Pilot – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Lucky Compass – | Review Score – 3/5
The Forbidden Zone – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Spy Games – | Review Score – 4/5
Midsummers – | Review Score – 4/5
Parcel 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Dead Calm – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Runway – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Bell Tower – | Review Score – 4/5
The Phantom – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Young adult fiction is a curious thing. Arguably one of the more creative genres out there, there are so many examples of books featuring an interesting premise or hook but oftentimes held back by cliched characters, stale romance or forced humour that fails to hit the mark. The ones that do breakthrough have an even tougher time being translated across to the big screen with enough success to mirror that of Harry Potter.
Outer Banks is one of those shows that just works. It has just the right amount of humour, a solid Famous Five/Goonies feel and manages to weave all of this in with a decent mystery that progresses at a good pace.
The story itself revolves around the Outer Banks, an island that plays host to two distinct tribes. The Kooks and Pogues live on the class divide, with the poor Pogues playing host to our four friends, John B, JJ, Kiara and Pope, who set out on a mission to find John B’s missing Father and a hidden treasure holding 400 million in gold bars. The set-up is simple enough, and as the episodes tick by they’re joined by enigmatic rich Kook girl Sarah, who has some great chemistry with the group and a well written romance that doesn’t bog the story down.
As the season progresses, the truth surrounding the treasure, John B’s Father and just who the shadowy men are chasing them is revealed. While the season does end on a cliffhanger, there’s enough here to make for a really solid story and a gripping mystery that will keep you sticking around to find out what happens next. Ultimately though, it’s the characters that make this such an enjoyable and endearing effort.
The entire cast are great in their roles and although a lot of the adults do well, they’re ultimately overshadowed by the kids who have such natural chemistry on-screen. From Pope and JJ’s bromance humour through to Sarah and John B’s surprisingly natural sexual chemistry and wit, every character interaction feels meaningful and enhances the story. Even when the show decides to deep dive into the character melodrama, the investigative efforts continue with a different character instead. This self-awareness to keep the story moving forward at all times is partly why the show works as well as it does.
Stylistically, a lot of the show utilizes the usual musical cutaways and sweeping establishing shots of the island you’d expect, with narration from John B giving the impression of this being ripped right from a book. Those aforementioned Famous Five vibes are here in big supply too and the treasure hunt features a whole slew of clues for us to follow and try and decipher along with our characters.
With a distinct lack of gore and big sexual scenes, Outer Banks is pretty accessible to all ages although inevitably as the season draws closer to its climactic final act, a lot more danger is presented and with it, some blood and tense action sequences are shown off. It’s worth bearing this in mind because aside from that, the show is definitely something that could be watched as a family.
Outer Banks is simply one of the best young adult dramas of the year. It’s well written, perfectly paced and has just the right balance of humour, danger and romance to keep things exciting. The story does end on a cliffhanger and there’s lots of unresolved plot points too but given the solid work done across the 10 episodes, it’s easy to look past this. Let’s just hope Netflix hurry up and renew this one for a second season!
Verdict - 8/10