a quick binge of eight episodes running approximately a half-hour each. Even finishing the season, I’m unclear whether it’s intended to be a limited series or if it could perhaps continue as an anthology taking place at new companies in subsequent seasons. To my knowledge, Amazon hasn’t confirmed one way or the other. I don’t think the season entirely sticks the landing, but it ends with enough closure that it doesn’t need to keep going if this should be a one-and-done. I had fun watching over a couple nights and found it worth my time.
The Consultant is a top-quality 4K HDR stream from Amazon Prime Video. The show’s 2.40:1 image is impressively sharp and detailed, with rich colors and contrast. Although many scenes take place in the darkened office building at night, the picture never looks either dim nor overly harsh. Highlights, such as the walls of video monitors in the building lobby, are well balanced for a naturalistic sense of depth.
Near the beginning of the first episode, a startling gunshot delivers a nice bass hit. That sound gets repeated in the recap clips that open many of the following episodes. The show also has a rich musical presence with a number of bassy tunes on the soundtrack. The Dolby 5.1 track offers very good fidelity and subtle but effective surround usage.