The AppleTV+ series makes its characters pulling Icaruses over and over damn funny.
One of the hardest things in television is creating the impression of change without breaking the show or making it feel like half-assed window dressing. That’s the problem facing Mythic Quest at the start of Season 3.
The end of Mythic Quest Season 2 sent Ian (Rob McElhenney) and Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) off on their own to blaze new trails as GrimPop. (No relation to comic book convention conglomerate ReedPop or the big-headed friends known as Funko Pops.) Rachel (Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim) are out, too. Brad (Danny Pudi) has spent months in jail. David (David Hornsby) is fully in charge, with Jo (Jessie Ennis) as his assistant once again. Carol (Naomi Ekperigin) has risen in the ranks to a point where her job doesn’t even make sense to her anymore. By the end of episode 1 of this season, C.W. (F. Murray Abraham) has a new status quo, too. With everyone spread to the wind, what even is Mythic Quest anymore?
The series cracks that problem by pulling the teen drama approach. In much the same way everyone ends up at one college after high school graduation in those shows, no one strays too far from Mythic Quest despite the big changes. However, Megan Ganz, Hornsby, McElhenney, and the rest of the writing team don’t make this just an easy solution or a neutral situation. Instead, it quietly speaks to the gravitational pull trapping these characters in familiar patterns. Even as they convince themselves they’re blazing new trails, all paths seem to lead back to the same place.
As the season progresses, the sense of inescapability deepens. Over and over, the audience sees the characters try and fail to make the big play, to reach for something the fundamental aspects of themselves will almost certainly derail. Whether it is David’s attempts to be an assertive boss or Ian trying to move from idea man to man who supports Poppy’s ideas, they repeatedly let themselves and others down.
Then, in episode 7, “Sarian,” viewers get a flashback story about how the big and small failures of adults inevitably shape the lives of the children in their lives. It is a bittersweet standalone that explores the pain of being different as a child and how adults supporting or discouraging your interests end up screwing you either way.
Season 3 also happens to be very funny, too. Just to be clear.
There’s a humanity informing the humor that lets the creators dash their characters’ hopes… without the show ever feeling like a painful slog or a gross shrine to misery.
That’s what’s so interesting and compelling about it. All this failure and pessimism surrounds Mythic Quest Season 3, but it somehow never corrupts it. The laughs it earns are numerous and varied: silly, witty, pratfalls, the occasional bodily function joke…they do it all. What the series doesn’t traffic in is sour jokes or nihilism. Rather, there’s a humanity informing their humor. That allows the creators dash their characters’ hopes time and again without the show ever feeling like a painful slog or a gross shrine to misery.
Not everything is perfect. For example, the show is a little more enamored with the comedic potential of GrimPop’s “line-less” office than it ever really makes work. Also, the end of the season rushes to the ending status quo. Still, these are relatively minor quibbles with a season that feels as grounded as Mythic Quest ever has. And it does it without losing its gift for comedy or the occasional nearly cartoonish gag. Somehow, the series manages to give that illusion of change well enough to make Mythic Quest one worth sticking with.
Mythic Quest Season 3 dons its VR headset beginning November 11 on AppleTV+.