Recommended: Paper Girls on Amazon Prime Video
What's Paper Girls About?
In 1988, four 12 year-old girls are out delivering newspapers when they stumble upon a group of time traveling soldiers. The next thing they know, they're in 2019, trying to figure out how to get home without getting killed.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
Let's be frank: Paper Girls is an assemblage of sci-fi adventure parts that fans of the genre have seen many times before. Obviously the girls join forces with the rebels in 2019, and obviously, adult Erin taps undiscovered strength as she suddenly becomes responsible for protecting a group of kids who have stepped out of their timeline. And of course the entire story is an unsubtle allegory for left-leaning political concerns about class disparity, racial harmony, and gender roles. Any Star Trek fan will see this coming.
Meanwhile, because Stranger Things casts a long shadow, there are plenty of action set pieces, 80s pop culture references, and shopping mall sequences. Viewers will also spot similarities to Transformers (in the form of a giant robot that's somehow essential to time travel) and Terminator 2 (when an actor with an Edward Furlong haircut has an emotional moment on the back of motorcycle.)
Still, all of the above is agreeably distracting, and since the episodes are both action-packed and only around 40 minutes long, they zip right by.
And for those who look closer, the series comes alive in the subplots that surround its central story. In 2019, for instance, Mac reconnects with her beloved older brother, a former juvenile delinquent who is now a successful doctor. Their reunion forces them to be honest about how much they love each other, and to acknowledge the mistakes they made when they were young, bigoted jerks in the 80s. It's a sophisticated bit of moral searching tucked in an episode whose primary set piece involves a chase scene at a Chili's.
Similarly, Ali Wong and Riley Lai Nelet have a mournful curiosity about each other: The older Erin looks sadly at the girl who doesn't know the pain that's awaiting her, while the younger one is aghast at the sight of the woman she might become. Their scenes have the sting that any of us might feel if we had to explain our worst days to our younger selves.
There are also powerful moments where the two Erins speak Chinese to each other without explaining themselves to anyone else, where Jeff looks at personal mementos that don't get an immediate backstory, and where K.J. telegraphs gay yearing for Mac with just a few glances. It's possible these elements will be directly addressed later, but it's a testament to the series that it immediately gives its characters subtle layers and trusts us to notice them. The people on screen feel like complex human beings instead of just vessels for high concept action.
Pairs well with