Paper Girls: A Spectacular Sci-Fi Treat

Ever since Stranger Things premiered on Netflix in 2016, it seems like all things ‘80s has infiltrated 21st century media. This might have encouraged Amazon Prime Video to produce a TV adaptation of Brian Vaughan’s 2015 comic book series, Paper Girls.

Premiered on July 29, 2022, Paper Girls tells the story of four 12-year-old girls who unwittingly time travel from 1988 to 2019 while delivering newspapers the morning after Halloween. The girls find themselves in the middle of a “time war” between two groups of the distant future and spend most of the first season trying to find a way back home to 1988.

The sci-fi series stars Riley Lai Nelet as the reserved “New Girl” Erin Tieng; Camryn Jones as the brave brainiac Tiffany Quilkin; Sofia Rosinsky as the quick-tempered tomboy Mac Coyle; and Fina Strazza as the wealthy, field hockey-playing K.J. Brandman. This is probably the first time many viewers are seeing these girls on screen, and these promising young actresses blew it out of the water.

They do a brilliant job at bringing these unique characters to life, from comic book to TV screen (Rosinsky’s performance as Mac is especially impressive, like in episode four when she holds back tears riding on the back of K.J.’s motorcycle).

Some parts are funny (like when the girls first discover a talking Amazon Alexa in future Erin’s house), some parts are gut-wrenching, and the chemistry between these four girls translates into realistic dialogue, entertaining scenes, and organic character development—the recipe for a near-perfect show.

These multi-dimensional characters experience radical moments of self-discovery as they jump through time and meet their future selves. In fact, getting to know the four leads through each time period was what I kept looking forward to each time I hit “next episode.” Not only do the four main actresses do a magnificent job at portraying their characters, but the adult casting for this show is spot-on for the most part (Comedian Ali Wong plays adult Erin, but her character was ironically the least funny part of the show).

Regardless, what these girls discover in the future is completely different from how they envisioned their lives to turn out. It’s something they all must come to terms with, whether they like it or not—and that’s not so easy at 12 years old. It’s a story of fate vs free will—are they simply caught in a time loop, where their lives will play out the same way no matter what, or can they actually change their destiny?

Paper Girls is not afraid to get deep, covering themes of income inequality, coping with death, questioning one’s sexuality, and even getting a first period while attempting to decipher the instructions from the inside of a tampon box. All four character arcs are important, relatable, and timeless.

This show has a killer soundtrack as well, like Danzig’s “Mother,” which Mac rocks out to on her brother’s Walkman, and The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” which plays through the first episode’s end credits. Another thing I loved about this series is that it steered clear of over-played ‘80s songs (I’m looking at you, “Africa” by Toto).

Some criticism around Paper Girls targets the time travel aspect of the show, arguing that it’s not as fleshed out as it should be. The show’s time travel logic can be a bit shaky at times, as there are a few discrepancies in the time loop (i.e., how can someone who dies in the past be alive in the future?) But, in my opinion, it’s better to sit back and enjoy the show for what it is rather than wracking your brain trying to solve the age-old time travel paradox. After all, this is a series where you come for the time travel, stay for the characters.

Paper Girls received mostly positive reception, however, which is why I was surprised—and heartbroken—to hear on Friday that this coming-of-age series would not be renewed for a second season. According to Deadline, Legendary Television (a production company that co-produced Paper Girls) is looking to sell the series to another platform. So, there’s still a glimmer of hope that Paper Girls will continue on another network or streaming service. Plus, you can always grab the comic series at your local bookstore or library.

Overall, Paper Girls is a spectacular series with a promising ensemble. It’s a story of friendship, finding who you are, and making your own future. I really hope we do get to see these girls perform alongside each other for a second season and beyond on another platform, especially since the finale ends on a cliffhanger. For now, I’ll just be traveling back in time to watch season one all over again.