New Hulu show "Pen15" remains funny and real

By DEVIN GOHDE
On September 21, 2020

Photo courtesy of Pen15, Wikipedia

Hulu's breakout show “Pen15” premiered its second season on Sept.18, picking up just two days after where season one left off.

Leads Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine depict young, teenage versions of themselves back in the 2000s, acting alongside real 13-year-olds. The show is known for its raw and intimate scenes of the awkward moments of early teen hood, and season two starts right back off in the midst of it

The season opens with the girls talking on the phone playing a game of M.A.S.H. while they get ready for a friend’s party. They gush over their results as a montage shows them preparing to look their best. 

The show quickly focuses in a serious, embarrassing and uncomfortable issue. The girls want to prove that popular boy Brandt (Jonah Beres) felt them up at the dance. They eventually succeed, but soon the story is twisted, and classmates give them the title of “desperate sluts.” 

Maya and Anna struggle to understand why the girls are bullying them. They join the wrestling team to make male friends, but they soon learn they see them the same way: “desperate sluts.”

In an interview with Yvonne Villarrel of the “LA Times,” Konkle opened up about her own experiences, and why it was so important to include this scene in their show. 

"I was so shamed. I knew where the rumor started from, but I was going to take it to my grave, which was from playing Truth or Dare in, like, fourth grade,” the 33-year-old comedian shared.

“I was innocently dared to put an ice cube in my underwear. I probably could have, in retrospect, been like, 'That was Truth or Dare, and that was in the fourth grade, and I didn't masturbate.' Instead, I cried every time someone called me Icebox. I mean, I'm talking like, after college, I'd still get a drunk text from a guy calling me that."

The episode’s traumatic event is just one way the show conveys the powerful friendship between the inseparable pair: Maya and Anna soon learn that all they have are each other. This pure on-screen friendship is a reflection of the real-life friendship Konkle and Erskine have. They care for each other while trying to deal with the harsh realities of growing up together.

This is seen, again, when Maya hears Anna's parents screaming at each other. Maya grabs Anna’s hand, and they run from the house to a park. They sit on a tree and talk to each other. Hearing them talk feels natural, even if they are acting way younger than they are. Their banter feels like this is how they speak in their day to day lives, making it more relatable and engaging.

We see the girls struggle with their friendship more than last season. Even through their struggles, the girls always find their way to each other.

Erskine and Konkle have created a show that serves as a love letter to universal female relationships. We see more of Maya and Anna’s mothers in this season: two very different women who want to do all they can for their daughters.

Anna's mom, Kathy (Melora Walters), is more developed in this season. She struggles trying to keep Anna happy while dealing with the hardships of divorce. The heart-to-heart Anna and her share in the season finale will bring a tear to your eye.

Erskine’s real mom, Mutsuko Erskine, portrays Maya's mom Yuki, and the warmth she brings to the screen is comforting. When she talks to Maya while she’s upset, you feel the real love they have for each other. Their talk in the bathtub shows them as a mother and a daughter, not just TV characters. 

“Pen15” is a show of care and detail, as well as comedic discomfort. Season two is a step in the right direction, and hopefully there will be more seasons of Anna and Maya’s lovely and goofy growth.  

 

5/5 stars 

dgohde@ramapo.edu

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