When crafting a story, it’s important to know what that story wants to be. Often times, writers try to do too many things with their story and characters at once. This can lead to a muddled and often directionless plot that can confuse its audience. One of the reasons the Amazon Prime adaptation of Paper Girls was canceled might have been because it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. On the one hand, the Paper Girls comic book was successful because it fully owned all of the different aspects of its story. It was a light-hearted character drama and crazy science fiction extravaganza that managed to lean in both directions at the same time because it found the right tone to do so.
On the other hand, the show largely failed to play in both sandboxes at once. The story wanted to keep the same time traveling, mech fighting, sci-fi craziness that the book had. However, it also wanted to dive headfirst into dramatic characterization. The comic had characterization, too, but it did so without weighing down the story with pathos. The pacing of the book moved fairly quickly and seemed to pull the characterization along with it. The show took a different approach. It had its dramatic character moments slow the story down, which worked to some effect; it allowed the actors the time to really explore a scene.
There was a downside to it, though. The weighty character scenes didn’t play right when put up against some of the big sci-fi set pieces. The show never quite found the right tone that the book had, and so these two different worlds felt as if the show were being pulled into two different arenas at once. Mainly, the show just couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. It would have been a lot more successful if it decided to either minimize the ridiculous science fiction and focus solely on character or keep the sci-fi but leave the characterization more breezy.
Paper Girls is now streaming on Amazon Prime.