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    21 Times The Final Episodes Of "Pen15" Made Me Want To Cry For My Middle School Self

    The final episodes of Pen15 were more crushing than ever. Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

    Warning: Spoilers about the final season of Pen15 below.

    1. When Maya begs her parents to let her get an expensive gift for Becca's bat mitzvah.

    Yuki (mom) stands arms crossed next to dad, seated on the phone, looking at a magazine while Maya looks over his shoulder

    I had almost forgotten how it felt to be the kid whose family couldn't afford nice things until I watched this episode, and then it all flashed back to me, watching Maya throw a fit over wanting to bring a pricey gift to Becca's bat mitzvah to prove she has money. While I never did beg for the more expensive gifts for my friend's parties, I was always embarrassed to bring a $10 gift set from the local CVS. It was even worse that Becca didn't care for it. I felt so redeemed when she stole it back at the end to give to her mom, who deserved it!

    2. When Maya teases Sam about his shoes to fit in.

    Sam looks at Maya, confused, she looks back with a teasing face

    If you've ever been the poor kid who was trying not to be found out, you related to this scene too. Maya obviously doesn't feel good about throwing Sam under the bus, but she wants to be accepted by the popular girls so badly, and she wants them to think she comes from money. Echoing their sentiments about Sam wearing Payless shoes is her attempt at blending in on their side. Thankfully, Sam doesn't hold a grudge.

    3. When Maya wants to know why she's treated as a young adult while Ume is treated as a kid, despite only being a year apart.

    Maya looks upset as Yuki (mom) smiles at Ume

    This is just one of the many times Maya and Anna (as actors and writers) allude to the idea that girls don't get to be in control of how their girlhood or womanhood is perceived. Despite only being a year older, Maya gets told she's a young woman, and she doesn't want to be. She still wants to be a kid, and she's teetering this line between kid and teen that's so hard to navigate, especially since everyone but her seems to be making the calls for which one she is. 

    4. When Maya asks about Ume, "Why is being Japanese special on her and bad on me?"

    Maya stands next to Ume (smaller) and Anna, who looks on at Ume interested
    Hulu / Via Everett Collection

    Maya's Japanese American identity is explored often in Pen15, and the way she related her identity to Ume was eye-opening and crushing. While Maya and Anna worry that Ume will be teased for speaking no English, she's instead doted on for how cute she is. Maya realizing that a part of her identity that she's been ridiculed for is celebrated on someone else is something so many of us faced growing up, and those feelings aren't easy to forget.

    5. When Anna opens up in group therapy about her dad being angry that she doesn't want to live with him.

    Anna looks distressed as she speaks

    Unfortunately for Anna and many other kids, sometimes our parents bring us into the mess of their divorces. Anna's dad was particularly immature in his attempts to bribe Anna to live with him full time, and even more immature in the way he shows her that he's upset with her choice when she chooses her mom. 

    6. ...and when Anna tries to make his apartment more homey by putting away kitchen stuff and trying to cook dinner.

    Anna looks distressed while her dad removes a pan from the oven

    She burns plastic, because she's just a kid who doesn't know how to use the oven properly, and when her dad yells about how she's not supposed to be doing that anyway, I wanted to scream because she wouldn't have been doing it if she felt like he were a reliable parent! 

    7. When Maya can't tell that Derrick is just using her.

    Maya leans into Derrick showing her ADD medication while Anna and Steve kiss to the right

    Maya is so excited to have a boy showing interest in her, especially an older guy (which is totally creepy, BTW), that she doesn't even seem to notice or care that he seems more interested in her ADD medication than her. So many of us have been in similar situations at that age – so excited to be getting attention that makes us feel validated, that we ignore the icky things that it makes us feel too.

    8. When Yuki tells Shuji that anyone would be lucky to have him as a son.

    Yuki rubs Shuji's shoulders

    The whole Yuki episode was so well done, opening with strong imagery to show how often being a mother is a thankless job. But by the end of the episode, we've learned that Shuji's dad chose to abandon Yuki when she was 3 months pregnant with him and never wanted to meet him. The tenderness Yuki shows Shuji in the end scenes shows that she's been reminded why she loves being a mom, even on the hard days, and made me want to hug my own mom and thank her for everything she's done for me.

    9. When Anna's grandma doesn't say, "I love you," back to her.

    Anna stands, frowning next to her grandma who uses a walker and oxygen tank

    No kid deserves to be treated so coldly by a grandparent but especially not Anna, who tries so hard to be good to her grandma. It's hard enough being a preteen girl trying to gain the approval and love of your peers; you shouldn't have to be earning it at home, either. Love from family should be a given. 

    10. When Derrick asks Maya if she blocked her number to call him, and then hangs up on her.

    Anna taunts Maya from her bed while Maya protests from the floor

    He's such a jerk, and he embarrasses her in front of Anna all the time. She didn't even want to call him! 

    11. When Anna and Maya realize they were played by the boys at the Walk for Cancer.

    Anna and Maya hold hands laying on the tent floor, both look upset

    While Anna mopes that Steve didn't come to the Walk for Cancer, two boys notice Maya and Anna on the track and invite them back to their tent, where one tells Anna his friend thinks she's cute and she should give him a kiss, since he has cancer. What started as a confidence boost for the girls quickly turns into a moment of pressure followed by an embarrassing confrontation with the boy's sister. At the end, they spot the boys plotting on two other unsuspecting girls, realizing they were never really special to them.

    12. When Maya says she's accepted that she's ugly.

    Maya looks at her reflection over Anna's shoulder in the mirror
    Hulu / Via Everett Collection

    This one stung, 'cause it showed how all that bullying from the first season stuck. And it's true — the things that we're teased for, especially in formative years like middle school, stick with us and taint our perception of ourselves. Maya isn't ugly, but she was teased so much for being different that she just started to believe it. Even more crushing was Anna realizing that Maya truly believed it and wanting to make her see herself the way she sees her. 

    13. When Anna is coerced into posing in a bikini top for a creepy photographer — and thinks it's her fault.

    Anna and Maya are overly dressed up and made up sitting in an office waiting room

    Anna's modeling career is a major plot point for one episode after she's scouted at the grocery store with Maya. But it's apparent that she's been recruited for something more sinister when the grown man at the modeling offices asks her what cup size she is. Thankfully, Maya is there to rescue her and remind her that it isn't her fault, even though Anna feels like it was. Anna is sexualized by more than one grown man in this episode, and she feels like it's her fault, which is something myself and almost every girl I know who has ever been a preteen can relate to. 

    14. When Anna's hamster, Daddy, gets eaten.

    Anna and Maya sit over a dog in a yard, Maya screams into her hands

    As soon as they decided to take him out near the dog, I knew what was coming. How, you might ask? Because the same thing happened to me once, except it was my hamster eating my neighbor's smaller hamster after we introduced them. The lesson from both? Don't put hamsters out near other animals. The smallest animal WILL get eaten!

    15. When Maya gets pressured by Derrick to do something she isn't ready for.

    Maya looks upset and disgusted in a dark bathroom

    The end of Anna and Maya's runaway adventure brings them to a place much more dangerous than expected: Derrick's house, where he and Steve start pushing Maya and Anna to go further than they're ready for. While Anna manages to stand her ground, Maya is alone and pressured and does something she wishes she could take back. The darkness of the scene was so painfully realistic. 

    16. When Derrick dumps Maya in the coldest way.

    Anna looks to Maya supportively while Maya stares straight ahead, upset, with headphones on

    When I first watched the scene, I was in awe, and then I remembered that I knew plenty of guys like that growing up: who would be cold and callous just because they think it's funny, who didn't think about anyone's feelings. Maya deserved so much better.

    17. When Shuji picks Maya and Anna up on his bicycle and carries their bags.

    Shuji rides his bike down a dark street

    The fact that Shuji came to their rescue and said, "I don't even wanna know what happened," letting them have their space after a hard night, showed how much he cares about his sister and Anna. While not all of us can relate to having such a protective sibling, just seeing it onscreen like that made me want to cry for Maya because I was so glad she had someone like him to be there for her.

    18. ...and when Shuji is present when they egg – err, squid – Derrick's house.

    Shuji, Jafeer and Gabe look down in disgust at baby squid in a package

    He really has Maya's back, and their sibling dynamic was one of the best parts of the entire series, but especially the final episodes. 

    19. When Anna realizes Steve isn't the guy she thought she was.

    Anna watches as Steve rides away on his bike

    Despite the creepy age gap, which as a preteen, you might (like Anna) think is a sign of how cool you are, Steve seemed to Anna like a good guy who understood her. He seemed like someone who really cared about her, which was something she needed to feel in the midst of her parents' messy divorce. But the way he let Derrick use Maya and didn't have her back showed his true colors, and Anna had to face that bravely. The first time you break up with someone you really like stings like no other, because it's hard to accept that what once felt real wasn't that real at all.

    20. When Sam tells Maya she's pretty and gives her a perfect first kiss.

    Sam and Maya lean towards each other in front of a bush, Maya wears headphones

    The best first kisses are served with a side of revenge, or something like that. Sam's first kiss with Maya is sweet, consensual(!!!), and comes on the heels of him helping her seek revenge on Derrick. He makes her believe she's pretty, and he changes the way she'll hear "Smooth," which is a true act of charity. 

    21. When Maya says she doesn't need anything because she has Anna.

    Anna and Maya stare into space holding hands and crying

    At the heart of this series is the beautiful friendship between Maya and Anna, who wouldn't have survived the painful art of growing up without each other. Despite all the awkwardness and ugliness of being a preteen girl, there's beauty, too, especially in these friendships with people who understand you better than anyone else and protect you from everything they can.

    22. What was your favorite moment in the season? Let us know below.