Pen15 Season 2 Delivers More of the Cringy, Coming-of-Age Humor That Made Season 1 Great

Image Courtesy of Hulu

Many coming of age stories gloss over the stranger, more awkward parts of growing up. The stories tell about people making mistakes that cause them trouble, but gloss over the cringy, grating moments of our childhoods that we look back on and wonder what in the world we were thinking. Recently several shows have been trying to capture this awkwardness, most notably Netflix’s Big Mouth, which does not shy away from depicting the awfulness of puberty. During the latest season of Big Mouth, two side characters appeared during the episode “Cafeteria Girls” who dated the main characters for an episode. This was an indirect cameo from the subject of this review Pen15, another raunchy, cringy show about growing up.

The second season of Pen15, which was released in September, delivered much of the raunchy, cringy comedy that marked the first season, while mixing in new characters and drama. Picking up immediately after the first season, much of the drama continues directly from season 1 into season 2.

Anna’s (Anna Konkle) parent’s fights, which began in the first season, reach a head in the second season. While the fights happen more in the background during the first season, Anna is pulled directly in the middle in the newer episodes as her parents attempt to curry favor with her, and turn her against the other parent.

A mean girl, Maura (Ashlee Grubbs), is also introduced in the second season who tries to drive a wedge between Anna and Maya (Maya Erskine). She gaslights each girl into thinking the worst about the other, has them play games where they rank how much they like each other, and freaks out when not invited on any outing Anna and Maya take together. These two arcs work together in helping Anna’s character development, as she becomes more adept at recognizing the toxic behavior of her parents and the friends around her.

What I find most impressive about the show is its ability to capture the feeling of being in middle school. Characters not in the scene are often referred to by their first name and last initial, like a teacher taking roll call. Maya and Anna’s attempts to flirt with the boys at school are deeply cringy, most likely because at one point all of us flirted exactly the same way. Although the show takes this cringy behavior to the extreme, I think we can all recognize some aspects of our own young awkward selves in these characters.

This new season also addresses the double standard many discover in middle or high school, where young men exploring sexuality are players and young women are sluts. As rumors about the girls and Brandt (Jonah Beres) run rampant though the school, Brandt left alone for his behavior and the girls are shamed for changing too fast and are directly called sluts multiple times.

Despite setting up a lot of content for a third season, there hasn’t been any confirmation on whether or not Hulu is going to order one. If you enjoyed the first season of this show, or enjoyed Big Mouth and other shows like that, please give the second season a watch.

-Patrick Bernas