Netflix has hit the ever ending streaming sphere with its newest original series, Outer Banks. Following teenager John B (Chase Stokes), who lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Here there are two groups of people: the Kooks, the rich and wealthy who take whatever they want and the Pogues, the less fortunate who work as hard as they can to survive. John B leads the Pogues alongside his friends JJ (Rudy Pankow), Pope (Jonathan Daviss), and Kiara (Madison Bailey). They clash with the Kooks lead by rich kid Topper (Austin North), golden girl Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline), and her brother Rafe (Drew Starkey).
As John B struggles to come to terms with his father’s (Charles Halford) disappearance, refusing to give up hope of him being alive, he and his friends become apart of something much bigger. A mysterious treasure at the center of his father’s disappearance is uncovered. As the four Pogues continue their investigation into Big John’s absence, they are lead no choice but to embark on a hunt for treasure: gold bars worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Their only problem? The last known location of the gold was on a ship that sunk over a hundred years ago. The expedition changes everyone’s lives more than they ever expected. John B grows out of his comfort zone as he get closer to Sarah and becomes locked in the crosshairs of some very dangerous people.
The best way to describe Outer Banks is a more mature, teen-oriented version of The Goonies. The series delivers a very exciting, well-paced story that will leave the viewer eager for more. One will find themselves on the edge of their seat many times over the course of the ten episode season. This will also allow many to finish the series in two days max. The narrative keeps the viewer invested for the whole season, allowing the story to progress naturally without things happening too quickly or slowly – a factor that hurts countless of shows. The mystery is also well crafted, keeping the viewer enraptured and craving for more details. The show takes its time revealing a lot of major plot points, but rather than leaving the viewer annoyed as they hope for resolutions – it satisfies by slowly sprinkling reveals and clues before delivering the big payoffs.
The direction on the show is very admirable. It is well-shot, making for captivating cinematography. However during chase scenes, where the camera adapts to handheld shakiness – working to make the viewer feel like they are involved in the action firsthand – it simply feels sort of cheap while breaking the immersion. Though the production, costume, and musical design come to life in emphasizing the two sides of the Outer Banks, distinct with their personalities and lifestyles.
Where the show truly shines, however, is the acting. The young cast give their all in the series, and it pays off with everyone truly giving great performances, especially when compared to what is typically seen in the average teen drama. Rudy Pankow and Jonathan Daviss both deserve special praise, as they pull off the heaviest scenes of the season – without a doubt delivering the strongest performances. The cast also has amazing chemistry in general, very realistic to people who have been lifelong companions. This is most apparent between the two leads, John B and Sarah. Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline manage to sell a very believable romance, and the connection between them is truly beautiful as the two characters grow.
The show’s primary antagonists are both portrayed really well, with Drew Starkey delivering an insanely well done, dark performance as Rafe. Sarah’s father Ward Cameron (Charles Esten) serves as the main threat and delivers a chilling performance. Madison Bailey’s Kiara and Austin North’s Topper also stand out. Bailey carries a unique emotional weight while North manages to tell Topper’s story so well that it would not shock if he became this show’s version of Steve Harrington from Stranger Things.
Outer Banks is an impressive addition to Netflix’s roster of original programming. Managing to take the teen drama, a genre that so often becomes formulaic with surface level storytelling, and telling a more adventurous tale is commendable. The show’s creators Josh Pate, Jonas Pate, and Shannon Burke deserve a lot of credit. With the largely unknown young cast delivering great performances, and the engaging story leaving the viewer anxious to see what happens next, one can only hope to see the series return for an even better second season in the future.