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The Consultant review: Christoph Waltz’s new TV series is a puzzle that’s best left unsolved

The Prime Video original series is self-indulgent in its ominous premise and fails to keep one invested

2/5rating
The Consultant review: Christoph Waltz’s new TV series is a puzzle that’s best left unsolved

  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 05.19 PM, Feb 24, 2023

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Story: A young tech mogul of a major video game company is brutally murdered, and he is replaced by a mysterious man named Regus Patoff, a consultant. Patoff takes over the deceased boss’s office and starts firing employees and begins to completely overhaul the business — even though he lacks knowledge about the company’s product and business. A programmer and the former boss’s assistant believe that Patoff is harbouring a dark secret.

Review: The series is based on Bentley Little’s eponymous novel published in 2016. And the obvious thematic similarities to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year is hard to miss, and an eerie premonition. In fact, the series is at its best when it functions as a satire on the American work culture in the digital age. While it certainly does make for one of the story’s pivotal themes, the overarching mystery within the story distracts one from the complexities surrounding the work culture in large tech companies.

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Christoph Waltz is at his best as the eerie consultant, although his depiction often slips into his Hans Landa-performance in Inglorious Basterds. Relative newcomer Brittany O’Grady essays the role of an ambitious employee named Elaine whereas Nat Wolff plays a programmer named Craig. The duo serve as the protagonists, with O’Grady not showing any signs of her relative lack of experience. There is also significant emphasis on their insecurities and personal dilemmas. However, their respective branched-out storylines have no meaningful impact on the overall narrative, in a manner that will compel the audience to root for the heroes to overcome their adversities. Craig’s issues with his girlfriend and Elaine’s guilt about manipulating others for her benefit have little to no significance.

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From the very first episode it is implied that there is something sinister and mysterious about Pattoff. But as each 30-minute episode of the eight part series draws to a close, it answers one question while leaving a couple more unanswered — or in some cases brings more convoluted conundrums into the mix. These are often accompanied with frames with subtexts that are intended to provide a nuanced and compelling portrait about the narrative. However, despite its obvious visual aesthetic it falls on all counts to serve its purpose, as the narrative keeps shifting between the tones, themes, and even storyline’s central objective without a great deal of exposition. This shackles the narrative from being neither a satire nor a mystery thriller.

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At a certain stage the series will lean towards sci-fi and then it does a complete 180 move towards an international conspiracy involving the powerful and the elite. But ultimately, it ends being none of the things it teases throughout its eight episodes. This is largely due to the fact that the narrative is self-indulgent in its ominous premise and refuses to acknowledge that it lacks a cohesive story. Halfway through the season, the episode attempts to provide a bit of backstory to the mysterious Pantoff through a detailed monologue. But instead of answering burning questions about the characters and the story, it simply adds more confusion.

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Verdict: The Consultant fails on both accounts as a compelling satire and as a thrilling mystery series. The narrative is overwhelming at times and it ends up being tedious to sit through, in addition to the lack of credible incentives to root for the heroes.

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