Ever had the boss who just likes to give everything that little tweak? Or a secret co-worker crush? Or even a team sociopath who has just the right personality for their job? Of course you have which is how Mythic Quest transcends its setting in a game development company to be a good workplace comedy.
At the throbbing heart of Mythic Quest is Ian (pronounced self-importantly as Iron) Grimm (Rob McElhenney), the egotist visionary behind the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that gives the series its name. Or so he’d like to believe. Poppy Li (Australian actor Charlotte Nicdao almost unrecognisable from her role in ABC’s Content) is the lead engineer who really makes the game tick while Ian takes the glory.
Their comance is the core of the first season smartly avoiding the need to romantically pair up two co-workers. Though Mythic Quest flirts with with a romance for comic effect with co-workers likening Ian and Poppy to a fighting couple and their parents, but this idea gets an ‘Ew gross!’ response from the leads. Instead there are real work challenges as exasperated Poppy starts off never being able to get her ideas up without Ian’s tweaking and credit swiping. Even an in-game shovel that Poppy wants to add becomes a weapon in the hands of Ian. Rather than smoothing over Nicdao’s Australian accent, it is part of their jagged relationship with Poppy calling a bemused Ian a cashed-up bogan and a sex pest. They spar well together as the colleagues who bring out the best in each other over two seasons.
There’s a strong ensemble cast from sociopathic Head of Monetisation Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi, known for his role in Community) to the trysting testers Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashly Burch, who brings her experience as a games voice artist to write two episodes). It’s a real treat to see F Murray Abraham pop up again as the pompous head writer CW Longbottom clanging all the wrong notes as the 1970s sci-fi writer who wants to write a backstory for every pixel.
Part of that ensemble is Ubisoft, the French video game company behind Assassins Creed and Far Cry 6. Superficially, they supply the stunning interstitials of gameplay that break up scenes like when a character is a victim of office politics there’s a game image of a dwarven warrior disembowelling a giant. But series creators McElhenney, Charlie Day (who has co-written It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with McElhenny since 2005) and Megan Ganz did not want to make this an ad for Ubisoft or the games industry. They take on issues like the industry’s poor pay, women’s under-representation in gaming and online bullying that could have been nixxed by a collaborator looking to market themselves in a glowing light.
Mythic Quest also isn’t afraid to meander. The episode ‘A Dark Quiet Death’, jumps back in time to before Mythic Quest existed to tell a sweet melancholic vignette about a game-making couple whose relationship erodes slowly from under them. Later there is a two-episode look at CW’s past that creeps up on you to include a guest-star gut-punch from William Hurt as the writer who seems relatively less successful. And there were two episodes between seasons, ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Everlight’, that popped ahead of the full season release in May. It’s the kind of playful programming that a streaming service can offer.
Season two seemingly tied up a lot of loose ends so the series may not continue to a third season, especially as co-creator McElhenney is busy as co-owner of the Wrexham Dragons football team along with celebrity buddy Ryan Reynolds. Personally, I’d like to see it end at 20 episodes rather than feeling like it needs to be stretched out over another season or two. Just like Poppy and Ian in the last episode ‘TBD’ it will free up some great talent to work on their next project rather than extending a franchise. But as with any really well drawn characters, we are left wondering what will happen with Rachel and Dana, and how Brad will get out of his legal sitch. Better to leave them wanting more.