Paper Girls (2022) ending explained: Do the girls go back to 1988?

In Paper Girls, four 12-year-old girls face a mission a few hours after Halloween night, 1988. Trapped in a complicated conflict, they will travel in time to save the world. The series is streaming on Prime Video.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

It’s the morning after Halloween 1988 and four paper girls go on their daily route to distribute the newspapers. There is Erin, the new girl, KJ, the rich one, Mac, the tomboy and Tiffany, the genius.

Tiffany has a pair of walkie-talkies and shares one of them with Erin to help her with the route but two men in black masks attack her and take it away from her. The girls try to follow these people and reach the basement of a house. 

The masked men are there. The girls see that one of them is deformed and run away. But when they leave the house, they notice a strange vibe. The sky is absolutely pink and the people are missing. 

They reach Mac’s house but Erin is scared and tries to leave. The other girls don’t let her. Mac also brings out a gun for defence but shoots Erin by mistake. 

The two men find the girls and take them to a strange pod. There are strange bugs which apparently heal Erin. 

An army of people in white armour arrives and engages in a fight, attacking the two men. One of them gives Tiffany a device and tells her to go home.

One of the white armoured men finds the girls and KJ kills him with her hockey stick. The girls then run to Erin’s house and see an older version of Erin there. Deeply in shock, all of them realise that they have time travelled to 2019.

The apparent commander of the army, Prioress, finds the hockey stick with KJ’s name engraved and tries to find her as the man she killed was Prioress’s brother. 

The girls live with older Erin and try to find a way back to their original timeline. The older version of Erin unknowingly activates the tech device which Tiffany was given by the man and pairs herself with a time travelling machine that only she can pilot now. 

Mac decides she does not want to back to her miserable life, and using the internet, finds her older brother, who is now a doctor. 

At first, he thinks she is messing with him. He tells her that his sister, Mac, died of cancer when she was 16. He later takes a DNA test and believes her and then takes her to his home.

The other girls meet Larry, a member of STF underground, who tells them about the time war. STF stands for Standard Time Fighters, people who want to change things for a better future. But there is another group, known as the Old Watch, whose mission is to keep things the way they are.

The Old Watch has banned time travel and uses Ablution to wipe the memory of those who do and restore them to their original timeline. 

This makes the girls a target of the Old Watch. The Prioress is a member of this group and starts hunting down the girls.

But Larry has a solution to help the girls return to their timeline. This would require the older Erin to pilot the giant robot, which enables time travel.

Time travel is done when a folding opens. Foldings are rifts of time in the sky.  

KJ finds Mac and brings her to Larry’s farm. The Prioress follows her but is late as the girls, Larry and older Erin travel in the giant robot. 

However, they turn up in 1999. The Prioress and The Grandfather, the leader of the Old Watch, follow them. 

Larry is killed in the ensuing fight, while older Erin sacrifices herself. The girls then find their older selves one by one. 

They decide to contact Tiffany’s older self. They crash at her place and the older Tiffany also decides to help them.

They realise that Larry would still be alive in the year 1999 and reach out to him. The foldings occur at a particular place and time and Larry had discovered a pattern to predict those foldings. Tiffany wants his help to find out when the next one would occur so they can go back.

Sadly, she finds out the next folding is going to happen after 7 years. 

At the farm, Larry suddenly notices strange pink clouds appear outside his farm and reaches out to the girls. He also calls in Juniper, his colleague, who tells them that it is actually a “Class 2 time rip”. 

From that rip, items from 1988 start falling down like newspapers, KJ’s hockey stick, etc.

The girls arrive at the farm with older Tiffany. Juniper tells them that walkie-talkies allow contact with other timelines. They try to reach out to the two men from hell day, who were actually members of the STF. 

When they contact them, the girls listen to their own voices from that day, realising that they are in a time loop paradox and events cannot be changed. 

Juniper sees a robotic spider which is a spy drone of the Old Watch. She informs the girls that they have to run as the Old Watch is coming for them.

The Old Watch arrives at the farm for a face-off with the girls. Will the girls be able to get back?

Paper Girls ending explained in detail:

What happens when the Old Watch arrives at the farm?

Prioress along with The Grandfather and other Old Watch guards reach the farm. They offer the girls a way out, which is Ablution.

The Grandfather promises that he will not harm the girls and return them to their original timeline.

Juniper and the older Tiffany’s memories are also wiped and then they are sucked into a beam in the sky, which means they are transferred to their original timeline with no memories about the events that transpired. 

The girls are also about to submit to ablution but KJ is doubtful and enquires more. 

Larry steps in as the Grandfather is about to forcefully remove the girls’ memory. There is a dinosaur hovering in the sky, the grandfather’s pet, which kills Larry. 

The girls realise if Larry is killed in 1999, he cannot be there in 2019 and that means the timeline can be changed.

They refuse to wipe their memories off and run back to the house but it’s a temporary solution.

What happens at the Cathedral? 

The Old Watch headquarters is called the Cathedral. When the girls refuse Ablution, the Prioress takes them there. 

She tells the girls about how the future Tiffany is actually going to be a huge part of making time travel possible. She also offers them a way to save Mac’s life so she does not have to die of cancer. 

The girls are taken into a room which has time travelling pods and controlled foldings, facilitating time travel. The Prioress wants to use this to actually save the future.

She is about to send all four girls to another timeline but is interrupted and gets shot. 

Erin runs to save her with the help of the strange bugs, while Mac and KJ are in a pod which launches into an unknown timeline. 

The Grandfather arrives but the Prioress is successful in sending Erin and Tiffany in another pod which is hopefully heading in the same direction as the other girls.

Are the girls able to return to their original timeline?

Tiffany and Erin drop into a location where they are surrounded by trees. Mac and KJ are nowhere to be seen. There’s no other pod there either. 

Tiffany and Erin walk ahead and reach a drive-in cinema where the film The Longest Yard, released in 1974, is playing. 

There is a confused look on their face. Instead of their expected location or the future, they have travelled even further back in time. 

Also Read: Uncoupled (2022) ending explained: Does Michael get over Colin?

More from The Envoy Web