‘Pen15’ latest episodes hilariously capture the sadness of growing up


Recently there has been a drastic change in the way young women are portrayed in popular culture. With shows like Yellow jackets grasp their capacity for brutality and big mouth with a focus on their, well, horniness off the charts, gone are the days when adolescence was synonymous with all that was light and sparkling and without substance. The back-to-school comic series Pen15, which stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as versions of themselves, also has no shortage of disgusting moments, but its new season abandons the well-established territory of sleepover accidents and the anxiety of the premiere. fuck for a darker fare.

Pen15 has faced tough things before – Anna’s parents have been slowly and painfully divorcing onscreen since at least the third episode of the series, and Maya’s unease with her Japanese identity has led to one of the best episodes of season 1, “Posh” – but the second half of season two, which hit Hulu on Dec. 3, makes no effort when it comes to investigating the (sometimes) acute pain of to be young and woman in the world.

Anna’s parents have officially divorced, and seeing her cry as her now single dad angrily tries to save a dinner party she burned was, as the kids say, too real for this child of the divorce. In the same episode, we meet Ume, Maya’s Japanese friend who, unlike Maya, is immediately kissed by her and Anna’s seventh grade classmates. There’s a lot of laughs to be had in the episode, but when Maya yells in agony, “Why is being Japanese special for her and bad for me?” it’s really heartbreaking. (And later, hearing Ume say how uncomfortable the infantilizing praise and paws of everyone else has made her feel is no less upsetting.) Maya doesn’t have the fluent Japanese of her mother or half. brother, but she is still marked as different in his eyes. her peers, and even her best friend in the world, don’t fully understand this pain. Earlier in the season, Maya and her family are taken aback by a bat mitzvah invitation from a popular classmate that forces Maya to face hard truths about her family’s socioeconomic status. “We’re upper middle class like Anna, aren’t we? She asks her half-brother, Shuji, and while the extreme relativity of the feeling is deeply funny, neither is it.

Ironically, another highlight of this episode of Pen15 has nothing to do with Maya or Anna, instead focusing on Maya’s mother, Yuki (played by Erskine’s real mother, Mutsuko Erskine), as she reconnects with an old lover, Hideki, who happens to be to be the father of Shuji. As Yuki and Hideki walk and chat, have an experience together that vaguely recalls Marnie and Charlie’s day in the Girls episode Panic in Central Park, we get glimpses of Yuki’s past (she was a performer for rock bands in Japan!)

This episode is both tender and painful, hinting at how much Anna and Maya need to do to grow taller. Sadly, with the second half of season two marking the end of the series, we won’t be able to watch them do it, but just like parents who send their kids to the great stranger, we’ll just have to take a deep breath and have trust that they will be okay.


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