REVIEW: ‘Outer Banks’ is an Exciting Treasure Hunt

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Outer Banks

Outer Banks Season 1 is a Netflix young adult drama series created by Josh Pate, Jonas Pate and Shannon Burke. The series is set on the islands off the coast of North Carolina. After teenager John B (Chase Stokes) discovers a shipwreck, he and his three friends take off on a treasure hunt linked to his father’s disappearance. Along the way, they encounter a deep mystery and corruption from within their own community.

The plot is gripping and interesting, especially within the unique setting of the Outer Banks. While episode 1 takes a while to set a stride, it is an important benchmark to help explain the dynamics of the story and the characters that the audience will be following. What may seem to be a soap opera quickly becomes a mystery that takes the group to their breaking point. The twists are unexpected and constantly changing throughout the season.

Alongside the treasure hunt, Outer Banks is a series that fantastically explores the class divide of the community it is based in. The island is split between two kinds of people, the Pogues and the Kooks. The Pogues are the poor, struggling workers who often work for the Kooks, the rich families on the other side of the area. This means that there is a constant divide and animosity between the two sets of people. This is at a particular strenuous point at the start of the season, as the first episodes takes place just before and during a powerful hurricane. The Pogues are left reeling from the damage and without power, while the Kooks have been able to recover in comfort. The war between the four Pogues and the arch-rivals leads to violence and destruction in really powerful clashes. 

The four main characters are all really interesting, and for the most part, are well performed. JJ, portrayed by Rudy Pankow was the most investing for me, a seemingly carefree surfer who actually possesses troubling anger, and is looking for reasons to use his gun. Pope (Jonathan Daviss) starts out as the most well-behaved of the quartet, slowly being led astray by both John B and JJ. Kiara (Madison Bailey) is also really well written. She’s the daughter of a rich father, yet prefers to hang around the less judgmental Pogues. 

All of them follow the lead of protagonist John B. Unfortunately, Stokes is probably the weakest performer of the four, although he  does have his strong moments. He isn’t as brilliant as his co-stars when it comes to performing dialogue, but he is exceptional at portraying anxiety and panic. When interrogated by police, his leg is constantly bouncing and his voice wavers, and he never stays still. His arc drives the plot as he drags his friends further into his dangerous quest. 

There is a large supporting cast that also populates the series, and every character feels like they fit within the landscape the show is set in. Madelyn Cline plays Sarah Cameron, daughter of John B’s boss and his eventual love interest. Austin North appears as her pompous, controlling boyfriend Topper, and he comes across as a melodramatic pantomime villain. But the supporting character with the most impact and lasting presence is Sheriff Peterkin. Adina Porter brings real power to the role, her visits to John B are always laced with a mixture of threats and genuine concern. 

OUTER BANKS

The biggest issue with Stokes is that he is far too old for the characters they are supposed to be. John B is supposed to be 16, yet Stokes is in his late 20s, and it’s difficult to see him as anything younger. Considering much of Outer Banks is centered around him running from Child Services, who don’t want a minor living by himself, it may have been more powerful if the character didn’t look like they’d been able to drive for over a decade. It’s not just Stokes who doesn’t seem to fit the age of his character, Austin North has a similar issue. Their performances aren’t terrible, but it was a lingering distraction while watching.

The dialogue is very well written, making the teenagers sound exactly like teenagers. It is frantic and overlapping, with the characters often talking over each other. This creates a constant unease and really makes them feel real. So many of the conversations feel like they’re full of anxiety, especially when John B and his friends are talking.  But when the writers need to slow the pace of a scene down, they can also do so to produce touching moments. The four main characters are where the dialogue shines. Their four personalities are constantly clashing and interlocking, making their fireside chats incredibly enjoyable to watch.

The cinematography is also worth a mention, as it helps maintain the sense of anxiety that is hanging in every scene. There are a lot of wide shots to show off the beauty of the Outer Banks, but when characters talk or fight the camera gets very close up. This makes the tension feel almost suffocating at times. Even in situations where the subject matter isn’t of life and death, you can feel the panic setting in. 

Outer Banks Season 1 is a gripping young adult series that seems to combine National Treasure and Stranger Things. Netflix excels at placing their series within regions of the world that are underrepresented within the media. The showrunners brilliantly create an engaging story that takes the audience on an adventure around the islands, revealing every fragment of how society works within this community. Each actor brings their character to life and are given their own arcs. As much as Stokes looks far too old for the role, I believe that he and his co-stars have turned this into a show that a younger audience can find themselves in. The one thing that may turn them away from diving deeper is the sluggish start of the first episode. But beyond that, there is treasure just waiting to be found. 

The Outer Banks is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Outer Banks
7/10

TL;DR

Outer Banks Season 1 is a gripping young adult series that seems to combine National Treasure and Stranger Things. Netflix excels at placing their series within regions of the world that are underrepresented within the media. The showrunners brilliantly create an engaging story that takes the audience on an adventure around the islands, revealing every fragment of how society works within this community.