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The Scott Pilgrim anime leaves its ending open

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off isn’t pitting its hero against the world again, but Gideon might be...

Gideon sitting in a chair bathed in red light with his hands folded together Image: Netflix

You can practically picture the pitch of the Scott Pilgrim Takes Off anime as an Archive of Our Own summary: What if Scott Pilgrim disappears before his fight with Ramona Flowers’ first Evil Ex? What if Ramona has to go Sherlock Mode for the missing Scott and unearths a grander conspiracy to sabotage her future with Scott?

But the new Netflix anime, co-written by Bryan Lee O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski, isn’t a simple “what if?” as much as it is a reshuffling and remixing of the source material. When Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) vanishes before outpunching or outsmarting the League of Evil Exes, it leaves Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to make peace with a few of her Evil Exes. Whereas past Scott Pilgrim works focused on his battle to get the girl, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is O’Malley rethinking the confines of that happily ever after — and what it really means to deal with the baggage of your troubled romantic history.

[Ed. note: Ending spoilers ahead for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.]

How does Scott Pilgrim Takes Off end?

Ramona and Scott running getting ready to fight Image: Netflix

Through time travel shenanigans, Ramona discovers a time-traveling Old Scott (Will Forte) was the mastermind behind the (Younger) Scott’s kidnapping. In the future, Scott and Ramona separated after about 12 or 13 years of marriage, so the Old Scott Scott-napped his younger self to prevent his union with Ramona and save himself an adulthood of heartbroken misery.

By the finale, Old Scott has become the Even Older Scott, and trained to become a more powerful, Ryu-sized Evil Ex, and snatches Scott, Ramona, and company into the future to literally punch away his past and wash his bruised knuckles of it. But it all comes to a head when Old Ramona rollerblades to the rescue and confronts her Old Scott, scolding him for fistfighting his past instead of fighting for their relationship.

Amid those revelations, Ramona second-guesses entering a relationship with Scott and contemplates her pattern of exiting her previous relationships. She comes to an understanding with Future-Ramona, merging with her to transform into the cosmically powerful Super Ramona. Despite knowing the possibility of their marital separation, the Ramonas decide to own their choice to enter a long-term romance with Scott Pilgrim, who, by their evaluation, will start out as an “idiot kid” who might or might not grow into “a real mess.” The Ramonas send the irritated Old Scott home to fix himself, and she gives the younger Scott a cosmic kiss to seal their relationship.

The comic source material ends with Ramona and Scott disappearing into a door of Hopefully Ever After, heading into an uncertain future and a vow to better themselves as people. The anime walks toward a more overt bittersweet route by more clearly exhibiting their possibly compromised future. Fresh with new hair dye, the present Ramona walks with Scott and friends into the next stage of life (bookended with Plumtree’s “Scott Pilgrim” song that inspired O’Malley’s comic). Now she and Scott can pursue the highs and lows of their relationship in peace.

What’s up with that credits scene?

Julie running to charge up a punch, cartoon style Image: Netflix

Or can they? Fifteen seconds into the end credits, the anime tosses a crimson-bathed stinger. After Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) restored Gideon Graves’ (Jason Schwartzman) ownership of his empire, Gideon Graves is back in his Evil Ex surveillance lair. His countless prisms of screens reveal Scott and Ramona’s first date in episode 1. “Time for the real game to begin,” he purrs. At his side as co-regent, his new girlfriend, Julie (Aubrey Plaza), adds, “The Goose is loose, honk honk, [bleep].”

After the anime branched off into a new timeline and critiqued the idea of a Nice Guy punching his problems (technically, his girlfriend’s past baggage), this stinger feels disruptive by dropping a suggestion that Gideon is planning to retread his original fight-em-all game of the League of Evil Exes. When I spoke with O’Malley, he stressed audiences shouldn’t overthink it. As he explained, the stinger is “a parody of those Marvel end credits scenes... and it also leaves the door open to do stuff in the future.” So that said, it may not be a high probability for O’Malley to rehash the old beats should any additional seasons arrive.

So what happens with Ramona and Gideon?

Regarding her Exes, Ramona has found the most clear-cut closure with Roxie Richter (Mae Whitman) and ambivalent peace with Lucas Lee (Chris Evans). Mostly, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), and Kyle and Ken Katayanagi (Julian Cihi) move onto their own hijinks.

It’s notable that Ramona’s “closure” with Gideon — who was then downgraded from the Final Boss of Evil Exes — is more indirect. She’s bewildered that the egomaniac Gideon has snagged Julie’s heart, but wishes Julie well and orders Gideon to treat the latter better. Ramona rightfully also voices a suspicion that Gideon would never let go of his proclivity for plotting, yet she doesn’t deny a humbled Gideon — maybe incrementally matured — the chance to learn from his mistakes. Gideon’s new romance with the compatible Julie, who loves his puppy dog side as much as his villainy turns her on, may seem like an opportunity to dissolve his obsession with Ramona and her love life. But then again, it might just supply him a co-schemer, who may add her own spice into their targeting of Scott and Ramona.

Scott and Ramona have plenty of time to work out their romance in their new timeline. And for whatever Scott Pilgrim Takes Off changed in the story, Gideon will always be Gideon. Sometimes that pesky ex — and his massive lair — is a reality of diving into new relationships.

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