Turning video games into movies and TV is notoriously difficult, and telling scripted stories about the people who make video games is even harder. There's Code Monkeys (actually pretty decent, mostly because the people who made it loved games). There's Dads (the horrendous, racist, sexist Seth Green sitcom). And there's Good Game (a mediocre esports web series produced by Dan Harmon). Now, there's Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, a perfectly serviceable workplace sitcom from Apple TV+ that looks like The Sopranos compared to what came before it.
Light spoilers for Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet below 🎮
From the creative minds behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (the filthiest and funniest show that's now somehow owned by Disney), Mythic Quest is the latest addition to Apple TV+. It's funny, though nowhere near as funny as Always Sunny (Apple's no Disney, but there's apparently a limit to the amount of cursing and sex jokes Tim Cook will allow) and packs a surprising amount of heart.
Mythic Quest also does an impressive job of tackling various issues in the gaming world, from streaming influencers to internet Nazis and developer crunch to the way trolls target female gamers. It's all there, and it's mostly handled with care and depth, at least as much as the nine-episode sitcom season format will allow.
In its first season (Apple's already reached into its Scrooge McDuck vault to renew for Season 2), Mythic Quest explores the ups and (mostly) downs of making a massively popular online game. That game, also called Mythic Quest, is basically a World of Warcraft knockoff.
The story begins on the eve of a major in-game update called "Raven's Banquet," and while CEO and company founder Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) tinkers with the final details and obsesses over how to turn a new shovel item into a kickass weapon, the team surrounding him twists themselves into knots trying to satisfy him. That includes Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), a put-upon head developer desperate for recognition and approval; David (David Hornsby), who's gone from playing a priest-turned-beggar on Sunny to an inept office manager in Mythic Quest; and chief financial officer Brad (Danny Pudi in his most ruthless role yet). F. Murray Abraham somehow slips into the cast too as C.W. Longbottom, an aging, drunk sci-fi novelist hired to write the game's cutscenes.
Mythic Quest is an ensemble show where everyone shines (there's also a couple of video game testers, various coders, and even a recurring teenage streamer whose reviews the company tracks obsessively), but at the center of it all is McElhenney. After playing an idiotic, perpetually confused, and totally unlovable bar co-owner and wannabe tough guy on It's Always Sunny for so many years, it's impressive to see the actor play a different kind of an asshole here.
He's less delusional but even more narcissistic. He's smarter, more manipulative, and way more hateable. McElhenney's greatest strength has always been making those around him look good by comparison, and he nails it.
Despite being Apple's first straightforward comedy, Mythic Quest is rarely laugh-out-loud funny. There's plenty of gags, and you'll smirk all day while you binge through this breezily watchable first season. But looking back, I can't remember a single joke. What I do remember are the characters and the emotional moments that tied them together. Charlotte Nicdao, in particular, shines as the true beating heart of the company and the only person who cares enough to work all night on someone else's vision, even while she considers the greener pastures of a cushier, corporate gig.
The best episode of Mythic Quest isn't about the game at all. Instead, halfway through the season, the show offers up a bottle episode about a different company entirely. Episode 5, "A Dark Quiet Death," introduces us to two new characters (played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti) who meet, fall in love, create a popular indie game, and then watch their creation lose all meaning as it's ripped apart by capitalism. A decade's worth of plot plays out in 20 minutes, never missing an emotional beat. It's an impressive bit of storytelling that makes the main plot of Mythic Quest look a little less vibrant by comparison.
"A Dark Quiet Death" is proof that the team behind Mythic Quest is capable of greatness, and I'm optimistic that Season 2 will be even better — especially if Apple lets them go a little raunchier with the comedy. In the meantime, enjoy Season 1, it's the best (fictional) story about the people who make video games we've got. And that's saying something.
Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet premieres February 7 on Apple TV+.