Netflix’s latest teen mystery-drama “Outer Banks” is like “Riverdale” meets “The Goonies.” The first season, consisting of 10 episodes, was released on April 15 and has already developed a large fanbase. “Outer Banks” seems to have it all — sunken ships, lost treasure, steamy romance, an extremely attractive cast and an absurd amount of chase scenes — but falls short of something great.
The series, created by Shannon Burke and brothers Jonas and Josh Pate, follows 16-year-old John B (played by Chase Stokes), who has been living alone after his dad disappeared nine months earlier, and his friend group: Impulsive JJ (Rudy Pankow), nerdy Pope (Jonathan Daviss) and activist Kiara (Madison Bailey).
At first, life seems pretty carefree for John B and co. They spend most of their summer days messing around on their boat, soaking up the sun, smoking and drinking, until they find themselves in the middle of a mystery. John B uncovers clues from his father that may lead him towards the $400 million worth of gold he was searching for at the time of his disappearance. The gold would lift a huge weight financially off of the friend group and could uncover the truth behind what really happened to his dad.
As the season progresses, viewers also learn more about each character’s individual struggles. John B is struggling without his dad but actively avoids the Department of Children and Families worker who keeps showing up at his door. JJ deals with his abusive alcoholic father, Pope faces pressures of receiving a scholarship that will determine his future, and Kiara has a hard time fitting in with the polo-clad, yacht-owning “kooks” that her parents would like her to befriend.
Despite the issues each character faces, the natural chemistry and lighthearted banter among the group is a highlight of the show, and a bright spot among the darker and more serious scenes throughout each episode.
What starts as a fun, adventurous treasure hunt quickly turns into something more dangerous and complicated. John B and his friends find themselves in over their heads once dangerous locals and the police get involved, and they seem to get themselves into deeper trouble each episode. There are countless fight scenes, police chases and crime scenes. I was constantly holding my breath, waiting to see how each stupid decision would play out for the characters.
This is where the show falls short. Netflix was clearly aiming for a lot of thrills and suspense, but at times it was overkill. John B and his friends seemed to be barely phased by the life threatening situations they constantly found themselves in, and often made matters much worse for themselves than necessary. Their distrust of the police as everything unfolds is understandable, but the way they actively run away from cops and turn themselves into fugitives is just too absurd to be believable. A 16-year-old boy cannot outrun or outsmart every police officer in North Carolina. I just refuse to believe it. But, the further I got into the series, the less I was sure that believable is something “Outer Banks” was even aiming for.
Set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks — though filming actually took place in South Carolina — the show distinguishes a clear class struggle between lower-class “pogues” and upper-class “kooks” on the island. In episode one, John B explains, “It’s the sort of place where you either have two jobs or two houses.” John B, JJ and Pope are pogues, while Kiara is somewhere in between the two. There is a clear divide — pogues and kooks don’t mix well, and tensions are high from the start. The first season scratches the surface of the struggles and issues that come from being on either side of the divide, but doesn’t get very deep. I would be interested to see if the class issues are further developed in future seasons.
At its best, “Outer Banks” is an exciting escape from reality. It really is a wild ride from start to finish, and will leave viewers on the edge of their seat. At its worst, the show fails to maintain a realistic storyline among the melodrama.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of IMDb.com
Melissa Scrivani is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.