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Series / Paper Girls (2022)
aka: Paper Girls

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Paper Girls is a 2022 science-fiction drama series based on the acclaimed Image comic book created by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chang. It stars Camryn Jones, Riley Lai Nelet, Sofia Rosinsky, Fina Strazza, Ali Wong, and Nate Corddry. The series premiered on Prime Video on July 29, 2022 and was cancelled after one season, though it is being shopped around.

Much like the comic, the series follows a group of paper girls who, while working their route in the wee hours of the morning after Halloween 1988, find themselves embroiled in bizarre events involving time travel.

Previews: Trailer

Paper Girls includes examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The girls travel to 2019, while the series was released just a little while later in 2022.
  • Abusive Parents: Mac and Dylan's dad was, it's indicated, a violent man who abused the two.
  • Action Girl: Prioress, a tough member of the Old Watch, hunts down the girls. They too are skilled for their age, at least in running, hiding, or thwarting pursuers. Mac even has a gun early on (though this ends badly).
  • Adaptation Distillation: The series deviates from the comic in both some major and minor ways:
    • Major: Elements of Erin and KJ's personalities are taken from the last issue of the comic, after the time war ends and the timeline is reset: at the beginning of the series, KJ is the confident one while Erin is more timid, but this gets flipped in the new timeline as it is here, with Erin being more confident and KJ being more timid.
    • Major: Heck and Naldo serve a larger role in the comic before dying, which happens during a failed time jump, not while being ambushed.
    • Major: Prioress is barely seen in the comic, with her only real impact on the story being that it was her death which convinced Grand Father to be more harsh. Here, she's the primary antagonist.
    • Major: In the comic, Tiffany always knew she was adopted (she was Hispanic, her adoptive parents were white) and she never seemed affected by it. Here, she doesn't find out until she's an adult, and it becomes a major source of angst which ends up derailing her academic career.
    • Minor: In the comic, KJ is the one who gets her first period. Here, it's Erin.
    • Minor: In the comic, Missy is a Medevac pilot. Here, she's former military and a career woman.
    • Minor: In the comic, the older (year 2000) Tiffany has grown her hair into dreadlocks and dyed it red. Here, 1999!Tiffany has cornrows which are dyed blue.
    • Minor: In the comic, Erin's parents are both still alive in the future. Here, her dad died when she was little, and her mom died earlier in 2019.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: In the comics, Mac has red hair. Sofia Rosinsky is a brunette.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the comics, Erin and her family are from Vietnam. In the series, they're from China.
  • Affably Evil: The "evil" part is debatable, but Grand Father usually projects an easygoing front. However, when things go more wrong than he was expecting, he doesn't hesitate to have someone killed or condemn a formerly loyal member of his organization to death.
  • Alternate Timeline: The 2019 that the girls visit is implied to be one; the girls have adult selves, which would be impossible if there was no version of them in the past to grow up. Also, Adult!Dylan mentions that Mac died of brain cancer when she was 16, as opposed to remembering her mysteriously disappearing when she was 12. Later lampshaded when 2019!Erin mentions remembering her mother being angry when she came home later than expected after her first day on the paper route, which would seem to indicate 1988!Erin makes it back.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When the girls ask how 2019!Erin found them, she scoffs, "This is Stoney Stream, not Manhattan."
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Prioress, a member of the Old Watch, has a buzzcut and she implacably hunts down the girls while killing or manhandling anyone in her way.
  • Big Brother Bully: Dylan bullied Mac while they were growing up, and he expresses regret after they meet again in 2019, apologizing for it saying he's come to realize upon becoming a father how wrong that was.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Mac, as part of her tomboy style, has very short hair in a cut common for boys in the 80's.
  • Brainy Brunette: Tiffany is a black girl who plans on going to MIT. It turns out her future self did, and is highly intelligent, helping the girls figure out how they can go back in time.
  • Broken Pedestal: 1988!Erin is jarred to see the older version of her sister Missy, who she always thought of as a cool and amazing girl, now turned into a colder woman who was barely there for her or their mother.
  • Canon Foreigner: Larry and Juniper were created for the series.
  • Coming of Age Story: All the tween girls (they're twelve when the story starts) are thrust across time and then get caught in a war between different time travelers, showing a lot of capable maturity for their ages dealing with them when even as many adults couldn't.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Old Watch likes to have people eaten by dinosaurs (or pterosaurs, which aren't the same). Larry gets this treatment in 1999.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In 2019, Mac's brother informs her how a few of the derogatory insults kids threw around in 1988 are no longer acceptable.
  • The Dragon/The Dreaded: Prioress is this for nearly the entire season. She is Grand Father's chief enforcer, relentlessly pursuing the girls (who think she intends to kill them, partially in revenge for KJ killing her brother) and on several occasions they barely escape her. She eventually has a change of heart after finding out Tiffany's identity, and tries to send them on a mission to prevent the war from ever happening in the first place.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: After Mac makes remarks about KJ (who's Jewish) being from a rich banking family, the latter tells her that's inappropriate and she cites the Holocaust for evidence why. Mac protests this isn't like that, but KJ tells her she's had antisemitic graffiti put on her locker before, so this kind of attitude hasn't yet gone away, and it shuts Mac up. Mac later apologizes, and KJ invites her and their friends to her bat mitzvah.
  • The '80s: The story begins in 1988, before the girls first time-travel to 2019.
  • First Period Panic: Erin gets her first period in episode 4, but though she's clearly surprised, she doesn't begin to actually panic until the next episode. First she's dismayed by the vague instructions and warnings on a box of tampons, then is further confused by the others' misbeliefs about them. The poor girl gets so rattled she stops thinking rationally and tries to "quit".
    KJ: I don't think you can quit your period.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water:
    • The girls go from 1988 to 2019, and have to adjust - they're especially blown away by the Internet, which they find awesome.
    • Tiffany wants to find her future self via the phone book only to be informed they're not being published anymore. She looks up her name on Google and finds something called "The Quilkin Institute", but her research is cut short.
    • The girls are naturally astounded at the existence of Alexa, cell phones, and other devices people in 2019 take for granted.
    • Mac tries to put one of her cassette tapes into her now-adult brother's car's radio. When Mac complains, "what kind of cheap-ass car doesn't have a tape deck?" her brother smirks, issues a voice command and the stereo plays their favorite rock song from when they were kids, with Mac sitting in wonder.
    • Given they barely have a handle on how to drive a car in 1988, it's little wonder the girls have problems with the self-starting type of 2019.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In an argument over her future self dropping out of college, the fact that 1999!Tiffany keeps calling their mother by her first name is the leadup to her dropping the bomb that Tiffany is adopted and their mother kept it from them until college.
  • Foreseeing My Death: A variation as Mac assumes she must have "escaped" the town, but when she runs into her grown brother, she learns she actually died of cancer when she was 16.
  • Future Loser: A huge row happens between Erin and her future self on how Erin sees 2019!Erin this way as she's a single, childless paralegal in her forties, when 1988!Erin wanted to be in the US Senate and have four kids. Her sister Missy is more the way she'd hoped to be, with a husband, kids, and better job. She vows to never become her. 2019!Erin scoffs that she's already on the way as Erin quit her paper route after one day.
  • Gallows Humor: When Mac and KJ visit the cemetery, Mac wonders what condition her corpse is in. KJ immediately points out that while it depends on the quality of her coffin, her eyes at least have already been eaten by worms, and she was probably buried in a dress.
    Mac: You're fucked up. People don't notice 'cause you're quiet, but you're fucked up, KJ.
  • Gayngst: KJ is shocked to see her future self is with another woman, having anxious feelings about it as it's then revealed she (at twelve) already likes girls but felt confused about the fact. She comes to accept herself over time, however.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Mac, a tough and courageous tomboy, loves to wear a leather jacket.
  • Heroic Suicide: 2019!Larry and 2019!Erin both make suicide attacks on the enemy combat robot to stop it, devastating 1988!Erin along with the rest of the girls.
  • Humongous Mecha: Both time traveler factions use giant combat robots with a pilot inside, with blasts fired from their hands that also send out scanning rays.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Mac is waving a loaded gun around dangerously when she accidentally fires it, hitting 1988!Erin in the stomach.
  • Immigrant Parents: Erin's mom is from China and doesn't speak much English, so Erin is concerned, when it seems like an emergency happened, that her mom won't know what to do.
  • Informed Judaism: KJ is established as Jewish when she mentions her mom buying a dress (that she dislikes) for her bat mitzvah. It's mentioned by KJ a couple times again, though never affects things really.
  • Jerkass Realization: Mac's brother apologizes for how poorly he treated her when they were kids as, being a father himself, he knows how crappy that was, and worse following her death.
  • The Lad-ette: Mac acts much like a stereotypical cool boy from The '80s, with short hair and also loving to wear a leather jacket. She likes stereotypical boy activities, such as roughhousing and breaking stuff for amusement (Mac went to the scrapyard for this with her older brother Dylan a lot). Mac expresses admiration for people who stand up to superior odds, including a boy she knew and 2019!Erin. She herself is a very tough tomboy. Being twelve, she doesn't do the more adult activities stereotypical of the trope (e.g. sex and drinking like a guy) though Mac otherwise fits. She has no problem befriending other girls though, unlike the One of the Boys way most are. Mac does come from a rough background however, growing up in poverty with an abusive father along with her brother.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Mac is a short-haired tomboy who wears very masculine garb (a leather jacket, t-shirt, jean shorts) along with her attitude. Because of this she gets mistaken for a boy briefly after first meeting the other girls.
  • La Résistance: Larry claims the time traveler group he's with, the STF, are the "good guys" fighting for a better future against the Old Watch, the reactionary opposition who want an oppressive elite kept in control during the Bad Future which they come from.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • The purple clouds appear not just to reset time but also wipe out memories of people caught in the wake. Larry leaves a message to himself to remember before managing to block the effects, but ally Juniper completely forgets their time together, despite a note to herself.
    • Prioress makes it clear a hospital clerk won't remember anything of her visit, but it's his choice whether he wakes up fine or wondering why he suddenly has some broken fingers.
    • It turns out that "Ablution" exists as a method of memory-wiping that Old Watch time travelers use to cover up the time war with the STF.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: KJ tries to ask Lauren, her future girlfriend, when she'd known she's into women, but then changes this to movies instead as she's too nervous. Lauren pretty clearly sees through this, though, with the subtext in her answer clear enough that KJ can't help but understand what's really being said.
  • Light Is Not Good: The antagonist Old Watch soldiers all wear white uniforms.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: 1999!KJ and Lauren, her girlfriend (especially the former). Both have long hair, with 1999!KJ wearing a nice dress at the time while being feminine overall.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jennifer Coyle says she's glad Mac has KJ "as a girlfriend". KJ, probably thinking she's mistaken Mac (a tomboy) as a budding Butch Lesbian, panics and says quickly that the pair are only friends. Jennifer, bemused, says that's what she meant, unsure of what girls call their friends by now (KJ and Mac come from The '80s, when being seen as gay was much more stigmatized). She's later shocked to see that her older self is dating another woman, so there may be an element of protesting too much from KJ (who's twelve when this happens). She's then confirmed to have a budding attraction for other girls already, and she's anxious about it.
  • Mistaken for Insane: Mac tries to meet her brother, who's a doctor in the future. It turns out she'd died long ago in the past, so he believes that she's a mentally ill girl and brings a social worker for her, to Mac's annoyance. Mac telling her her age (to judge by it she should be forty three though looking twelve) and a time traveler naturally does not help. Dylan runs a DNA test on a saliva sample from Mac's glass, realizes she really is his sister, then gets Mac released into his custody by claiming that she's his illegitimate daughter and he doesn't want his wife to find out.
  • Mood Whiplash: Mac is having a great time laughing and busting the chops of her older brother on his life as a doctor...and then he coldly says his sister died when she was 16.
  • Nice Girl: 1988!Tiffany is a kind girl, and her future self is too. 1999!Tiffany is shown to be a very popular woman with a lot of friends, quickly welcoming 1988!Tiffany and her friends to stay at her apartment with literal open arms. 1988!Tiffany is very impressed by how nice and cool of a woman she's going to be.
  • Nonconformist Dyed Hair: 1999!Tiffany is shown to be a hip, freespirited DJ who's living a bohemian lifestyle, with braided hair that's dyed blue. She claims to have dropped out of MIT as the atmosphere was too rigid and rejected any independent thinking. Tiffany decides that she'll start an institute herself to foster new ideas.
  • Note to Self: Larry leaves a note to himself on who he is and what he does with a code before putting on headphones to try and block the effect of the Old Watch's memory erasing technology. He tracks down ally Juniper, playing a recording she left herself, but she gets panicky and cuts him off, then promptly forgets the past minute.
  • Oblivious Adoption: It turns out that Tiffany was adopted, and her adult self wasn't told until she'd grown up. She...didn't take it well, and ended up getting expelled from MIT.
  • Old Maid: Erin from 1988 asks her future self (31 years later) whether she's married. 2019!Erin says that's just like their mom before replying that no, she isn't (she's forty-three or so).
  • Ominous Clouds: In the first episode the girls encounter a bizarre pink storm, leading them to seek shelter in Erin's house... and encounter her future self.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mac and KJ are never called names other than this, although their legal ones are presumably different. It turns out Mac's legal name is "Mackenzie", as seen on her grave marker.
  • Parental Abandonment: Erin's dad died when she was nine. After going into her future of 2019, she finds that her mom's died from a disease as well.
  • Phlebotinum Analogy: Grand Father uses the concept of recording over a mixtape to explain why rewriting the timeline is a bad idea: the more you "record" over the current timeline, the more the quality of it degrades. Though KJ quickly spots a flaw in the concept: if changing the timeline is so dangerous, then the Old Watch wouldn't be so casual about executing STF members, since they all live in different points on the timeline.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Obviously, due to the girls being time travelers originally from 1988, movie or TV references from past then go completely over their heads.
  • Product Placement: Erin in 2019 owns an Alexa. Naturally, the 1988 girls think it is a robot.
  • Race Lift: In the comic, Tiffany is Hispanic (the adopted child of a white couple). Here, she and her family are African-American, though she's still adopted.
  • Rapid DNA Test: When Dylan decides to test Mac's DNA to see if she really is his sister, he's able to get the results almost immediately even though the whole thing happens completely out of the blue and in the middle of the night.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: After a DNA test proving who Mac is, her brother knows telling the hospital counselor that she's his dead sister who somehow traveled through time won't work. So he spins that the DNA test indicated Mac is his illegitimate daughter to get the counselor to hush this up while he gets Mac out of there. He then sells to his wife Mac is a distant cousin so she can stay with them. He even considers selling the idea of Mac's "mom" dying so she can be adopted by them, with Mac jokingly saying if that happens, she won't be calling him "dad".
  • Sexiled: 1999!Tiffany gives 1988!Tiffany a rule (among others) of "if there's a towel on the doorknob, then knock". 1988!Tiffany (a girl of twelve) realizes this means when she's there with her boyfriend, saying that's gross.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Erin and her little sister Missy become estranged in the future due to their mom's illness. It turns out Erin cared for their mom, resenting Missy for not helping. Missy though believes Erin took over in their mom's last days and kept her away, resenting her in turn for this.
  • Something Only They Would Say:
    • A regular bit of the teens proving who they are to their future selves (or relatives) by reciting stuff only themselves would know.
    • Larry finally believes who the girls are when they matter-of-factly discuss delivering for a newspaper that went out of business twenty years earlier.
  • This Cannot Be!:
    • Clearly 2019!Erin's reaction to finding her own twelve-year old self standing in the kitchen with 1988!Erin feeling the same way.
    • Mac's brother assumes this kid claiming to be his long-dead sister is a troubled girl playing a sick joke. He realizes it's her when he sees his name written on the Walkman and has a DNA test done, yet is still unable to believe it at first.
  • Time Crash: Grand Father, the leader of the Old Watch, tells the girls that his group is preserving the timeline because otherwise enough changes will cause its collapse, along with the whole universe.
  • Time Travel: The girls find themselves thrown forward in time 31 years, from 1988 to 2019. Soon they find out two time traveler factions are fighting each other, with the girls caught in between.
  • Tomboyish Name: Mac, a quintessential tomboy, has this name to go with her style. When introducing her to his family in 2019, her brother trolls her by giving her the name Kimberly; she quickly corrects this by claiming that she normally goes by her middle name — Jo.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: 1999!Tiffany says the timeline can't ever really be changed, as they're caught in a predestination paradox where trying to is what caused this.
  • Young Entrepreneur: The titular characters work delivering papers on their bikes as young teens.

Alternative Title(s): Paper Girls