Review – The Consultant should stop while it’s not-quite ahead

The Consultant is an Amazon Prime series that should stop while it’s not-quite ahead, meaning that even though everything gets turned into a series these days, this one shouldn’t.

I had to stop it while watching the first episode because the rhythm of the narrative felt odd. Not bad, mind you. Punchy. When I looked up the source material, I discovered the show was based on Bentley Little’s novel of the same name. That explained everything except for the untidiness.

Little traffics in social horror, frequently making an evil sandbox out of the mundane, usually workplaces. I’ve read several Little books (though not this one) and have enjoyed them. My favorite is The Ignored, and his short story collection, The Collection, is great stuff. His work – and there’s a lot of it – is rarely adapted. This is only the second adaptation out of many novels and short stories that I can name, and the first novel, which is odd. He’s got over 25 of them, and most have traditional horror set-ups: conformity gets shoulder-shaken by a great(er) evil. Little’s work is distinct for its relatability; average people getting caught up in astoundingly perverse situations. I recommend his books without much hesitation. This series, not so much.

The show gets Little’s beats right, but the music it makes doesn’t add up. Too many lingering questions, and the effort to build the questions is more suited to a tale vying for a second season than a horror-mystery-social commentary. It’s like the person you hate asking questions because you know the answers are going to be prismatic when all you wanted was their lunch order. I don’t mind mysteries, even unsolved ones by the end. What I don’t like are unnecessary rabbit holes that don’t pay off. At a tight (these days) 8 episodes measuring about a half hour each, this is basically the long movie this story deserves. More time would have just made a proper mess of things. Less time I wouldn’t have been mad at, as the show would have had to make some decisions about thread that, ultimately, not even the characters care about, let alone viewers.

In the end, I like my devils clear, less Mary Poppins. Christoph Waltz chews up the screen, and is almost enough to make me recommend it, but he’s surrounded by a lot of flatly drawn characters acted by people who aren’t in his weight class. For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone is labeling this a comedy, but then, it’s ultimately not great horror, not great satire, and not great period, so why not shoot your own toe off suggesting it’s also funny.


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