The third season of Mythic Quest seemed like it was set up to be Poppy's (Charlotte Nicdao) time to shine. And sure, she had some (inadvertent) success along the way, but by the end of the 10 episodes, she (and Rob McElhenney's Ian) are right back where they started: working on the original game franchise that started it all.
Poppy's new game Hera is a bust, and even the busywork she created that people actually do love, Playpen, is shut down by every venture capitalist, in part because of how Poppy had treated them in the past. So she and Ian take it back to David (David Hornsby) as a new Mythic Quest expansion. He doesn't technically verbalize agreement to have them back, but there's no stopping those two when they put their minds to something. And their minds are on partnership after Poppy and Ian express their emotion for each other and he eats the buffalo chicken pizza as a sign of his love for her.
"In Season 1, the 'A Dark Quiet Death' episode followed these two characters who allowed their professional ambition to destroy their personal relationship, and I do think that there's a mirror in that for Poppy and Ian," Nicdao tells Metacritic. "And watching the story unfold, I'm wondering, 'Are they going to meet the same fate? Is it going to end up being just like in that episode in Season 1 where they do their best and in the end, they just can't make it work?' I'm rooting for them, but I think the thing that is fun to watch is you just don't really know."
Having a new expansion may be the answer to David's woes, as the film adaptation of the game was shut down due to dwindling interest in the original IP. But whether the team can see success, especially with yet another new company cropping up and vowing to take them down, remains to be seen in the fourth season.
For now, here, Nicdao reflects on Poppy's Season 3 journey with Metacritic.
What did you consider the biggest challenge in Season 3, given the pressure Poppy puts on herself to succeed and what she considers a successful game, as well as her evolving relationship with Ian?
I think that there's a chaos that lives inside Poppy that, until this season, has been contained. And I think finally with Season 3, she is steering the ship, she's in charge, this is her baby. It's no longer Mythic Quest, Ian's project that she's helping him with; it's her own game, it's her own idea, and he's helping her. And so, suddenly she's able to stretch her legs out and with that stretching, I think, out comes the chaos as well.
Season 3 is probably the biggest moment of her professional or personal life. And a lot of the time she's really just trying to stay afloat, which is kind of funny.
There's an important lesson to learn with Playpen and with giving the consumers what they want. Do you feel like Poppy has learned a lesson about expectations and will she adjust accordingly, creatively, after going through this?
Poppy's big journey this season is about her realizing that what she already has to offer is valuable. She's really spent most of her life trying to emulate Ian, thinking, "OK I've got this part of my creativity, this part of my skill set is ready, and now I just have to be more like Ian." And this season, she doesn't fully complete the journey, but she begins to discover that she has enough on her own. At the same time, at least in the form that she is now, she needs a collaborator. And at the moment that collaborator is Ian. Their relationship is so complex, and so, it's fun to play and fun to see unfold because they really can't live with each other and they can't live without each other.
You use the word collaborator when talking about Ian for Poppy, but they discussed how she thinks she is subservient to him. Do you feel she gets to the point at the end of the season where she finally, truly feels they are on the same level?
I think that the place that they land in is one where they haven't been able to find real solutions to their problems, but they've decided that they want to. And I think that that's such a huge moment in any relationship. You can compare it to a marriage. Their relationship, even though it's not romantic, throughout the whole show it's often compared to mom and dad: They're staying together for the kid or they're fighting and it's affecting the whole family, and now, at the end of Season 3 they finally realize that maybe they need couples counseling.
That's a really interesting visual, especially knowing they're going back to sharing an office with David, who would not be a great mediator. How and where do you feel Poppy can still grow if she's going back to the old company after everything she went through in Season 3?
I don't know if she can. I'm so excited to see what happens in Season 4 because I don't know yet. In a lot of ways, I feel like the way that we end Season 3 is similar level cliffhanger to Season 2: At the end of Season 2, it feels like we understand what's driving these two characters to go and start something new. The end of Season 3, it almost feels like the thing that's driving them back is the fact that they're trying to stay together. And I don't know if that's ultimately healthy, but I'm very excited to find out.
I have to ask about the buffalo chicken pizza.
Ten out of 10.
[Laughs] I meant filming that sequence where Rob actually eats it and if you had some in solidarity.
I wish! Once it's prop food, they don't let you near it. That was actually the final scene that I shot in the season and it was an emotional scene. It was a big moment for Poppy and Ian, but it was a big moment for Poppy as someone who doesn't allow herself, necessarily, to be vulnerable with anyone, and Ian is the only person that she maybe feels close enough to allow herself to completely be herself. I think for her to realize what that means in layman's terms that when you are that way with someone it means that you love them, and not necessarily romantically, but in some ways in a way that's even deeper than that. It was a long scene. We blocked it out like a play. We got to experience that the highs and the lows of those moments.
Poppy is quite the snacker in general. How much influence do you actually have over what she's eating in any given scene?
I'm the problem; it's me. I said in Season 2, "Oh I think that Poppy would always be snacking on candy," and the writers were like, "Great idea." And then, about partway through Season 3 on however many packets of candy that I was consuming in the scene, I was like, "I made a huge mistake. I'm constantly either on a sugar high or I'm crashing." And then after that point, we switched so that she's always drinking soda because it's an easier thing to fake. [The cup] is not actually full of sugar, but it looks like it is. [Laughs]
Get to know Charlotte Nicdao:
The Australian actor is best known for her role on Mythic Quest, but she has also appeared on television series from the original (2011) version of The Slap, to Josh Thomas' Please Like Me (Metascore: 82). And she voices animated characters on such series as Adventure Time: Distant Lands (82), Star Trek: Lower Decks (59), The Strange Chores, Zootopia+, and Bluey. In film, she had a role in Thor: Ragnarok (74).