If there is one thing Paper Girls excels at, it is the core theme that children rarely grow up to become the best version of themselves. Tiffany (Camryn Jones), our resident genius, knows she will establish an educational institution outside Stony Stream when she grows up. However, the bright child with big dreams does not understand how she became a successful scientist. “Matinee” explores that weird period between floundering and flourishing, demonstrating that even intelligent, ambitious girls like Tiffany are just as flawed as everyone else. By focusing on Tiffany’s journey with her adult self, this episode creates a compelling story rich with character development and emotional depth.
In this episode, Tiffany slowly realizes her idol is not who she claims to be. Elsewhere, KJ (Fina Strazza) comes to terms with her sexual identity, while Mac (Sofia Rosinsky) finally reveals her deadly cancer diagnosis to one of her friends. Sadly, Erin (Riley Lai Nelet) has trouble adjusting to the fact that she dies during a mech fight in the future. Fortunately, Prioress and the Grand Father are not around to bog down the episode with their dated sci-fi hijinks.
“Matinee” begins with Young Tiffany and her time-traveling friends as they visit an underground rave party in Stony Stream. Their mission is to find the adult version of Tiffany so they can figure out a way back to 1988. Though KJ, Mac, and Erin are skeptical that the woman led them astray, Young Tiffany is determined to find her elder counterpart among the crowd of sweaty twentysomethings. As Young Tiffany heads backstage, she runs into a Black woman donning a crop top, blue box braids, and fish nets. This woman is Adult Tiffany (the immaculate Sekai Abenì), and she radiates a level of chill vibes that stuns the nerdy little girl in the borrowed Dave Matthews Band t-shirt.
For the most part, Adult Tiffany handles her bizarre situation like a champ. After meeting the remaining girls, she invites them to stay at her funky little loft until they figure out how to go home. For Tiffany, her counterpart is everything she sees in her future self and more. The woman is a lighting designer, went to MIT, and is bright enough to believe that time travel is a plausible concept. She even remembers that her younger self loves blueberry Pop-Tarts. Sure, her idol still resides in her old town and has a loser boyfriend. However, the bright-eyed child quickly waves those inconveniences away. As Mac keenly notes, “Tiff has always been in love with herself.”
After analyzing Larry’s notebook, Adult Tiffany suspects that the girls traveled through the wormholes that randomly popped up in Stony Stream. To figure out when and where these time anomalies show up, they must learn how to decode Larry’s coordinates. Luckily for Adult Tiffany and her mini-me, the 1999 version of Larry is alive and well. With the ledger in hand, the two Tiffanys head to Larry’s farmhouse near the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, neither Erin nor Mac assists the Tiffanys in their search as they feel Larry, regardless of his place in the timeline, is a jerk. Instead, they stay behind to play video games, bitterly think about their fates, and visit loved ones at a safe distance.
Later, Young and Adult Tiffany arrive at Larry’s residence to get the information they need to decipher the notebook. Instead of small talk, they quickly tell the freedom fighter they are part of the STF Underground and need his help. At first, Larry (Nate Corddry) does not believe them because, technically speaking, he has never met them before. Yet, when they show the farmer the coordinates he wrote over the past twenty years from his notebook, he becomes shell-shocked. Now convinced, Larry gives them instructions on how to figure out when the next wormhole, or as he calls it, “the folding,” will occur.
Meanwhile, Young KJ sneaks off to the local movie theatre to spy on her older counterpart and future girlfriend, Lauren (Maren Lord). While watching Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey near the back of the theatre, the child realizes how someone like herself can like movies, but girls, that remains a mystery. Still lost, the preteen meets up with Lauren after the show and asks why she loves “movies.” Knowing what Young KJ meant, Lauren replies that the good news is that everyone moves at their own pace. She adds, “It can be overwhelming, but every person’s journey is different.” As with many scenes in Paper Girls, this moment’s execution feels a bit hokey and forced. Yet, it is essential because it gives adolescent viewers, particularly queer ones, a roadmap to accepting who they are as a person.
Young KJ may be on a path of self-discovery, but Young Tiffany’s view of her older self begins to crack. While decoding Larry’s coordinates, the twelve-year-old learns she, or the 1999 version of herself, dropped out of MIT. This disclosure crushes the little one since she sees herself as someone who can achieve greatness. Fortunately, Adult Tiffany smooths things over when she reveals that she is developing an educational institute, the same institute mentioned in Episode 2. Sadly, Tiffany barely has time to process the news as she discovers that the subsequent folding is on July 25, 2006, which is seven years from now.
Paper Girls is building much-needed momentum in “Matinee.” The episode handles Tiffany’s unrealistic view of herself as a flawless person, KJ’s maturity, and Mac’s depression with aplomb. Unfortunately, we will deal with the worst aspects of the show in the next episode, namely Prioress and the Old Watch. Thanks to a folding unexpectedly opening in the sky at the end of the episode, we will see the return of the Star Trek villain rejects. Maybe the series will figure out to portray the antagonists in a better light before the season ends.
All episodes for Paper Girls are available on Prime Video. Check back for more weekly coverage of Paper Girls next week.