Mythic Quest had a rough third season. The Apple TV+ series grew into a competent show over its first two years, offering a workplace comedy that could hit dramatic highs while lovingly lambasting the video game industry. But now, I don’t really know what to think of it. Whether to even continue watching it. Season 3 was a lame duck, squandering the potential of the shake-up at the end of the second season and instead ran in place for ten episodes, only a couple of which were engaging. So, what went wrong?
Workplace comedies are a dime a dozen and in its third season Mythic Quest began to feel very generic. The show’s USP is video games but the stories became only tangentially connected to the medium. Gaming remained the backdrop but the comedy came from jokes and stories that could fill any TV comedy series. It made me long for the days of season 1 and ‘the Masked Man’. Did the writers simple run out of storylines connected to the world of gaming? The one which held promise was the movie adaptation of the show’s eponymous game but that barely featured; a subplot in a couple of episodes before being cancelled by the season’s end. I hope that storyline is revived in the fourth season and done justice; there are plenty of jokes that can be made on such a topic.
What little commentary on the gaming industry there was actually disappointed me. Both NFTs and Meta were frequently mentioned and, shockingly, in a positive way. Actor and creator Rob McElhenney is infamously involved in NFTs outside of the show and this seems to have affected the stories within the show too. According to the series, the issue with NFTs isn’t that they are complete nonsense but rather that they are too expensive. At one point, in the light-hearted Christmas episode, a character brings forth the spirit of Christmas to all be creating red noses that the in-game avatars can wear and decides to “sell them at a lower price so everyone can enjoy them.” Oh, how thoughtful and nice. If you needed evidence it was Ubisoft producing this show then look no further.
If the show was mocking the viewpoints of characters on the topics of NFTs and the Metaverse then that would be all well and good but its not. In amongst the huge egos of business execs and the obsessive compulsions of programmers, two regular and relatable gamers lie at the centre of Mythic Quest: Rachel and Dana. They began as game testers and audience surrogates but now the show has turned them into the biggest arseholes of all but doesn’t seem aware of just how far they’ve gone. Rachel turns into the capitalist overlord squeezing the playerbase dry through microtransactions and Dana is on her way to becoming the next egotistical Ian, concerned with her place in the Metaverse. It dawned on me during the last few episodes that I no longer like anyone in this series. They are all smarmy and rude and petty. And not in a ‘HBO prestige drama of conflicted arseholes you can’t help but root for despite themselves’ kinda way, or even like the gang in Always Sunny, who I love spending time with despite being horrible people. This is now a comedy series without a single character I enjoy being in the company of.
The show dared to dramatically mix up its status quo in the second season finale and then season 3 did its best to undo it. Brad sent to prison? Don’t worry, he’s back and despite a couple of episodes of uncertainty is right back doing the same stuff he always was. Rachel and Dana going to college? Nah, how about no scenes of college and come up with reasons for them to be in the office as usual every episode. Poppy and Ian leaving to start their own company? This idea is given more lip service but they stay in the basement of the same building as Mythic Quest Studios so can pop back whenever they need to. If the show was never going to follow through with these storylines, then why introduce them? For the most part the season just seemed to be in a holding pattern, bringing everyone back together as if nothing had happened. And now the third season finale hints at big status quo shake-ups too but I can’t work up the effort of being excited anymore. I’m sure it’ll all turn out to be just as irrelevant.
Poppy and Ian’s relationship is the heart of the show and so removing them from everyone else to their own isolated story and location makes everything else feel superfluous. And when isolated it feels repetitive, dull, and without the humour the other characters bring to it. The meaningful aspect of the show is without comedy and the comedic aspects are without meaning. Jo and David remain fun but they are basically cartoon characters at this point operating on their own heightened level, desperately trying to bring life to the show. Poppy in particular suffers as a character from her isolation. Only conversing with Ian and Dana makes her fairly one note. And the game she creates that everyone can’t stop talking about how fun it is and yet every time we see it it looks like an awful Wii game? Yeah, let’s not talk about that.
You can level any complaint or pick apart any storyline but really, with a comedy series, it comes down to the most subjective aspect of all: is it funny? Mythic Quest season 3 is not funny. I barely cracked a smile. Towards the end of the season the show dusts off two tired cliché stories for a sitcom in one episode. People disagreeing over what the temperature in the office should be and, shock horror, there’s a mouse in the office. Really, that’s what this show has come to? But then that episodes ends with a great emotional, dramatic peak in the Poppy and Ian storyline; the heart of the show delivering a vital pump to keep the series alive.
Mythic Quest does drama better than it does comedy in its third season. There are a couple of strong scenes dotted throughout but then also the now obligatory, almost anthological flashback episode which this season focuses on young Ian and young Poppy (the actress for which was phenomenal). Following this episode, Sarian, came the news of a spin-off anthology show composed completely of these types of stories, which have been the highlight of all three seasons. But, if the best part of Mythic Quest is removed to become a different show then just how empty and lame will that leave season 4? Hopefully the third season remains the low point of the series and the show can bounce back moving forward.
What are your thoughts on Mythic Quest and its future? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies, and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.