What to Watch Verdict
A winner of a penultimate episode that hits the emotional and funny notes that make 'Mythic Quest' sing.
⚔️Seeing how all the various threads are coming together.
⚔️It is really great to be back at the MQ office after two weeks away.
⚔️Charlotte Nicdao edges closer to being crowned this season's MVP.
⚔️The final scene and song choice.
⚔️The obituary C.W. wrote is hilarious.
⚔️Some of the David, Jo, and Brad jokes still don't quite land.
Regret tied to creative conflict is a theme that has coursed its way through the first two seasons of workplace comedy Mythic Quest. Flashbacks have explored how on the road to success, relationships have been left in tatters as a result of ambition, pride, and ego. The last two episodes are dedicated to events in C.W.’s (F. Murray Abraham) past that resulted in triumph followed by years languishing in the drug and booze-fueled weeds. His is a cautionary tale for Ian (Rob McElhenney) and Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), who have spent most of Season 2 working on the separate halves of the new expansion.
It has been a couple of weeks since we last saw them (beyond the 2015 flashback in “Backstory!”) when Ian cruelly told her, “I don’t believe in you and you will fail without me. And the best part of it is, you know it too.” He was upset that Poppy responded to his rare display of vulnerability by ignoring the work aspect of the question, instead, her answer is that she is afraid of singing in public. Ian’s perfectly crafted image is armor against the notion that Mythic Quest might be his one good idea, a fluke that he can never replicate. He is so used to everyone telling him yes and literally getting down on one knee that his vision is clouded by this lack of resistance. Meanwhile, Poppy loves to be bolstered by compliments but has a team telling her that the ambitious direction she wants to take is impossible. They compliment each other and this divide highlights how much this is the case.
The opening scene of “Juice Box” takes place during the big “Zeus” and “Hera” presentation to the entire staff and higher-ups at Montreal; Ian kicks it off with his killer commanding voice that instantly engages everyone. “Imagine a world built just for you,” is a pretty standard concept but he makes it sound alluring and brand new. Everyone claps enthusiastically before Poppy steps up with her actual revolutionary idea. Somehow she has figured out how to make it possible for permanent persistent changes aka if one player builds something it will then appear in every single player’s version of the game. Well, it initially seems like she has come up with something revolutionary until the presentation leads to the dreaded “blue screen of death” — my knowledge of computers is rudimentary, but as soon as this screen flashed up it sent a shudder down my spine. Poppy’s demonstration has not only taken down the system at the MQ headquarters but caused a worldwide shortage. “Nice work, Pop” is Ian’s unhelpful response to this failure to stick the landing.
Petty jealousy ruined what CW had with Peter and Anne, and the same could happen to Poppy and Ian if this continues. It has already been established that Poppy is not the most reasonable leader and 'girlboss' feminism is something Mythic Quest eloquently skewered earlier in the season. She is a terrible mentor to Dana (Imani Hakim) — who has essentially had to figure out the Grouchy Goat coding issues by herself — and treated her like an assistant and one-woman pep squad. Poppy is kind of a monster, but this unapologetic attitude is what makes her such a fascinating character, and foil for Ian. They do make each other better, however, their inability to say how they feel has turned a small rift into a cavern. It will need to take something monumental to close this gulf, and David (David Hornsby) interrupts her debrief (or blaming session) with her team the following day to tell her that Ian had a heart attack and is in the hospital. Before David came in, Poppy has been told to “aim lower” and the concept of settling is not in her creative lexicon.
There’s nothing quite like a medical emergency to put matters into perspective and Ian apologizes for being mean before asking her to stay. He ponders if his heart attack is a result of his passion, but the doctor reveals what he actually experienced was fainting due to dehydration and not eating enough. She prescribes him a juice box (and has also refilled his hair pills) and Poppy is furious at Ian for making her come all the way down to the hospital because of his vanity (or so she presumes). It is still a moment of clarity that opens the floor for honesty and he asks what she thinks of Zeus. She calls it derivative, unimaginative, and lazy before landing on “it’s shit.” She remarks that it lacks the creativity of when he normally fakes his way through work. This whole season has been building to this argument and it doesn’t disappoint. The moment Poppy didn’t engage sincerely during Carol’s (Naomi Ekperigin) HR test is a fork in this road, but it is actually Poppy’s choice to put battle royale into the game that Ian views as the catalyst. There is time to get back on track but first, they need to let this fury out.
Earlier, Poppy observes that this is a side of Ian she has never seen before and that he looks like a scared little boy — the stuffed toy helps enhance this imagery. He later throws this back in her face and calls her a scared little girl before tearily telling her to get out. At this same moment, he calls her his best friend, and Ian’s fragility has never been clearer. Before Poppy finds out he didn’t have a heart attack, he has requested that she will rub his head and talk to him while he sleeps. Similar to how Ian came to Poppy’s aid in “Quarantine,” she does return to complete the task she promised she would. After she apologizes, she conquers her biggest fear by singing a lullaby her father used to comfort her. Of course, Ian undercuts this lovely gesture by asking her to sing something in English. “Rainbow Connection” is her song of choice (and gets Ian’s approval) and it should be noted that at two points earlier in the episode, bars from this iconic song bridged scenes. Poppy is not the best singer and her version of this track is accompanied by Willie Nelson’s take, and it is a wonderful duet. From the looks of the closing scene, Poppy and Ian are not going into the finale with C.W.’s fate about to play out.
Speaking of C.W., he makes his return to his MQ office, and it seems like they are still limiting how many actors Abraham interacts with due to Covid protocols (which is totally understandable). He talks to David about the obituary Ian asked him to write, which offers a hilarious chance to hear what Ian wanted to be written about himself (“age unknown”) and highlights that Ian designs his own clothes — which is such a funny detail considering how limited his closet is. It gives David further perspective on how much people walk over him when he asks C.W. to come up with a dedication for him. C.W. says that pre-written obits are normally for titans of industry (like Ian), however, he does commends David for being aspirational about what he wants to include in his. This scene is an additional reminder that David is not taken seriously by anyone after he has told Brad (Danny Pudi) about his ex-wife kicking him out of the condo he paid for.
The Brad, Jo, David dynamic continues to resemble exes in the office and while these jokes still don’t really work for me, to see Jo (Jessie Ennis) this confident of her shark status before the later revelation is pretty funny — costume designer Sabrina Rosen continues to dress Jo in amazing florals. She thinks Brad is pathetic and gleefully tells him that she has been working with Zack (Parvesh Cheena) and his advice to buy stocks before the mobile game launches are going to make her rich. Unfortunately for Jo, this is a felon and Brad is not only right about his brother’s underhand methods but he is pretty smug that Jo has been tricked into insider trading.
While most characters are floundering in the present, Dana and Rachel (Ashly Burch) are thriving. Not only is Grouchy Goat moving but thanks to Rachel’s adventure with C.W. she has figured out what she wants to do. While the experience itself was painful, Peter’s book helped her narrow her creative ambition. Yes, his book had major issues with language and tone, but she still fell in love with the lead character and she wants to do that. It made her cry at the end, which feels rather meta considering how many times Mythic Quest has this impact (I have cried at the end of the last three episodes). An ideal writing course is available in Berkeley but she worries this is stalkerish or suffocating to Dana who has already applied to study here. Dana shuts her up with a kiss and this romance continues to be a sweet story amid the more acerbic and bitter narratives about working in this industry.
The finale has a lot to wrap up including Jo’s accident crime and what the co-creative directors will do to please Montreal. Poppy and Ian have resolved their issues, but Hera and Zeus are still two very different halves to what is meant to be the same Mythic Quest expansion. Thankfully, their connection appears stronger than ever and they have once again banished the darkness in an emotional and funny penultimate episode.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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