At first glance, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off looks like an animated remake of Edgar Wright’s energetic live-action adventure Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. After all, that adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular graphic novels shares the same cast, including Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, and Chris Evans.
But by the end of episode one, Netflix subscribers learn that this series is taking a bold new spin on the story of twentysomething goofball Scott Pilgrim, his dream girl Ramona Flowers, and all the evil exes with whom he was once fated to do battle.
If you haven’t watched the episode “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” yet, you might want to bookmark this page and bail. Because we’re about to go deep on a major spoiler.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off makes a huge departure from the comics.
Though most of this first ep hits the familiar beats of meet-cutes, romantic misunderstandings, and the introduction of the league of evil exes, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off goes off book when its eponymous hero does not defeat hipster Matthew Patel. More than that, the dude appears to have punched to death, with a sprinkling of coins announcing his video game-like defeat.
So, why did O’Malley and his co-creator on this series, BenDavid Grabinski, decide to kill off his title character?
“We hate him,” O’Malley told Mashable in a joint Zoom interview with Grabinski, before adding with a chuckle, “No, just kidding!”
Together, the writers set the scene of their first conversation about the show that would become Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. At a dinner one night, O’Malley asked Grabinski, “You know, hypothetically, if Netflix asked me to do an anime, what should I do? How do we make Scott Pilgrim the story fresh?”
At this point, O’Malley recognized how the popularity of his main character has been challenged in opinion pieces and snarky tweets over the years. “What do we do with Scott Pilgrim, the character who everyone on Twitter says is the worst character in the story now?”
The Canadian cartoonist was quick to defend his creation. “I don’t believe that’s true [that Scott’s the worst character],” O’Malley said. “I think he’s a pretty interesting character.” Still, it was essential to sideline Scott to give the rest of the ensemble room to grow.
Grabinski explained, “We were both talking about how great it would be if we could find a way to have the story told a little bit more from Ramona’s perspective — and if we could spend more time with the exes. Because if the story is about Scott fighting the exes, that’s always gonna take up a bunch of real estate. And the exes die, so then they can’t interact with each other.”
Grabinski added, “How do you solve that conundrum? And I was like, ‘Oh, shit, well, if Scott dies in the fight against Matthew Patel, and then that becomes a central mystery structure, that then puts Ramona in the protagonist’s seat. And now if Scott’s not fighting and killing the exes, what happens next?’ Bryan and I just end[ed] up spending years thinking of the most fun story that we could tell, coming from that perspective.”
Bryan Lee O’Malley doesn’t care what Twitter thinks of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.
As O’Malley expressed frustration about the Scott Pilgrim fandom’s view of its eponymous protagonist, we asked how he thought they’d react to this episode one twist. He answered, “I hope their heads will fall off, and then we don’t have to worry about them anymore.”
After a moment, O’Malley spoke to the difficulty with parsing fan reactions online. “You know, the way online fandom works now is, like, we’ll see everything,” he explained. “We’ll see the very bad, the very good, and the very mid — as the kids say. So, it’s just like, how do you sort that? What is noise, and what is actually meaningful?
“Especially at this point,” he continued, “Like on Twitter/X, every reply is not sincere. Like, these people don’t mean anything. They’re saying they’re baiting or they’re trolling or whatever. I don’t know how seriously I’m going to take any of it. But it’ll be fun, I think, to watch the reaction.”
BenDavid Grabinski offers hope for Scott Pilgrim fans.
While things look dark for Scott for a few eps, Grabinski has faith that fans will be pleased with the show.
“I’m a bigger fan of the books than Bryan is,” he began, “And I also think that if you get to the end of the season, and you don’t think there was enough Scott, you’re out of your mind, because there is an unbelievable amount of Scott — almost maybe too much by the end.”
Getting into spoilers for episodes two through six, Grabinski offered that several characters essentially serve as stand-ins for Scott. “You get to see Todd as Scott, Lucas as a Scott surrogate because he’s like a guy who’s jobless and is a freeloading roommate. There’s so much Scott, even when there’s not Scott.”
Grabinski further argues that the Scott Pilgrim franchise has always been about more than its titular twentysomething. “I just always view this as, like, an ensemble, and I love every character,” he explained. “And I want to get to spend as much time with everybody as I can. And I think that we’re hoping that fans will be like, ‘Oh, this is so much stuff I never thought I would ever get, and this rules.'”
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off hits Netflix Nov. 17.