For most of us, going to the beach and spending time with friends is not in the cards right now (unless you live in Florida, in which case I would love to be in your shoes). But we’re holed up at home with our parents, pets and siblings, trying to find creative ways to stave off boredom. One day runs into the next and before you know it, another unproductive week has gone by. To remedy our boredom, Netflix’s “Outer Banks” steps in, seemingly dedicated to the summer that we’ll be deprived of in the coming months.
The show follows a group of high schoolers that live off the coast of North Carolina and who spend one summer searching for legendary treasure hidden on an island. In short, “Outer Banks” has the melodrama of “Riverdale” with improved acting and more realistic characters.
The show, consisting of 10 50-minute episodes, centers around John B (Chase Stokes) and his three best friends as he searches for the hidden gold that his father tried to find before he disappeared. John is the adventurous leader of the group, living an unsupervised life in his family’s house on the marsh. JJ (Rudy Pankow) is loyal to his friends but is constantly trying to escape from his abusive father and he struggles with his mental wellbeing. Pope (Jonathan Daviss) plans the logistics of their operations but is often caught and beaten up by the “Kooks,” the wealthy teenagers on the Outer Banks. Kiara (Madison Bailey), or “Kie” for short, is a Kook outcast who often struggles to choose between her parents’ Kook status and her “Pogue” friends, but is sure to always speak her mind.
The diverse set of characters allowed me to see a little of myself in each Pogue, even though each struggles with different aspects of their lives. The group would be inherently incomplete without each other, and while we see different combinations of the four friends throughout the show, each pairing displays a different dynamic that only seems complete when the four Pogues are together. Their camaraderie made me crave an adventure with my closest friends more than ever.
The wreck John is searching for serves as his last connection to his missing father. At the same time, the Pogues must outsmart government officials, law enforcement, the Kooks and mafia men who are searching for the same treasure. And, to add another layer, teenage drama and love interests shape the group dynamics. Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline), a Kook whose father is unknowingly after the Royal Merchant gold, falls in love with John and tags along with the Pogues in their treasure hunt. I found the antagonists, including Sarah’s father, brother and ex-boyfriend, easy to dislike, making me want to root for the Pogues even more. While the plot was entertaining, as it feels like one big children’s game of treasure hunting, it wasn’t entirely convincing. A holding pattern of accidental and convenient circumstances led me to often predict what was coming well before it would play out on screen. I found myself scoffing at the plot more often than not; I felt the whimsy of a treasure hunt detracted from the show’s talented acting and beautiful setting.
The show is reminiscent of a childhood summer — we see a cell phone twice in total in the entire series. The Pogues explore by themselves and with the exception of their clothes, they could easily be living any time between the 1970s and now. The show’s timelessness gives it a range of appeal to audiences old and young. My mom, who watched the show with me, noted that it reminded her of her high school years on the Mississippi gulf coast. Ethereal, dreamy cinematography captures the natural beauty of the Carolina coast with a grainy, film-like image and saturated, tropical colors. The cinematic quality of “Outer Banks” is the prototypical nostalgic summer with friends: days out on a boat and bringing a backpack with you wherever you go. To top it off, the show is backed by an incredible alt-rock soundtrack that made me want to take a road trip with friends.
“Outer Banks” is full of accidental happenings and coincidences centered around John, but a few things make this show “bingeable.” Each episode ends with a cliffhanger that left me saying, “That was good, I need to know what happens next.” We want to know where the treasure is and how the Pogues will come out on top in the race to find it. We want to see John and Sarah’s relationship develop. We want John to find closure with his father’s disappearance, Pope to get his scholarship, JJ to be happy and Kie to feel free from the social constructs placed on her. These characters are all fiercely independent and likable — we want life to work out for all of them, regardless of their circumstances because we want our own lives to work out. While the plot of “Outer Banks” is relatively predictable, the diversity of the characters and small side plots throughout make it worthwhile.