Mythic Quest works best when people are working together. Or, more accurately, when it’s about people working together. To paraphrase another great show about collaboration, Halt And Catch Fire, a series Mythic Quest resembles more and more each episode, the product isn’t the thing, it’s the thing that gets you to the thing. It’s less of a “the video game was the friends we made along the way,” and more about the characters learning to value their contributions and feel ownership over the final product.
Mythic Quest is no different. At the heart of the show, and specifically, this season, is how Poppy and Ian cooperate when it’s just them—no David, Jo, or Brad. Last week’s Mythic Quest, “Sarian,” set Poppy and Ian on the path. “To Catch A Mouse” wonders if they’ve reached the end of it.
Opening on another splendid day at GrimPop, Ian stares at a Post-it note with the word “Haptics” written on it. Ian doesn’t need feedback vibration to conjure a response. He hates the yellow square and how it disrupts the fragile feng shui of the office. Poppy enters to brag about “seeing” her grand idea for “Playpen” and claims the Post-it part of her process that Ian must respect. With sharp elbows, she pushes Ian aside and messes with the lights and temperature, chipping away at his optimization and setting the thermostat to [gasp] celsius.
The “cold” open (no pun intended—this episode’s all heat) reveals something ironic about their characters. Ian’s a dreamer whose job is to “propel” GrimPop into the future. To get there, he agonizes over every detail that has nothing to do with the actual game. On the other hand, master builder Poppy believes a workspace should be messy with her tools, sticky from green soda, strewn about the table amid ranch dressing stains and candy wrappers. She can’t be bothered with smoothie-making because there’s work to be done.
However, when they do the other’s job, they get nowhere. Ian spends a lot of time optimizing the office, doing things for his climate control system that he would never do to “Playpen” or “Hera”: He programs a computer, creating a gentle breeze to help circulate the high temperatures that his partner now requires. These two don’t need an optimized office; they need an office manager, a David if you will.
David probably could help the situation. Unfortunately, he’s dealing with a delightfully dopey sitcom plot. There’s a rat in the “MQ” office, and to be clear, it’s an actual four-legged rat—not some covert operative that, ironically, requires a mole to suss out. Still licking their wounds from Christmas, Jo and Brad decide to play exterminator, a job they’re overqualified for but still can’t complete. Using Brad’s ability to slip into any crevice of the office with his custodial gear, they devise a foolproof plan to catch the rodent.
While Brad and Jo profile rats, Ian waits outside the bathroom for 25 minutes as Poppy finishes a marathon urination. Admittedly disinterested in retaining moisture or drinking water, Poppy gets all “the juice she needs from hard candy.” This woman’s kidneys must be in terrible shape. However, that’s not the main issue here (though it probably should be). Ian’s invented something to deal with his partner’s Post-it obsession: A cubicle. It’s common practice for today’s tech moguls to “invent” existing things (Elon inventing a tunnel is great and all, but my favorite is still the guys that invented the vending machine in 2018). However, Ian was not the son of an emerald mine owner in apartheid-era South Africa. Instead, he’s a lonely, insecure man with nothing but his success to comfort him. Poppy making fun of his latest masterwork is the last straw, and he storms off to get some air.
Poppy finds Ian atop the building getting fresh air for four hours. When she mocks his “efficiency pod,” he curtly responds, “Shut the fuck up.” Ian feels betrayed by Poppy because he’s supposed to be the ideas person, not her. But, as she rightly argues, he hasn’t been around much this season to do even that. As she toiled away at “Hera,” he was in the metaverse, doing ayahuasca at Burning Man or doing some world-class VR fencing.
The scene feels like a breaking point. Ian isn’t offering Poppy grand ideas for her game because it’s her game, and Poppy knows it. She just wants him to admit it. For the first time in a long time, he has to deliver someone else’s assignment and explore someone else’s solar system, and like the report on Saturn he never finished, he’s not interested. Ian isn’t dreaming or scheming. He’s distracting himself because he can’t handle not being the star of the show and searches for something that he can control. His value is in ideas. If Poppy’s doing that, too, he has nothing. Ian and Poppy are flawed individuals, but they balance each other out. If Ian isn’t willing to support Poppy in her endeavors, then that’s less of a collaboration. That’s one person taking advantage of the other.
When we return to GrimPop, Dana returns from her day at the sitcom B-plot factory. The “Hera” studio is silent; the cubicle has been taken down. Poppy is coding. “Get back to work,” Poppy tells Dana. “We’ve wasted enough time already.” Apple’s workplace comedy has never sounded more like a job, but it doesn’t seem like working harder will solve the problem.
- “Directed by Ashly Burch.” It’s been fun to see the cast take over the directorial duties this season. More than other sitcoms, this one feels like a group effort at all stages of production, which is why you see so many of the same names in so many different roles. Also, she directed the heck out of that scene between Poppy and Ian on the roof, which was effective and emotional. McElhenney’s “shut the fuck up” felt like a kick in the chest.
- “Would you kill a pregnant rat, Dana?” “No!” “Well, it’s not pregnant anymore, Dana?” “Oh, right. Dana would humanely dispose of these rats, but make sure they’re dead.”
- “Everyone out! You will not be provided with an explanation!” Jo is swiftly becoming one of television’s great authoritarians.