Head-to-Head: Outer Banks characters fail to captivate

Hailey Grubich, Feature Editor

The Netflix original Outer Banks is a coming of age story that follows a group of teens as they embark on a treasure hunt in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The story is framed by socioeconomic divide, categorizing the characters as either a “Pogue”, a member of the financially struggling lower-class, or a “Kook”, a member of the extremely wealthy upper-class. The Pogues are made up of the leader John B (Chase Stokes), the loose cannon JJ (Rudy Pankow), the brains Pope (Jonathon Daviss), and the solo female member of the group, Kiara (Madison Bailey). The Kooks, who consist of John B’s love interest Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline), her family, and her boyfriend Topper (Austin North), seem to be the source of the Pogue’s issues as they attempt to find the treasure. The mystery component of the show engaged me at first, but I was highly disappointed by the final outcome. 

My biggest problem with Outer Banks is that it seems to put characters in a box and keep them there. The character arcs for many of the leads are shallow or incomplete by the end of the series. It fails to dive deep into the story lines of many of the main characters which takes away from the emotional stakes of the Pogue’s life-threatening adventure. 

The prime example of this is Pope. Although he is one of the main characters of Outer Banks, the only personality trait that he has is the merit scholarship he’s trying to get for college. Not an episode goes by without Pope mentioning this. The audience only gets a glimpse of his home life as he violently fights with his father, but the show fails to give him any other recognition. By the end of the season, it’s hard to empathize with him as he faces emotional issues.

The two female leads Kiara and Sarah also lack depth. Their roles seem to only exist to add romance to the series. Kiara is introduced by the narrator John B in the first few minutes of the show as an active political environmentalist that the three boys “all have a thing for.” She is pined after by them constantly, remaining off-limits yet still available to them at the same time. 

Sarah is at the heart of the Outer Banks’ romance, which is occasionally sweet but is hard to root for due to the way that her and John B came together. The audience gets brief flashes of her motivations and personal life, but they never really pull her out of feeling flat. Both Kiara and Sarah have so much potential as female heroines but fail to step up due to their complicated relationships constantly weighing them down. 

I think that JJ has the best character arc of the whole show. In the first few episodes, he is awarded the title of the unstable, impulsive one. Episode by episode, it is slowly revealed why: his constantly abusive and manipulative father. He is the one character that got me to stick around and finish watching the series. 

Overall, Outer Banks was an easy quarantine binge but lacked the ability to truly captivate the audience due to its baseline characters. The adventure component of the show gave me a reason to finish the ten episodes, but I never found myself too interested in the lives of the teens.