Outer Banks Season 1 Review: It's a Teenagers Dream Come to Life

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What happens when you combine a summer romance, a devoted friend group, an empty beach house, lots of fistfights, a shipwreck, and a treasure hunt?

A teenage dream come true. That's what happens. 

The Outer Banks follows teenage heartthrob John B and his band of recklessly loyal minions as he embarks on a journey to solve the mystery of who killed his father, and finishes his father's quest to find four hundred million dollars worth of solid gold.

Friends on a Boat - Outer Banks Season 1

The show oddly begins with an introductory narration from John B (a la Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City) that introduces the viewer to John's life on the Outer Banks.

John is a proud member of the Pogues -- the lower class Outer Banks residents who often have to work two jobs to get by. 

With no parents, and an empty beach house, John B is practically his own boss. Whose paying all of the bills? We're not quite sure. 

What we do know, however, is John is willing to risk his life to find a treasure he has no real proof even exists. 

John's friends Kiara, JJ, and Pope added much-needed color to the story. 

Kiara Smiles - Outer Banks Season One

At the beginning of the season, I expected Kiara to be my favorite character. As the female member of Pogue foursome, she has a down to earth, girl-next-door vibe.

I was super excited to see a strong black female lead (who happens to share my name and a lot of my life experiences). 

Somewhere along the way, though, I fell in love with JJ. 

JJ initially came off as reckless, immature, and selfish, but the writers did an excellent job of building a backstory that revealed the complexities of his character. 

The more you learn about JJ's toxic home life with his abusive, alcoholic father, the more attached you become to his character. 

Sarah Escapes - Outer Banks Season 1

The writers successfully tapped into the hidden gem of storytelling -- the better the backstory, the more loveable the character. 

It also helps that Rudy Pankow, the young breakout actor who portrays JJ, did an outstanding job with the role.

Rudy was tasked with pulling off a number of highly-emotional scenes, and every one of them was believable.

Most notably, the scenes with his abusive father were the only moments of the show where I came close to shedding a tear.

It's interesting that the majority of the parents featured on Outer Banks were fathers. It was a pleasant contrast to the abundance of teen dramas that only focus on teenage girls and their mothers.

JJ in a Fight - Outer Banks Season 1

I also found it interesting that every teenager on the show had borderline unhealthy relationships with their parents. 

In fact, one of the major themes of the show is that parents are just as flawed as the rest of us. While this is true, the level of disrespect the young characters showed their parents was, at times, uncomfortable. 

Kiara and Pope both came from loving, two-parent households, yet they both continuously defied, ran away from, and disrespected their parents. 

In one scene, Pope blatantly jumps into a boat to go fishing with his friends as his father explicitly forbids him from going.

In another scene, Kiara disappears from her parents for three days to help John B evade the police. 

Pope - Outer Banks Season 1

It's not often that black kids are shown blatantly disrespecting their parents on television.

I had a hard time believing that Kiara and Pope would be so disrespectful to parents who, as far as the show is concerned, did nothing wrong.

Neither Pope or Kiara suffered any real repercussions for their rebellious actions. 

The issue of Kiara and Pope's blackness never really came up in the show, even though the writers chose to make classism a central focus of the story. 

While I respect the writers' attempt to tell a color-blind story, it was unrealistic not to consider how race would have contributed to a story involving two black teenagers and the police.

It's no secret that black people in America have a complicated relationship with law enforcement -- especially in the south. To pretend otherwise is an illusion. 

Looking Over the Water - Outer Banks Season 1

More than likely, Pope's parents would have cautioned him that as a black man living in America, he cannot afford to make the reckless decisions as his white counterparts.

Black people in America are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people.

While the writers in no way needed to make a race a central element of the show, avoiding it altogether at times made the show feel more like a white fantasy than a drama. 

I also did not suspect the Pope and Kiara to pursue a romantic relationship.
It would have made more sense to pair off Kiara and JJ.
Kiara in a Gown - Outer Banks Season 1
Kiara has a heart for protecting creatures like sea turtles (and JJ) who are not always able to protect themselves.

As far as ships go, none of the romances in the show were compelling. 

The relationship between John B and Sarah felt shallow. The two definitely have chemistry. Let's face it -- they are both incredibly attractive.

Outside of physical attraction, however, there wasn't much of a spark between John and Sarah.

John repeatedly put Sarah in dangerous situations without considering her safety. 

Sarah - Outer Banks Season 1

If there's anything we learned from Damon and Stefan Salvatore, when you really love someone, you'll do anything to protect them. You don't put them in harm's way just for fun. 

John B, on the other hand, recklessly dragged Sarah into life-threatening situations on more than one occasion. 

I'm also not convinced that Topper loved Sarah. Although he did show some concern for her safety, he treated her more like an object to be possessed than a living, breathing, human being. 

Topper's sudden decision to help Sarah and John B in Season 1 Episode 10 didn't make a lot of sense.

He went from hating John for nine episodes, to helping him escape capture without a strong motive. 

Topper - Outer Banks Season 1

The most interesting and complex character on the show was Sarah's dad, Ward Cameron. For the first half of the season, he was one of my favorite characters. 

He seemed like a loving family man with a complicated past, like a fluffy pancake with crispy edges. I would never have imagined that Ward was responsible for killing John's father. 

The sudden turn of events that followed John's discovery of his father's true murderer had me on the edge of my seat. 

The repaired relationship between Kiara and Sarah was also a nice addition to the show. It's not often that two female lead characters in a team drama aren't fighting over a boy or trying to destroy one another.

Overall, I wish the show spent less time on fight and chase scenes, and more time developing the back story of the main characters, but it was worth the watch.

John B Runs - Outer Banks Season 1

While there were some definite pain points, I really enjoyed the overall story arc. 

The show is a lot of fun, and it doesn't require you to work too hard to put the peices of the mystery together. 

I'm already looking forward to season 2!

As always, I want to know what you thought about the Season 1! Leave your comments down below.

Outer Banks is available on Netflix. 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Kiara Imani is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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