Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched Netflix’s Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, so be warned!
When news first broke that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s expansive cast would be reprising their comic-based roles for a Netflix anime series, fans understandably had questions, with the biggest arguably being, “Erm, but why?” Thankfully, the first episode proves the new series isn’t just a rehashing of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s source material, nor of Edgar Wright’s live-action film, but rather a Sliding Doors-esque alt-approach to the initial narrative, in which the titular Michael Cera-voiced slacker goes missing. It’s only after watching that the title Scott Pilgrim Takes Off takes on its intended meaning, but co-creator BenDavid Grabinski told us he was extremely nervous that fans would guess the big twist way ahead of time.
When CinemaBlend spoke with BenDavid Grabinski (who’s also behind Are You Afraid of the Dark’s reboot seasons) ahead of the show’s streaming debut, I asked how worrisome it was not only to remove the central character for so much of the season, but also to winkingly nod at the disappearance right there in the title. Here’s what he told me:
So that's the funny thing to me is that I was so sure when the title got announced that people would realize it was literal. I was so sure that the second we announced the title, someone would be like, 'So does he leave or something?' And nobody did. And I don't know how that happened. It's kind of mystifying to me. You spend so much time overthinking every aspect of it, and I got really worried that we kind of gave the game away with the title of the show. And then no one viewed it literally. So sometimes you can just be really stupid about it. Because we thought we needed to have a title that was like, 'Look, we weren't really hiding it that much.' We are hiding everything from the marketing and stuff, but I think once you watch the show and you look at the title, you're like, 'Oh, well, you know, he leaves, he takes off.'
I can’t fault BenDavid Grabinski for fretting over the possibility of Scott Pilgrim’s fandom immediately pinpointing how the new show was pivoting away from the original story, since it’s not exactly the most common pop culture occurrence for a project’s title itself to be a spoiler. Sure, there are cases where something stealthily filmed under a working title is later revealed to be part of a bigger franchise, such as Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane (also co-starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead) or Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch. But that’s still not quite the same, since the surprise in those cases subsides during the marketing campaign, while Scott Pilgrim Takes Off wasn’t so lucky in that respect.
All things considered, the creative team kinda made the perfect decision to go with that name, since it does tell viewers right out of the gate that the ex-fighting Canadian has other places to be, and theoretically thwarts any complaints about being hornswoggled by the premiere’s twist. (Not that audience complaints can ever be thwarted, but still.)
Why The Creators Took Scott Pilgrim Out Of The Equation
As far as the actual decision to visit this world without the Sex Bob-Omb singer, BenDavid Grabinski told me that was his plan from the beginning. And it's definitely not a case of under-appreciating Scott Pilgrim as a character, as he put it:
It just was fun to us. The initial idea I had was the thing that I pitched to Bryan right away. But the reason behind it that was really fun to us was that we could spend so much more time with the other characters. Because when you're dealing with Scott - I fucking love the character, and I love Michael - but if the whole narrative is driven by him fighting the exes, you're automatically losing a lot of stuff that's fun.
This is the struggle that plenty of high-profile projects have dealt with, since any character whose name is in the title is naturally going to draw the most time on-screen, outside of specific exceptions. But considering just how many unique and interesting characters Bryan Lee O'Malley filled the six Scott Pilgrim volumes with, spreading the love out appropriately wasn't fully possible with Scott still in the mix removing all those ex-boyfriends (and Roxie) from existence. Grabinski continued, while also pointing out that it's not like Scott is really gone from Episodes 2-6.
One, when the exes die, they're gone. It's like, well don't you want to have Matthew Patel around a little bit longer? Doesn't that sound fun? Doesn't it sound fun to let Ramona do a bunch of shit that has nothing to do with the story we've already done? It just felt to us like there were so many fun opportunities that come up when you do this approach to it. And then if you reach a point where you're really missing Scott, well, he's actually there a lotg. More than people even realize.
By the time the final two episodes play out, it becomes clear in retrospect that Scott technically was around a lot, via robots and scripted portrayals, even if it wasn't immediately obvious the first time around. And then we get two different versions of him to make up for lost time, so everybody wins. Except for Old Scott, and Older Scott.
While waiting to see if Season 2 gets an official order, be sure to keep streaming Scott Pilgrim Takes Off with your Netflix subscriptions to convince the platform's bosses that it's always a better world when Ramona Flowers is leading the charge.