Time travel is one of the most challenging science fiction concepts to capture in a television series. For every Quantum Leap and Doctor Who, there is a Timecop waiting to screw it all up. The subgenre is tricky to pull off because writers need to establish the rules early, stick to said rules, and prevent any unnecessary plotholes that can confuse viewers. Although The Time Traveler’s Wife is a critical flop, the show attempts to keep things simple by clearly explaining Henry’s unusual ability. Perhaps Paper Girls needs to follow the HBO series lead and explain the mechanics of its world better. Despite watching five episodes, I still do not understand how time travel works in the Prime Video show.
“A New Period” represents the best and worst of Paper Girls. The opening scene depicts a fight between two giant robots that are so corny, predictable, and visually unappealing that I wanted to shut off the show and switch to Selling the OC. Yet, the episode progresses when it moves away from its terrible visual effects and focuses on the developmental milestones young girls experience as they grow up.
In Episode 5, the paper girls and Larry (Nate Corddry) travel back in time thanks to the robot Adult Erin (Ali Wong) pilots. However, their arrival comes with major complications since a mech piloted by an Old Guard soldier is waiting for them near a factory in Stony Stream. Larry and Erin fight the fiend valiantly, or rather, Erin gives it her all while Larry dies instantly from a laser blast. The girls manage to escape from the chaos and destruction, but Adult Erin’s death scars them. Shortly after, Prioress (Adina Porte) and the Grand Father (Jason Mantzoukas) head to the area and erase any evidence of the fight.
With the battle fresh in their minds, the paper girls debate what to do next. Tiffany (Camryn Jones) wants to help the freedom fighters stop the war, while KJ (Fina Strazza) intends to return home to her family and forget what happened. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the four preteens discover through a newspaper headline that Larry did not send them back to 1988 but to 1999. Thanks to the Standard Time Fighter’s big lie and utter incompetence, the girls must figure out how to evade the Old Guard and go home safely. Yet before they tackle their massive problems, Young Erin needs a tampon.
Since Young Erin (Riley Lai Nelet) does not have any money, she enlists resident bad girl Mac (Sofia Rosinsky) to help her steal some sanitary products at the convenience store. Watching this scene is delightful since the two girls work together to distract the lonely pimple-faced teenage cashier. With the boxes of tampons in their hands, the four paper girls huddle together to figure out how to apply the product. KJ and Mac are clueless as they have never had their period, so Tiffany reads the instructions aloud. However, Young Erin freaks out when she learns that the product can cause toxic shock syndrome. As a result, she opts out for a pad, or as Mac snidely calls a “diaper.”
Later, the girls head to KJ’s house, hoping to grab some supplies without getting noticed. Despite their efforts, the rich girl’s parents are in the middle of hosting a big Fourth of July party for the entire neighborhood. All the who’s who of Stony Stream are in attendance. Okay, not everyone, as Tiffany is the only Black person on the premises. At least that does not stop her from eating the tasty appetizers. As the party continues, Mac and Erin head into the guest room to steal money from the wealthy patrons’ coats. During this tender scene, Mac reveals her positive experience with her older brother and his family.
Elsewhere, KJ runs into Lauren (Maren Lord), a friend from Adult KJ’s college, in her childhood bedroom. As they talk, Lauren gushes about Adult KJ’s pursuit of becoming a director while attending New York University. She even invites the young girl to a film retrospective on Stanley Kubrick. However, the biggest revelation that shocks KJ is when she witnesses the adult version of herself kissing Lauren. Let’s face it, KJ is a product of her times. Mainstream society did not celebrate queer identity and history in the 1980s, especially during the AIDS crisis. Sadly, she reacts poorly by lashing out at the other paper girls after they leave the party. Totally over the girl’s immaturity, Tiffany calls the future version of herself for assistance.
Even with the atrocious beginning, “A New Period” is giving Disney Channel and Nickelodeon a run for their money. The YA drama continues to excel at capturing the events every preteen girl experiences as they transition from an adorable little girl to a moody adolescent. In some cases, the series does this better than the previously mentioned networks. Take Erin’s first period, for example. In lesser hands, her bewilderment and fear may come off as cringy or too comedic, but the shows handle her moment with compassion. Sadly, Prime Video does not see the value in these moments as Paper Girls will not return for another season.
All episodes for Paper Girls are available on Prime Video. Check back for more weekly coverage of Paper Girls next week.