‘The Consultant’ Review: Christoph Waltz’s Bad Boss Strikes New Fear Into the Term ‘Return to Office’

The Oscar-winner has a sadistic method of restructuring businesses in the Prime Video series

The Consultant
Prime Video

If you currently work from home and have anxiety about going to the office to work, “The Consultant,” a new series on Prime Video, will make you rethink your life choices. Based on the best-selling horror novel by Bentley Little, the eight-episode series stars Christoph Waltz as Regus Patoff, a business consultant with a sadistic method of restructuring businesses.

Created by Tony Basgallop (“Servant”) and executive produced and directed by Matt Shakman (“WandaVision”), the series is more of an interpretation of Little’s book rather than a direct adaptation. As a result, it leans more into sinister themes of the lengths people will go to for money in corporate America.

Waltz’s chilling performance highlights this series as he embodies Patoff, a mild-mannered boss who never raises his voice but can manipulate those around him to do unspeakable things.

On the outside, CompWare is a successful game company in Silicon Valley, but it is leaking money. However, none of the employees know that until their boss, Sang, suddenly dies, and within 24 hours, a consultant, Regus Patoff, appears. Suffering from what appears to be either vertigo, bathmophobia, or both, Craig and Elaine help their new boss up the stairs of the office and into their lives. As a consultant, Patoff’s goal is to make the company more efficient and to make the gaming company profitable again. However, he is not from a high-end corporation or conglomerates out to absorb the company. Instead, he is a solo entity in more ways than one.

Elaine (Brittany O’Grady), Sang’s executive assistant turned creative liaison, and Craig, a frustrated dev, are the first to meet Patoff and witness what the rest of CompWare will soon realize. He is condescending, racist and misogynistic at best, and employees who oppose him are either quickly fired or quit, leaving the rest to cower under his control.

Patoff lives at the office. The new boss calls in employees all day and night, fostering an atmosphere of cut-throat competition. Eager to prove their worth, employees spiral into a frenzy of horrific behavior. For example, when a corner office opens, Patoff suggests the executive team fight for it. And they do, turning the second floor into a cage match. Or when an employee is about to be fired over body odor, he is demoralized to the point of stripping down and bathing in his office out of a bucket. Someone else is convinced to steal an entire elephant from a circus. 

Elaine, in the closest proximity to Patoff, becomes more and more stressed as she suspects her new boss might be a murderer. Craig is crumbling under pressure to deliver a new game at work and from his demanding fiancee Patti (Aimee Carrero) at home. Together, they begin to unravel the mystery of Patoff, but just when Craig uncovers a dark secret, the pair are pitted against each other.

Patoff’s ability to play them like a piano is almost unnatural, which begs the question: is Regus Patoff a boss from hell or simply its emissary?

There is something supernatural scratching just beneath the surface of “The Consultant” that is not quite human but is never explained or revealed. As a result, everyone Patoff comes in contact with is forever changed. For instance, Elaine, the kinder, gentler face of the company, is revealed to be more ambitious than anyone thought. And Craig, who turns from frustrated dev to successful developer to depressed substance abuser, gets closer to revealing Patoff’s secrets.

In “The Consultant,” the glass motif is used repeatedly throughout the series. Patoff’s office is at the highest point of the building and is entirely made of glass. There’s even a scene where Patoff looks down through the floor at his employees. Craig’s million-dollar game also involves keeping a character aloft on floating glass platforms while avoiding falling to their death. And, of course, there’s the glass ceiling that Elaine has been struggling with since before Patoff’s arrival, giving herself a title and attempting to make a lateral move to another company.

This glass metaphor is also reminiscent of Patoff himself. When you first meet the consultant, he tells you exactly who he is and reveals his weaknesses. His methods, although unorthodox, are effective, and even though he is hated and feared, no one thinks to push the small man down a flight of stairs or kick him out.

Ultimately, the most terrifying thing about “The Consultant” isn’t Patoff himself or the violence he leaves in his wake, but rather the apathy and fear that make people accept unthinkable violence and cruelty even when it’s right in front of them.

“The Consultant” works best when it leans into Waltz’s nuanced performance and lets him chew the scenery as the sadistic leader, showcasing how far the employees will go to serve him. However, the series stops short of its bloodier origins and never truly delivers on the horror it sets up in the first episode. We never find out exactly who or what Patoff is, why he’s really there, or why every company he consults for coincides with the death of a corporate leader.

Unfortunately, the injected storyline of Craig’s fiancée Patti, a devout Catholic who falls prey to Patoff’s manipulations despite not working for CompWare, feels poorly developed and serves only as a plot device to motivate Craig to act.

Overall, “The Consultant” is a solid addition to the horror genre and an interesting take on corporate culture. The standout performance from Christoph Waltz adds depth to the series and keeps viewers engaged. While the series does suffer from some plot inconsistencies and underdeveloped storylines, it’s still an entertaining watch for those interested in a blend of horror and workplace drama. If a second season is greenlit, we can explore the full extent of who or what Regus Patoff truly is.

“The Consultant” premieres on Prime Video on Feb. 24.