DISCLAIMER: This recap of Mythic Quest episode “Backstory!” is laden with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome back, Mythic Quest fans! Someone alert C.W., because we’re diving into some much-needed backstory! “Backstory!” is Season Two’s version of “A Dark Quiet Death.” We’re delving into a character related to Mythic Quest, much like the aforementioned. This series flawlessly executes period-centric episodes. Fun fact: Rob McElhenney has directed both of the show’s standalone flashback episodes.
Josh Brener steals the show as a young C.W. Longbottom, who arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of breaking into the science fiction writing world. Brener fully inhabits C.W., right down to the vocal inflections and physicality. He even looks like a younger version of F. Murray Abraham.
As per usual, this show delivers a poignant story and brilliantly paints a picture of a creative artist rallying against corporatist thinking. That’s a common theme interwoven through the overarching story on Mythic Quest — creativity versus business.
Ready to delve into “Backstory!”? Let’s get to it.
Now, we open in 1972 with Carl Longbottom (Brener) arriving in LA. He starts working as a copyeditor at Amazing Tales Publishing. Carl snagged this job based on a short story he submitted. He meets A.E. Goldsmith (Shelley Hennig) and Peter Cromwell (Michael Cassidy), two bright-eyed and bushy-tailed copyeditors who are also embarking on their first day. They spot their author heroes sitting pretty in the conference room across the way — Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Later, our newly-anointed “tripod” decides to go out for dinner that night. Carl, A.E. and Peter vow to climb the ladder of success together despite starting on the bottom rung as lowly copyeditors. A.E. suggests they read each others’ stories and dole out constructive notes. Next, the following day, both A.E. and Peter shower each other in compliments over their respective stories.
However, Carl gets the shaft. They claim that he needs to focus on really fleshing out the mythology in his tale in a way that makes sense. Then, we see A.E. is ushered into their superior’s office. He’s selecting her story for the latest magazine edition. She’s compensated with 50 whole dollars! A.E. decides to take the guys out for drinks in celebration.
Next, Carl forgoes the gathering in lieu of revising his story and incorporating A.E.’s notes. Throughout the episode, we see the seeds of a burgeoning crush have been planted. Carl works up the courage to give her a call. Unfortunately, he hears Peter on the other end. It’s quite clear that they’re boinking.
Later, Carl reveals that he spent the previous night perfecting his novella. In fact, he wrote the entire thing. He tries to get A.E. and Peter to admit that they’re sleeping together. Carl also tells Peter that he met Isaac Asimov. We see him in an elevator with the esteemed author (Chet Grissom). Carl nervously discloses that he’s a writer too.
Then, we learn that A.E. turned in Peter’s story to their boss, but she withheld Carl’s completed novella. Why? Because he never really fixed the issues at hand, there’s just more text. More text, more problems. Carl reveals that he knows she’s shacking up with Peter. Oh, and he’s not embarrassed by his work. It’s an admirable trait.
Meanwhile, Carl drops his novella off for Isaac Asimov to read. To his surprise, Asimov mails Carl’s novella back to him with notes … on every line. Not just that, but every word is revised. Carl is flabbergasted. It sends him into a stupor that’s fueled by alcohol and the rare Los Angeles rain. He spots a TV screen boasting two dots bouncing off a thick line. The lightbulb switches on.
Later, Carl barges into the conference room at his job to find his boss with A.E. and Peter. He unleashes an emphatic, eloquent monologue about the future of storytelling. Carl describes video games. Of course, this is a time prior to the discovery of video games. The trio believes he’s off his rocker. His boss notes that “TV is for morons.” Oh, ye of little faith. Brener is astounding here.
Next, Carl is draped across his couch in a melancholic state. He rereads Asimov’s notes to him and decides to seize control of his book. Carl begins feverishly typing away.
Now, we flash forward to 1973 at The Nebula Awards. Carl, who changes his name to C.W., accepts an award for his published book. Everyone showers him with praise. Peter and A.E., who now goes by Anne, congratulate their former friend on his success. Peter leaves to buy C.W. a drink.
Meanwhile, C.W. inquires whether Anne read his novel. He notes that most people feel it reads like a “poor man’s Asimov.” Anne discloses that it doesn’t just read like a poor man’s Asimov … it is Asimov. C.W. implemented every note that Asimov gave him.
Of course, we know that Asimov changed every word and every line. This scene is so emotionally charged and nuanced, and Brener and Hennig certainly deliver. C.W. thanks her for the “compliment.” His crush on her still lingers.
Next, we arrive in 2015 in Anaheim. C.W. (Abraham) is selling roast chicken at a renaissance fair. Ian (McElhenney) and Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) enter the fray. Ian is sporting a Dark Quiet Death t-shirt, which feels like a nod to Mythic Quest‘s last flashback episode.
He knows that he’s standing before C.W. Longbottom, his hero. Ian asks whether C.W. would like to lend his narrative talents to a video game. You know, an entertainment platform that young C.W. essentially predicted would take the world by storm.
Overall, “Backstory!” is one of Mythic Quest‘s best episodes. We get a glimpse behind the curtain at C.W., and why he is the way that he is. While “A Dark Quiet Death” is a mite superior in my eyes, this outing is brilliant on every level. Season Two is upping the ante and elevating the game. I’m curious to see where the remainder of this season takes us.
Now, next week’s episode is entitled, “Peter.” Do you think C.W. will pay Peter a visit and mend fences? Will he finally profess his decades-long love for Anne? Will he finish his book series? Join me next week as I recap Mythic Quest, here on Geek Girl Authority.
Mythic Quest streams new episodes on Fridays, only on Apple TV Plus.
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