Saturday, May 30, 2020

5 Reasons You Should Watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet [Contributor: Jenn]

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People have talked for years about “peak TV.” Ever since streaming services entered the television game with their own content — and more and more services seem to be popping up every few months — the amount of television we have to consume grows steadily. It’s incredibly commonplace for someone I know to say, “Have you seen this show?” and for me to have no idea that it, or the streaming service it debuted on, even existed. One of my neglected streaming services recently has been Apple TV+. Admittedly, once I finished watching Dickinson, I decided to quit the service to save some money. I returned to Apple TV+ recently to watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet and Defending Jacob (the latter of which is incredibly intense and great).

And obviously, I adored Mythic Quest. This quiet ensemble comedy about a video game of the same name is co-created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz (all of whom have worked together on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). It stars McElenney as Ian, the creator of the popular video game Mythic Quest. He’s selfish, narcissistic, and charming with a secret softness to him — essentially he’s the perfect leading man! But because this is truly an ensemble comedy, the show wouldn’t work without its plethora of characters: from the intelligent, driven lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) to the David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby), the “straight man” in a lot of the Mythic Quest madness, to selfish bottom line-obsessed Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi).

Let’s break down what makes Mythic Quest such a special show and why you should take a day this coming week (the season is only nine episodes, with the 10th being the quarantine special) to binge-watch it.

5. They addressed COVID-19 in a brilliant, powerful episode.

I’ll do my best to not give too many things away, but if you choose to watch Mythic Quest this week, check out a few of the articles about how the show pulled off an impressive quarantine episode with 40 new iPhones, AirPods, and virtual instructions from the crew to the actors (like how to make sure the lighting and sound was correct). Mythic Quest’s content lends itself to this kind of episode: it’s easy to imagine these characters feeling different things during quarantine, with C.W (F. Murray Abraham) trying to figure out all the technology involved and Jo (Jessie Ennis) growing increasingly frustrated and Carol (Naomi Ekperigen) trying to balance her children and her coworkers who... well, act like children. Since Mythic Quest is all about video games and the industry, this episode managed to incorporate coding, technology, and video gaming seamlessly.

But while the episode was funny, the most important thing to me was the deep, emotional heart behind it. Quarantine affects us all differently — some characters like Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashly Burch) are dealing with it fairly well, continuing their jobs of testing video games and occasionally doing some fun virtual activities. Eventually they and Lou (Craig Mazin) are the ones who spearhead the department-wide virtual Rube Goldberg machine. But one person is struggling in quarantine: Poppy. She has no friends outside of work, and all her family is presumably thousands of miles away in Australia. The most powerful part of the episode is when Ian realizes that Poppy isn’t doing well at all. And he does something about it. The Ian/Poppy heart of Mythic Quest is something I really love; they’re fundamentally different characters and he can pretty much be an egotistical jerk most of the time. But he cares about her. And he goes out of his comfort zone in this episode to make sure she’s okay.

Seriously, once you binge the episodes of Mythic Quest, be sure to stay tuned for this one.

Mythic Quest – GeekedT

4. It’s an ensemble comedy with an array of talent.

I already mentioned that this ensemble is stacked with talent, but it bears repeating. There’s not a weak link among them, and each brings their own brand of comedy to the performances. Obviously Rob McElhenny is a comedic powerhouse, but Charlotte Nicdao provides a perfect compliment to his particular brand of comedy. All of the actors on the show have impeccable comedic timing, but they also are super great at physical comedy. David Hornsby is hilarious as the often anguished and exasperated leader of the team, trying to corral the chaos that happens at Mythic Quest. It’s right up his alley as a comedic actor, and I love it. But even the characters who aren’t often at the forefront like the video game testers get the opportunity to shine. The show mixes up the character pairings in order to provide some fun interactions (I want more of C.W. hanging out with Rachel next season, or scenes with Poppy and Brad because they’re always fun). Speaking of Brad, please enjoy how talented Danny Pudi is and how great it is to see him in the role of a smug jerk. Brad is so vastly different from Community's Abed but that just means Pudi is talented. (Like any of us doubted that, right?)

In addition to the stellar main cast, there’s a special flashback episode called “A Dark Quiet Death,” in which no main Mythic Quest character appears until the very end. The episode stars the incredible Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti. And they truly do immense work as the flashback episode traverses through many years in the relationship between their characters, Doc and Bean. Normally in a show with only nine normal episodes, I’d critique the choice to spend one of those episodes focused on people who aren’t the main cast members. But truly, this episode isn’t a throwaway; not only is it an incredibly well-told, emotional story but something important in it comes back in the season finale, “Blood Ocean.”

This cast is so very great and I absolutely adore what each of them bring to the table.

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3. There are developed, nuanced female characters.

Speaking of the incredible ensemble, this show features an array of female characters. And each of them gets the chance to be developed over the course of the season! In addition to the main cast of Poppy (who gets the chance to grow as a person and a leader), Jo (who adds some hilariousness and eccentricity; she always goes too far with things!), Rachel (she gets to be developed so much!), and Dana (who goes from being a tester to a streamer in her own arc), there are also characters like Michelle, Carol, and Sue who round out the world of Mythic Quest.

Mythic Quest is a show about video games and the gaming industry which, of course, means that it addresses the topic of women in gaming with frequency and poise. There are actually a few episodes that highlight the issue, with “The Convention” being a prominent one because it tackles the topic of women in gaming head-on (and features a really great little speech by Dana). 

Mythic Quest knows its audience — it’s self-aware enough to realize that men still dominate the video game industry (the in-joke of David makes of how many men there are working at the office was apt) and that there are lots of men in their own cast. But with one female showrunner and quite a few female writers (most of the episodes are either written or co-written by women, including Megan Ganz), Mythic Quest demonstrates that it doesn’t just give lip service to female characters but truly values women in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The women are allowed to be diverse, not just in ethnicity or sexual orientation but in personality. There are female characters who are creative, some who are quirky, some very meek, and some outspoken. I've always loved Megan Ganz as a writer, but I can feel her presence as a showrunner strongly throughout the first season, especially in this area.

I appreciate when television shows are able to depict women in realistic ways, and feel that a lot of shows could learn from Mythic Quest’s example.

2. It incorporates fun, video game and technology elements.

“Mythic Quest: Quarantine” was a perfect example of how shows could use technology to their advantage. The episode features little technological references to face filters, phone calls, Zoom-like teleconferences, and more. But Mythic Quest in general features so many video game references and scenes. There’s an entire episode that features a video game battle royale between Ian and a masked character, and since the show’s storylines revolve around playing the titular video game, fixing its bugs, or developing new features, we get to actually see the video game. It’s something really cool and it makes the show feel unique in the way it strikes the balance between real people and animation.

I’m not even a video game person and I absolutely loved the incorporation of the video game and technological elements, so that should tell you something! (Hopefully.)

1. Its humor is rooted in the characters, and its heart is sincere.

I should mention, of course, that this show is so dang funny. It made me laugh multiple times throughout the season, and even the pilot is strong (not something that often happens because of the nature of pilots). But the humor is rooted in the characters and the heart of the show. Often comedies will go for punchlines just for the sake of punchlines. But not Mythic Quest; this is a show that knows the humor comes from the characters, their fundamental differences, and what those differences can lead to.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how grounded this show is in emotion though too. I’ve watched too many shows throughout my lifetime that are cynical; they believe people are the worst, and their comedy is rooted in some sort of darkness. But Mythic Quest is an optimistic comedy; yes, some characters are jerks and might always be jerks (like Brad), but some characters are jerks who take a while to do the right thing, but eventually do (like Ian). One of the most beautiful things is that the characters have real, honest conversations with each other. It acknowledges that relationships are difficult, whether romantic, platonic, or familial, but that they’re ultimately worth pursuing. I love that “A Dark Quiet Death” made me tear up, and that “Brendan” and “Mythic Quest: Quarantine” made me cry. Like... sob. The show is not just funny; it’s also incredibly heartfelt and earnest, tapping into the audience's feelings deftly. The characters grow and change, and they all genuinely care about one another. More than just that, however, those emotional conversations and moments feel earned. They’re not hollow, cynical, or rushed; they’re truly powerful in how sincere they are. And that makes Mythic Quest so special — it's a perfect blend of comedy and heart.

Have you watched Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet yet? Check it out on Apple TV+, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


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