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It’s Christmas on Mythic Quest—so don’t be late for work

The holiday finally comes to Apple TV Plus' series in "The 12 Hours Of Christmas"

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David Hornsby and Jessie Ennis
David Hornsby and Jessie Ennis
Photo: Apple TV+

It’s about time that Mythic Quest made a Christmas episode. A right of passage for any sitcom worth its weight in sugar plums (and even some worth considerably less), the Christmas episode inevitably becomes the most rewatched and potentially celebrated episode in a show’s history. Like Santa, the Christmas special sits idly for 12 months and springs into action as nights grow long and days grow cold, with fans returning to the same ones year after year. Almost every sitcom has a Christmas in need of saving, and who better to rescue Mythic Quest’s than the perpetually hapless and hopelessly jovial David Britlesbee?

Video games make up a massive slice of the Christmas spending pie, but there’s more to it than people buying GTA V for the fourth time. Those who maintain the servers that keep Xbox Live and the Playstation Network going must sacrifice their Christmas chili to ensure everyone’s pixels are visible and their characters aren’t lagging. As such, David throws the perfect holiday at the “MQ” office on Christmas Eve, inviting forcing his employees to spend Yuletide chained to their desks.

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Christmas is a time of coming together, so Ian and Poppy crash the “MQ” party under the guise of keeping each other company and they’re aching to tell David what they think of his. Ian cynically warns David not to remind the employees that they’re working on the holiday. Why remind the lever-pullers of capitalism that their lives are incredibly meaningless compared to the economy’s empty promise of endless growth? Even though he technically doesn’t work there anymore, Ian has some experience in keeping tensions low as his underpaid, under-appreciated staff celebrate Jesus’ birthday at the office. And no, it isn’t by calling them “essential workers” who, like firefighters, bond over a big bowl of Christmas chili. Instead, Ian wants to throw an actual party to let the staff blow off steam.

As hard as it is to believe, David’s life thus far has been a series of disappointing holidays. Raised in the geological air fryer that is Phoenix, Arizona, David spent Christmases as a child gazing into a snow globe and dreaming of the perfect Christmas as his parents fought in the background. Sadly, they were some of the happiest times of his life. So it should surprise no one that he’s now the CEO of a video game company, forcing people to work on Christmas. David thinks they can be a family and a company, but all the Victorian costumes and karaoke in the world aren’t going to convince his staff. Even Scrooge gave Cratchit the day off. Yet, for all his perky, seasonal cheer, David remains woefully ignorant of his cruelty. He can’t even afford his staff a Christmas bonus. Rather, like any other CEO pretending hot chocolate is adequate compensation, he lives in a reality distortion field where his goals are everyone else’s. But Christmas isn’t going the way David planned. Apparently, hot chocolate isn’t a decent wage.

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Charlotte Nicado and Jessie Ennis
Charlotte Nicado and Jessie Ennis
Photo: Apple TV+

To inspire a little Christmas glee in the freakazoids, Ian and Poppy invite their old staff to their new office for a real party, one that’s totally orgy. Using the neon lighting set up and wide open floor plan of “Hera” HQ, they have enough room to hold a dance party and house Poppy’s brand-new, unused Porche that was wasted on her.

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Rachel gets it. Somehow the new head of monetization, Rachel, flexes her muscle after some gentle nudging from Dana. Shutting down Brad’s plan to sow discord on the holiest of nights via a limited Rudolph DLC, Rachel makes the new feature available to everyone. The company villains are slipping. Jo got her Poppy and Rachel some shrapnel from their car-crushing brunch; they didn’t reciprocate. Meanwhile, Brad’s Sith padawan Rachel is more Luke Skywalker than Darth Maul and wants to provide “MQ” players with the gift of socialism.

David can’t simply toss the staff some cookies and expect a thank you. It doesn’t matter if they spend Christmas watching porn, making chili, visiting their families, or all three; they deserve a day off to appreciate the things that matter in their lives. The melancholy of another year ending (especially after the last couple) requires soothing, even if it means missing out on some slight profits. Honestly, if the company is going to the tank by taking Christmas off, there’s something so disastrously wrong with the business model.

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David Hornsby
David Hornsby
Photo: Apple TV+

Within the structure of modern, serialized television, Christmas episodes have a rough go of it. They must be stand-alone episodes that move seasonal arcs forward. To this end, Mythic Quest straddles the line well. In his first time in the director’s chair, David Hornsby conjures an intoxicating office Christmas party with his period-specific Christmas Carol costuming. Even the scenes in the monetization chamber have that festive glow. He evokes the feeling of getting high on fake snow and staring into the tinsel void.

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However, Mythic Quest can force some conclusions, fudging the cause and effect of the plot, which is the case with the staff getting mad about Rachel’s DLC making beaucoup dólares. The logic doesn’t totally work here, but it does lead us to a weirdly positive ending where everyone throws David the perfect Christmas after being paid money. The show often moves too quickly toward its conclusion, but like many other Christmas miracles, maybe it’s better not to overthink it. The ends can justify the means on Christmas. Sometimes it’s easier to let bygones be bygones. Forgive and forget. It’s Christmas, innit?

Stray observations

  • Hornsby delivers that “Bah Humbug” with conviction. He makes a great Scrooge.
  • Elaborating on the forced conclusion: Sometimes plots can feel written around a pat finale, which is the case here. The staff’s resentment makes sense, but it’s weird how they get from Rachel being too overeager to be nice to Brad’s solution. Dana’s gift for Poppy last week also had this problem. It’s rarely a dealbreaker, but it often means the show’s stumbling toward an unsatisfying conclusion. I don’t think Mythic Quest ever grinds to a halt; just hits some speed bumps, though. It’s all forgivable because I think the show’s ambition sometimes exceeds its grasp, which is something I really love and respect about it. Anyway, it’s all reflected in the grade.
  • McElhenney rules at playing straight man to Nicado, who has become so weird this season. One of the biggest laughs of the night was a single shot of Poppy staring off into the middle distance.
  • “What is it with the chili?” Everyone cheering for chili was the proper start of the holiday season.
  • I don’t totally get Brad’s calorie counting, but “it’s 720 calories!” got me.