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The Funniest Show About the Most Awkward Period of Our Lives

by Kiana Carver

“Pen15,” a Hulu Original, released seven episodes for its second season on Sept. 18. The premise of the show may seem normal on the surface (two best friends navigating middle school) but veteran watchers know that the two lead actresses—Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine—are grown women acting among actual preteens.

This season, the show delved deeper into the ups and downs of the middle school experience, including puberty, bullies and cliques.

Konkle and Erskine, once again, gave outstanding performances that even I almost forgot they were actually full grown adults. The magic behind their acting is their ability to match the childlike energies of the significantly younger supporting cast. The two women aren’t afraid to come off as unsophisticated and immature; in fact, that’s the goal. In season two, we see them go all-in—whether it's dabbling in “witchcraft” or practicing for a first kiss. Konkle and Erskine embrace their younger, awkward selves with reckless abandon that makes the viewer sympathize with them and not experience second-hand embarrassment.

Tianai Xiong (QST ’21) said she admires the mental fortitude it takes for the actors to revert back to a childlike state of mind.

"The comedic element of this show really comes from their interactions with the child actors,” said Xiong. “The outcome is sometimes unnatural and brutally honest, but it’s overall entertaining,”

While this show is lighthearted, it doesn’t shy away from tougher topics. Anna struggles with her parents' messy divorce, and both girls are subjected to sexism when trying to join the boys’ wrestling team. While middle school can certainly be a period to look back on with humor, many people go through hard times during that stage of life. “Pen15” does not sugarcoat the past, but encourages us to be more kind when looking back at younger versions of ourselves.

Selma Jay (QST ’21) appreciates finding comedic gold in past experiences. “I enjoy self-deprecating humor, so I really like looking back at my younger self and poking fun at what I used to do to fit in with everyone else,” she said.

Critics and the public have positively received season two, showing promise for another season.

Both seasons one and two are currently available to stream on Hulu. If you are looking for a nostalgic and silly show with a strong heart, I highly recommend “Pen15.”

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