On an island of haves and have-nots, teen John B enlists his three best friends to hunt for a legendary treasure linked to his father’s disappearance.
Format: 10 episodes streaming on Netflix simultaneously.
Cast: Chase Stokes, Madelyn Cline, Madison Bailey, Jonathan Daviss, Rudy Pankow, Charles Esten, Austin North, Drew Starkey, Adina Porter, Caroline Arapoglou, Nicholas Cirillo
Directors: Jonas Pate (1-2, 5-6, 9-10), Cherie Nowlan (3-4), Valerie Weiss (7-8)
Writers: Josh Pate (Created by, 1, 3, 5, 10), Jonas Pate (Created by, 4), Shannon Burke (Created by, 1-2, 5, 10), Keith Josef Adkins (6), Kathleen Hale (6-7), Rachel Sydney Alter (8), Dan Dworkin (9), Jay Beattie (9)
The teen drama genre has seen an influx in the last few years with Netflix, The CW and others seemingly pumping them out. It takes something unique to make a new series standout and Outer Banks certainly does: the promise of lost treasure.
Set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the series revolves around John B (Chase Stokes) and his friends JJ (Rudy Pankow), Pope (Jonathan Daviss) and Kiara (Madison Bailey), who refer to themselves as “The Pogues”. In the wake of a hurricane, which cuts power to their town, the Pogues stumble across the first clues towards a shipwreck treasure and the truth behind John B’s father’s disappearance.
The show, like many of this genre, has a focus on the class difference and the recurring idea of the rich getting richer and holding down the less fortunate. The Pogues are from working-class families of the Outer Banks (with the exception of Kiara) while “The Kooks” are a term given for the rich people who live there, usual wearing cardigans, boat shoes and frequenting the country club. In the wake of the hurricane, the divide between the two classes is even broader with the Kooks able to afford generators to keep the lights on, although that idea is not really a focus of the show.
Outer Banks is filled with the type of tropes and characters you would expect from a teen drama. John B is the charismatic, smart leader of the group, Pope is the future-focused, nerdy black kid, Kiara is the kid from a well-off family while JJ is the impulsive kid from a violent, troubled home. Add on top of that the Kook characters like Ward Cameron (Charles Esten), a Pogue-turned-Kook who is now a wealthy property developer who John B does some work for. His daughter, Sarah (Madelyn Cline), is John B’s main love interest despite him being from the wrong side of the tracks and having a boyfriend in Topper (Austin North) who is extremely possessive and jealous. Her brother Rafe (Drew Starkey) is the stereotypical entitled, selfish rich kid who falls into the drug scene, selling cocaine at his Kook parties for kicks.
The characters are not the most fleshed out we’ve seen before, with only really John B, JJ and Ward given any meaningful character development and focus. Topper and Rafe serve almost no purpose but to be hated and be a constant thorn in the side of the Pogues. It’s surprising how few female characters there are and how little they are given to do, especially given the type of genre it is.
The show’s treasure hunting storyline and unique setting make the series stand out from other shows like it. With treasure up for grabs, there are of course some shady also after that same payday, leading to firefights, fistfights and chases. The water-adjacent setting leads to a lot of boat-related misadventures and action set pieces. The action is generally shot well but there are two chase sequences that are shot handheld that are difficult to watch. They feel more like they loosely tied a GoPro to someone’s chest and told them to chase the characters as well, so shaky was the footage. I could feel myself get a bit queasy watching it but it is only done those two times and early in the series mercifully.