Each thing is bound to be someone’s first. If you head off to a restaurant and have a steak that ranks squarely in the middle of your lifetime of consuming steaks, there’s probably someone else there having their first one. And out of a ranking of one, that’s the best steak.
That’s kind of the case with Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. While the setting may be fresh and new with its completely modern video game studio, the story and the jokes are the same as they’ve ever been for a workplace comedy. It manages to use that setting to shine a light on rarely discussed (outside of the video game industry, anyway) topics, yes, but enduring tired, well-worn humor is an arduous experience if you’re at all familiar with them.
And you most likely will be. Creative director Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) is a blowhard, a tyrant, and generally an idiot. And it’s not just because they’re working to put out the first expansion to the world’s largest MMO Mythic Quest; he’s just always taking credit for other people’s ideas and holding himself in the highest pretentious regard despite showing nothing but incompetence. If that doesn’t strike you as tried and true, then welcome to your first workplace sitcom.
I mean that with a generous amount of sincerity. If you don’t see the legacy of The IT Crowd and The Office and whatnot streaking through this show, then this probably is your first one. Those shows aren’t even that old, and they were also reusing tropes and clichés and archetypes from the offices and bosses before them. You can even draw direct connections between large portions of the cast composition with the only recently ended Silicon Valley.
How many more times will we have to see employees groan at a supervisor’s catchphrase or genders misalign with outlandish miscommunications? Any other socially awkward programmers or impossibly loyal assistants you want to see? It’s especially striking when we have contemporary comparisons in how to update and subvert these sorts of ideas, like with The Morning Show.
Or even within itself! In its fifth episode, a standout self-contained story about an indie studio crumbling and compromising over the course of a decade of meddling and betrayal, we are treated to something thoroughly intriguing. It doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the show at all, but more undeniably creative and courageous storytelling moments like that and this show could have been something.
There are some bright spots among the studio, though. Namely C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham), Grimm’s favorite writer from his childhood but now a clinically disconnected has-been. He’s out of touch in myriad ways, and they all tend to manifest in both heartbreaking and laugh-inducing ways. Seeing him unknowingly pitch Star Wars is objectively fantastic.
There are also things to appreciate outside of the uninspired characters, all of which boil down to the writers clearly having a strong grasp of the current climate in gaming. (That, or a proclivity to research one of the most toxic and dangerous industries at the moment.) Obviously, they’re condensed for the sake of entertainment and efficiency, but they strike a chord nonetheless. Issues with gender equality and player entitlement are abound in this season.
There’s a streamer, for example, who is exactly that loud, brash “critic” that seems to garner fans for being loud and brash rather than a critic, but his words and deafening army drown out everything else. And then there’s the in-game monetization through pay-to-win schemes and the not-too-improbable desire to put a virtual casino into their categorically incompatible fantasy realm. It’s truly impressive how relevant the show is, if not necessarily punchy about it.
Case in point: Nazis and toxic male gamers. Rather than make any pointed statement about them other than they’re obviously bad and it’s kind of ridiculous that they even are around, it feels more like a straightforward observation of their existence. It would have been nice to see them use the absolutely biggest issue facing gaming today (i.e., a breeding ground for white nationalist recruitment) as something more than a passing gag.
But to its credit, the show does do at least one thing genuinely new within the combination of the new setting and the old structure. Unlike every other workplace comedy, it approaches its core endeavour as something worthwhile. Rather than having no opinion at all (Cheers) or looking down upon it (Workaholics), Mythic Quest kind of…reveres the creation process. Like, in the face of adversity and terrible bosses and horrible fans, it’s worth it.
To wit, it was nice to see the bit about the schoolgirls coming to visit and walking away inspired. It may be a bit sappy, but at least it’s earnest, and that’s pretty rare when it comes to comedies and their relationship with their premise and not their characters. It’s not enough to keep you on the hook if you’re looking for something meaty, but if you’re that someone that wants to experience their first workplace comedy, then this might be an acceptable place to start.
Final Score: 6 out of 10