Paper Girls (Amazon) Review.

With any piece of visual media one question, one should always be asked. Does the budget fit the scope of the story we are telling? In decades and generations past plenty of shows, (some of which went on to be genre classics) have produced great material on an absolute shoestring. If you want a strong example of what this aesthetic might look like in the streaming age look at Amazon’s adaptation of the acclaimed comic book. What little pre-release hype there was for this first season seemed to sell this to audiences as Amazon’s Stranger Things. There are some surface-level similarities. The story starts in 1988 and follows a group of four “Paper Girls” on a sci-fi-inflected adventure. This is where the points of comparison effectively end. As someone not familiar with the source material having seen this season the ambition within the narrative is obvious. A timeline hopping multiple generations interacting time travel narrative. Huge tonal shifts as events play out with mech fights and tridactyl cameos at various points. The one major difference is the budget here would not fulfil their craft services in the latter seasons of something like Stranger Things. There’s something mildly endearing about the scrappy nature of the way this season is assembled. The creatives are doing their absolute best to put as many of the stories on screen as they can on screen with the limited resources available. What’s pleasing to report is that the show is one of the best new genre offerings this year despite the look of a mildly elevated CW production. With limits on spectacle, the narrative and writing drill down into the wide range of emotions possible with this variety of time travel narratives. From camaraderie and humour to crushing bleakness and world-ending time wars. All of this not only comes together and can remain cohesive across a full season in an incredibly impressive way. It helps that the four central performances and their chemistry are all really solid. The leads not only sell their effective team dynamic in a way that’s endearing and incredibly watchable. They are also can pull off very distinct individualist reactions to the way that scenarios pan out across the various timelines. This is obvious from the first interactions and helps elevate an opening episode that is mostly build up before the narrative truly kicks off. The adult cost is mostly strong at playing into the narrative and interacting with our heroines in a way that feels organic. The one sour note might be the appearance of Jason Mansukiss who turns up to effectively play the same character he always does in his currently wildly overexposed career. One can get over this and take the limited budget for what it is The eight episodes in this first season are some of the best YA material this viewer has watched in quite some time.
The TV adaptation of Paper Girls is held back by its low budget. That said engaging character dynamics, well-rounded use of time travel mechanics and tonal shifts as well as strong cast chemistry and performances make these eight episodes well worth the time. One could ask what the season might have looked like if the creative team were given the budget to make the story’s huge scope speak for itself in the transition to the screen. That said the fact that there’s still so much to recommend here even with this blatantly not being the case is a huge testament to working within your limitations and still creating something this is well worth the investment.
8/10

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