Mythic Quest is a delightful workplace comedy with a tense, surprisingly tender portrayal of the challenges of creative collaboration, depicted mostly through Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) and Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney), the co-directors of the titular video game company. Created by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, season two of this Apple TV+ series has focused on Ian and Poppy’s rollercoaster friendship, one that is charged by the ability to bring out the best in each other despite their overbearing egos. Their frequent clashes come to a head in the penultimate episode, “Juice Box,” when Ian is hospitalized. Poppy is forced to shed her insecurity of singing in public—a fact she admitted to in “Please Sign Here,” after Ian revealed his fear of not having good ideas outside of Mythic Quest—to comfort him. Nicdao tells The A.V. Club they were building on this big moment all season long, which sets up their journey in the season finale and beyond.
“There was a lot of weight on this episode to help everyone understand where Poppy is coming from. This whole season for her was about recognizing some imperfections as she struggles with her new leadership position,” Nicdao says. “We had a lot of fun seeing how far we could push Poppy and ask the audience to be patient with her.” She adds that she loves the beautiful symbolism of her singing to Ian because “they don’t beat the idea of this [strong friendship] over the head.” When they find mutual trust again, it leads to some pivotal decisions in the upcoming “TBD,” which serves as the season finale. “Poppy and Ian head into it now knowing they’ve got each other’s backs. Episode eight was about them remembering they respect each other, so they’ve landed in a place that will help them launch into their best version.”
Ian and Poppy have worked separately on an expansion for the video game for most of this season. In “TBD,” which premieres June 25, they finally get to make big decisions about their future with the help of head writer C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham). Episodes six and seven, “Backstory!” and “Peter,” delved into C.W.’s past and revealed how he joined the team. Nicdao says this sneak peek into his history also comes into play in the finale. “We all now know C.W. understands what it means to not acknowledge one’s insecurities and letting relationships suffer because of it, so he chimes in to help Poppy and Ian make the right creative calls in episode nine,” she adds.
It’s rare for workplace comedies to home in so deeply on the emotional core of such a volatile partnership, and Mythic Quest maintains a platonic dynamic between Ian and Poppy. Nicdao says they’ve actively developed this from the start: “During my initial callbacks, Rob told me right away that we aren’t going to tell a romantic story with them. It’s about their push-and-pull professional collaboration and friendship. The show is already knocking out a workplace romance out of the park with the game testers, Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashley Burch), so there’s a place for our kind of partnership too.”
Nicdao says she tries to imbue vulnerability into her scenes with McElhenney during the dramatic beats because the team loves to punch audiences in the gut when they least expect it (see: season one’s “A Dark Quiet Death,” or even “Backstory!”). She references the “Juice Box” closer, when Poppy sings to Ian: “We are conscious when we’re shooting such fragile scenes between Ian and Poppy. It was exciting and scary to film all the hospital scenes, and we wrapped it up with the song. We did a bunch of takes and the one they used is when Rob improved asking me to sing something else, so it was a great way to break the tension but manage the beauty of the scene.”
The Australian-Filipino actor says she came up with the suggestion for Poppy to sing a Filipino lullaby, “Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan,” before she pivots to Willie Nelson’s cover of “Rainbow Connection.” For her, this touch of her cultural background helps make Mythic Quest seamlessly inclusive. “I’ve never felt like I’m part of this show to tick a diversity box,” she says. “I have done jobs where I knew they just needed an Asian actor, but Rob and Megan were interested in perspectives behind and in front of the camera. Once they had those, they also listen to them.” She cites Community, starring her MQ co-star Danny Pudi, as one of the first ensemble comedies she loved that didn’t make their actors of color the butt of the joke because of their ethnicity. “It’s so cool now to be on a show, and with Danny no less, that’s doing something similar.”
Poppy also gets to assume the mentor role this season with Dana, but she fails miserably at it. “She has been the victim of patchy mentorship herself,” Nicdao says. “She likes the idea of having something to teach but it would be a lot to ask that she’ll know how to do it well right away.” Nicdao further teases that in the finale, Poppy does find a selfish way of helping Dana out of a sticky situation, but if the show were to continue for a third season, the actor hopes to explore Poppy being supportive of those on the lower rungs of the ladder at the workplace. “The writers are genius, so no part of me questions whether they have something amazing in store for a potential season three, especially after we blow things up in the season two finale,” she says. “But I’d also love to explore the beginnings of her working relationship with Ian.”