A Dark Quiet Death
Having rampaged through series after series during lockdown (well… rampaged as much as parents of a 9 month old can) I finally bit the bullet and paid for a month of Apple TV+. The main reason for doing so is so my wife and I can watch Ted Lasso but a delightful little extra is that I’ve finally been able to watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet created by Charlie Day, Megan Ganz and Rob McElhenney.
There’s so much to love about the show, if you’re a fan of It’s Always Sunny you’re going to laugh a lot and even if you’re not I still think there’s a good chance you’re going to warm to the characters and invest in the narrative. Many of the writers are names you might recognise from the FX show’s long-run but they’re working different muscles and giving the audience more of a chance to warm to the characters and not such strong reasons to disassociate (MQ’s pandemic episode is particularly sweet).
One thing that It’s Always Sunny and Mythic Quest share is a willingness to play with tone and form. Episode 5 ‘A Dark Quiet Death’ features (almost) none of MQ’s main cast and instead shows the life-cycle of a completely different game. Written by Katie McElhenney, the tone feels different, the jokes are pushed aside in place of dramatic beats and what we’re left with is an almost indie movie version of Mythic Quest - kind of like something from a different dimension. I’d say it’s even stronger than It’s Always Sunny’s more gimmicky episodes as unlike IASIP it has a 30+ minute run-time to explore all of its ideas, you could genuinely watch this and enjoy it without Mythic Quest existing.
It doesn’t feel self-indulgent though. ‘A Dark Quiet Death’ isn’t necessary to follow the plot of the series but what it offers is a deeper understanding of video games as a creative process. All of the themes from Episode 5 play out across the rest of the season in various forms (art vs commerce, colleagues v friends/lovers, work v family), and because we’ve witnessed this start and endpoint we feel them deeper. It also ties nicely into the finale, an extra detail that makes the whole piece feel complete.
I spend lots of time thinking about series lengths (22,13,10,6 episodes) and I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. What streamers and US cable networks have allowed with their less restrictive episode orders are episodes like this and Bojack Horseman’s underwater episode. Episodes that you wouldn’t get if tied to 6 or exhausted by having to do 22. What if Stath Lets Flats was punctuated by a middle episode about a couple falling apart as they try to move house constantly thwarted by their awful never-seen letting company? What if the US Office was able to do an episode about Vance Refrigeration and show the impact of working alongside Dunder Mifflin? I’m not saying either of these are particularly great ideas but you don’t get slices of genius like ‘A Dark Quiet Death’ without the ability to take this kind of risk.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is streaming on Apple TV+ now with Series 2 coming in May!