The Consultant is weird. It’s a twisted, kooky, fun, and downright strange show that toys with you like you’re a cat. Imagine having a delicious morsel dangled in front of your face, but it’s yanked away every time you reach for it. That’s what it feels like to watch The Consultant, Prime Video’s new puzzle box series. It follows the sinister relationship between boss and employee, and just when you think you’re figuring out one of the mysteries, the clues are yanked away, or replaced with teases of some other mystery.
It might be infuriating if the overarching mystery wasn’t so compelling, which it partly is because it’s so unlike any other show streaming right now. Here’s why The Consultant is a thriller worthy of your next binge session.
IT HAS CHRISTOPH WALTZ PLAYING A SINISTER VILLAIN
Waltz, who is also one of the show’s executive producers, stars as Regus Patoff, a consultant who’s hired to improve an app-based gaming company after the unexpected death of its 22-year-old tech genius founder. From his first appearance in the CompWare office, Patoff is a mystery, and a sinister one to boot. He arrives in the middle of the night, much to the confusion of the two employees who happen to find themselves there as well – Elaine (Brittany O’Grady) and Craig (Nat Wolff). Patoff doesn’t know what they make at CompWare. He’s afraid of climbing stairs. He calls employees in the middle of the night to bring him churros and freshly baked shortbread. He doesn’t even seem to care that the window in his office – previously the boss’ office – is still covered in blood from the man’s untimely demise.
But Patoff also has moments of warmth and kindness that make Elaine and Craig doubt he’s a villain at all. With the self-aware precision he’s become known for, Waltz plays up the duality of Patoff to great effect. Even as viewers, we’re left wondering if we’ve got his character all wrong. It’s so much fun watching Waltz flip between playing the good guy and the bad guy, often multiple times in one scene.
IT HAS A GENUINELY SHOCKING MYSTERY
Elaine and Craig immediately clock that something is up with Patoff. Still, besides making some brutal changes to the company and being a little socially awkward, he’s not doing anything wrong. But the first episode cliffhanger confirms that there’s more to Patoff than we know. His name is a long-form version of REG U.S. PAT. OFF – the service mark put on trademarked products in the US.
The clues that Patoff is a robot or some other kind of construct come flowing in from here, but the lightspeed fast-paced storyline offers up other explanations just as quickly. Is he a hitman? Is he just a cog in a much larger organisation? Or perhaps he’s possessed, as one character wonders. This frenzy of clues would get tiring in any other show, but The Consultant succeeds because it commits to being weird.
IT COMBINES HORROR, SCI-FI AND THRILLER TROPES
Leaning into classic genre tropes, The Consultant sets up a universe where any of our theories about who (or what) Patoff really is could be true. Characters rarely name their theories outright, which makes them all the more creepy. No one’s going around tipping water on Patoff to see if his robotic circuits fry, for instance; but they do watch him fire a woman for being 1 minute late. That, they reconcile, is the kind of hardline logic that surely only a robot would have.
The horror tropes are easy to spot: a stranger has come into their office and is slowly and insidiously changing everything! Combined with a wild night out that ends in a kidnapping and a menacing locked door in the office, The Consultant’s horror roots come from the back-and-forth power plays between Patoff, Elaine, and Craig. Anyone who’s had a terrible boss will recognise the fear that Patoff strikes in Elaine and Craig, and it’s especially easy to understand their predicament in the era of Elon Musk’s Twitter reign.
But The Consultant keeps everything from feeling like it’s too much with its well-timed humour and surprising moments of fun and joy between the characters.
The end result is a show that you know is hurtling towards a big finish, but you never know which track is going to reach the end of the line. It’s a refreshingly fun experience, with something for fans of sci-fi, mysteries, workplace dramas and thrillers. You won’t know how it will end, but it’ll be a lot of fun getting there.
The Consultant is now streaming on Prime Video. Start your free 30-day Prime Video trial today.