Hey everybody. With the world the way that it is these days — folks stuck in their homes, millions unable to work, and news growing more and more dire each day — my editor decided I should write about a new teen soap opera on Netflix. Years from now, after the children rise and overtake society, I’ll look up from my shackles at our new boy king and say this is how I gave back when the world needed me the most. This is Waters on Outer Banks. Nautical puns.
So admittedly I know nothing about this show. It is rated TV-MA. All the photos I’ve seen show generically beautiful youths standing seductively as they boat through Lowcountry marshes. The plot synopsis reads “A teenager enlists his three best friends to hunt for a legendary treasure linked to his father’s disappearance.”
Oh. So this is just a hornt-up Goonies. This is gonna be a bunch of sexy junior detectives — all with the horn — just looking for an old pirate ship. And since every show has to be a movie now, each episode of this 10-part season is at least 46 minutes long. This is wildly unnecessary. That’s over eight hours of these kids giving each other jeanburn behind the bait and tackle.
Starting out, the show establishes the Marxism 101 breakdown of the town of Outer Banks. The wealthy elites — or “The Kooks” — inhabit one half, while “The Pogues” occupy the poor side of town. Just as in real life, wealth and class are an easily defined binary. Similar to how The Force works.
Our quartet of teens are, of course, members of the scrappy Poors. Instead of communicating this by having these teens scramble for extra hours at a dead-end job to help y support a single mother on workers’ comp, we give them a rusty Volkswagen van and a reasonably nice boat. This is filmmaking shorthand for, “Our writers have never ridden the bus.”
While our little proles are seizing the means of having a chill time, we are introduced to the main characters one-by-one via voiceover.
First, there is JJ — a thief and surfer. Then Kiara — an environmentalist who talks about microplastics at parties, loves Bob Marley, and has a dolphin tattoo. Yep, they didn’t try too hard with her.
Oh, wait. Her family is rich and operates a restaurant. This is like that episode of Friends where they were divided over the cost of Hootie and the Blowfish tickets.
Next, we have Pope, who is described as the “Brains of the operation.” Prepare to have Pope explain some archaic symbol on a treasure map or recount some local lore to everyone.
Finally, there’s John B, our narrator. John B lives unsupervised inside a Hollister where all his fellow bros crash and there are apparently 20 rooms. John’s dad vanished at sea several months ago. He mourns this loss by getting in some sweet hangs with the boys. John is a vape that wished to become a real boy.
After a hurricane causes John B’s visit from child protective services to be postponed, I realize that Outer Banks is the Entourage of the Southeast.
Our gang capitalizes on the mass destruction to the coast by going for a joyride before their boat collides with a sunken vessel. John B manages to recover a motel key from the wreckage. As the team speeds away, the camera pans over to reveal a dead body caught in the marsh.
The corpse is not sexy or tan or glowing with golden youthfulness, so we are soon saved from looking upon it. It is at this point that I realize that Outer Banks is a bizarro-version of our own world currently. Everyone is glistening, worriless, and in constant physical contact to one another. It’s as if someone decided to dedicate an entire TV series to the rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded. Maybe this show is something we need right now.
Soon we are introduced to who will clearly become our final main cast member: Sarah. We first meet Sarah after seeing most of her family members voice their petty gripes about the inconveniences they face as a result of the storm. While her sister complains about the lack of wifi, Sarah is chasing birds away from the mice made vulnerable by the hurricane.
Swatting birds away with a tennis racket, Sarah quotes German pastor Martin Niemöller’s post-Holocaust poem “First They Came…” but in reference to marsh vermin. My hope is that this is a reference to Art Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel Maus, which retold his father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor by depicting Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. I would give the writers this credit if Sarah were not clad in a bikini top and jean shorts as she alludes to post-war German guilt.
Anyway, it turns out that Sarah was the last one to see Scooter, the dead man in the marsh who owned the sunken boat seen earlier. Rejoining our quartet of disadvantaged shopping mall models, we find the gang following up on that motel key they found. Inside the room, John B and JJ discover a safe full of cash and a handgun. As some corrupt cops descend upon the room, John B and JJ flee.
Today, the DoorDash driver gave me Justin’s order instead of my own, so I got store credit for Chipotle. That’s my sunken-ship, motel-safe bingo.
Meanwhile outside of the banks, our team surmises that Scooter was smuggling during the hurricane and they plan to scavenge the sunken ship. But not until they host a kegger.
The party ends with John B fighting Sarah’s preppy boyfriend, Topper, over what sounds like a Shaggy cover song. Like most drunken teens, they spar tactically, keeping their guarded distance and circling until an opponent lowers their defense.
Seriously though, when will filmmakers start choreographing fights based on the most recent Worldstar videos? That shit is nothing but a fit of swinging limbs as aimless as an arrow shot straight up into the air. That’s what’s so human about it. Back before we required distancing.
John B and crew go to pilfer the sunken mystery boat, but they are operating under the ticking clock of a police dragnet. John is stuck underwater with a depleted oxygen tank as authorities search his boat. This offers the illusion of suspense because it is the equivalent of the show Frasier suggesting it might kill off the character Frasier in the first episode of Frasier. There was a better chance that the cast of AfterMASH would suddenly perish in a helicopter accident or that Sheriff Andy Griffith might be brutally gunned down in the streets of Mayberry.
After narrowly escaping a speedboat of gunmen, our team reveals the treasure that they freed from the sunken ship. Opening a steel mutagen canister from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, John B discovers an antique compass. As is the way, he recognizes the compass as belonging to his missing father. What son can’t immediately recall the many compasses of his father?
And that’s the lengthy pilot for Outer Banks. In terms of shows, it is one.
Please follow along with me as I cover the rest of the series. I could easily watch the remainder of the season now, but I need to sit in the darkness of my apartment and drink for a little bit. I just can’t figure out why they hate the wealthy elites, but hang out with the one rich girl. How is that going to pan out?
She’s a main character, and she dismisses the entire crux of the show. It’s as if George Orwell decided there should be a really cool lady pig named Dagny Taggart in Animal Farm. She could braid Boxer’s mane before he died.
See you later, everybody!
(This article republished by permission of the Charleston City Paper, where it first appeared)