There’s a great show inside Mythic Quest. It bubbles to the surface every so often, offering a glimpse of greatness, before submerging again below the deep waters of workplace comedy tropes. Apple TV+ is fast becoming one of the best streaming services on the market yet its comedy series Mythic Quest, set in the offices of a video game developer, frustratingly hasn’t grown past being consistently… fine. The potential is there but will the upcoming third season fully grasp it?
To date, Mythic Quest can be enjoyed best as an anthology series. Don’t bother with the serialised plots but rather drop in for its ‘special’ episodes, which are wonderful. In the middle of the show’s first season came “A Dark Quiet Death,” an episode seemingly unrelated to the rest of the show and one that’s barely even a comedy. It’s a heartfelt drama following a couple over almost two decades as they meet, develop a game, and grow apart. Thematically, it eventually connects to the show proper but that’s almost irrelevant, it’s a beautiful standalone episode.
Then came “Quarantine,” a bridge episode between the first and second seasons and easily the best Zoom-set special I’ve seen. Many shows attempted them but Mythic Quest bested them all with a fun and emotional episode that made its characters feel truly human. This was followed by “Everlight,” the LARPing episode, and then “Backstory!” in season 2, the show’s answer to Barton Fink, doing away with the comedy altogether and creating a 1970’s set drama following science-fiction writers.
The show can produce seriously brilliant episodes of television, whether Community-esque comedies or straight-up historical dramas that pack an emotional punch. And then, after each of these episodes, the show returns to its status quo and my reaction: “oh yeah, this is what this show actually is.” It’s a disappointment each time. Regular episodes of the show aren’t bad but the creativity and focus drops drastically. The characters are fine, if a little irritating, the plots are generic, and the episodes merge together into a homogeneous lump of workplace comedy that doesn’t shine like examples of the genre’s greatest.
Mythic Quest is at its best when it is specific to the video game industry, skewering topics and technology known to gamers. But there’s also the sense that the show is scared of becoming too inside baseball. The writers shouldn’t feel this way, the gaming industry is entertainment’s biggest, and yet, either through choice or a lack of ideas, the series often just dabbles with a topic before embracing trope stories of the genre. Rather than the focus of the standalone instalments, the show crams four storylines into an episode full of workplace sitcom tropes.
Much of the talent involved in Mythic Quest, both in front of and behind the camera, have worked on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – perhaps the best and most consistent modern US comedy series. The shows are pretty different, and should be, but I can’t help feeling some Always Sunny DNA wouldn’t go amiss in Mythic Quest. The show’s serialisation is too dominant and could benefit from the Sunny approach of each episode having its own topic or story. Not to the same extent, which makes Sunny more like a live-action cartoon than a sitcom, with its limited character growth, but I want to watch Mythic Quest and not groan when we enter the office and the same two characters are having essentially the same conversation that they did last episode. The season-long arcs become tiring almost immediately.
The trailer for season three looks like more of the same, watchable but fairly bland, but there only need to be small changes to make a big difference. The characters are solid but they are too often locked into the same storyline with the same characters. Isolating Ian and Poppy for more of those two arguing? Really? The show is much more interesting when it either mixes up the pairings or puts the ensemble together, like it did in season two’s “Please Sign Here,” perhaps the show’s best ‘regular’ episode. That instalment, like the standalones, also has genuine emotion to it as well as just laughs. Going forward, Mythic Quest should embrace the drama more; the emotional moments have a higher hit rate than the jokes.
But my main hope for the third season, while I want the serialised plot to improve, is just for another absolute banger of a standalone episode. There’s no hint of one in the trailer, which isn’t a surprise, it’s best not to spoil, but I hope the show sticks with the format to guarantee at least one truly memorable and special episode a season. Hell, maybe this season’s will be David, the show’s best character, trapped in that Severance-style pure white office alone for thirty minutes. I’d lap that up.
Do you think Mythic Quest needs to improve? If so, how? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.