Partially about the almost universal modern corporate slog, and partially about the sort of semi-glamour of working in an entertainment industry, the series Mythic Quest (streaming on Apple TV+) stands somewhere between an office workplace comedy and a satirical look behind a money-hungry, consumer-manipulated, artistic space. In many senses, Mythic Quest is very rarely about video games as much as it is about the process of collaborative creation.
In its third season, the broad-strokes theme of the series rests in the balance between the technical process of creating art (especially art like video games, art which is literally technical) and the ethereal, indescribable nature of conceiving of art — described in this season as a phenomena simply known as “seeing it.” This divide is physically embodied between our protagonists Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao), the brilliant coder who feels relegated to grunt work, who is desperate to but struggles to “see it”, and Ian Grim (Rob McElhenney), who thrives on gut feelings and almost constantly “sees it’, though rarely has the technical skill to bring his vision to fruition alone.
Season three posits that creating is an ever-changing process. As Poppy and Ian struggle despite having immense creative and financial freedom, Mythic Quest suggests that even when we’ve “made it,” our next project or big dream has the chance of knocking us to beginner’s status all over again, making us complete newbies in the daunting world of artistic creation.
Not that it’s any easier for the actual newbies, whose struggles are evidenced in the peppy and competent Dana (Imani Hakim), who makes do with the busywork thrown at her while she tries to maintain bigger dreams, or her girlfriend, Rachel (Ashly Burch), who seems to be thrown constantly between holding onto her values or finally finding some comfort in selling out.
All of these decision-making points are placed in the particularly soul-sucking zeitgeist of online culture, which Mythic Quest doubles down on this season — Hollywood actors, NFTs, manipulative consumer practices, meaningless job titles surrounding “diversification” and “management.” While Mythic Quest doesn’t have much to say about these practices individually, its whole point seems to be that a lot of modern entertainment industries and even modernized workplaces (the kinds that offer snacks and break rooms but insist you work on Christmas) are inherently soul-sucking and nonsensical — and yet we are asked to give our blood, sweat, and tears (and in creative spaces, our most heartfelt artistic creations) to the machine.
Mythic Quest is earnest and interesting and works really hard to be on-the-pulse — but this final goal is sometimes its downfall. While it’s far from an unfunny show, with the most absurd characters or character traits continuing to work well — the pathetic executive producer David Brittelsby (David Hornsby) or the unnecessarily cutthroat executive assistant Jo (Jessie Ennis) shine as always — sometimes Mythic Quest can fall so deeply into the trap of trying to say something that it forgets to value its comedic center. Fortunately, its well-developed characters and sincere attempts at doing something fresh with an interesting comedic hybridization of workplace gags and artistic egos makes it thoroughly watchable regardless.