Maya and Anna are back with their awkward middle school shenanigans in season two of PEN15! Steeped in Y2K nostalgia and cringe comedy, the first seven episodes this season are as relatable and explicit as ever. At face value with its TV-MA rating, the series doesn't exactly come off as family-friendly viewing. But in the vein of Big Mouth or Eighth Grade, PEN15 can help teens (and possibly even tweens) navigate the awkward ups and downs of puberty. Of course, you'll know your child best and how they might respond to the show. Before your kids turn on the second season of PEN15, consider discussing the following points.
- PEN15 features a bountiful helping of cursing.
PEN15 is no Goodfellas, but cussing is commonplace throughout season two, especially with swears kids might exchange on the schoolyard. You'll hear f*ck, assh*le, damn, b*tch, and a slew of other colourful gems. Gabe, who is implied to be exploring his sexuality, uses anti-gay slurs, so that's worth keeping in mind.
- Season two doesn't shy away from sexual matters.
Season two doesn't stop at a kiss/graze between masks (as we see with Gabe and Maya). But the portrayal of sexual matters isn't over-glamorized or glossed over as it might be in many teen shows. The season starts right after the awkward second base exchange (originally a fingering request) between Anna, Maya, and Brandt. We see animated vaginas in an after-credits scene — right after Anna and Maya use mirrors to look at their lady parts in episode two. On the goofier side of things, there's even a fantasy sequence with Maya latching and suckling on Anna's breast in episode six. During the sleepover, the boys also watch an adult film while hanging out together.
- Female friendship stays vital this season.
Maya and Anna's friendship continues to be the show's lifeblood. Maya and Anna are each other's rocks to the point of lacking boundaries. But PEN15 doesn't sugarcoat or smoothen out their conflicts, diving deep into every awkward, cringe-inducing detail. Whether it's the school play or Maya getting her period, the girls go through cycles of fighting and making up. This season, the show introduces the character of Maura, their new ritzy friend who wedges her way into the friendship — we see how her presence drives jealousy and tension between Anna and Maya.
- But the show gets real about bullying and peer pressure.
Because of their encounter with Brandt in season one, Anna and Maya face a great deal of slut-shaming. Last season's UGIS — Ugliest Girl in School — has officially been replaced with BSB — Big Smelly Bush, the boys' cruel taunt towards Anna and Maya. The middle school girls also later lock Maya into a bathroom at a sleepover and make fun of her for being on her period. But Maya and Anna aren't exactly angels. They refer to a girl as "Icebox," who is rumoured to have self-pleasured herself with ice. Additionally, peer pressure also rears its head this season, especially as Maura becomes a questionable influence in the girls' lives. Steve also later gives Anna a drink during the school play afterparty.
- PEN15 continues to touch on important discussions for budding teens.
In between its raunchy humour, PEN15 is sensitive about difficult issues such as divorce, bullying, and puberty. As with something like Eighth Grade, the show also portrays how parents struggle to communicate with their children during these turbulent times. We see how Yuki and Maya's relationship blossoms as Maya goes through physical and social changes, and how Anna's parents navigate their divorce.
Beneath its obscene and goofy antics, PEN15 remains devoted to shining the spotlight on two richly developed female protagonists while honestly and empathetically exploring tween matters — yes, even the cringiest ones.