At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, workplace sitcoms leapt into our ambiguous, strange new normal with a slew of quarantine specials — experimental one-off episodes that mostly made easy jokes about working with other people on Zoom. The best of these came from Mythic Quest, Apple TV Plus’ comedy about a game development studio whose producers found a way to remotely produce a special episode. That one-off “Quarantine,” is full of sight gags, punchy chemistry, and a genuinely moving exploration of the unique isolation and fear of the early pandemic months. Now, just ahead of its season 2 premiere, Mythic Quest is returning with another special episode, Everlight, aimed squarely at the anxieties around returning back to work one year later. But instead of focusing entirely on video calls, this time the special gimmick is live-action roleplaying.
LARPing is more or less interpretive dance for tabletop gaming. LARP normally isn’t a part of Mythic Quest, but writer Ashly Burch (who also plays Rachel, a game tester in the show) finds an organic way to get the characters to dress in medieval fantasy garb and engage in stage combat. In the fiction of the MMO Mythic Quest (which the cast of Mythic Quest is producing) Everlight is a holiday meant to signify moving on after a bad season and embracing a bright new future of optimism. Every year, the Mythic Quest team celebrates that holiday by LARPing the celebration in their office, the central event being a tournament where the staff members “fight” for the honor of pulling an enchanted sword from a tree and bringing light back to the land.
It’s honestly all very sweet. Even though Mythic Quest comes from many of the same creators as the profoundly mean show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, both the regular season and the Everlight special are genuinely enamored with the people who make and play video games. With Everlight’s focus on LARPing, the show’s heart gets just a little bigger. The series is extremely dedicated to making the hobby look fun and engaging, even going so far as building a dramatic confrontation that uses special effects to slip into the characters’ imaginations and depict a gripping fantasy battle. It rules.
But what makes Everlight sing is the way it’s all rooted in something particularly real — the anxiety around returning to work and putting on a brave face for a “normal” that isn’t even entirely here yet. Throughout the special, co-leads Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) and Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) debate the purpose of the Everlight LARP — Ian says it’s for morale, and Poppy thinks it’s for pure competition. They don’t find an answer until they stop being bosses and start being colleagues, participating for the same reason their employees do: because it’s fun, and because it allows people to connect with one another.
Everlight is Mythic Quest in microcosm, choosing one aspect of gaming culture to dial up to 11 and spinning comedy out of it that ultimately has very little to do with gaming, and everything to do with people. The last year was hard, and we could all use a win. It’s entirely possible that the world won’t give us one, but if we all come together, maybe we can LARP our way to that win, and build a better, newer normal.
Mythic Quest: Everlight is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.