Apple TV+ review: 'Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet' is funny and incisive
The latest series to launch on Apple TV+ is the service's first comedy series. It's a clever, sometimes hilarious look at life in the offices of a gaming company, and comes from the creative team behind "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
F. Murray Abraham, Danny Pudi, David Hornsby, Rob McElhenney and Charlotte Nicdao in "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet" (courtesy of Apple)
Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, the new Apple TV+ series that looks at life inside the company that makes a World of Warcraft-like video game, has a pedigree that's heavily associated with the long-running cable comedy series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Its star and co-creator is Rob McElhenney, who both co-created that series and has starred on it for its entire run, while the other two co-creators are another Sunny star, Charlie Day, and a veteran Sunny writer, Megan Ganz. David Hornsby, a longtime actor and producer on Sunny, is also in the cast, and other writers have made the jump to the new show as well, even though Always Sunny is still on the air and "will run forever," per McElhenney in a recent interview.
However, Mythic Quest's tone, style and general ethos couldn't possibly be more different from that of Sunny, a frequently ribald and scatological series about a gang of degenerates who congregate at a bar and engage in increasingly outrageous schemes.
The most obvious difference is that Mythic Quest is about people who are gainfully employed. It's also much more slickly produced, is set in a fancy office rather than a run-down bar, and it's on a completely different comedic wavelength. There's is some minor vulgarity, but nowhere on the level of Sunny. In fact, the series has more in common with HBO's recently concluded series Silicon Valley than it does with McElhenney's old show.
Based on the five episodes (out of nine) that we've seen, Mythic Quest is an entertaining and at times hilarious entry, with a deep cast that has obvious chemistry. The show actually has some useful things to say about the gaming world and the tech space in general. Just don't expect the same style of comedy you're used to from its creators.
Meet the team
The series is set in the development studio of Mythic Quest, a massively popular, World of Warcraft-like MMORPG that's just released its newest edition, called Raven's Quest. We even see occasional, professionally-produced footage of the game itself.
McElhenney, who has praised Apple executives for their contribution to the show, stars as Ian Grimm, the arrogant creator of the game, and just because the actor is playing a gaming CEO and not a barfly, he's still somewhat clueless- and also occasionally shirtless.
Hornsby, best known as punching bag Rickety Cricket on Sunny, plays Ian's insecure sidekick, Danny Pudi, best known from Community, is another executive, while Charlotte Nicdao is Poppy, the often put-upon lead programmer. Veteran actor F. Murray Abraham steals several scenes as CW Longbottom, a prolific author of fantasy novels, who hangs around the office despite being decades older than everyone else.
On the other end of the age spectrum, the company lives in constant fear of the disapproval of "Pootie Shoe" (Elisha Henig), a massively influential, 13-year-old video game streamer.
The main theme of the show, it appears, is the towering arrogance of the Ian Grimm character, and the rest of the staff's pushback against it. The series seems likely to follow Silicon Valley's structure in which the company wildly goes back and forth between things going great and massive disaster. The good news is, Mythic Quest makes better use of female characters in its premiere episode than Silicon Valley did for its first 2 or 3 seasons, including a will-they-or-won't-they plot between a pair of female game testers (Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim.)
Ban the Nazis?
The best episode of the ones we've seen, the third, has the company discovering that neo-Nazis are congregating inside their game.
That leads them into the dilemma faced by numerous tech companies these days, including Apple, as to how to balance free speech concerns with the imperative to keep dangerous extremists off their platform.
We see the team in a room, making a whiteboard list of "hate groups" that they may have to consider banning, only find that the groups- who include "cannibals," "suppressive persons," "anti-vaxxers," and "Juggalos."- add up to 92% of the game's players. It all ends with a smarter solution to the problem than any real-life tech company has pulled off to date.
The fourth episode, which features a Girls Who Code group visiting the company, forcing them to pretend they're a lot more feminist than they really are, isn't far behind, as one of the more incisive parodies yet of the "Lean In" style of corporate feminism.
The fifth episode, meanwhile, does that thing that a lot of TV shows have been doing of late- a whole episode set in the past, featuring characters outside the main cast (played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti), which asks us to wonder how it will tie in to the main plot. It's like a fascinating little short film about the tension between maintaining integrity and selling out.
The Quest continues
Apple has been less resistent than some feared, prior to the Apple TV+ launch, to including sexual and violent content. While the banter is much closer to PG-13 than on McElhenny's other show, there is some violence, most of it animated within the game. Also, as is to be expected in a show about the tech world, there are some Apple products shown, although there's not the case with all of the computers.
The series, which has already been renewed for a second season, is mostly successful, although it's unclear if it has a chance to break through in a way that the service's previous shows haven't yet.
Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet debuts February 7 on Apple TV+, with all nine episodes launching that day.