Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All the Time Periods Explained

Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All the Time Periods Explained

Paper Girls is a recent show based on time travel and has its own spin on the genre. If you’ve binged the show, you might have questions such as:

  • How does time travel work in Paper Girls?
  • How did the girls travel through all time periods?

Well, you’re in luck because, in this article, I’ll answer these questions and more. Let’s just get to it.

In Paper Girls, time travel is possible with the help of foldings within the space-time continuum that create wormholes to different time periods. However, using these foldings can end the universe.

1. The Premise

Paper Girls is a story of time wars. There are two main groups called the Old Watch and the STF Underground. On one hand, the Old Watch believes that persistent time travel can poke holes in the space-time continuum and cause the universe’s destruction.

Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All Time Periods Explained
Paper Girls | Source: IMDb

On the other hand, the STF Underground (a new generation of people) believes that time travel can help people rewrite history and prevent disasters. This forms the overall premise of the series.

Stuck in the middle of all this are four girls named Erin, Tiffany, Mac, and KJ. The girls embark on a time travel adventure and what happens to them is the main story.

2. The Chronology of Events

If you map all the events onto a linear timeline, you’ll have four significant years to look at. These are 1988, 1992, 1999, and 2019. While this is the linear chronology of events, they aren’t necessarily depicted in the same order. Since it gets confusing while watching the show, here are all the events charted out in chronological order.

I. 1988

The story begins here with Erin, Tiffany, Mac, and KJ. As the four girls go to deliver papers across the town early in the morning, their paths cross with Heck and Naldo. These two people are on a secret mission and encounter the four girls. The four unwittingly cross a folding and travel to the year 2019.

Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All Time Periods Explained
Paper Girls | Source: IMDb

II. 1992

While the girls never came here in Season 1, it is significant because Mac died this year. She succumbed to cancer at the age of 16, and this is essentially where her story ends. There’s no other important info about this in Season 1, but the girls will likely come here in Season 2.

III. 1999

1999 and 2019 are the years where most of the show’s events occur. In 1999,

  • Mac has already passed away, as mentioned in the previous section.
  • KJ is studying filmmaking at NYU.
  • Tiffany has left MIT.
  • Erin’s mother is going to get sick soon. As a result, she’d have to give up her dream of becoming a senator.
  • Larry is still alive, and he is now part of the STF along with Juniper.

The girls were brought here by Larry from 2019 because he had his own ulterior motives.

While the girls are stuck in this year, they go to KJ’s house. However, Tiffany splits up with the other girls and goes to her older version.

Two important things happen this year. The Old Watch catches up to these girls and tries to apprehend them. Despite Larry and Erin’s older version sacrificing their lives to protect them, they fail.

On the other hand, Tiffany sits with her older version and decodes Larry’s journal to understand the foldings and try to return to 1988. However, when they do so, it leads them to a more significant discovery. They realize how Tiffany became a scientist.

But there’s more. A rip opens up on present-day Larry’s farm, and random items are thrown out of it. One of those items is a walkie-talkie. In 1988, when Heck and Naldo had crossed paths with the girls, they had stolen one of the walkie-talkies.

When the girls try to communicate through it, they hope that either Heck or Naldo will answer. If they did, they could simply talk to them and return to 1988. Instead, they hear Mac’s voice. More on this later.

The Old Watch manages to take the girls to the Prioress, and they’re offered a solution. The girls’ memories would be erased, they would return to 1988, and the Old Watch will forgive everything.

Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All Time Periods Explained
Paper Girls | Source: IMDb

However, here’s where the Prioress disagrees. She wants to help the girls change their futures and thus sends them to different places. This way, they’ll have a chance at rewriting their fate.

This is essentially where Season 1 ends. However, before I wrap this up, we have one last year to look at.

V. 2019

The girls travel to this year from 1988. Here, they encounter Larry, who says he’ll take them back to 1988, but instead takes them to 1999.

In 2019, the girls discovered a couple of essential things.

  • Erin’s mother has passed away.
  • Tiffany now runs the Quilkin Institute, where she researches time travel. This is the result of the events that happened in 1999. She then joins Dr. Joan Braunstein, which leads to the formation of the STF.

With this, you must have a clear understanding of all the events that take place. But there’s one more piece to this, and I know you’re wondering about it, too. Where did the Prioress send the girls?

3. The Ending Explained

Before I answer the question, let’s talk about Mac’s voice on the other end. While there are multiple theories about why it happened, here’s an interesting one. Back in 1988, the girls had contacted Juniper in 1999. If you think about it, this forms a closed loop, which also means that everything that happened until now is bound to happen again and again.

Paper Girls: The Time Travel Concept and All Time Periods Explained
Paper Girls | Source: IMDb

Now, the Prioress has sent the girls to different places. Erin and Tiffany are somewhere in the 1970s. We see multiple clues that point to this. We hear David Bowie’s Golden Years, which was released in 1975. The Longest Yard, which was released in 1974, is playing at a drive-in theatre.

On the other hand, KJ and Mac are somewhere after 2019. The Prioress wanted them to reach out to Tiffany Quilkin and persuade her to stop the research, so there’s a high chance they’re in a year much after 2019.

With this, the explanation comes to an end. I know there are still a few loose ends, but that’s precisely what Season 2 will cover and explain.

Watch Paper Girls on:

4. About Paper Girls

Paper Girls is an American science fiction drama streaming television series created by Stephany Folsom. It is based on the comic book series of the same name written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang. The series premiered on Amazon Prime Video on July 29, 2022. The cast includes Camryn Jones, Riley Lai Nelet, Sofia Rosinsky and Fina Strazza. 

Paper Girls follows four young girls who, while out delivering papers on the morning after Halloween in 1988, become unwittingly caught in a conflict between warring factions of time-travelers, sending them on an adventure through time that will save the world. As they travel between our present, the past, and the future, they encounter future versions of themselves and now must choose to embrace or reject their fate.