Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3/5
Paper Girls is going to be a polarizing watch. Depending on whether you’ve read the source material or are going into this completely blind, you’re undoubtedly going to have a very different opinion on Amazon Prime’s latest time travel adventure. The show certainly has its moments but this is very much a lukewarm effort to what’s otherwise a red-hot graphic novel. While I do appreciate changes need to be made, by comparison to adaptations like Umbrella Academy and Watchmen, Paper Girls makes some baffling creative choices – and none of them particularly good.
For those unfamiliar with the comics, I’ll try not to spoil too much because it’s a great read and well worth your time. The story within the book centers on four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls who uncover a shocking mystery that whisks them up on a time-traveling adventure, hopping across different time periods, all of which important and colliding into some pretty shocking discoveries. Mix in some fast-paced action, a coming of age story and big cliffhangers, you’ve got a great archetype for a thrilling TV show.
The series takes this core concept but essentially waters down a lot of the twists and turns in the process, deciding instead to focus much more on the interpersonal drama between the girls.
Erin is still the new girl to the group, Tiffany still the brains of the operation while Mac is the tomboy and KJ has conflicting feelings about her friends. These characters, the care put into making them authentic to their comic counterparts, is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire project. The acting is great across the board too, the bickering is on-point and most of the drama and banter between them is well written. There are a couple of moments that stand-out for the wrong reasons, with some forced dialogue and eyebrow raising segments, but it’s pretty good on the whole.
Around that though are several brand new characters introduced for this serial adaptation, while several other “surprise inclusions” become much less of a surprise as the show continues. The word predictable is not something I’d expect to find myself mentioning in the same breath as Paper Girls but there we go.
The plot basically repeats the same beats across the different timelines, with a cat and mouse chase featuring the antagonistic Old Guard and a familiar face helping in each timeline, which becomes a repetitive trope across the 8 episodes.
As mentioned above, those familiar with the comics are probably not going to be too impressed with what Amazon have done with this. The first episode is almost beat for beat the same as the comic but then the rest of the episodes veer off wildly from the source material, marching to the beat of its drum, distorting and changing key events of the story in the process.
As a standalone time travel flick, this one isn’t too bad but for some reason everything here just looks…cheap. I’m not normally one to point out the budget but given Amazon are quite happy to throw billions away on their Lord of the Rings fanfiction, it seems odd that Paper Girls doesn’t make the most of its visuals and have a lavish amount of money thrown at it too.
There are some massive shockers that came about in the comics because of the sheer scale and craziness of the plots but that’s been lost in this small screen adaptation. It’s not a complete greenscreen disaster like Thor: Love and Thunder, but it also feels closer to something like Future Man in terms of scope and interior sets.
This is a decidedly slower paced adventure than you may be expecting, and there are quite a few lulls in the story. Because of the way this has been written, much of the interpersonal drama takes precedence over the crazy plots and time jumps.
While there’s nothing wrong with that of course, there are large chunks of the story that feel drawn out – despite the short episode lengths of between 38-50 minutes.
If you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama and a coming-of-age plot then this will certainly whet the appetite. If, however, you’re after something fast paced and action-driven like the source material -or even something to fill the gap now that Stranger Things has ended – Paper Girls will likely come up short.
And that ultimately stems back to the earlier point I made about the comics. Distorting and changing the source material is not a bad thing if it’s done with the purpose of enhancing or even deconstructing a story to make it better or artistically different. Paper Girls doesn’t feel like it does either. Sure, there are a couple of smart changes but most of these derive from the characters, who are the real stars of the show.
Despite its epic scale, Paper Girl plays out as a simple and rather cheap-looking time-travel story, with great characters dropped into a slow-moving narrative. Given the comics are anything but slow, it makes this adaptation tough to swallow. Still, there’s enough here to enjoy but it’s unlikely to be a massively memorable experience when you finish.
Verdict - 6/10