Paper Girls (Season 1) Review, Recap & Ending Explained: Paper Girls, the show that has been touted as Amazon Prime’s answer to Netflix’s phenomenal success that is ‘Stranger Things’, had its season 1 premiere this Friday. With all eight episodes being available on Prime, the show based on the hit graphic novel series of the same name by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang, has well and truly arrived. Comparisons with ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Dark’ are inevitable, with bike-riding teens and always engrossing complications of time travel. However, if season one is anything to go by, ‘Paper Girls’ should and will, rightfully, rise to a place of its own. Separated from the comparisons, among the fans of the genre.
Paper Girls (Season 1) Recap:
It is 1988, and the paper route is a glimmer of hope for our eponymous paper girls. For Erin (Riley Lai Nelet), it is the start of her new life in what presumably is a new country for her and her family. The job of delivering newspapers is the first step toward fulfilling her dream. For KJ (Fina Strazza), it is a respite from her seemingly perfect life which might just be too perfect for her. For Tiffany (Camryn Jones), the job is the stepping stone for her neatly planned out future. And for Mac (Sofia Rosinsky), the job is a job. In its most real definition. A means to earn money.
But all of this changes on the day after Halloween, which is the day Erin starts her job of paper delivery. After a brief battle with local bullies and casual racism, the paper girls get caught up in the ‘Time war’. A war that gets them transported to 2019 at the end of the first episode, with an encounter with adult Erin (Ali Wong). After the usual realization and subsequent absurdness of time travel wear off, the girls try to figure out how to go back home, which is not just a space anymore.
The next couple of episodes tries to establish the dynamic of the girls trying to take a peek at their respective futures, all the while gradually providing information about the ‘Time war’. The war is being fought between two factions: The ‘STF Underground’, a rebellious group believing that the future can be changed for the better with calculated interference by traveling through time; and the Old Watch, the seemingly authoritative force in charge of maintaining the timeline as it is.
The paper girls had previously encountered STF members Heck and Naldo before they were transported in 2018. Heck and Naldo perished in the fight with the Old Watch cavalry led by the formidable Prioress (Adina Porter). But not before saving the paper girls and handing a gadget to Tiffany. This gadget now leads Larry Radakowski (Nate Corddry), a member of STF in 2019, to find the paper girls, along with adult Erin.
Larry shows the girls and adult Erin the giant robot he has built for time travel. With adult Erin piloting the robot, the girls, along with Larry travel to 1999, instead of 1988 as they wanted. Before Larry could explain anything they are attacked by Old Watch’s time-traveling giant robot. Larry gets killed and after a Pacific-Rim-like fight, adult Erin sacrifices herself to kill the marauding Old Watch robot.
The girls, with a distraught Erin who just saw her future self die, reach out to adult Tiffany. That is 1999 Tiffany (Sekai Abeni). With adult Tiffany, they find the 1999 version of Larry, to decode the ledger written by 2019 Larry. It is the girls’ hope to go back to 1988. However, things quickly turn awry as Prioress and the Grand Father (Jason Mantzoukas), the authoritative head of the Old Watch, reach Larry’s farm.
Paper Girls (Season 1) Review:
I have to admit, the first episode did feel a bit awry and a little too full. Establishing the characters and their dynamic, the characters bonding while fighting the bullies, then getting caught up in the inexplicable war fought with star wars-esque laser guns, and finally getting transported to 2019 where they meet adult Erin; all these would come across as quite rushed. However, ‘Paper Girls’ starts displaying its true form with each moment post that.
For science fiction fans, especially those with particular interests in time-travel stories, ‘Paper Girls’ might falter to provide the supreme thrills of time travel. However, it is not the thrills and twists that various complications of time travel offer, but the simplistic linearity of life, which is the cornerstone of what ‘Paper Girls’ portrays in its pinkish spectrum. The question ‘Are we what we wanted to be?’ is the theme ‘Paper Girls’ focuses on, rather than the genre gratifications of time travel. The show would make us ponder about our past selves while wondering about the future one.
The confrontation between the hopeful past and the disappointing future is shown in various colors with our four paper girls. The show deftly explores one often neglected horizon that gets presented by the concept of time travel. The trauma of the future. It tries to explore the inevitable from a childish perspective, and it largely succeeds there. This is exceptionally handled from the innocent perspective of teenage Mac when she learns that in the future, she has no future. The story arc between Mac and her brother’s 2019 version is one of the highlights of the show.
As probably intended, the Sci-Fi part of the show takes the back seat. But, the show does not shy away from showing its Sci-Fi mettle either. The fights with laser guns might look a little cartoonish, however, the giant robot fight more than makes up for it. Whatever the show lacked, it is compensated by the endearing turn of all the four leads. Which is important for subsequent seasons.
Paper Girls (Season 1) Ending Explained: What Causes Prioress’ change of heart?
At a quite absurd turn, the grandfather kills the 1999 Larry with the help of his pet pterodactyl. And the four girls are taken to a place that could only be the Old Watch’s headquarters. At this moment, Prioress, to everyone’s great surprise, tries to help the girls escape the place. She asks them to find Dr. Braunstein. However, she encounters other members of the watch and a fight ensues. In the kerfuffle, the girls do get to escape, however they get separated as well.
Mac and KJ leave in the first time capsule, and Erin and Tiffany have to take another one. And it seems they are transported to another unfamiliar period. Possibly the 70s. Prioress is killed by GrandFather for this. Prioress, who lost her brother in the ‘Time War’, is expectedly losing confidence in the cause of the war. She lets the girls go as she believes the girls could stop Dr. Braunstein from inventing time-travel, which in turn should stop the war from ever breaking out, thus ending the war.
Who is Dr. Braunstein?
Now, the show does not delve further into this season, however, in Brian K. Vaughn’s comics Dr. Braunstein is the creator of time travel. It is expected that we will know much more about her in the upcoming seasons.
What role does Tiffany play in inventing time travel?
In the final sequences before Old Watch stormed Larry’s farm in 1999, young Tiffany handed Old Tiffany the ledger maintained by Larry. With Tiffany’s talent and knowledge, it is expected she could capitalize on Larry’s ledger. If Prioress is to be believed Tiffany’s older self plays a significant part in the invention of time travel. Which in turn would mean, Larry’s ledger also plays a significant part there. The paradoxical nature of time travel could be in full form here.
Can Mac and Erin avert their deathly future?
As Prioress said, the future is what they make it. Larry has already been shown dying twice. Once eaten by a pterodactyl and once laser beamed to oblivion by a giant robot. Notwithstanding Larry’s full commitment to the Sci-Fi tropes, it does seem contradictory to die twice. So, with keeping all these in mind. It is possible and probable that both Mac and Erin can avoid the death they have heard or seen as impending.
Paper Girls (Season 1) Trailer
Paper Girls (Season 1) Show Links – IMDb
Paper Girls (Season 1) Show Cast – Camryn Jones, Riley Lai Nelet, Sofia Rosinsky, Fina Strazza, Adina Porter