Anyone who isn’t watching Mythic Quest on Apple TV definitely should be… because Mythic Quest Backstory! Is Another Masterpiece.
Fans of season one will remember, and when I say remember, I mean will never ever be able to forget about the incredible stand-alone episode Dark Quiet Death.
That episode showed the story of Jake Johnson’s Doc and Cristin Milloti’s Bean and how the two of them met, fell in love, made a video game, and then how everything fell apart.
I’ve already done a video about Mythic Quest’s “A Dark Quiet Death” Is an Emotional Love Letter to Vision, Creativity, and Its Cost, and you know… it’s actually a pretty good video… but the’s thanks to how truly amazing the episode is.
It’s basically a standalone mini-movie that doesn’t directly link with the rest of the series, one that manages to introduce its characters make you care about them, feel for them, as well as rally get you to think all in a little over twenty minutes…
And so going into season two I half expected some kind of follow up or spiritual sequel to that episode and to say Season 2 Episode 6, “Backstory!” Delivered is an understatement.
Once again the show manages to introduce a new set of characters and stakes and make us care about their dynamic, what happens to them and the struggle of a younger, more naive Carl Longbottom.
The episode differs from a Dark Quiet Death, which I think is important as it wouldn’t really make sense to have just another loosely connected but not really relevant mini move about some other people in the games industry. This time Backstory! focusses on the origins of Mythic Quest’s lead writer C.W. Longbottom.
The episode shows his arrival in New York as a hopeful sci-fi writer and his fast friendship with two other authors as they write copy for a short story magazine…
While the other two writers, Peter Cromwell and A. E. Goldsmith, love each other’s work (and unfortunately for Carl, also eventually fall in love with each other), they tell Carl his story is lacking something deeper.
He rewrites multiple drafts, in his words “changing something on every page”, but doesn’t understand that it’s the core of his work that needs changing, not just surface details.
Carl is a huge sci-fi fan, and clearly appreciates what makes a good story, he just can’t see how his work isn’t a good story.
But where the episode takes an interesting turn and leans more into C.W as a character, is when a distraught C.W walks past a tv playing Pong, and he sees into the future.
This is where we see that C.W may not be the worlds greatest writer, he might quite understand the problems with his story, but he is, in his way a visionary… From simply looking at the lines hitting the ball at each other on Pong C.W has a vision of what video games could be, how tv will change the world (as at that point it was looked down on as a storytelling medium, and no one would have ever thought you could tell a story with a game…).
From there C.W is reignited in his confidence and decides to give his book to the groundbreaking sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, which is a moment of growth and self-confidence for Carl, that unfortunately proves to be the beginning of his undoing…
I won’t get too much further into it, as everyone should definitely just watch the episode, but he uses that connection in a way that leads him to the top, but not on his own merit.
It shows when at his lowest Carl will take the easy way out to get where he wants to be. The episode somewhat tragically highlights, that C.W. was an out of time visionary in many ways, but in others, he just didn’t have what it took, he isn’t a bad person, he just wants to tell his stories – which he thinks are great, it’s just no one else really seems to agree.
And in his defence, although we definitely get the idea that the older C.W. is a bit of a joke, and he is the butt of many jokes up to this point, AND in Season 1 neither he nor Ian can work out who the masked man should be… he has written the story for one of the worlds most popular video games…
Now obviously you can’t fully talk about “Backstory!” without mentioning its follow up “Peter”. The next episode of Mythic Quest jumps back to the modern-day and shows C.W going to visit Peter. Each expects an apology from the other, and drunken arguments and emotional reveals ensue.
And so with this follow up, it makes Backstory! A little less stand-alone than something like Dark Quiet Death, but that only adds to the emotion that it manages to deliver in such a short space of time.
The episode is written by, Craig Mazin creator of HBO’s Chernobyl, who features in the episodes as the magazine’s editor (after appearing as the insufferable games tester Lou in Season 1). The episode is obviously written expertly but is taken to another level thanks to Josh Brener’s pitch-perfect interpretation of a young, more innocent, less crushed by the world C.W. Longbottom.
Both episodes, but Backstory in particular is a truly incredible mini-movie that does more in a little over twenty minutes than most films do in over two hours – like much of Mythic Quest it explores the difficulty in the creative process, and the sacrifices people make along the way, and yet there’s kind of a happy ending to this one, and a touching follow up in the next episode only adds to that.
And just like with Dark Quiet Death, which came with a companion website that let you play the game, “Backstory!” Has an audiobook short story, narrated by C.W Longbottom, with a foreword and afterword by Iann Grimm. Thanks to anyone who has made it this far into my ramblings – if you liked the video please like and subscribe to the channel for lots more Mythic Quest and pop culture content, and let me know your thoughts on Mythic Quest Season 2 in the comments below.