Okay, Paper Girls. I see you. Thanks to writers Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers’s well-grounded script, the science fiction drama vastly improves in Episode 2. Instead of focusing on shock value and unearned twists, the two scribes zero in on the fragile relationship between the four leads. That said, Paper Girls is still mediocre and nowhere near as good as other supernatural female-centric fares like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Though the character growth and steady pacing make “Weird Al is Dead” an entertaining watch, the young adult series still struggles with seamlessly incorporating its sci-fi elements.
Named after Tiffany’s dead pet hamster Weird Al, Episode 2 opens with Adult Erin (a surprisingly subdued Ali Wong) trying but failing to calm herself down after witnessing the twelve-year-old version of herself breaking into her home with her punk friends. Even though the older woman is experiencing a mini panic attack, the paper girls in her kitchen are not doing well either. Young Erin (Riley Lai Nelet) paces back and forth, KJ (Fina Strazza) is in shock because she has blood on her hands—more on that later—and Mac (Sofia Rosinsky) thinks everyone is dead. Whereas Tiffany (Camryn Jones), whose more level-headed than the others, just wants to know the origins of a mysterious device a teenager gave her during the confounding gunfight in Episode 1.
With more questions than answers, Young Erin barges into her counterpart’s bedroom and asks her what will happen to her in the future. Annoyed at her younger self, Adult Erin bitterly tells the girl that she is hopelessly single, still lives in Stony Stream, has an estranged relationship with her sister Missy, and, most notably, her mother is dead. The only things the woman can call her own are her house, a dumb little car, and a dead-end job as a paralegal.
It is safe to say that Erin’s future is not going according to plan. For the child, meeting the adult version of herself is a massive disappointment since she aspires to become a United States senator with four kids, not a depressed middle-aged lady who takes Xanax to survive the grind. As distressing as Erin’s future seems, this gut punch of a reveal is intriguing as it shows that not every childhood dream comes true. Sometimes, little ones grow up to become the worst versions of themselves. It will be interesting to see how the future versions of Mac, KJ, and Tiffany will turn out in the later episodes; based on the comics, it doesn’t bode well for them.
The next day, the paralegal turned unexpected caretaker helps the girls find their way back home. When they head into the woods, they discover that the Old-Timers buried all evidence of the violent scuffle, including the field hockey stick KJ used to kill an armed soldier. As the older woman with debilitating mental issues documents her surroundings with her iPhone, Tiffany, the only person with common sense, notices that her device looks like the elder’s smartphone. So, the single woman takes the girls to a strip mall tech store, hoping her flirty tech associate can fix the broken tool. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the contraption nearly catches on fire.
Back at the house, Tiffany discovers that her doppelganger is more successful than Adult Erin, thanks to the power of Al Gore’s internet. With the online world at her fingertips, the Black child learns she has become a grownup of great importance. Excited that her future self runs an institute in Cleveland, Tiffany proposes that they go to the big city to ask her more intelligent and respectable self for assistance.
Noting the gravity of the situation, Adult Erin commands the girls to stay in her house. Young Erin, who is mad that her future is not nearly as promising as Tiffany’s, shouts at her guardian for being a loser. In defense of Adult Erin, she is not that bad. Like, she is a millennial with a stable job and owns property in a cute suburb. Cut your future self some slack, kid. Rightfully miffed, Adult Erin claps back at the brat and tells her their life began to take a turn when she quit delivering papers after the first day on the job. With tensions reaching their highest peak, the girls decide the best thing they can do is leave the pathetic woman behind for Cleveland.
Since it is late, the girls spend the night at an abandoned mall and reminisce about the stores and fast-food joints they used to frequent, such as KB Toys (RIP) and Chick-fil-A (this franchise has been cluckin’ along since 1946). Sadly, their conversation turns sour when Erin, KJ, and Tiffany lightly tease Mac about her home life as a poor white girl. This incident prompts the tough but sensitive youngster to leave everyone behind to find her older brother, who is now an ER doctor. Elsewhere, an Old-Timer named Prioress (Adina Porter) is on the hunt for the paper girl who killed her soldier. As for Adult Erin, the broken device Tiffany left at her house activates before her eyes.
As stated, “Weird Al Is Dead” is a much more entertaining romp than Episode 1. Young Erin’s dismay at her future and the unraveling of the friend group is excellent fuel for conflict. However, the YA drama still needs to figure out how they make the intergalactic battle between the Old-Timers and the Teenagers click. Unlike the broken relationship between the quartet, the show barely gives viewers anything to latch onto regarding the warring time travelers. Despite watching the first two episodes of Paper Girls, I still do not know the warriors’ names or motives without looking them up on IMDB. At this point, I rather watch Young Erin side-eye her elder than whatever Prioress and her crew are doing in Stony Stream.
All episodes for Paper Girls are available on Prime Video. Check back for more weekly coverage of Paper Girls next week.