Scott Without Scott
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off: Season 1 Spoiler Discussion
Having gotten our thoughts about the first season of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off out of the way, let's address the elephant in the room: that first episode twist. Specifically (and, of course, spoilers from this point forward), we're talking the point where Scott goes to fight Matthew Patel and is immediately "defeated". As you expect from a defeated foe, Scott is seemingly killed and all that's left in his wake is a pile of coins. And, just like that, we're suddenly in uncharted territory.
Now, I keep saying "seemingly" there because, as soon becomes obvious, Scott isn't actually dead. But for the next five episodes Takes Off goes on a big swerve as it shifts from the story of Scott romancing Ramona that we know to something very, very different. And, let's be clear, this new direction is great. It becomes a parallel story that also kind of acts like a sequel to the movie, and in the process if gives us all the things we wanted that the movie just couldn't provide. I love it.
The first thing this new direction does is it puts the emphasis for the series on Ramona. In the movie, Winstead's Ramona is great but she doesn't get to do much most of the time beyond be a prize for Scott. He has to battle her exes. He has to win the right to date her. She's there as the goal for his eventual growing up, in effect. He earns the Power of Love, and then the Power of Self Respect. What did Ramona get? Well, her exes were defeated... by Scott. And she got to date Scott. That was it. He took care of her arc for her.
But by removing Scott from the equation Ramona has to grapple with her own demons. She has to take her own path, find the woman she wants to be. And, in the process, that actually means addressing her exes herself. All those stories she told about dating someone and then dumping them, leaving them heartbroken after. Yeah, the series addresses that, letting her find closure with each of them. And, in the process it illustrates one thing clearly: we're each an evil ex in someone else's story. That's pretty interesting.
It also means that each of the exes get the spotlight for a time, and they get to earn their own development. Ramona spends time with Lucas, Todd, Roxie, and Gideon, and as she talks to each of them they get a chance to heal. Instead of being defeated and reduced to a pile of coins (as in previous versions of the story), the exes become whole ass people and learn to find their true selves. This level of new development is great as it means you bond with the exes in a way you could in the movie (even though they were all gloriously played in the movie) making them all new favorite characters all over again.
As a nitpick, though, I do wish that Envy and Scott could have gotten this same level of healing and development that Ramona gets with her exes. Due to the way the story plays out, Scott isn't a major factor in his own series until the last couple of episodes, and as such anything that could have been done between him and Envy is left out. In truth, Scott has other, bigger things to tackle, and they help to redefine his story with Ramona, and that's great. Their story was a tad rushed in the movie, but the actors sold it. Giving more time in that regard to the two of them is great, even if it comes at the expense of some needed closure for Scott and Envy.
While we're on that topic, the Scott storyline is... weird. Essentially, Scott doesn't die but, instead, gets pulled into the future by Old Scott. It seems that in the future Scott and Ramona have a fight and Ramona sends Scott to live with Wallace for a few days while she gets some space. Scott, being Scott, takes it as the biggest breakup ever (like he did with his breakup with Envy) and decides that the only way to handle this is to prevent himself from ever getting together with Ramona to begin with. So he fakes his death, pulls Scott out of the way, and then does everything he can to convince Scott that this is a doomed thing... and then fails. It's funny, but also a little weird.
This is, in part, why I think some more time with Envy could have helped Scott. Him learning how to heal from a relationship would teach him how to heal if Ramona and him had a fight. Also, maybe it would teach Scott how to recognize what a breakup actually looked like. That way, if he and Ramona hit a rough patch he wouldn't instantly treat it like the end of the world. That feels like a method for growth. I know I said it's fine to not deal with Envy while getting growth for Scott and Ramona, and that's true. But at the same time, if the show could build some of that healing into season two (assuming one is ever made), I feel like that would be a winning storyline.
And I have to say, future Scott doesn't do anything for me. He's a man-child that hasn't grown up at all. As a sequel to the movie (which that feels like, for sure), one would want the Scott who was finally showing some growth at the end of that film to actually, you know, grow. Future Scott feels stunted here, like even some of the minor lessons he learned in the film didn't stick. If this was a Multiverse Scott or something else, then that would work. A Scott out to stop every Scott from getting with every Ramona. But it doesn't quite stick here the way I think the creators wanted. I think a future season two could maybe do more with this thread as well and maybe show us how Current Scott is actively fighting to not be that Future Scott... but we'd have to see that.
Speaking of exes and growth, though, let's all enjoy Knives. With Scott dead early in the series, she quickly has to find herself without him, without being the girl pining for the guy that dumped her. She gets to find herself outside of his shadow and discovers she's a musical master. Yes, she's in the friend group of Scott's, and even joins his band after he returns, but that doesn't feel bad. That shows growth, and healing, and being able to realize that some people you are with are better friends than they are as lovers. And hell, with her in the band Sex Bob-Omb doesn't suck anymore. Even the band got to grow.
So yeah, there's a lot that I like about this series, and I think all the cool narrative twists the show takes really work. It's almost like a call and response with the critiques of the films, giving us the answers to problems the critics had. It's a reboot, but a series, but a reinterpretation, a way to show how the franchise can evolve and keep fans excited and interested. It's the sequel-boot I didn't know I needed. If only other shows and movies were this creative with their adaptations to source material. It just works.