The first episode of Paper Girls looked like it was going to be a show capitalizing on the boom of 80s nostalgia. In actuality, the final minutes of the episode seemed to switch that up by hurling the main characters into the present through some mysterious form of time travel that hasn’t been explained yet.
All that we know is that the mysterious woman they met in Erin’s house is in fact an adult version of Erin herself.
Paper Girls Season 1 Episode 2 recap – Welcome to 2022…
While the fact that they’ve been thrown forward in time is causing the four main girls to understandably freak out, Adult Erin is also understandably freaking out. She is coming face to face with a twelve-year-old version of herself showing up on her doorstep.
As the paper girls come to terms with their new situation, Erin and Adult Erin talk to try and grasp the unexpected situation they find themselves in. Erin is clearly disappointed with how her life seems to have turned out and can’t hide her disappointment from Adult Erin.
Adult Erin lets the girls stay the night, though Mac sneaks out to check on her own house, only to find it demolished with no idea where any of her family might be in the future. The next day, as the girls marvel at the wonders that 2022 holds through the eyes of people who just came from the 1980s, they try to form a plan on how to get back to their own time.
Their plan revolves around the mysterious piece of tech that Tiff found in the previous episode. Adult Erin takes the girls to a tech store to get it looked at.
At the store, there is a bit of awkward conversation between Adult Erin and the tech support guy, suggesting that there may have been an attempt at a romantic past. That all gets cast aside when the attempt to charge the mysterious device causes it to short circuit.
Tiff yells at Adult Erin, saying that she’s ruined their one shot of getting home.
Paper Girls Season 1 Episode 2 recap – Your future may be disappointing…
Back at the house Erin also yells at the adult version of herself, as she is upset with how her life seems to have turned out. She vows to make it back to the 1980s so that she can do everything possible to keep herself from turning into this version.
Erin and the other paper girls leave the house to find the adult version of Tiff, hoping that she will be more helpful to their quest to get back home. In their haste to leave however, they all manage to leave behind the piece of mysterious future tech.
Tiff wants to go back for it, but nobody else is willing to see Adult Erin again. The girls find an abandoned mall where they stay the night.
Tempers in the group flare up, as Mac leaves the group, saying that she’s going to find the adult version of her brother who is a doctor in present times. Meanwhile, back at the house, Adult Erin discovers the mysterious piece of tech.
It turns out that it isn’t fried. After Adult Erin messes with it a bit, trying to clean it up, she accidentally activates it. It scans her and creates a heads up display in her field of vision.
Heeding this high-tech call to adventure, Adult Erin leaves in search of the girls. Of course, as the paper girls have been wandering around the present day, their pursuers, the mysterious group of people seemingly from the future, continue their search.
They discover KJ’s hockey stick from where she threw it down after the fight in the previous episode. Using the stick, with KJ’s name on the handle, the leader of the mysterious group tracks down KJ’s parents in the present timeline.
Confirming they do know the owner of the hockey stick, they kill the two of them in their home, ending the episode.
Time travel can be as scary as it is exciting…
While the first episode of Paper Girls was continuing the ever-growing television trend of nostalgia for the 1980s, with only a touch of modern times in the last few minutes of the episode, this one is all about the present. The girls from the 1980s get to experience all kinds of culture shock as they marvel at the internet, cell phones and Alexa (Amazon gets a bit of product placement in there).
It’s nice to see that the fish out of water theme of the episode played nicely. Some things are impressive, but other things are more confusing than exciting.
The show also takes time to let the girls fully grasp the idea of having been thrown forty years into the future. Not only do they take time to worry about how things have changed for the worse in the forty years that they missed, they have to grapple with what seeing the future would mean to them personally.
Erin is freaked out by the adult version of herself that she meets not because the life she’s living is so bad, but because it feels so possible. Mac faces a reality that she always thought might be inevitable, even if she never wanted to believe it herself.
You see so many stories where people are flung into the future to find a dystopian hellscape. But the way Paper Girls presents the present day to the characters from the 1980s, in many ways, reality comes across as scarier.
Like before, even though it’s a high concept show, with time travel and laser fights, some of the best moments are the small character beats that help to make the four main characters feel richer and more full. In a slower moment in the plot, the girls realize that if it’s been forty years, then all of their pets must have died by now.
It’s a realization that seems sobering, but very detached at the same time. It leads to the girls telling each other about their pets and opening up about their lives.
It does little to move the plot forward, but it’s one of the best moments in the episode. It helps to turn the group of girls who were just in the wrong place together, into a group of friends who bond by having to face this unknown world together.
It helps to cement that these characters are still young girls being thrust into an adventure story that they didn’t want to be a part of. And just as it helps to pull the group closer together, it also plants the seeds for the fractures that will come up later in the episode.
It’s a standout moment that is able to balance both, pushing the story forward in a way you don’t even feel until you realize what it’s done.
Will Adult Erin be able to find the girls? Will the girls be able to return home?
Let us know your thoughts of Paper Girls season 1 episode 2 in the comments below!
You can watch Paper Girls season 1, only on Amazon Prime Video!