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Mythic Quest returns a bit uneven in Season 2

  • The second season of the Apple TV+ comedy "has to pick up from that uneasy new workplace dynamic, and once again, the show has to figure out how to tie 'let’s all hang out with these people!' together with 'it is very hard to make good art," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "It’s not easy. The workplace comedy is something that can happen in a gentle, solve-it-and-forget-it world. Problems pop up and we get to watch the game testers Rachel and Dana (Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim), power-mad assistant Jo (Jessie Ennis), limp leader David (David Hornsby), and horny old writer C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham) tackle the issues and resolve them, usually by wrestling with the soulless head of monetization, Brad (Danny Pudi). It would be one thing to loop that together with a pro forma investment in Ian and Poppy’s rivalry, a Silicon Valley–style season-long arc where everything does not work right up until the moment it does, voilà. Mythic Quest is admirably uninterested in that. The questions it cares about most are all the legitimately harder ones. What do you do when no one else thinks your art is good? How do you remake a personally toxic but creatively fruitful relationship into something more balanced, more healthy? (Can you even do that, without losing the creative success?) What’s the value of everyone loving your art if you secretly hate it? That’s a lot to tackle in nine half-hour comedy episodes! And Mythic Quest season two doesn’t always pull it off. The pieces are often compelling on their own, but the show struggles to make Ian and Poppy’s ongoing creative challenge seem like it’s happening in the same world as Jo’s silly and unhinged power play between David and Brad, or the interpersonal developments between the testers Rachel and Dana. Those two characters are the biggest tells: they get used as the fix-it glue, shuffled between other plot points in a way that doesn’t fully disguise the fact that it’s a structural mechanism at work rather than plausible character development. Plus, the episodes can be really uneven. There are some early-season episodes in particular that come off as goofy, ineffective wheel spinning, and characters like Jo and David — even a main figure like Poppy — do not always feel like wholly the same person from one episode to the next. The ball doesn’t always get passed smoothly between each half-hour installment, and this is where Mythic Quest’s dual engines tend to sputter."


    • Mythic Quest finds its groove in Season 2: "Drama first seasons are often like a musician’s first album: packed with all the ideas they’ve been saving up for a long time, which can result in creative shortages later," says Alan Sepinwall. "Sitcoms, though, have more of a learning curve, which is why the second seasons of shows like Always Sunny or The Office are so much better than their first. Mythic Quest fits neatly into that tradition, having translated a lot of its potential energy into real, kinetic laughter."
    • Season 2 is hopefully best characterized as a sophomore slump: "It's not that the show has suddenly gotten bad," says Adam Rosenberg. "If anything, the writers are more comfortable now stretching this lovable (and lovably detestable) cast of characters beyond their humble beginnings. As the mid-season bridge episode 'Everlight' strongly suggested, this is a story marked by character growth and evolving perspectives. But in the end, it feels like Season 2 maybe tries to do just a bit too much. There may be an appropriate (and admittedly convenient) scapegoat here in COVID-19. Creators Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, and Rob McElhenney (who also stars) apparently had a very different season in mind before the pandemic turned our world upside down. So the original scripts were thrown out and Season 2 was written in the midst of a shared traumatic experience."
    • Season 2 of Mythic Quest strikes a brilliant, lighthearted balance of pandemic living with humor: "Despite these successes (its muddled humor aside), there is a major flaw," says Fletcher Peters. "The first season of Mythic Quest introduced a minor problem that’s spiraled into something unavoidable with this latest season: the game concept is thoroughly dull. Like the aggressively masculine promotional material, the Mythic Quest imagery bores more than it invigorates. Themes from gameplay occasionally work their way into the plot—like in the first season, when alt-right gamers abuse the game, or in this season, which features a potential expansion of two dueling titans like Poppy and Ian—but only on occasion. The transitions use symbolic clips from the games. Maybe you’ll watch them. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you’ll use the opportunity to check your phone. There’s a great opportunity to feature a topical video game in this series concept. Unfortunately, the hyper-masculine and tedious Mythic Quest isn’t it. Fortunately, skirting spoilers, the ending of Season 2 is, in a word, promising. The future of Mythic Quest is ripe with opportunities for these characters to grow."
    • Mythic Quest continues to be addictive in Season 2: "Two seasons in, and Mythic Quest is already destined to join the Saturday morning sitcom rotation — the kind of show, like Parks and Rec, Superstore, and, yes, The Office, that you can dial up for a quick hit of humor over breakfast, or a lengthy background binge while getting a jump on weekend chores," says Ben Traves. "If it’s the latter, you have to be careful not to lose half your day to the quick-witted tomfoolery and admirable ambition of these charming video game developers. Inevitably, you’ll stop and admire one or two choice scenes per episode; the moments you just have to see again, even if it means taking a bit longer on the dishes, and even it means risking never finishing them at all."
    • What actual video game workers think of Mythic Quest: "When I first saw a trailer, I was like, 'Uh, this looks a little cringe,'" says veteran video game designer Leslee Sullivant. "I didn’t know if they were going to do it well, because I’m so hesitant to think that kind of show could be pulled off. But then I saw a bunch of my colleagues, Facebook friends, and people I used to work with at game studios who were like, 'It’s actually really good, it’s very funny, and you should check it out.'...I was mostly worried about them getting the correct impression of game development, and I didn’t want to experience any sort of secondhand embarrassment. If this is what we get and everybody’s impression of the games industry is going to be riding on this show—that’s what made me mostly hesitant. I feel like we already don’t do a good job explaining how the games industry works to a broad audience to begin with."
    • Rob McElhenney on It's Always Sunny vs. Mythic Quest: “The limitations that we have with Sunny is that there’s only so many stories that you can tell with this group of people," he says. "And we’ve done a lot of them. So, it’s a challenge for us to continually come up with new stories for them. Whereas with Mythic Quest, when you have a whole fresh set of characters and a whole brand new situation, it becomes so much easier to invent new situations to put them in.”
    • Jessie Ennis and Charlotte Nicdao auditioned together and quickly became fast friends
    • Imani Hakim weighs in on the Dana and Rachel LGBTQ "will they/won't they" question

    TOPICS: Mythic Quest, Apple TV+, Charlotte Nicdao, Imani Hakim, Jessie Ennis, Rob McElhenney