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Mythic Quest: Why Poppy And Ian Should Never Explore A Romantic Relationship

Apple TV+'s "Mythic Quest," a workplace sitcom satirizing the video game industry, has now filled out three seasons with a fourth on order from the tech giant. "Mythic Quest" could have ended up being a beat-for-beat skewering of the games industry, similar in sensibility to HBO's "Silicon Valley." Instead, it became something far weirder and more sincere thanks to the chemistry of its two leads. And while some feel that chemistry could lead to something more, it would be a mistake for the series to make them a couple.

At the show's core are Ian Grimm, the egotistic creative director of a popular online game played by co-showrunner Rob McElhenney, and Poppy Li, a preternaturally talented game developer portrayed by Charlotte Nicdao. He's got the heart; she's got the brains. Together, they're a powerhouse duo, but that presents its own problems. Though the two can occasionally make magic happen when they work together, their differing personalities are continually at odds. Poppy resents Ian for his vainglorious and delusional Silicon Valley approach to leadership, while he finds it hard to contend with her workaholism and pragmatic approach to problem-solving.

Given their love/hate relationship, it's easy to see why some fans may want to see Poppy and Ian paired up romantically. That's how these things usually go on TV, after all. But to do so would not only disrupt the show to an unworkable degree, it would compromise the very core of what makes "Mythic Quest" such a surprisingly feel-good show, all while overburdening the show and ruining some of its best jokes.

An Ian and Poppy relationship would undo character development

Let's get the obvious out of the way: There has been some romantic tension between Ian and Poppy in the past. Most notably, the Season 2 premiere, "Titans' Rift," in which Poppy begins to have sex dreams about Ian. But importantly, she's horrified by them, openly telling David (David Hornsby) how off-putting she finds Ian. For his part, Ian is having dreams about knocking boots with a clone of himself, as revealed in a mid-credits stinger.

Since then, "Mythic Quest" has done two seasons of work to clarify their unique relationship. The most recent third season sees Ian and Poppy split off from Mythic Quest to form their own games company. Both quickly find their professional relationship souring as they disagree on the direction of the product, bungling millions of dollars in investment capital in the process. Ultimately, they agree to meet each other halfway in the season finale, "Buffalo Chicken Pizza," with Ian saying, "All I know is I love you, you love me, and all the rest is semantics."

But lest anyone mistake that for a declaration of romantic love, let's examine the scene in context. His romcom makeup speech concluded, Poppy makes Ian eat a slice of buffalo chicken pizza, a metaphor for his willingness to accept the parts of her he finds distasteful. The running joke throughout the series is, of course, that work relationships can be akin to romantic ones, but the show carefully undercuts any notion that there is a budding flame between Ian and Poppy.

An Ian and Poppy romance would overburden Mythic Quest

Co-showrunners Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz come from a different era of television, one when shows were allowed time to find themselves over the first few seasons. That was the experience the former two showrunners had while creating "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," the blackhearted comedy which is now the longest-running live-action sitcom in history, but which undeniably took several seasons to find a groove. To Apple TV+'s credit, it has allowed "Mythic Quest" to be the shaggiest of dogs, and, as the show developed, so did the gloss of its coat.

Watching the series with that perspective is revealing, and there do seem to be points — especially in Season 1 — where the writers were toying with the idea of Ian and Poppy dating, or perhaps winding up in bed during a moment of lapsed judgment. But instead, the primary romantic relationship ended up being between young game testers Rachel (video game voice star Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim).

Not only is the relationship between those two women a sincere romance, it's probably the only one the series has room for. There are so many revolving subplots, from Brad's (Danny Pudi) capitalist corruption of Rachel to David's attempts at producing a "Mythic Quest" movie, that adding another romance plot would strain the show's ability to juggle them all. And it would shift the focus away from Dana and Rachel, whose same-sex relationship remains a rarity in popular media, even today.

Plus, pairing the two leads together would ruin a gag "Mythic Quest" has milked for some of its best laughs: Ian and Poppy's work relationship already mirrors the dimensions of a romantic one. Literalizing that bit would kill it comedically. It would be akin to explaining a joke.