Who likes a mystery with shipwrecks, lost treasure, and murder, complete with teen angst? Well, if you’re a Netflix junkie you’ve most likely joined the rest of America in making “Outer Banks” the #1 most-watched Netflix show in America right now. And much like Scooby-Doo, the teenagers living in the North Carolina Outer Banks drive around in their own Mystery Machine trying to solve their own kind of crime. It’s worth watching, especially if you are a teenager, but my recommendation comes with some caveats.
Season One starts out smoothly with age-appropriate, witty teen humor, and quickly establishes the outer banks’ universe: us vs. them, poor vs. rich, or as they say, Pogues vs. Kooks respectively. It’s an age-old story that never seems to get old, or so the creators might think.
That’s the first problem with this show. It doesn’t give the audience enough credit to be able to ferret out the complications of being human. We either like a character or hate a character with very little room in between for doubt. We quickly learn where everyone stands, our heroes being the working-class kids who actually do all the work on the banks, and their nemeses, the rich kids who do nothing but get the Pogues into trouble through various evil machinations.
Our main character, the leader of the Scooby tribe is called John B. For those of you old enough to remember the Beach Boys song, John B, our hero is named after a sailboat of the same name. It’s a great song, and this John B is the most likable character in the show. For one thing, he’s an orphan. We automatically want to help him. His mother left a long time ago, and his father is missing and presumed dead at sea. He’s sixteen, lost and alone, and refuses to believe his father is really dead. It makes sense because, at the time of his death, his dad was searching and apparently very close to finding the lost treasure of Denmark Tanney, the only survivor of a ship that went down in the Outer Banks in the 1700’s. Denmark used the British gold, 400 million dollars, to buy a plantation, and buried the rest. And so the plot thickens.
It turns out that they’re not the only ones looking for the treasure. The cast of characters include a wealthy family who bought the Tanney house, the local sheriff, a variety of local criminals who are willing to kill for it, and most importantly, our friends, John B., his best friend, JJ, a rich girl gone rogue, Kiara, and Pope, the brains of the Pogues.
What would I change about the series if I could?
That’s a good question. I’d make it less CW style (Vampire Diaries, Riverdale, Legacies) and more its own style. It’s obvious the writers had something to say. The story is interesting and personal, but unfortunately, it becomes melodramatic, predictable, and uninteresting as a result. What starts out as good writing devolves into quip-like chatter and thoughtless emotional reaction.
John B. and JJ banter about their friend Kiarra wanting him to be careful while breaking into a motel room. JJ says, “Oh, just be careful John B.”, in a high-pitched girly voice, complete with shoulder rub to bring the point home. It’s believable teenage boy teasing, cute and funny. My personal favorite is when they’re searching said motel room, and John B. says, “He’s definitely over 50, he’s got New Balances.”
In contrast, during a kegger on the beach, while Pogues, Kooks, and tourists come together through their mutual love of cheap beer, a fight ensues between John B. and Topper (a Kook) over, you guessed it, a girl. It quickly escalates into attempted murder with Topper attempting to drown John B. and JJ coming to his rescue by pointing a loaded gun at Topper’s head. It’s crazy, and it’s also drama for the sake of drama, not the believable and inevitable end to a fight between teenagers.
What stands out about the show?
Rudy Pankow, a young actor who plays JJ, John B.’s best friend. The scenes with his father are painful and honest. His father, an alcoholic, beats him and demeans him. The scenes are brutal to watch, but an important reminder of why JJ considers himself the screw up of the group, destined to go to jail instead of college.
The cinematography by Brad Smith (Friday Night Lights, and recently, Manifest). It’s just beautiful all the time. If anything, I wish more time was spent on the photography, longer scenes, a longer story arc where we could just sit on a scene or picture or person and wait – soak it all in. That, of course, takes money and time, and those are almost always in short supply.
Still, there’s lots of adventure to be found, new love, girls in bikinis and boys without shirts, and those are all good things if you’re in the age demographic. Even if you’re not, who doesn’t like looking for lost treasure or remembering their own high school days? I do. Check it out and see for yourself. Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.