Review: ‘Outer Banks’, Season 2

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The Netflix lockdown-binge smash hit Outer Banks has returned for its second season and provides yet more escapist adventure for those still at home this summer. Like most teen dramas, the show requires you to set aside your scruples or high-brow critiques and enjoy the melodrama for what it is – a fun, wild and mysterious high-stakes treasure hunt. 

Season two picks up right where the dramatic season one finale left off as John B (Chase Stokes) and Sarah (Madelyn Cline) escape arrest to the sepia-toned shores of the Bahamas – presumed dead by friends and family left behind. In their continued search for, and fight to regain, the lost treasure of the Royal Merchant shipwreck, now in the hands of the nefarious Ward Cameron (Nashville’s Charles Esten), the pair find their way back to their hometown and friends as the adventure leads the Pogues in search of a new and mystifying lost artefact.

Their connection is probably the season’s most true and down-to-earth element as at times the heightened drama can cross the line into unbelievability

Amongst the mystery-solving, romantic entanglements and run-ins with the law, the show’s exploration of friendship stands out as its most important theme. Through thick and thin the four ‘Pogues’, now with the addition of Sarah, always have each other’s backs and their comradery certainly characterises the spirit of the show as you root for the group through their adventures. Their connection is probably the season’s most true and down-to-earth element as at times the heightened drama can cross the line into unbelievability. 

The draw of the show itself, however, is its outlandish, melodramatic fun as the group problem-solves one mystery after the next

This season can become frustrating at times as there always appears to be yet another obstacle in the way of them finally solving the mystery and gaining the treasure. Plot twists may be predictable to some and the season even reached Riverdale levels of realism as John B bizarrely survives an alligator attack mid-episode which ultimately brings him closer to his estranged (unofficially-married) fellow-teen spouse. The draw of the show itself, however, is its outlandish, melodramatic fun as the group problem-solves one mystery after the next. Maybe a more realistic aspect of the show is the teenage Pogues’ concerned parents’ reactions to their wild behaviour. Amongst some at times questionable acting, Esten and Cline playing father and daughter stand out as star performances. 

Even with some over-dramatic or unbelievable moments, the show should not be disregarded as a merely vapid or meaningless watch as it does manage to tackle themes of classism and corruption. The series’ focus on the tension between the working class Pogues in the Cut and the second home-owning Kooks living in Figure Eight harks back to Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets, and as such John B and Sarah are the show’s Romeo and Juliet. 

The great chemistry between the two is likely fuelled by the fact that actors Stokes and Cline are a couple in real life. Class structures and struggles are depicted in the contrasting lives of the characters in each group (issues like JJ’s dad’s substance abuse and money problems) and the prejudices people hold against others. Corruption within the police force is also rife in the show, although officers who were more than happy to take bribes and pocket evidence money in season one appeared to work harder towards solving crimes after the murder of one of their own, Sheriff Peterkin. 

Even a light-hearted and fun show has a responsibility to attach some deeper meaning and education to an issue they exploit so frequently as a plot device

That being said, Outer Banks definitely could have gone further in exploring some of the themes it seems to skirt around – for a show that puts so much emphasis on the treasure’s connections to slavery, they do very little to address race or the impact of slavery, besides using the treatment of Denmark and Cecilia Tanny to pull on our heartstrings. Even a light-hearted and fun show has a responsibility to attach some deeper meaning and education to an issue they exploit so frequently as a plot device. This is possibly something that could be explored in later seasons – a continuation of the show is suggested by the season’s cliff-hanger ending, but not yet confirmed by Netflix. 

In a somewhat cyclical ending to the season, the Pogues find themselves stranded and believed missing at sea by their friends and family by the final episode. But with a shocking return in the final moments of the tenth episode from a character thought to be long gone, we are reminded that in a teen drama like Outer Banks, no one’s ever truly dead until a body is found.

Realism and depth aside, Outer Banks season two continues to provide thrilling, dramatic escapism to the shores of North Carolina and the Bahamas, alongside a likeable friend group to root for through their adventures – and if the songs on its soundtrack aren’t already on your summer playlist, then they definitely should be. If you are looking for a fun show to stream in these final weeks of summer, let the Pogues whisk you away to the shores of the ‘OBX’, and with the right mindset, you’ll be sure to enjoy the ride.

Image: Hariis via Flickr

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