‘Mythic Quest’ season 3, episode 6 review: Pain is knowledge

Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6, “The 12 Hours of Christmas,” delivers some much-needed holiday cheer, showcasing the power of friendship—and the art department’s underappreciated ingenuity.

Last week on Mythic Quest, Ian seemed aimless amid the birth of Playpen, designed by Poppy and championed by Dana. The latter two characters got to know each other a little better over the course of the episode, and it was fun to watch Dana pick Poppy up off the floor in more ways than one. Meanwhile, both Carol and Rachel got pretty big promotions, and I suspect everything has worked out exactly as Brad envisioned.

This week, Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6 tackles the ups and downs of the holiday season, all within the confines of the Mythic Quest/GrimPop building. I loved that this was a pretty self-contained episode, with the characters and storylines being fairly interwoven throughout. We still got to see some fantastic pairings, but by the end, everyone joined together in celebration, much as they did in the season 3 premiere.

Unfortunately, the mood is sour to start. The Mythic Quest employees are in the offices on Christmas Eve because the servers simply won’t maintain themselves. No one is happy about this, but David tries to lift their spirits by promising a night of holiday cheer. All of his forced festivities don’t quite land with the crew, however, even with Jo’s usual, uh, encouragements. But that hasn’t stopped David from promising the best Christmas ever.

In comes Ian, who shows up to give his Christmas remarks despite the fact that a) he doesn’t work there anymore, and b) he’s been told several times he’s not even allowed on the floor. I don’t think it’ll ever stop being funny to me that Ian still believes he deserves to be treated as a member of the Mythic Quest team, despite having left of his own accord to become their competitor. It’s a little sad, honestly, but mostly hilarious.

But Ian insists the real reason he’s there is to hang out with Poppy because she’s so lonely. The camera pans to her standing by herself at the food table, acting as though we all aren’t aware that she’s trying to line her pockets with cookies. I think the best thing Mythic Quest ever did for these two characters was make them strike out on their own but still keep them within arm’s reach. It offers up an interesting and new dynamic between Mythic Quest and GrimPop, but also allows everyone to keep interacting, for better or worse.

Ian offers David $100 to let them stay, and David agrees, but not out of the goodness of his heart. He needs the money for the Christmas fund, which he’s using to make this the best Christmas ever, since he’s unable to give everyone much of a bonus for the holiday season. Ian immediately pulls back on the idea, telling David he can’t say Christmas—not because he’s trying to be PC, but because they shouldn’t be reminding everyone that they’re working on Christmas and missing time with their family.

He’s got a point, of course, but David just doesn’t see it that way. This is his year, and he wants it to be the most traditional, idyllic Christmas he could possibly imagine. After staring at a snow globe for hours as a child, wishing he was anywhere but Arizona, it’s David’s time to experience what Christmas is all about. You can tell this is super important to him as he shoves a pair of reindeer antlers on Ian’s head and yells at Random Employee Anthony to stop watching porn. And no, there’s no chili, either. No one understands what Christmas is all about better than David Brittlesbee.

As we leave Ian to see whether Poppy is still eating cookies by the handful (she is), we witness Jo sneak up behind her, horror-movie style. The way she moves without a sound is unnatural, but that’s besides the point. Jo is smiling, excited about being able to say Christmas again, and asking Poppy whether her family didn’t invite her home either. This might’ve been a throwaway line, but I’m suddenly fascinated by the idea of Jo’s home life. Why didn’t her family want her to join them for Christmas? Are they a bunch of liberals who don’t see eye-to-eye with her politics, or are they conservatives who think she’s given in to the liberal agenda by working for Mythic Quest. Please, dear writers, I need to know the answer!

Of course, in typical Poppy Li fashion, she insists that she’s at the party for Ian’s sake because he has no one to spend Christmas with. Bursting at the seams, Jo presents Poppy with a gift. It’s a necklace with a pendant made of a hunk of metal. But not just any old hunk of metal! This is a piece of the car they crushed with the tank after they went out to brunch.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that I already overanalyze every frame of this show, and Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6 will be no different. Especially because this might be one of my all-time favorite moments from the series. And that’s saying something considering Jo has never been my favorite character. But the show is certainly working overtime to change that.

The fact that Jo presented Poppy with a gift is a big deal. And a pretty thoughtful one, at that! We know she has no friends, and her ability to read social cues is below average, even standing next to the likes of Poppy and Ian. After she brought Poppy and Rachel to crush the car with a tank, she finally got the sense of what being a friend truly means. And it looks like she took that to heart. Is it weird that I’m incredibly proud of her in this moment?

Hesitantly, Poppy accepts the gift, poking herself with the sharp edge of the pendant. Jo says that was intentional because relationships are supposed to be painful. … aren’t they? And I just have one thing to say to that.

WHO HURT YOU, JO, AND WHY DO I CARE SO MUCH? Is she referring to her family, who didn’t invite her home for Christmas? Or the people from high school, like her old bully, who recently lost her house in a tornado? Maybe she’s referring to the friends she used to have, which have since abandoned her. It’s clear that Jo has picked up her view of the world somewhere, and I know this is just a silly little 20-minute comedy about a bunch of gaming nerds, but I need a Jo origin story ASAP.

Jo is afraid she did friendship wrong again, and the way she admonishes herself is heartbreaking. This time, however, that shame doesn’t fall on her shoulders. See, Poppy didn’t know that Jo considered her a friend, and therefore, she didn’t get her a gift. “Oh, I see,” Jo says, her smiling slipping from her face to reveal the most devastating look in cinematic history. “So, you did friendship wrong.”

mythic quest season 3 episode 6 poppy jo

I can keep talking about how powerful this moment was and how it’s endeared me to Jo forever, but let’s move on to Rachel and Dana. The new Head of Monetization and E-Commerce is showing her girlfriend around her new setup, but it’s clear something is weighing on her shoulders. She wants to know if it’s gross, what she’s doing, but Dana insists that it’s sexy. But that might just be Rachel’s outfit, because she’s all dressed up to meet Dana’s parents for midnight mass.

I wish we could’ve met Dana’s family in this episode. In fact, that goes for pretty much all of the characters. At the top of my list would be Jo, obviously, but what about David? Or Brad? Or even Carol? We’ve met a few relatives over the seasons, like Ian’s son and Brad’s brother, but this episode would’ve been a good reason to have spouses and parents and siblings join the celebration. I’m a little bummed they didn’t go that route, but maybe they can squeeze in more family time in Mythic Quest season 4.

Brad interrupts Dana and Rachel’s revelries with a couple of mochaccinos to celebrate their first monetization launch. If at first you were surprised Brad loved Christmas, I feel like his explanation says it all—it’s the high holy day of capitalism. A lot of money exchanges hands around this time of year, and if we know anything about Brad, it’s that money is quite possibly his favorite thing in the world.

As for the game, the two of them came up with the Red-Nosed Reindeer Package, which grants players with night vision for 24 hours—for a fee, of course. Rachel seems pretty excited about the concept, but she was bummed that Brad decided they should only sell 100,000 noses for a higher price point. She, on the other hand, wanted to sell them at a lower cost and make them unlimited so everyone could enjoy them. (“Socialism on Christmas? Yuck.”) But Dana reminds Rachel that Brad is her assistant, and Rachel uses her newfound power to enact her plan and send him out for a drink that won’t upset her tummy.

Back out in the main room, Ian and Poppy come together to complain about how lame the celebration is. What’s the point of a holiday party if you can’t do stupid shit? Meanwhile, David’s idea of fun is forced karaoke. (The way I would’ve quit right then and there…) Poppy reveals David also swindled her out of $100 for the same reason as Ian, but this just doesn’t make sense to Ian. She’s the lonely one, not him. Doesn’t her family hate her? Poppy insists that it was more of a scheduling conflict, despite the fact that they all decided to go to Hawaii and had a two-day layover in San Diego and didn’t visit once. Ian, on the other hand, doesn’t really “do” family. But as Poppy points out, “Family doesn’t do you.”

Being the mature person in this conversation (a newfound pattern for him), Ian points out that they’re sniping at each other. At the end of the day, they tried to do something nice for each other, and that’s pretty commendable, if he does say so himself. Poppy agrees, and the two of them decide they need to do something nice for the Mythic Quest employees and get them out of this lame ass party.

While those two are off to cause trouble, we check in on Rachel, who managed to make a whopping half a million dollars in Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6. And she did it her way. Jo shows up just like before, serial killer style, and presents Rachel with a necklace of her own. When Rachel says she didn’t know they were exchanging gifts, Jo’s excitement evaporates. “So, you did friendship wrong, too.”

And you know what, I’m fully on Jo’s side for this one. They pity-invited her to brunch with them, and didn’t bother paying enough attention to Jo to realize that it meant a great deal to her. Sure, she can be scary and a little hard to read and definitely difficult to have as a friend, but this season has gone a long way to humanize her, and it’s about time the rest of the characters noticed that.

Worst of all is David’s reaction. Jo talks about feeling foolish for thinking she had friends, and all he says is, “Don’t hold a grudge. Hold a lantern.” This seems incredibly dismissive, given that David has consistently been someone who views Jo as a human being rather than a caricature to mock. We also get an interesting note about Jo taking Adderall, beta blockers, Ativan, and barbiturates, which is the kind of cocktail you’d see in someone with ADHD and anxiety. It puts into perspective the type of person Jo would be if she wasn’t medicated, as well as how hard she’s willing to work in order to fit into society.

But David is too wrapped up in bringing his perfect Christmas to life to notice how Jo is feeling. All of his plans come to a halt, however, when he finds out that all the Mythic Quest employees are down on the GrimPop floor, basically having a rave. Ian and Poppy are giving away her Porsche, which has never been driven, and everyone looks ecstatic about the change in scenery.

Everyone but David, that is. Ian points out that no one wanted David’s Christmas except David, and while this is a valid statement, David fires back that Ian and Poppy didn’t throw this party for the employees. They’re doing it for themselves, like they always do. After that, David cuts the music and sends everyone back to work. If he doesn’t get to enjoy the holiday spirit, then no one can.

Before everyone returns, we visit with Brad and Jo in the kitchen. Their interactions this season have been wary but introspective, and this moment in Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6 is no different. There are no two people in the building who understand each other quite like these two, and yet they’re trying to convince each other—and therefore themselves—that they’ve changed.

“Hello,” Brad begins.
“Hello,” Jo answers.
“I subjugated myself to a nit-wit.”
“I offered my friendship to unworthy women.”
“I allowed myself to be debased.”
“I made myself vulnerable and was humiliated.”
“We’ve made mistakes.”
“We’ll learn from them. The pain is knowledge.”
“It’ll make us stronger.”
“Yes,” Jo agrees. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Brad replies.

The way this scene is set up, it feels like a confessional. Their backs are turned to each other, as though it’s easier to tell the truth when you don’t have to look someone in the eye (totally true). What’s interesting is that this is perhaps the most vulnerable these two have ever been in the show, and it’s with each other. For this single moment, they are on the same page. Building each other up, reminding each other of their power and potential. Ending with “Merry Christmas” in part feels like an end to this momentary truce, as much as it feels like a declaration of friendship. Neither one of these characters respect most people, but they certainly respect each other.

The moment is interrupted by Rachel, however, who storms into the room to brag about the fact that her idea net them a cool $1 million in sales. Because she can’t do anything halfway, she grabs the karaoke mic to really drive the message home to Brad, but instead of upsetting him, she upsets the entire Mythic Quest staff because they won’t be seeing any of that money in their bonuses. Needless to say, David is not happy.

Brad might not be rubbing it in anyone’s faces, but you can tell by his smug little smirk that he’s not all too upset about this turn of events. When he wishes Rachel a merry Christmas, he does it in a calm and non-patronizing manner. He has proven he is her moral superior. Yeah, this is a win for him.

And Rachel’s not the only one feeling bad. David and Jo are refusing to talk to Ian and Poppy, going so far as to tell them to stick their dicks in blenders before slamming the window in their faces.

“I kinda think we messed this up,” Poppy confesses.
“No wonder our families hate us,” Ian says.

Rachel has also come to that conclusion, begging Brad to help her figure out a way to not be the most hated person working on Mythic Quest. Brad then decides to drop some wisdom on her. Rachel wants to please everyone, but he tells her that’s impossible. Besides, her role doesn’t require her to be nice. It requires her to make money. And you know what everyone loves? Money.

There’s a couple of cracks in Brad’s veneer here, the first of which is his obsession with knowing exactly the amount of calories he’s consumed. Whether he has an eating disorder is yet to be determined, but I find this particular detail interesting because it comes off as a quirk or a character flaw. Brad doesn’t have quirks or flaws. He’s always calm and collected. Always in control. So while this totally tracks with his personality, I also find that it makes him more a little more human.

The other crack in his usual demeanor comes in the form of compromise. This must be a foreign concept for him because it takes a moment to find the phrase “work together.” As hilarious as this is, I love that Brad is doing his best to find common ground with Rachel. In fact, his idea to get them back on track is a little bit capitalist, a little bit socialist.

Mythic Quest season 3, episode 6 ends with lessons learned and everyone coming together to celebrate the holiday season. David and Jo wake up to a classic Christmas morning. The decorations are back in place, a giant tree fills the middle of the room, and there’s snow everywhere. The employees are throwing snowballs and having a grand old time. But this isn’t some Christmas miracle. It was the art department, who was forced to work through the night to make it all happen. They even made chilli!

Even better, “David” gave everyone bonuses from all the money Rachel and Brad made, which means the employees no longer hate him. Even Jo gets a present from Poppy and Rachel—her very own game in Playpen called Brunch Crushers. She gets to drive a tank over brunching women, and Jo is delirious with happiness. She pulls the two of them into a hug and declares that they’ll do brunch every week. Poppy and Rachel reluctantly agree, but they draw the line at going on vacation together. There would probably be some disastrous consequences, but I can’t say I wouldn’t absolutely love to witness that.

Seeing as it’s officially Christmas morning, it starts to snow, and everyone joins together in song for the livestream. Poppy and Jo are hugging, people are kissing, and some are even dressed up in costumes. This has certainly been the best Christmas ever…if only the snow wasn’t also potentially poisonous?

Maybe the art department is out for revenge given how they’ve been treated. Can’t say I blame them.

‘Mythic Quest’ season 3 airs Fridays on Apple TV+