It’s a new year at Mythic Quest, and with the new season comes a new game expansion. Shortly after returning to the office in the “Everlight” special, Ian and Poppy are facing their first big project as co-creative directors: What will be the follow-up to Raven’s Banquet?
Ian and Poppy have no idea, and even when the creative juices do start flowing, they’re at odds: Poppy thinks the expansion should be set at sea, while Ian’s thinking land. Rather than try to hash out their differences and find a solution, of course, Ian packs up for a week in the desert to “reconnect with his physical form.” He suggests Poppy take some time for herself to get drunk and get laid — leading her to have a sex dream about him. A sex nightmare, really.
Sometimes shows use plots like this to plant the seed of a potential romance between the co-leads. But in this case, it seems more like the show is doing the opposite, acknowledging the idea of a romance only to assure us it’ll never happen. (30 Rock did something similar with Liz and Jack.) Poppy’s dreams about Ian seem to be more about power and approval than infatuation. In fact, as the episode goes on, we learn that she’s not the only one in the office who’s had a sex dream about Ian. Dana assures her that it’s normal to dream about your boss; she has, too (to Rachel’s displeasure). Even David has dreamed about Ian, although Poppy points out that Ian isn’t David’s boss — one of the funniest moments of the episode.
Season one tended to position Ian as the natural protagonist: the creator of the game, the narcissist with a heart of gold at the show’s center. It makes sense with the relative name recognition of Rob McElhenney compared to most of his co-stars (and his involvement as co-creator and writer, of course). But this premiere refreshingly leaves Ian out of most of the action (besides the, ahem, action in Poppy’s dreams, that is). Instead, Poppy is centered, manically wandering around the office trying to figure out why she’s having these awful dreams, all the while brainstorming expansion ideas. As played by the excellent Charlotte Nicdao, Poppy has been the standout of the show thus far, and in some ways she fits into the protagonist role more comfortably than the relatively one-note Ian.
Ian may be away at his “sleepaway camp for 40-year-old men who want to learn how to do MMA,” but he’s still at the forefront of everybody’s minds — in the end, both Poppy and David are forced by their subconsciouses to recognize the sway he has over them. Poppy is only hit with real inspiration for the new expansion when she gets an idea from dream-Ian, who whispers “Titans’ Rift” into dream-David’s ear. And David, who has struggled the whole episode with being taken seriously as an authority figure, ultimately realizes that even he thinks of Ian as his boss deep down.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Dana finally address their simmering sexual tension, each of them visiting Carol from HR to gauge each other’s feelings. Rachel is worried she misjudged Dana’s sexuality; Dana doesn’t vibe with Rachel’s talking-everything-out strategy. At the end of the episode, Dana kisses Rachel in the parking garage, and it’s a very cute moment, especially when Dana asks her if she’s okay and she says, “Yeah. Just making sure this isn’t a dream.” I’d expected this to remain a slow-burning background subplot based on season one, but I’m very pleased the show isn’t stringing it out longer than necessary.
The other intriguing development is that Jo has ditched David and become Brad’s assistant. Despite her abundance of solid one-liners, Jo has never quite worked for me as a character in the way most of the others have — I spent a lot of the first season wondering why nobody had fired her yet — but making her Brad’s secret weapon could be a really promising change. These two together could be a formidable team — for good or for evil. But probably for evil.
Ifs, Ands, or Buts
• “Everlight” gets mentioned twice in dialogue: first when Rachel brings up how fun it was, and second when Carol reminds her that “it’s a new dawn.” Otherwise, you wouldn’t miss anything if you’d skipped the specials. Of course, if you haven’t seen them, you definitely should, because both are heartwarming and all-around delightful.
• If you were wondering why F. Murray Abraham hasn’t been in the last couple episodes as much, it’s for coronavirus-related reasons. Looks like C.W. Longbottom won’t be back in the office until after episode seven. It’ll be interesting to see if the show gives him any meaty material before then.
• The episode reminded me of 30 Rock in one other way: Poppy’s defensiveness about her sexual ability is very Liz Lemon–esque.
• Brad describing a whole potential season arc for his mentorship of Jo: “Eventually, you’ll learn enough to grow from my protégée into my sworn enemy. If I have trained you properly, you will try to devour me, but if I devour you during your attempts to devour me, that’ll only make me stronger.”
• The whole bit with Jo and David “breaking up” and her starting a new “relationship” with Brad is a bit obvious but still amusing. The funniest moment is when, after a scene of Jo, David, and Brad awkwardly running into each other in the hall and forcing politeness, Jo can’t stop herself from scornfully blurting out, “Pussy.”
• Most of the funniest moments of the episode involve David. I think my favorite is a callback to last season: Dream-David makes another bracket, this time looking for an expansion title. Just like last year, “Nazis” wins. The despair in David Hornsby’s voice as he cries, “Fuck! ‘Sea of Nazis’ doesn’t even make sense!” is great.
• Ian asking Poppy to take care of his rings leads to a nice sight gag of David dressed as Ian to channel his mind-set.
• It’s Always Sunny Parallel of the Week: Ian dreaming about having sex with himself during the tag made me think of the episode when Dennis blows a British version of himself during a vision from a sensory-deprivation tank.