It’s finally here! Amazon Prime Video’s Paper Girls has dropped onto the streaming service. The story is an adaptation of the comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang. It follows a group of paper girls who are thrown into the middle of war across time against two warring factions. The series premiere, “Growing Pains,” introduces us to each of the girls on Hell Night, and we watch as their entire world changes in a brief moment.
DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, will include spoilers. So, if you want to go into this series blind, we highly suggest bookmarking this page and coming back later. Paper Girls can be found on Amazon Prime Video.
Paper Girls’ first episode, “Growing Pains,” opens as older Erin (Ali Wong) tries to settle in for the night with a bottle of something a bit stronger than water. However, the lights go out, and we see a purple glow through the windows. She tries to reach out for help, but no one answers. She decides to investigate the break-in on her own, but we don’t get to see who she finds in her home.
We then jump back in time to November 1, 1988 – or better known as Hell Day. A younger Erin (Riley Lai Nelet) wakes up early for her paper run. It seems that kids are still out enjoying Halloween by some vandalism while Erin preps for her route. We get a short montage of the other paper girls, Tiffany (Camryn Jones), KJ (Fina Strazza) and Mac (Sofia Rosinsky), getting ready for their day and a peak into their lives. Their lives are all very different, but the one thing they have in common is that they have this paper route.
Erin heads out for her first day on the job, and things are going well until she accidentally delivers to a house that isn’t on her list. She tries to go up and grab the paper, but the highly racist homeowner puts up a fight. Tiffany rushes up and hands over his paper and tries to explain away Erin’s mistake, but Erin doesn’t want to stand down. The jerk takes the paper and tells them to get off the porch before rushing inside.
Tiff warns Erin not to get her head taken off by a racist jerk over a quarter and to be more mindful. The two have a brief introduction, and Tiff thinks Erin must be out of her mind for starting this new job on Hell Day. This is odd to me as a New Jersey native because the antics we are seeing, the vandalism, toileting trees, smashing pumpkins and so forth, typically happen the day before Halloween here and is known as Mischief Night. A quick Google search told me that this isn’t common, and now I want to know what everyone else does.
“Growing Pains” continues as Erin realizes she is in way over her head. Tiff hands her a radio before Mac shows up, warning them that some dipshit is chasing one of the other paper girls. They rush off the save her. With some well-shot fireworks of Mac’s doing, they are able to KJ out of the dipshit’s hands. Back up top, the girls briefly celebrate their victory before the lines between them are drawn. It’s clear that these girls come from all different walks of life, and they know it. When it looks like everyone is going to split back up, Erin suggests sticking together to make it through the shift.
It’s clear that Mac is the only one against this but eventually comes around, and the four head off. There is some light chatter about how these kids participating in Hell Day are stupid and that they should have grown out of this already. Tiff hasn’t gone trick or treating since she was eight, and the last time KJ went out, she was Wayne Gretzky (and KJ has officially become my favorite character). They have a good laugh that Mac’s last costume was a Carebear; she was four, though, so it was really out of her control.
Things get a bit tense when Erin talks about how she has only ever gone out once, mostly due to her mom’s fear of talking to others due to her lack of knowing English. By the time she got to go, she felt like she was a bit too old for it. The others realize things are getting a bit too deep and use the moment to head off on their routes. Tiff and KJ head off, leaving Mac and Erin to head towards theirs.
Before anyone could get too far, Erin is dragged behind a car, and Tiff’s radio is stolen. KJ and Tiff want to call the cops, but Mac knows they won’t do anything. They are going to have to take matters into their own hands. Tiff’s other radio goes off, and we hear numbers being read out. Mac assumes it’s the punks from before and tells them to get ready because they are coming to get their stuff back. They head off to wear Mac knows her brother hangs out and tells them that if the radio is broken, they will kill the creeps.
“Growing Pains” sees the girls rush off into the unfinished house, ready for a fight but find nobody upstairs. KJ hears noises that Mac realizes are coming from the basement. They head downstairs and use fireworks in a surprise attack. But these guys weren’t the creeps from earlier. They don’t know who they are. But they have bigger things to worry about, like a blown fusebox thanks to the firework and the odd purple sky.
Outside, things are getting worse, and Mac rushes the girls to her house to hide out. The girls are panicking over what could be going on. Tiff is worried the Russians are attacking, and everyone else has already been evacuated. KJ and Tiff didn’t see anyone on their way to Mac’s house, and everything was too quiet. Erin tries to rush out to help her mother, but the girls don’t let her. Their best bet is to stick together and hunker down. They sell war stories about working on the route to try and pass the time, and Erin opens up about how her family isn’t liked on the street. Thankfully, the other girls like her and tell her not to worry.
They should be worrying about the loud noises coming from outside and the bright purple light. Erin and Tiff run to the window to try to see outside, and Mac grabs a gun. The worry turns from what is happening outside to the gun, and as they try to get it away from Mac, it goes off, and Erin is hit. They grab the keys, and Tiff drives them to the hospital, trying to keep Erin awake. On the way, they are shot at by the guys from before.
Erin has some vision where she is told that not everyone who is shot dies, and the next thing we know, the group is in some kind of time machine which pops them out somewhere in the woods. The two men with them try to get them back into the capsule, but they are soon attacked, sending the girls running. While trying to hide out, Erin finds herself covered in some bug with purple glowing butts that seem to heal her somehow.
While trying to escape, one of the men is shot, hands something off to Tiff, and tells them to find the underground. Tiff has no idea what he is talking about, but KJ rushes her off to join the others. Now that everything seems to be behind them, they realize that Erin is no longer dying. Somehow her stomach is healed, and they decide to make their way to Erin’s house. However, someone rushes up to them and starts questioning if they are underground.
None of them know what he is talking about, but Tiff asks if it has to do with what the guy gave her. Before the guy can grab it, KJ knocks him out with her field hockey stick. KJ is distraught by what happened, and Mac tries to calm her down by reminding her that he was going to kill them. They watch from the woods as a mysterious woman (Adina Porter) arrives on the scene and shoots the guy who helped them earlier.
“Growing Pains” comes to a close as the four of them run off to Erin’s house, and they come face to face with the older Erin from earlier in the episode. It seems that the ones who broke into her house were Erin, Tiff, KJ and Mac. Neither Erin wants to believe it, but Tiff finds pictures of her on the fridge, proving they must be the same person.
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