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Mythic Quest - Juice Box - Review: Rainbow Connections

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Poppy and Ian’s growing feud comes to a surprisingly vulnerable head this week on Mythic Quest. Read on for my review of “Juice Box”:

It’s come time for Poppy and Ian to Ian to present their individual parts of the expansion project to the “MQ” board. Ian, for his part, presents his half of the expansion, displaying a game trailer for a game I would actually want to play (unlike, I’m sorry to say, the unoriginal Fortnite/Minecraft clone we saw in the first season). His presentation receives plenty of positive feedback, but is quickly outshined by Poppy’s presentation. Poppy’s expansion is genuinely new and exciting, with a feature where if players build something, it exists in the game’s servers for everyone, everywhere. However, as she soaks in the applause for her hard work, Poppy’s demo of the game glitches out, crashing all the office’s servers and bestowing upon Poppy the dreaded “blue screen of death.”

After reading Peter Cromwell’s book, Rachel decides she wants to be a writer. Meanwhile, Dana has continued to work on her coding skills in hopes of getting into Berkeley. Putting together the pieces, Rachel comes to Dana and tells her that she found a writing program in Berkeley she wants to apply to, making their impending separation a bit less definite.

Poppy begins to berate the coding team as to why her game didn’t work. They tell her she has to choose - coding-wise, she can’t have a world where permanent player changes also occur in real time - it has to be one or the other. Poppy is understandably upset that her one original idea for the game is quickly going down the drain, but her freak-out is interrupted by some extremely unexpected news. David rushes into the coding basement, telling her that Ian had a heart attack and is in the hospital.

Poppy rushes to the hospital to find Ian in stable condition. She and her co-manager share a tender moment, with Poppy realizing she’s never seen Ian so vulnerable before. Explaining how he expects his condition was brought on by work stress, Ian talks about how badass he thinks being so passionate about something to the point of having a heart attack is. The only problem? As it turns out, he didn’t have a heart attack. As the doctor comes in and explains, he actually just fainted from malnutrition and dehydration. To Ian and Poppy’s shared shock and embarrassment, the doctor prescribes all that he needs to recover: a juice box.

Continuing their Shark/Mouse bit, Jo takes advice from Brad’s brother Zach to buy a bunch of shares in Mythic Quest's parent company before their new expansion announcement. When Brad explains to her that what she did was insider trading and extremely felonious, she panics, having accidentally set up what will undoubtedly be a major plot point for tomorrow’s finale.

Poppy, furious that Ian would worry her for nothing (although, to be fair, I think not eating or drinking for several days is pretty concerning as well), rails into him. After letting them build up all season, the two begin laying all their grievances with one another out on the table. In a moment echoing their conversation at the end of “Please Sign Here,” Ian asks Poppy’s opinion on his expansion, and she tells him it’s “s--t.” He agrees, admitting that she’s “the only other person who knows that.”

After their argument, Poppy leaves the room and Ian begins to cry. After a moment, Poppy reappears to comfort him, singing him a gentle rendition of “Rainbow Connection” as the end credits roll.

I think that Mythic Quest’s strengths continue to come from the most unexpected of places. How oddly revolutionary it is to have a character depicted as strong and traditionally masculine cry in the way that this episode did. Rob McIlhenny is no stranger to challenging gender taboos in his characters; his It’s Always Sunny character has had ongoing storylines revolving around body image, and after years of subtle hints toward it, eventually came out as gay. However, It’s still quite novel-feeling to see a character who self-identifies as a “lion” portrayed as entirely helpless in this way.

As we approach the second season finale, I’m looking back over this (all-too-short) season with mixed feelings. I think the improvements in this batch of episodes from the first season are entirely apparent - fewer duds, more coherent story, and blessed fewer attempts by out-of-their-depth millennials to try and make sense of Gen Z culture. However, I still think Mythic Quest is holding back from us. We saw in outings like “Everlight” and “Backstory!” just how much of a spitfire this show can be, writing and production-wise, and yet we still got stuck for a large chunk of the season on half-gags and storylines that come and go without much fanfare (I don’t think anyone is watching this show to keep up on David’s nonexistent dating life).

If the (tragic) cancellation of NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist has shown me anything, it’s that true comedies in this weird, drama-favoring era of television needs to be bold. As much potential as it had, many of the crucial moments in Zoey's second season were stalled by love triangles and other easy, safe plot points. Talented casts and solid writing (which Mythic Quest has in spades) are not enough right now. To truly stand apart, comedies need to spread their arms out a bit wider; to take up a space in the TV landscape yet uninhabited. Mythic Quest, like Zoey, has begun to do this, but is also landing on the conservative end of the creativity spectrum. Unlike Zoey I can only hope that MQ gets a third season - and a chance to let out all of the pent-up wackiness it seems to have waiting in the wings.

What did you think of "Juice Box?" How do you feel about Poppy and Ian's up-and-down relationship, and the way it played out this season? Any finale predictions? Let me know in the comments!

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