For some, “escapist TV” means a show that is warm and kind and easy to watch. For others, it means settling in for a deep binge into the most ridiculous world you can find. For those in the latter camp, might I inquire as to if you’ve happened upon Netflix’s new teen soap Outer Banks? Let’s be real, it is not Great TV, but it does grow increasingly bonkers in the best way possible. It is the perfect escapist show should you be looking for drama and speargun fights in the middle of the ocean.
If you have yet to dive whole hog into this show — that, yes, is about teens in North Carolina’s Outer Banks who go on a treasure hunt for $400 million worth of gold while also learning about themselves — let me issue a warning: Outer Banks is a ride. And before you take that ride, perhaps you might like to know what is on it? So, to help newcomers prepare for the journey that is Outer Banks (lol, you can’t prepare for it), or to assist those who have finished their binge and need to process what the hell just happened, we’ve charted the 12 emotional phases you go through while watching season one. (To do this, we are going to have to spoil some things, but trust us, knowing what’s coming does not make it any less bonkers.)
While Watching Outer Banks, you will feel …
Sure, it’s not the best way for a series to start off — some may say it’s the worst way — but nonetheless the first two to three episodes of Outer Banks may leave you less than excited. Why should you care about this teen named John B, and his friends Pope, Kiara, and JJ, who call themselves the Pogues and hate the rich kids of the Outer Banks? Haven’t you already seen this show and wasn’t it called One Tree Hill and also The OC?
It’s only natural to feel some yawns coming on in the beginning of this journey because of things like: the inconsistent voiceover that is just a complete info dump; the fact that many of these characters start off as clichés including but not limited to an extremely creepy lighthouse keeper; and yes the seen-this-before tension between the working-class kids and the Richie McRichsters that kicks off with a fight during a beach party in which the Rich Kid could’ve easily said “Welcome to the OB(X), bitch!” Trust that once you get to the end of this series, you will look back on these early episodes and have respect for them because holy hell, if this thing had started off at full throttle we would’ve been in for it.
Here are some questions you will find yourself asking: Does John B ever button more than one button of his shirt? WAIT, they got Adina Porter to play the sheriff in this show? HOLD UP, Nashville’s Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) is the rich girl Sarah’s dad and his name is “Ward?” Excuse me, not only do the rich kid villains seem like they walked straight out of an ’80s movie, but their names are “Rafe” and [checks notes] “Topper????” Why do I care so much about everyone’s names? Am I still watching this show? Is this what Stockholm syndrome is?
The Desire to Question Your Sanity
Episode four will really throw you for an emotional loop. It starts off with things happening that you’ll probably hate. Things like: John B distracting a guy so he can steal his bike with the line “hey, look, a snow leopard!” and it works. Or things like John B and Sarah heading to Chapel Hill on their treasure hunt, but stopping along the way for a fashion montage. Or how after 24 hours together, John B and Sarah are fully in love and have an epic kiss in the rain that ends with one participant doing finger guns. YET STILL. At the end of episode four, when Pope — a genius who quotes The Hobbit and has dreams outside of OBX — is about to be arrested after being caught taking revenge on Topper for assaulting him, JJ — the Pogue with the roughest of backgrounds — steps in and takes the blame for his friend, you might just find yourself tearing up. A friend told me that you will probably be so moved by this gesture of true friendship, you won’t be able to help yourself. Fine, that friend is me!!!
If that moment doesn’t do it for you, episode five should find you saying to yourself: Fine, I am in this. I am now a Pogue Queen. That’s because episode five mostly takes place at a hoity-toity midsummer party in which the country clubbers all wear flower crowns and I don’t know, talk about yachts and seersucker or whatever. Any Teen Drama Expert knows that fancy parties for out-of-touch rich people are not only a genre staple, but also used to accelerate the shenanigans, and that’s what’s happening here. Also, we get the big reveal — major spoiler alert — that Ward Cameron is shady as fuck. And that’s when things start getting good. Here, “good” means “ridiculously soapy.” There is no turning back now!
Scared and a Little Confused Again, Probably
Wow, things take a real turn when this show morphs into a horror film for one episode. The kids are searching for the missing gold in a well in the creepy basement of an old blind lady’s home and guys, that old blind lady shows up with a shotgun! And starts shooting at the kids!! I mean, they escape, but what a treasure trove of madness.
Now you are fully in this and let me tell you, you will not regret it because praise the Big Kahuna, they let Charles Esten be the glorious soap opera villain he was meant to be. Welcome to the world, Ward, the adult man who traps a 16-year-old on his boat and tries to steal gold from him and then proceeds to have a spearfishing gun fight with him before chasing him in his yacht while the kid tries to run away on a jet ski!
You might have to rewind a few times when a busted old VW van does in fact chase a small plane down a runway, catch up to it, pass it, and then, yes, stop that plane from taking off.
I won’t tell you who murders who on an airport runway as Ward tries to escape to the Bahamas with all the gold, but reader you should know, I gasped.
Every binge has a Point of Shame, and this show’s hits when they’re closing down the entire Outer Banks to start a manhunt for John B who has been framed for murder and then you watch an actual child and a grown man fight over the $25,000 reward for John B’s arrest. A child! Just guzzle more wine and go with it. It feels so good, I promise.
Seething Hot Rage
Ughhhh, could Rafe and Topper be bigger bags of dicks if they tried? This isn’t rhetorical, the answer is no. They are the biggest bags of dicks! During the manhunt for John B, which they both know is for a murder he didn’t commit, Topper does things like trap John B in a laundry room and make him explain what love feels like and Rafe does things like burn down the church where John B and Sarah — his sister, by the way — are hiding. See? Bags of dicks.
The final beats of this story are legitimately insane in the best way. You think you might not be able to take any more around the time a dad is lying to the Tough Guy Agent about his daughter being bipolar so that she can’t turn him in for murder, but you don’t know exhaustion until you see two kids in a dinky boat being chased by law enforcement directly into a tropical depression because they’d rather die than be apart. By the end, you are just a shell of your former self. Completely spent on teen drama and that heartfelt moment when Pope’s family pulls JJ in for a hug because his deadbeat dad couldn’t make it to the police tent to comfort his only son.
Your eyes don’t deceive you: Those kids survive that storm at sea even though they spent way too much time talking about the North Star and not enough time adhering to safety protocol, and yes, they do use that melted gold to flag down a ship in the middle of the ocean, that just happens to be headed toward Nassau … exactly where all the gold was moved. Season two, anyone?