MYTHIC QUEST: RAVEN'S BANQUET / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: ROB McELHENNEY, CHARLIE DAY, MEGAN GANZ / WHERE TO WATCH: APPLE TV+
Anyone who’s even vaguely connected to the videogames industry will tell you that making videogames is hard. And anyone who’s ever worked in media will tell you that sticking a bunch of creative types in a working environment will always create friction. Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet uses both of these things to create a short yet complete comedy series, and it’s very funny in lots of different ways. It’s the story of the people who make a very popular online game, namely Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.
On the face of it, we have a typical office comedy set-up, with unusual and overly-dramatic characters. Rob McElhenney plays Ian Grimm, a narcissistic creative director who pronounces his first name ‘Iron’ and seems to genuinely believe he’s God’s gift to gaming. Charlotte Nicdao is Poppy, the person who actually makes the game and the only sane one in the office, and so on. The rest of the cast include an overworked and underappreciated office manager, a psychotic personal assistant, a comically greedy executive and a has-been writer who pines for his youth.
Particular highlights include the story arc about two games testers who may or may not have feelings for each other and the fact that one of the plot McGuffins is a Nebula Award of all things, something that feels like a gag that only a few will get, but those who do will find it hilarious.
None of these characters are terribly likeable, but they are funny. The main dynamic is the constant struggle between doing the right thing in the right way, or doing something is a seemingly crazy and creative way that might solve the issue, or it might not. The first three episodes cover predictable issues you might find with a games company – launching new products, rinsing money out of players and dealing with online Nazis who want to ruin the game for everyone. All of these issues are dealt with in a roundabout but funny way. The comedy is uneven as it tries to give the audience a little bit of everything, but it mostly works.
Be warned, however - the fourth episode, “Dark Quiet Death,” has an entirely different cast, serving as a back story of sorts for the series. It feels like a different show and it’s emotionally powerful and sad. It colours the remaining episodes, shifting the focus to something more heartfelt, yet still funny. With only nine episodes in total, it’s a bold shift in tone, but one that works.
As an office drama comedy heavily influenced by the games industry, it’s quite good. But taken as a comedy drama about how co-operative creative processes change and drive relationships, it’s on another level. Worth a watch.