Don't put 'The Consultant' in the parking lot : Pop Culture Happy Hour In the darkly satiric, highly bingeable Amazon Prime series The Consultant, Christoph Waltz plays a mysterious businessman who takes over a videogame company upon the violent death of its founder and CEO. When two of the company's employees attempt to investigate Waltz's shady past, they get drawn into his sinister circle and realize that their jobs (and their lives) are on the line.

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Don't put 'The Consultant' in the parking lot

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In the darkly satiric and highly bingeable series "The Consultant," Christoph Waltz, plays a mysterious businessman who takes over a video game company upon the violent death of its founder and CEO. When two of the company's employees attempt to investigate Waltz's shady past, they get drawn into his sinister circle and realize that their jobs and their lives are on the line. I'm Glen Weldon. And today, we're talking about the Amazon series "The Consultant" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.


WELDON: Joining me today is Vulture TV critic Roxana Hadadi. Hey, Roxana.

ROXANA HADADI: Hey, Glen. Thank you for having me on.

WELDON: Of course. I need somebody to talk about this show with because - we'll get to it. In "The Consultant," Christoph Waltz plays Regus Patoff, off a strange and darkly charismatic man who shows up to the offices of CompWare, an app-based gaming company whose CEO has just been the victim of a shooting. PAtoff's paperwork seems to be in order. Shortly before his death, the CEO, played by Brian Yoon, signed over control of the company to Patoff.

Patoff's second in command, Elaine, is played by "White Lotus's" Brittany O'Grady. She is suspicious and shares her concern with game developer Craig, played by Nat Wolff. Their joint attempts to figure out why their former boss surrendered the company to Patoff and what Patoff's true intentions might be keep getting stymied and sidetracked by his smiling, sinister presence. And although he's always a few steps ahead of their investigations, it's clear the man knows nothing about gaming. He is heartless, uncaring and even cruel to his employees, yet productivity keeps rising.

"The Consultant" joins "Severance," "Succession," "Black Monday" and "Billions" and other dark satires of the American workplace that have cropped up recently. How's it stack up? Well, that's what we're going to try to talk about. All eight episodes are streaming now on Amazon Prime. And we should note that Amazon supports NPR and pays to distribute some of our content. Roxana, hit me. Help me figure this show out.

HADADI: Glen, I don't know if I can figure it out. But I did keep watching it. I was really drawn in by how committed it was to being odd. I am a big fan of the half-hour format.


HADADI: I think that the show was very efficient in its storytelling and its character building. It didn't give me too much to sympathize with for Regus Patoff, and I appreciated that. I think sometimes, when we're getting these satires, there's too much of an attempt to be like, don't worry. These rich, powerful people are also people. And sometimes, I don't want that.


HADADI: I want just a compelling, monstrous character who I enjoy watching. And Christoph Waltz - that's, like, his whole deal, right? So...


HADADI: ...I think he's very well cast. I think the show did a good job walking the line between these very absurd, odd things about the character that I'm still trying to puzzle through and things that were very relatable and recognizable that we hear about tech CEOs and, like, their quirks. And they're geniuses, and we should accept these things. So I thought it walked a line that I was interested in and that I - ultimately, that I bought. I think by the end of episode two, I was like, yes, I want to see where this goes. And it was a solid binge watch, I thought. What about you?

WELDON: That's exactly where I came down. I mean, like, I had a really good time with this show because I was never sure where it was going, but I was reasonably certain for most of its run that it did. And that's what matters. That's the sweet spot, right? I mean, Christoph Waltz, as you note, isn't doing anything we haven't seen him do before, but who's better at doing that thing than Christoph Waltz, right? He's who you call when you want somebody to do that thing. It's him, maybe Christopher Walken, maybe Willem Dafoe, although he does it with this kind of cheeriness that they don't bring.


CHRISTOPH WALTZ: (As Regus Patoff) I'm looking forward to getting to know you all personally. And for those who work remotely, you have exactly one hour to get here in person, or your contracts of employment will be terminated. That's all.

HADADI: A certain kind of glee. Just a weird, maniacal smile is what you get with Christoph Waltz.

WELDON: It's exactly that. It's that grin. It's that weird, indefinable grin. I think they had a pretty good control of the tone here. I think they said to themselves at the start, look. We're going to do corporate satire with a dose of horror, with a dose of thriller. But we're going to recognize always that it's the dark humor that's the driver on this show, not the horror elements. So I think this show could've gone harder into the horror. It would've been a different show, probably one I didn't respond to as much because I like that it keeps things - I don't want to say light, because it's nothing light about this show, but it does spend more time than I think was strictly necessary on the friendship between Craig and Elaine to give us a human face, to give us a rooting interest, as you note.

That's why at the end of the day, I forgave this show several tangents, one of which involves Patoff's character's difficulty with stairs. We get a explanation for it. When we're off mic, I want you to explain it to me like I'm 5 because I didn't quite understand it. There's a subplot involving Craig's fiancee and his faith that doesn't quite come back. How did you feel about that stuff? Did this show cohere? Did it matter if it didn't?

HADADI: I don't know if it - well, I hate to say I don't know if it mattered.


HADADI: But I don't know if it mattered. I mean, I think that to your point of sort of building out Craig and Elaine, sort of showing how two people at work can sort of cling to each other when things get dire and desperate, I liked the grounding of that relationship. And you're right. We do get more of Craig's sort of personal life and backstory than we get for Elaine's, but I thought there were little pieces of it that worked. Like, there's this one moment where he is in church, and he notices a painting, which is sort of, like - I mean, I am not well-versed on Catholic art, but it sort of looks like a sort of, like, conquering figure on the top of a boulder, which clearly is meant to be how we see Christoph Waltz's character at the top of the stairs in their headquarters. So I thought as much as maybe narratively, these things didn't connect, I thought there were thematic sort of mirrors and echoes within these side tangents.

I agree with you that there are things that just don't make any sense whatsoever. There's also sort of a - almost a magical quality to Regus Patoff's character, like, almost that he is capable of brainwashing or severe influence or - and I liked the ambiguity of, we're not necessarily going to tell you if this is 100% true, but we're going to show you what happens when people believe that it's true.

WELDON: Right.

HADADI: And like, to your point, I liked the commitment of that. Even if things sort of went in directions that didn't necessarily cohere, it felt like the show knew that it was sort of guiding us along these paths, telling us to stay invested, and that, ultimately, it would all come together. It had a usual suspects sort of quality in that the story meanders a little bit but ends up in this place at this ending, which I was convinced by.

WELDON: Yeah, I was kind of trying to unpack that ending because there is a lingering ambiguity that stays with us deliberately that, ultimately, again, I was fine with. We were both fine with it. I do think maybe that's because the series is poking at something that's on a lot of people's minds right now, which is how much employers are expecting from their employees and how much employees are just so willing to surrender themselves to their employers out of this misguided belief that the employer wants what's best for them. That is not how this system works. That is what the system will tell you is how it works. That's what Trish from HR is going to tell you. But don't trust Trish from HR. She doesn't have your back. There is a scene where Patoff calls Elaine at 3 in the morning to ask if she can come into work a bit early.


WALTZ: (As Regus Patoff) I was calling to ask if you would be available to come into the office a little earlier than normal.

WELDON: She says sure, and offers to come in, like, an hour early. And he says he's disappointed. Then he hangs up. Then he calls her again and pretends that they didn't just have a conversation and asks, can she come in early? That is real.


WALTZ: (As Regus Patoff) I was calling to ask if you would be available to come into the office a little earlier than normal.

BRITTANY O'GRADY: (As Elaine) I can be there in 40 minutes.

WELDON: That is chewy. I really dug that. And that's where I think the show is smartest, when it's sticking to that kind of satire. Because we see - as you mentioned, Patoff is not so much a chaos agent who comes in and upturns everything. He's more a catalyst, right? He's facilitating or just exposing the incredibly toxic environment that's already there. That's smart.

HADADI: Absolutely. I mean, as someone who loves reading "Ask A Manager"...

WELDON: Yeah. Yeah.

HADADI: ...A lot of what happened with Patoff's character, I was like, oh, I've read this scenario...


HADADI: ...Right? I've read a boss who sort of turned their employees against each other. I've watched and I've heard and I've been privy to the competition that can break out when employees are told there's only one way ahead and only one of you will get it. I've seen all those things sort of be normalized within the actual workplace, and I thought the show did a good job, you know, bringing those ideas to the forefront. And I didn't necessarily need to know exactly the personality of these employees to unfortunately accept that in a toxic workplace, they will turn against each other. I mean, when there is sort of a here is the thing that you need to do to get ahead, there will be people who do that thing because they don't have other opportunities or other chances or other ways out.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And I like that the show sort of pointed at that in tech but also didn't ignore that a lot of industries are like this. A lot of bosses, you know, they might not make you come in at 3 a.m., but there is still this expectation that you will do what you were told. And if you don't, it's insubordination, and you might lose your job. So I thought that there was sort of a light touch with these scenarios. They only came up every so often. The show sort of sprinkles them throughout. But they're effective and unsettling when they do.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) I mean, you saw what they just did to Trisha.

O'GRADY: (As Elaine) Everybody's been on edge since he's arrived. They're not thinking straight.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) You can excuse that behavior?

O'GRADY: (As Elaine) No, of course not.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What if they come for me next? I don't do well in...

WELDON: I think the show does a really good job with the office environment, the toxic workplace. It's in the specifics of tech that I thought it could have probably gone a little bit further. I mean, there were places where I wanted the satire to be more pointed, more specific, because one of the reasons that "Severance" works as well as it does, which is playing in a similar sandbox, I would say, is that it has real specifics. They are truly absurd specifics. There are waffle parties, but that's - you can't deny that that's a specific. Here, the stuff, when it comes to game development - I don't know. I just would have felt I was in better hands if I felt the writers had a better handle on the nuts and bolts of game development.

HADADI: I think that's fair. I mean, I think it felt to me like the gaming industry was sort of ancillary.


HADADI: It felt like they wanted to make a statement about surveillance and how we accept various levels of surveillance in our lives. At work, we see that the previous CEO of this company and now Patoff is just watching his employees. There are cameras in every office. There is this constant sense of the panopticon keeping an eye on you. And then there's also the fact that the game itself that they develop over the course of the season has spyware embedded within it, and it gets sent out to the people who use this game and, again, sort of takes up residence in their phones. And so I agree with you. I sort of wish there was more about gaming specifically. Like, how is a game developed? How is a game marketed? We get sort of these broad depictions of that without specifics. But I did feel like, ultimately, it was just in service of this story about how much infringement do you accept in your life professionally, personally? What have we grown almost numb to? And what does that numbness sort of do to you over time? So I liked that. But I do agree with you. I mean, like, a defiant jazz dance party is such a specific thing. But I do think that there are certain very specific plot details that have nothing to do with gaming that you and I are trying to figure out. And I'm very curious what listeners think about those.

WELDON: Yeah, I mean, it's clearly not devoting energy to building this alternate world like "Severance" is. It's kind of clearly set in downtown LA in the present day, but it's directing its energy toward the satire as opposed to the worldbuilding. And I'm fine with that.

HADADI: Agreed.

WELDON: All right. Well, we want to know what you think about "The Consultant." Find us at And that brings us to the end of our show. Roxana Hadadi, thanks so much for being here.

HADADI: Thank you.

WELDON: We want to take a moment to thank our POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR+ subscribers. We appreciate you so much for showing your support for NPR. If you haven't signed up yet and you want to show your support and listen to this show without any sponsor breaks, head over to or visit the link in our show notes. This episode was produced by Candice Lim and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music, which you are looking to restructure in the wake of a series of mergers and acquisitions right now. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Glen Weldon, and we'll see you all tomorrow when we will be talking about the film "Return To Seoul."

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