Sometimes your biggest enemy is yourself (47 years older and completely jacked from a decade of nonstop working out). Scott Pilgrim had to face a version of himself in previous interpretations of this story, but Nega Scott is nothing compared to Even Older Scott, a silver-haired maniac who has decided to wipe out young Scott, his friends, and his enemies so that he can guarantee a future where he never gets together with Ramona Flowers.
About half of “The World Vs. Scott Pilgrim” is a big fight scene where Scott, Ramona, Knives, and the evil exes all try to take down Even Older Scott, who is responsible for the AK (anti-kiss) field keeping Scott and Ramona apart. But before the big reveal, Scott and Ramona pursue their initial hunch by confronting all of her evil exes at the premiere of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Musical. Scott tries to start fights, but he’s shut down every time, so he just ends up asking all of them if they’re responsible for the forcefield.
Fighting doesn’t work as conflict resolution for Scott and the exes anymore because the exes have all matured by settling things with Ramona, except the Katayanagi Twins, who don’t want to fight Scott because Robot-01 told them they are all buds in the future. But fighting is the only conflict resolution for Even Older Scott, the most juvenile character in the cast. Even though he sent Scott back in time with nanomachines in his blood to prevent him from kissing Ramona, somehow he still ends up in the same spot in the future, and he’s pissed about it. He drops a time bomb on the musical that transports Scott and the core cast into the future, where Even Older Scott will destroy them in a desert that looks a lot like the subspace highway in his mind.
This is the biggest fight of the season, and it rocks. The back half of the season hasn’t let Science SARU go very wild with the action, and the animators put all that bottled-up violent energy into this hard-hitting sequence. It’s a spectacular mash-up of video game and anime aesthetics, with the former manifesting in the chiptune score and pixelated weapons while the latter comes through in everything else. Speed lines, hits that shatter the ground, explosive bursts of energy, and my favorite touch, shots drawn with a frenetic sketchy line to build up a really devastating hit.
Even Older Scott only becomes stronger the more he is hit, growing in size and number of bulging veins. Eventually the supporting cast is sent back in time, leaving Scott and Ramona to deal with this future mess, and Scott pleads with his older self to leave him alone and let him make his own choices. There’s always the possibility that he will still become this insane 47-year-old, but having confronted his future self twice, there’s a greater chance that Scott has learned the lessons he needs to make it through whatever rough patch he ends up in with Ramona.
That’s all that happened with Old Scott and Old Ramona: they hit a rough patch. Even Older Ramona shows up looking like she rollerbladed out of Tron, and she is deeply displeased with her husband (I assume they never formally divorced). Even Older Ramona asks Even Older Scott why he would go back and fight all these people when he could’ve been fighting for their relationship. It’s a question that addresses a major weakness of Scott’s character: he sees challenges, specifically Ramona’s history with her exes and his anxiety over how he measures up to them, as literal fights that need to be won.
Scott can’t self-reflect and find the resolve inside himself to address his concerns directly with Ramona, so when her older self needs space, Old Scott assumes that they’re done because he won’t do the work to keep the relationship alive. All he had to do was give her the distance she needed and be open to talking through the issues that pushed them apart, but instead he shut down and created an elaborate plan to erase their romance from the timeline. When that didn’t work, he went back to the plan that worked best for him in the past: fight everyone.
Everyone except Ramona. Once Even Older Ramona shows up, Even Older Scott completely powers down, and all of the rage in Will Forte’s voice is replaced by remorse. He fucked up and he knows it, but Even Older Ramona won’t give up on him. She has the opportunity to run away like she always used to do, but that’s not who she is anymore. Young Ramona sees who she can be if she stays, and she wants that future, hugging her older self so that they merge into one Super Ramona (just like Sonic the Hedgehog 3).
An ethereal golden goddess, Super Ramona teleports Even Older Scott back to his home with a hopeful message: “It’s never too late to clean up a mess.” Ramona is profoundly impacted by the fusion, awed by the beauty of her two selves and how they are fundamentally the same despite the ways she has changed over time. With all this new power, Super Ramona breaks the AK field, plants a kiss on Scott’s lips, and tells him that she loves him. In the past, she’s run from the people she loved, but she wants Scott to help her remember that what happened in the past doesn’t define her. Then she sends them back to their timeline to catch the end of the musical, more secure than ever in their relationship.
One gripe with this episode: we hear short snippets of songs from Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Musical, but we only see the audience’s reactions rather than anything happening on stage. That’s a pity because I would love to see how the production recreates these scenes with stage magic. Given the beautiful art on the proscenium arch depicting the heroes and villains of the piece, I bet that it had some fantastic production values. The little bits of music we hear are spot-on parodies of the contemporary musical theater sound, and I like to believe that there are longer versions of these waiting to be packaged up as bonus content in some way. I’m certainly wrong, but I can dream.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off was about much more than Scott and Ramona, so it’s appropriate that the season ends with an epilogue checking in on what all of the characters are up to after all the madness is over, underscored by an Anamanaguchi cover of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Knives joins Sex Bob-Omb on the keyboard, and she’s producing Envy Adams’ solo album with Stephen. Ramona becomes a professional stuntwoman. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Musical goes to Broadway and wins 27 Tony Awards. Roxy helps Todd get back into vegan shape. No Account Video closes forever. Lucas Lee becomes a barista and acts like he’s Tom Cruise in Cocktail. The Katayanagi Twins and Robot-01 read books on how to redeem themselves. Wallace goes to Paris and meets a fellow Canadian (future Nintendo husband??) who makes him see sparks for the first time.
Gordon and Julie are conspicuously missing from the epilogue, but that’s because they’re secretly plotting. As is the norm for a 2023 comic-book adaptation, we get a mid-credits scene teasing a potential Scott Pilgrim Takes Off season two. Their scheme to blow up the stage during the musical’s finale doesn’t pan out, but it does lead Matthew to give Gordon back his empire because he’s tired of being a CEO. Now Gordon has all of his old resources, and the real game is about to begin. “The Goose is loose,” Julie swoons. “Honk-honk, fuckers.”
Given how drastically Scott Pilgrim Takes Off diverged from the original story, I am fully on board with this cast and creative team continuing with a second season. They now have complete freedom to go in any direction they choose, and I’d love to see them continue to experiment with form and structure. Maybe we have a different central character (I vote for Kim Pine), or have every episode focus on someone new. The show is a unanimous critical success, and I can see it becoming a big hit on Netflix, but it might be hard to get the entire cast to sign on for another go. If we end up with only one season, it did everything it needed to do and far more to deepen the source material and give viewers a new appreciation of this world.
Precious Little Thoughts
• Ramona’s final hair change: canary yellow on top, aquamarine on the bottom.
• The air horn that plays whenever Todd Ingram mentions the sparks between him and Wallace is a hilarious sound effect.
• Kim, Stephen, Neil, and Wallace have nothing to do during the fight. If anything, Wallace should have used his powers of verbal humiliation to punch a hole in Even Older Scott’s defenses.
• Never forget to tie your shoelaces before the final showdown!
• The series ends with a dedication to Doug Sherwood, a production assistant on the last two Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and a staffer at Oni Press, the books’ publisher.
• Stephen Root manages to find his way into every TV show, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he is credited as playing The Nanomachines. The role he was born to play!
• My favorite reaction from people walking out of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Musical: “Yeah, it sucked.”
• Two great musical moments at the end of this episode: Plumtree’s “Scott Pilgrim” plays over the final scene (duh), and the credits feature a Scott Pilgrim riff on “Techno Syndrome,” a.k.a. the Mortal Kombat song, with an announcer naming all the characters.
• “Come on, let’s go watch a stupid musical about a stupid guy.”
• “No fights? No kissing? This finale sucks.”
• “Based on a memoir by Old Young Neil. Wonder if there’s any relation?”