David, forced to work with a prima donna actor to develop the Mythic Quest movie, receives a confidence boost from Jo. Poppy and Dana set out to boost Poppy’s confidence before a big, expensive presentation. Ian feels lost now that he’s admitted he and Poppy aren’t working anymore. And Phil finally finds a way to feel important.
It’s another stellar outing with the amazing cast of this fantastic Apple TV+ comedy.
Mythic Quest recap: ‘The Year of Phil’
Season 3, episode 9: In the episode, entitled “The Year of Phil,” David (played by David Hornsby) is scanning actor Joe Manganiello for his CGI entry into the Mythic Quest movie. David is shocked to hear that part of Manganiello’s conception of the character of Mythic Quest protagonist The Masked Man involves never taking off the mask. David panics. What’s the point of having a celebrity in the lead role if people can’t see his face?
Jo (Jessie Ennis) doesn’t know how to help David, so she calls in Ian (Rob McElhenney) for backup. He’s free now that he’s too afraid and ashamed to go back to the Grim Pop offices after his blowout with Poppy. He decides to go in to talk to Manganiello. The plan is to get him to take off the mask for the part, but Manganiello is such a huge fan of Ian and his game that the actor disarms him immediately. The mask stays on — especially after Ian autographs it for him. Soon they’re wearing motion-capture suits and complimenting each other.
David gets sick of Ian and kicks him out — and something impossible happens: David intimidates him. The fight with Poppy has erased Ian’s confidence. Then David turns on Jo and, as he’s berating her, Jo presses the intercom so Manganiello thinks David is yelling at him. The actor quickly falls in line.
Poppy’s big pitch
Elsewhere, Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) and Dana (Imani Hakim) run their pitch for Poppy’s game-builder Playpen to the Mythic Quest testers (Ben Stillwell and Austin Zajur). Dana’s concerned that without Ian in the room for the pitch meeting with the investor, without his confidence and charisma, Poppy’s going to be a nervous wreck.
In fact, she gets hives even during the dummy presentation. Dana tries to talk to Poppy about how to be confident.
“Try and think about nothing for 10 seconds,” Dana says.
“All I hear is screaming,” Poppy replies.
Carol (Naomi Ekperigin) is also making a presentation, to the newest group of hirees. She’s giving insane descriptions of Rachel (Ashly Burch), Brad (Danny Pudi) and Phil (Derek Waters) that make them sound like they were all a hair’s breadth from death when she discovered them.
Why’s everyone so young around here?
Then, Phil realizes that he finally has something he can use to his advantage to get back at the office that has taken him for granted for so long: Mythic Quest doesn’t hire anyone over 40. He plans to start a class-action lawsuit and take the company down over its ageist hiring policies.
Carol panics, knowing this will reflect poorly on her, so Brad and Rachel bail her out. They hire two new game testers (Michael Naughton and Andrew Friedman) who are both over 40. There goes Phil’s lawsuit — and his momentary endorphin rush.
Poppy and Dana head to the meeting and it goes very well … except that the company they’re pitching to is the same one Poppy turned down weeks ago when they tried to buy Hera. Dana is incredulous.
“I was being confident!” Poppy says.
“That’s not confident,” Dana replies, “that’s psychotic!”
“OH MY GOD WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE,” Poppy says.
The company doesn’t want Playpen, and the execs make the very compelling argument that no one will want to buy it.
Charlotte Nicdao and the perfection of Poppy Li
I never get tired of singing Charlotte Nicdao’s praises for her performance in the role of Poppy Li. And this week’s presentation scene offers a window into why. Nicdao goes from smooth and engaged to shrieking and hysterical in a second flat. She’s just so good at playing this part. Her burlesque of Ian and Dana’s confidence is funny as usual, having no clue how the people who get all green lights in life behave.
I love the little glimpses into Poppy’s life we get by way of the interrogations the other characters give her. Her describing her diet to Dana is great. When she’s told that Playpen would have to have 12 million players to break even, someone asks if she even has 12 friends, let alone 12 million. She can’t argue.
Brad and Jo’s sociopathic camaraderie is also good value. The two of them are both uber-confident and yet so over-calculating that the simplest tasks become like military interventions. Their joint deviousness has no place in the real world, and the more they spend time together the more antisocial they become. It’s very cute.
Something fun to lighten last week’s heavy vibe
This week necessarily has to be a comedown from last week’s episode, which contained the most draining sequence of the season, maybe even more so than the scene of young Ian being dragged away from his mother because the context wasn’t as deep. (We’re not always encouraged to see Ian’s humanity first.)
Watching Ian become a monster for a moment because he’s feeling let down (just like he did as a kid) was harrowing stuff, especially when we saw him take it out on Poppy, who nevertheless stood up for herself. It’d be tough to top it.
We needed a fairly painless episode of Mythic Quest as a palate cleanser, and this week’s episode more than fills the bill. Funny, breezy and cute as a box full of rats.
Watch Mythic Quest on Apple TV+
New episodes of the third season of Mythic Quest arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.