“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” is an old-school workplace comedy, set behind the scenes of a multiplayer online role-playing game. It airs on Apple TV+, so its vision of tech-sector dysfunction might demonstrate capitalism’s deftness at absorbing critique. The show addresses anxieties about digital tyranny with a few satirical pinpricks, in the course of unevenly excavating humor from open-plan angst, casual sexism, and inadequate management skills; it’s most powerful when dealing in pettiness.
The success of the game “Mythic Quest,” which is posited as the most popular such entertainment in the history of human endeavor, defines the stakes of the show, and the tenor of the game play—seen in flashes of botched world-building, goofy glitches, and heavy-metal digital mayhem—reflects the tone of the office environment. The M.Q. team is led by Ian Grimm, played by Rob McElhenney (who created the show alongside Charlie Day and Megan Ganz), who wears a beard evocative of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and a stack of leather bracelets that could belong to some boho tech-bro tribal warlord. To see him swagger into his office is to know that he has been told too often that he is a visionary. This particular compound of grandiosity and insecurity is an artisanal microbrew, and McElhenney does good work clowning his eyebrows into attitudes expressive of pure contempt and unsteady comprehension.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Ian spends his days fending off the best ideas of Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), his chief programmer; forming strategic alliances with a worm-spined project manager (David Hornsby); and tending to the demands of his ego. The series picks up as a long-planned expansion of the game is set to launch, and Ian, undermining the competency of his underlings, decides to introduce a further new element to the relaunch. It is a shovel—a blunt object that each main character wields strong feelings about, revealing the sweet silliness at the heart of the show.
Ian imagines the shovel as a resource to give players the power to alter the landscape of their fantasies. We understand it as a Michael Scott-like bit of meddling. Soon, as predicted, the players are employing these nonsensical shovels to dig penis-shaped trenches. Later, a superstar gaming streamer—a fourteen-year-old whose handle is Pootie Shoe—is wooed to rave about the development to his audience: “exploding people’s heads with this thing is straight fire.” Ultimately—in an early indication of the fine, old-fashioned, morally improving sappiness of “Mythic Quest”—Ian and Poppy reach a compromise in time for an on-the-beat resolution. Though the characters are ill-tempered, the show comprises generally good-natured tales of competing egos and angry compromises. F. Murray Abraham plays a faded genre novelist—at one point, he holds the trophy commemorating his Nebula award as if brandishing some rusty amulet—whose job is to sit around Joseph Campbelling together narratives for the game. His own narrative function is to be a kind of cuddly mascot; the show sighs at his treacly invocations of “the power of story.”
Both the show and the game are indoor sports. If characters leave the office, it is only to materialize in another sterile space—the floor of a convention center or the headquarters of a competitor. There are, through ten half-hour episodes, no exterior shots to speak of or any domestic interiors at all—we have no idea where these people go when they storm out in a huff. This choice seems less like a matter of conservative budgeting than of thematic unity. These people have no lives outside of work; the only romance in sight concerns one game tester’s slow-boil crush on another, who tries hard to focus on her job, explaining, “We should probably get back to work because, you know, they track our eyeballs.” The clammy atmosphere is key to the critique.
Many of the show’s darkest moments arrive by way of a new assistant named Jo (Jessie Ennis), who pairs a mouse-brown demeanor with a white-fang ferocity of mind. She’s the one consistent voice of lunatic viciousness in a series that sometimes treats sociopathic behavior as a charming foible. Attracted to drama, seeming to fancy herself a native citizen of a fantasy universe, she exemplifies the mean streak of “Mythic Quest” and adds an interesting strangeness. The show gains a curious texture for seeming, often, like a fondly teasing commentary on people who use “Game of Thrones” as a lens for understanding their own cubicle intrigues.