The Consultant

3 out of 5

Created by: Tony Basgallop

covers season 1

A casual, minimal-scrutiny-applied viewing of The Consultant entertains. While that could be said to be a low bar, it’s still not one that’s met by many shows, especially in a streaming world where a whole series is dumped at once, removing easy reliance on week to week cliffhangers to rope someone along. So getting me to play episode after episode – not hate-watching, but eager to continue – is to be commended, even if I’m willfully ignoring flaws and gaps the whole while.

The Consultant actually comes bundled with several appealing factors, mainly centering around an eminently watchable Christoph Waltz, but also including fun production design, a steady drip of kooky plot mysteries (a style smoothed and refined over creator Tony Basgallop’s four seasons of Servant), and an easy, agreeable topic for the show’s satirization: corporate / capitalist culture. This satirization is not subtle: as unsubtle as a zoomed in closeup that clarifies how Regus Patoff (Waltz) – a consultant who mysteriously drops into gaming company CompWare, within days of its founder’s suicide – arrived at his fake name, and as doubly unsubtle as the explanation of the same the writers felt they had to add in later, just in case. We start off with that just-mentioned death, actually; this show is all about shoving itself in your face – and combine that lack of subtlety with a very physical representation of the previous phrase to boot, right at the end of episode 1.

Nat Wolff and Brittany O’Grady play two employees at CompWare, representative of the current post-college youth with upward and downward trajectories: Craig (Wolff) wants to smoke weed and avoid work and doesn’t apply himself; Elaine (O’Grady) wants to be a good person, but also nab that office spot. A short time before his death, CompWare’s founder apparently signed on Patoff in the titular role, and then Regus comes in and does both egregious and insidious shakeups, glad-handing and backstabbing within the same moment. There’s a more intelligent, Silicon Valley-esque take here, with Waltz making the absurdities of his character fascinating and fun, as insane demands are asked of the employees, and we vibe on the relative realism of how someone can just show and start bullying people and… it works; but then there’s the lazier version which tends to trump things, in which the writing never skews grey for very long, always bringing us back to a point where we know that Waltz is bad and here’s a joke about woke culture, and here’s a joke about remote working, and other checkboxes, turning the show into a dark comedy in an attempt to excuse its incredible lack of logic in many, many regards.

There’s also the questionable characterizations of our leads; given the show’s trajectory, which I did ultimately appreciate, is it purposeful that these are not really likeable characters? Or are we supposed to see ourselves in them…? Because so much of the show’s “commentary” is surface level, I’m not really prepared to extend deeper reads, which does – indirectly – add a layer of irony onto things. For better, for worse, I don’t know.

But I rewind back to the entertainment factor. Perhaps because Servant “trained” me to except – ahem – a lot of plotting bullshit, in which red herrings mystery boxes are dangled just to unsettle us, I didn’t mind the appearance of singular oddities in one episode that never appear again. There are definitely a couple that feel very unnecessary overall, but they also achieved the at-the-moment affect of making me intrigued, or uncomfortable, or etc. And again, in a smarter version of this, these things could have their place; it’s like Basgallop writes out a most complex version, then strips it away until it’s pretty accessible and bite-sized.


  • If you don’t expect / are okay with many details not being “explained,” and
  • Are okay with those same details being employed primarily for temporary effect, and
  • Don’t mind when an incredible obvious slop of commentary is presented like it’s clever, and
  • Like Christoph Waltz

…You might also find yourself entertained by The Consultant. It’s also possible that just that last one is important, and you can roll your eyes at the rest.