Last week on Mythic Quest, what appeared to be a fun bottle episode turned serious with many of the character conflicts growing as a result. Nothing jeopardized the success of the new expansion more than the falling out between Ian and Poppy. Before we find out if the co-creative developers can patch things up, we take a break with a quasi-stand-alone episode of how a particular Nebula award winning author began his career in writing.
“Backstory!” starts with a fresh-faced lad named Carl Longbottom on his first day as a junior copy editor at Amazing Tales Publishing. He is joined by fellow newbies A.E. Goldsmith and Peter Cromwell. The three of them quickly bond together over their love of science fiction and their desires to be famous writers. In order to achieve their dreams, they read each other’s stories providing constructive feedback with hopes of helping the trio grow their ability for storytelling.
This episode of Mythic Quest is a great period piece. Everything from the wardrobe and fashion to the locales to the props and furniture create an authentic experience. The accompanying soundtrack and music choices only enhance the 70s vibe and energy.
In addition, it captures the wild-eyed enthusiasm of these aspiring writers and their excitement for working at such a prestigious publisher. They are even unaffected by the fact they were hired because of their ability to use perfect grammar and spelling rather than their storytelling prowess. It’s even more inspiring when the trio catch a glimpse of luminaries Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin in the conference room. Could they be soon following in those footsteps?
However, the focus of “Backstory!” is young Carl Longbottom. To be honest, it didn’t occur to me until midway through that this is an origin story for C.W. despite the last name or the episode’s title. Throughout the series, F. Murray Abraham’s character is portrayed as the creepy old man in the office for comedic effect but here, we see how he got there. It is a painful path with his struggles to be a good writer and an unpleasant and down right mean experience with the aforementioned Asimov.
Carl is more loser than the lovable loser in the present but some of it is his own doing. His inability to take criticism and is own self imposed alienation from his friends contribute to his bad luck. It could have easily been a story of not listening to the haters in order to succeed but his objectionable means of earning his Nebula award doesn’t match that narrative. Though there is a pretty sweet call back from a throw away line in the first season that concludes the episode.
The tie-in with video games feels forced and even random. It does allow for an engaging C.W. speech where actor, Josh Brenner, exudes Abraham’s enthusiasm and showmanship of presentation. It could also show how C.W. was ahead of his time with how video games will need great storytellers and maybe he needed the right project, Mythic Quest, to unlock his true potential.
“Backstory!” is a great period piece highlighting C.W.’s past and his painful journey to becoming a prestigious writer.
New episodes of Mythic Quest drop Fridays on Apple TV+.
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