Streaming giant Netflix has yet another popular new title on its hands with the teen-starring treasure hunt drama “Outer Banks.” Set in a seaside coastal vacation town in North Carolina, the story follows a group of outcast teenagers — all played by actors in their twenties — who discover clues that may lead them to a long lost sunken treasure. But the series is not as exciting, well-acted, or competently made as a synopsis like that would lead you to believe.
In the small island town of Kildare, North Carolina, 16-year-old John B — played by Chase Stokes — wonders what happened to his quirky father after he got lost at sea months ago. He spends his days working on a fishing boat and hanging out with his friends, hotheaded JJ, played by Rudy Pankow, brainy Pope, played by Jonathan Daviss, and his crush Kiara — played by Madison Bailey. But the aftermath of a hurricane leads the group to discover cryptic clues that indicate John B’s father was hunting for ancient treasure before his disappearance. When mysterious bad guys begin chasing him for information, he becomes determined to discover what happened to his dad and whether or not the treasure is real.
In addition to the treasure hunting plot, the show frequently sidetracks itself with teen drama and romance, as John B has to sort out his affections between longtime best friend Kiara and spoiled rich girl Sarah — played by Madelyn Cline. But Sarah has her own baggage with a jealous boyfriend Topper, played by Austin North, and a drug-addicted brother Rafe, played by Drew Starkey, along with her dad Ward, played by Chip Esten — who is also John B’s boss. With the frequent sparring between characters as part of the local community’s stark class difference, this conflict frames the show as an echo of the forbidden love and warring families in “Romeo and Juliet.”
The population of the town is deeply divided among two social classes — the rich side, or “kooks,” and the poorer side, or “pogues.” This is supposed to give the poor John B. extra incentive to find the treasure, but a later twist reveals a kook is after the treasure as well. Seemingly, this theme would be well established in the plot of the series, but instead, it feels like a lame excuse to add in excess violence for shallow entertainment value. And there is a ton of violence in “Outer Banks,” I don’t think a single episode goes by without a bloody fight. While some of it is effective, most of it becomes repetitive and tiresome by the series’ end.
Additionally, the script could have been tightened up with a rewrite or two. Multiple setups and character details are established only to never pay off. John B’s friend JJ acquires a gun, Kiara is shown to be a staunch environmentalist, and Rafe starts receiving more trouble from his drug dealer, all of which end up being negligible to the plot. I also became uncomfortable on numerous occasions during the show as the teenagers were frequently unclothed or wore revealing clothing; in particular, the girls felt exceedingly exploited.
The series was written and produced by the Pate brothers, Josh and Jonas, who previously produced several movies and television shows of little note. But their newest collaboration is a bona fide hit, likely thanks to the COVID induced quarantine, making any movie or show exclusive to streaming a necessity in these tough times when most people are stuck in their homes. It’s a show with blatant creative influences and not much spin on their heavily used tropes or cliches. Imagine “The Goonies,” “National Treasure,” “Scooby-Doo” and “The OC” all rolled into one watered-down combination, and then you’ll have a good idea of what watching it is like.
“Outer Banks” isn’t necessarily bad — it has passable entertainment value, and the plot thickens with each episode to get you interested enough to keep watching. I also may not be the target audience for a pulpy soap opera starring teenagers. However, it’s mostly badly acted, the pacing slows down to a crawl by the middle and overall it feels like it would have worked better as a movie than a ten-episode series. If you need something new to watch, it’s vague treasure hunting fun. Just be prepared for the contrived story and generally poor writing.
Title: Outer Banks
Star Rating: Two and a half stars
- Engaging plot.
- Makes its viewers feel like you’re there in North Carolina.
- Not very well acted, and all the teenagers are clearly adults.
- Drawn out story that would have suited a movie better than a series.
- Shallow theming and excess violence.
- The show is exploitative of teen’s bodies, especially the women.