As Netflix’s latest nostalgia exercise, teen drama Outer Banks is designed to trigger memories of a dozen movies from the ’80s and at least as many TV shows. The show counts on those subconscious responses and memories to carry viewers through 10 episodes. Although they are reasonably watchable, they hold very few original pleasures on an intrinsic note.
1. Quick review
Outer Banks is an engrossing escape, especially for those with time to binge-watch. Stopping after one episode is extremely hard in this show. It is sharply written around not just intriguing characters, but also relevant themes related to socioeconomic disparity and prejudice.
John B, a role in the show, lays out the community’s framework. It has two distinct classes; the well-off Kooks and the working-class Pogues. As tensions play out between the two groups, he and his friends tackle the harder solution; the challenging of stereotypes set outside of their community.
2. Is it worth watching?
Outer Banks has been written to move. The show begins with an opening scene that finds a group of friends crashing a construction site. There is always something pushing this new Netflix teen drama forward.
In other shows with the glossy sheen that covers these pals, that momentum doesn’t always come organically. However, even when its script falls prey to some of its soapier instincts, there is distinct energy powering it through weaker tides.
Outer Banks follows a group of four teenage Pogues who face many obstacles, including drugs, fights, family, friendship, and love. The story begins with it being close to a year since John B (played by Chase Stokes) had seen or heard from his father.
However, optimistic, John refuses to give up hope that he will return. When John and his friends make a discovery that draws them into a local murder mystery, clues begin to reveal what might have happened to his father.
John B, JJ (played by Rudy Pankow), Pope (played by Jonathan Daviss), and Kiara (played by Madison Bailey) try to make sense of it all. Along their way, they find themselves trailed by two men who will stop at nothing to find out what the teens know.
They are also constantly being monitored by local police with uncertain motives. Unsure who to trust, their story unfolds as they are swept up in the mystery of an old legend of a shipwreck.
II. Music and visuals
Outer Banks is what Riverdale was in its glory days— a soapy teen drama with romance and murder, all set to a great soundtrack.
With music direction by the award-winning composer Fil Eisler, the popular soundtrack is filled with tracks from artists like Audiodub, The Shivas, and Stylo G. sings include Maria Tambien by Khruangbin, Hold Me by The Tesky Brothers, Itotiani by Chicano Batman and Borrowed World by Widowspeak. These songs are available for purchase on Apple Music, iTunes, and Amazon Music.
The show has a little bit of everything; crime, action, thrill, drama and, of course, good ol’ fashioned teenage love. This makes it very appealing to viewers who like a little bit of everything.
Directed primarily by Jonas Pate, Outer Banks looks like nostalgia feels. Much of the series is lensed through a cloying golden haze as if every second were taking place at golden hour, even if none of the series is actually taking place during the time.
It is very aesthetic in its cinematic beauty, thanks to cinematographer J.B. Smith, even if much of the perpetual gloaming was achieved through post production.
3. Final thoughts
The show is positively littered with characters and plot threads that feel like they might have been relevant in a 13-episode season, or even a young adult novel that offered more breathing room.
It is hard to put a finger on the exact demographic Outer Banks is trying to cater to. It is full of underage drinking, drug use, and characters that swear up a storm. Oddly enough, it also has a puritanical streak to the way it depicts sex when it isn’t ogling the beach bods of its teenage characters.
Still, what sustains Outer Banks through those shakier parts is the idea that it indulges each change in venue. Rather than paint the show as an easy visual contrast between two neighborhoods divided by class, it approaches each of its locations with an open palette.
There is a coastal haze to Outer Banks even when there’s not a cloud in the sky over the waves. Still, the night time silhouettes and the shadows inside an abandoned church hideout keep the story from sagging.
At the end of the day, however, Outer Banks dials its melodrama to its own sweet spot. There is enough fun — ridiculous and otherwise — to keep a story-hungry audience following along the trail.