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Mythic Quest

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What it’s about:

Mythic Quest is a workplace comedy set at a gaming company staffed with a motley crew of misfit characters, led by an egotistical but visionary creative director. Everyone struggles to find a balance—between their professional and personal lives, between creativity and profitability, between ethics and ambition—while keeping the game’s ravenous user base constantly fed with new storylines and content.

Names you might know:

Rob McElhenney, best known as Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, stars and also serves as a writer and executive producer alongside his Sunny co-star Charlie Day. The rest of the cast includes Danny Pudi (Community), Ashly Burch (well known in gaming circles for her voice work in popular games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Life is Strange), Jessie Ennis (Better Call Saul), Imani Hakim (Everybody Hates Chris), David Hornsby (another Sunny alum), Charlotte Nicdao, and acclaimed actor and Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham.

Why it’s worth your time:

If the idea of Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia paired with Abed from Community—arguably two of the greatest comedy characters of the 2000s—is appealing, then this absurd comedy, produced and written by Rob McElhenney and long-time collaborator Charlie Day, should be exactly what you’re looking for.

In previous decades, shows about video games and the people who play them were just as niche as the gaming industry itself. The Guild—a webseries created by Felicia Day—premiered in the late aughts to rave reviews from audiences and critics just beginning to make YouTube a part of their lives. More than 10 years later, Mythic Quest deals with some of the same themes and topics, but in a context far-flung from the tropes of social isolation so commonly associated with gaming. This series gives us the flip side, portraying the creators behind the scenes, who can be just as messy, dramatic, and dysfunctional as their target audience.

The first season deals a lot with the push and pull between the gaming industry and the gamers on whom it depends. In one ongoing storyline, the company finds its fate in the hands of a 14-year-old YouTuber who goes by the name “Pootie_shoe.” It’s a biting commentary on gamer culture—and a rich source of humor for the show—but there’s a deeper layer to it that’s revealed late in the season and gives the situation an unexpected emotional resonance. That’s what makes Mythic Quest stand out. It’s not just silly, over-the-top gags, although there are plenty of those. There are sneaky moments of authentic pathos woven in that hit when you least expect them. The best example of this is the charming, slow-burn romantic subplot between testers Rachel (Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim). Their scenes are always a delight.

It’s the characters make the show work, as well as the talented cast who embody them. It’s easy to get invested in them, even if you’ve never played a video game in your life. Rob McElhenney’s Ian doesn’t stray too far away from Mac—the vain and insecure fool fans have come to love over the past 15 years, shirt popping and all. But the brazen, no-holds-barred madness found in It’s Always Sunny gets repackaged here in a more subtle context. Fans of Community may have mixed feelings about Pudi’s role as Brad Bakshi, Head of Monetization. He may have the same surface detachment as Abed, but inside lies a calculating and shrewd manipulator who represents everything that’s wrong with the gaming industry’s emphasis on profit over all else.

But the show’s secret weapon Charlotte Nicdao as Poppy Li—Ian’s primary soundboard and the person stuck with implementing his off-the-wall ideas. Nicdao delivers just the right combination of frustration, determination, and inspiration to balance out the other characters’ cynicism without ever becoming too sappy. Poppy’s creative energy and valiant efforts to make the game better are often stifled by Ian’s ego and impulsive decision making (and even more frustrating—his instincts are usually right), but the two have a fascinating, if slightly unhealthy, dynamic. That the writers have given them plenty of room to grow and explore it is one of their most impressive feats.

Another impressive achievement that can’t be overlooked is the fantastic standalone mid-season episode “A Dark Quiet Death,” written by McElhenney and directed by his sister, Katie McElhenney. In a complete departure from the rest of the episodes, it tells the seemingly unrelated, self-contained story of Doc and Bean, a pair of game designers (endearingly played by guest stars Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti) who are also husband and wife. After a meet cute in a game store, they collaborate together on a game called “A Dark Quiet Death” (a title which can be interpreted a number of ways), which soon becomes a hit but also attracts all the crass commercial influences that come with success. As each new edition of the game is slowly strippedof everything that once made it unique, the creators also become influenced by market forces. Eventually, their strained relationship becomes as unrecognizable as their original vision. It’s a tour de force of storytelling and character that may at first seem like it has nothing to do with Mythic Quest, but if you pay attention you’ll see traces of it pop up in later episodes. More importantly, you may notice that it’s trying to tell you what the entire show is ultimately about.

The takeaway:

Mythic Quest is a great comedy that’s surprisingly layered and balanced with genuine emotional beats. If you like shows like Silicon Valley, jPod, and Workaholics, you’re bound to enjoy this one too. Gamers and non-gamers alike should have fun with the humor and eccentric characters who stick with you.

Watch it with:

Your nerdy friends, your gamer friends, and people who love a good laugh.

Worth noting:

Following the end of Season 1 (which concluded with the ninth episode on Feb. 7, 2020) Apple TV+ released two special episodes apart from the regular run.

The first, titled “Quarantine,” was released on May 22, 2020. It’s set (and was filmed) during lockdown and features the actors filming separately in their own homes as their characters interact virtually. Given the somber subject matter, it’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as Mythic Quest can be, but has even more of those emotional moments that make you feel for the characters.

The second, released on April 16, 2021, is much more lively in spirit. It’s a post-Pandemic (or nearing the end of it) episode that has the characters returning to the office for the first time in months to compete in a symbolic live-action role-play tournament called “Everlight.”

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