Mythic Quest is not a show afraid to make a point. Though it paints with a broad brush, this workplace comedy about video games pushes against its form at every turn, creating a show far more nuanced and ambitious than its premise belies. Its sitcom characters might not change, but the viewer’s understanding of them does. With season three, Mythic Quest tested what it means for the characters to stay together and why, after seasons of torment, they still do.
Few shows are as exact when trying to communicate big ideas, even when those ideas are difficult to put into words. Mythic Quest struggled with that problem in season three, circling the same point without totally hitting it. Ian effectively spends 10 episodes trying to put his finger on what makes his relationship with Poppy work and how to fix it. The answer is, of course, there’s nothing to fix.
“It is what it is.”
Ian finally discovers what this season has been dancing around in the episode’s centerpiece. The first half saw Poppy cutting out people who couldn’t do anything for her or support her as needed. Left without a game to promote or a world to build, Ian tried to sell Poppy on their relationship, a collaboration between great thinkers and salespeople. But without her code, he languished. The balance that kept the thing moving was off. “You can’t see it, but you can build it,” Ian tells Poppy. “I can see it, but I can’t build it. It is what it is.” These two are “broken in all the right places,” and for some reason, they fit together.
Following its stellar second season, Mythic Quest entered its third on its heels. The show was mired with COVID-19 setbacks and the sudden departure of F. Murray Abraham. Nevertheless, MQ felt like it had something to prove to its viewers and itself. And to do so, the show challenged its characters by shifting their roles and forcing them to grow. Though working more closely than ever before, Poppy and Ian rarely shared space together, and every time they set foot in the MQ offices, they were asked to leave. Dana got punted to a David role at GrimPop, while Rachel took over for Brad as the HOMI. David was the new Ian, looking to lead the game to even greater heights without the eccentricities of the former CEO slowing them down.
Yet, none of these jobs sat too well. In a recreation of this season’s opening montage, the cold open shows all the characters at another inflection point. Poppy’s on the ground after her pitch went belly-up; Montreal informs David that they’re putting the movie on the back burner because MQ, the game, is hemorrhaging users and it needs another expansion; and finally, Brad is a free man again—though, he has absolutely no idea what that means going forward. For a season finale, everyone’s in the dumps.
So they get back to work. David’s not creative, so he enlists his employees to develop an idea for the expansion (none of his employees are creatives either, he learns. There’s no substitute for a confident Ian). Meanwhile, Rachel gets a massive monetization bonus at the expense of all her principles. As Brad points out, he’s turned her from a socialist into a greedy capitalist clutching a check like a dog to its hump stuffy. Things still aren’t quite right.
Even Brad—who fought the law and won—is lost. He played the game of life on hard mode and worked triple duty as the office janitor, a monetization head, and a diversity and inclusion executive. Yet, none of those jobs fulfilled him. He doesn’t quite see the impact he’s made. For all the evil posturing, Brad revealed himself as a good leader of younger talent. He used his business acumen to lead his pupils to success, actively mentoring women of color like Carol and Rachel to ascend the corporate ladder. That’s certainly more than David did. Jo, too, for all her menace, ended up like a young Brad, except instead of helping women of color get ahead in a male-dominated industry, she taught a pathetic middle-aged white guy to have a backbone. They can’t all be winners.
Jo and Brad’s arc bends toward Dana, who realizes she’s not learning anything at GrimPop. She outgrew her role as a babysitter for Poppy and Ian. She knows the code; she has the vision. Now she needs an assistant drawn to power and a producer to help clear the way for her game.
Weirdly, it all comes back to Buffalo Chicken Pizza. Earlier this season, Ian failed to satisfy even the smallest urges of his partner by building her a smoothie station instead of getting her a slice of pizza from the gas station. But her frustration wasn’t about the pizza: She needed a collaborator that listens to her needs to help her finish the work. She needed sustenance, and he gave her what he would have wanted. They might fill in each other’s gaps, but that doesn’t mean they look the same. He needs to meet her halfway by giving her the support she’s asking for—even if they don’t fit his philosophy. By eating the pizza, he effectively says he’s willing to sacrifice for Poppy and understands her different needs.
That’s probably what makes the last scene feel so rewarding. With MQ in need of an expansion and Playpen in the market for distribution, Ian and Poppy return to David, who’s more prepared than ever to deal with them. By stepping out of their comfort zones, Ian, Poppy, and David realized their roles in the organization better. Like their relationship, the show clicked together nicely in its closing moments. There’s more to a partnership than working side-by-side. Sometimes that means letting your partner know what you’re working on, and other times that means getting someone a slice of pizza. Poppy and Ian do what they do and try to make that collaboration as peaceful as possible because they love each other. With their quiet admission, Poppy and Ian return to “Mythic Quest” more confident than ever, with ranch on their cheeks. It is what it is.
- So ends another season of Mythic Quest. While this season fell just a little below its predecessor’s, the show’s ambition continues to keep the comedy fresh and its ideas engaging. I cannot wait for whatever the spin-off has in store.
- Sunny alums Michael Naughton and Andrew Friedman crushed as the hopelessly friendly middle-aged testers. “Sober two years, everybody!”
- David Hornsby’s delivery of “And a man trying to reconnect with his adult son” belongs in the Smithsonian. God, he was so great this season. Hornsby-hive, we’ll see you next season.
- I wasn’t always sure what to do with Brad this season, but this episode stuck the landing. Change and growth can be messy, but Brad accidentally helping people improve at work is something that came together in the end.