Why it’s worth your time:
Outer Banks is like the lovechild of “The Goonies,” “West Side Story” and “Taken.” Equal parts a story of class-warfare, summer love, and life-threatening treasure-hunting, the Netflix show is the ideal quarantine watch.
What to Expect:
Set, as its title suggests, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the series details a few weeks in the life of narrator and protagonist John B. Routledge — a deprived, and parentless kid living on the poor side of the islands – the one ruled by the “Pogues.” Bound together by their mutual lack of resources, or at least by their mutual hate of their counterparts across the island (we’ll get there), the Pogue friend group is tighter than most, asserting, by the end of the first episode, that their relationship exceeds friendship.
The group’s setup is classic: First, John B. himself is on a quest to find his father, a man who went missing at sea a year prior. Second, JJ, a tough kid with anger issues and a good sense of humor, despite the violence he faces daily at the hands of his addict father. Third, Pope, a smart kid, perpetually worried about college, and, more specifically, about not getting arrested and losing his chance at a scholarship. Finally, Kiara, the so-called “Pogue Queen,” a girl from an affluent family who rejected the “kook” lifestyle (again, we’ll get there), after it rejected her. Together, they make up the core four of the Outer Banks Pogues, and the center of the show itself.
The other side of the island, and the other side of the economic divide, is known simply as “Figure Eight,” and is home to the rich. We’re not talking upper-middle class here, we’re talking kids dropping thousands of dollars on dirt bikes, drugs, and clothes (among a huge number of other luxuries) on a regular basis, no questions asked. For purposes of the series, Figure Eight functions as something of a Bizarro world to the Pogue side of the island, with twisted counterparts for each of our main characters.
For John B., we have Topper. An impulsive and aggressive teenager, he, out of all the “kooks” — a slang term for the affluent citizens of Figure Eight — shows signs of goodness, and deeper character. For Pope, we have Kelce – a dirty fighter and preppy dresser with limited characterization outside of the implied – that the Pogues – namely Pope, who emphasized intelligence over brawn – are nothing like him. For JJ and Kiara, we have Rafe and Sarah – brother and sister, and children of locally famous tycoon Ward Cameron (who himself is somewhat of a parallel to John B.’s absent father). While Rafe is a local bully and part-time sociopath, Sarah is somewhat shrouded in mystery – known only as a girl who once burned Kiara, for the early parts of the series.
Together, the Kooks and Pogues make up the surface level conflict of Outer Banks, the socioeconomic clash: the insurmountable divide between rich and poor, and the defining issue for any citizen not wanting to dive deeper. But beneath the surface, there’s something darker — the underworld of Outer Banks. Inhabited by corrupt cops, hitmen, and once upon a time by John B’s own father, this world focuses not on economic divides, but on economic gain, in the form of four hundred million dollars in gold, hidden and untouched somewhere near the island.
After John B and the Pogues dig beneath the surface, they find themselves falling deeper and deeper into a life-threatening treasure hunt. Navigating crazed drug dealers, hired assassins (often in pursuit of John B himself), and relentless gold hunters (some shockingly close to home), the group faces constant excitement, and equally constant peril, in an experience which brings them closer or further apart with each development in the story.
The show may be cheesy at times and has some plot holes left unfilled by the end of the first season. But the variety of conflicts — rich vs. poor, brains vs. brawn, good vs. evil — and the unexpected treasure hunt are captivating. This, coupled with the masterfully crafted subplots of the story (namely a complex love triangle involving John B, and a fervent police investigation by the island’s only competent cop), and the beautiful backdrop of the Outer Banks, makes the show over the top, but excellent, and a must-watch; if only to transport you to the perfect summer you’ve never known you needed.
Watch it with:
Outer Banks has something for everyone, and is definitely watchable with your family, but it’s probably a more fun watch with your friends. It’s a show you’re going to want to talk about, so if you’re watching it alone, be ready to talk to someone else who has seen it.
Since its release on April 15, Outer Banks has routinely ranked well within the top ten most viewed Netflix shows. As of May 15, the show is sitting within the top five. In terms of content warnings, the Outer Banks really doesn’t have anything controversial or offensive, and doesn’t have any gore, save for a few incidents of cuts and gunshot wounds, which are not graphic.