Critics and audiences can agree Hulu's comedy series Pen15 is one of the strongest comedies to come out toward the end of the 2010s. With two seasons under its belt, the series is an honest and quirky portrayal of adolescence in early 2000s America. The series masters cringe humor and will make any millennial shriek with its endless flashbacks to the horror and joy of butterfly clips, scented gel pens, and bucket hats.
Two of Pen15's creators, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, play seventh-grade versions of themselves, also named Maya and Anna. It's difficult to narrow down who the true protagonist is among the pair; they go together so well that a world where Maya and Anna are not BFFs, is a world that should cease to exist. However, like the politics of middle school, one has to reign supreme.
Between her parents' divorce and her experience as an only child, Anna has to grow up fast. Her maturity helps balance out Maya's childish nature, which is one of the reasons why their dynamic is so great. Although the two exhibit co-dependency, when Anna stands on her own she is full of independence and self-reliance.
While it's always fun to see what kind of hijinks Maya encounters, at the heart of the show is a message about growing up and the tough transition from childhood into adolescence and Anna embodies that.
Maya is somewhat of a class clown and sometimes willing to be the butt of a joke, even at her own expense. Although she is super sensitive, she lacks enough self-awareness that she's open to anything that comes her way.
From joining the wrestling team, to the school play, Maya will try any and everything she can, which gives audiences someone to root for. Since she's up for anything, the possibilities with her character are endless and keeps fans on their toes each and every episode.
For Anna, when an opportunity arises for her to share her fondness of music, she runs with it. In a certified cringe worthy scene, Anna scats with Maya's dad Fred during a family dinner and in another instance, she awkwardly sings her way through the Bagel Bites commercial jingle in front of Sam's mom.
It's special kind of comedic quirk of hers that makes her unique, sets her apart from everyone else and allows her to express herself in a way that the other characters don't dare to try.
Unrequited love is a tried and true television comedy trope and Maya is by no means an exception. From Ross and Rachel to Jim and Pam, this formula keeps audience hearts beating as they lean into the "will-they-won't-they" story arc. In Maya's case, when her friend Sam's feelings are revealed, it's hard to tell if she feels the same.
It eventually becomes clear that maybe she does have feelings for Sam but their relationship is one unresolved issue that keeps fans glued to their screens.
Although her interactions with her parents make Anna appear guarded and reserved, behind closed doors, she's extremely vulnerable. While fans can more or less anticipate what Maya will do, say and feel, Anna is much more of a mystery and keeps viewers guessing.
When she does show her vulnerable side, it packs a major emotional punch that results in some of the most emotional and touching moments in the entire series.