If you thought the Pogues were going to have better luck, or a shred of common sense, in season three of Outer Banks, premiering on February 23, think again. Netflix’s The-Goonies-by-way-of-Gossip-Girl treasure-hunt teen drama takes only 20 minutes of the premiere stifle that hope real quick.
JJ (Rudy Pankow), Kiara (Madison Bailey), Sarah (Madelyn Cline), and the rest of their scrappy gang have been stranded on a remote Caribbean island—dubbed Poguelandia, a magical, coconut-filled place where neither heat stroke, food poisoning nor a bad hair day can plague them—ever since that freighter smackdown with Sarah’s gold-hungry dad, Ward Cameron (Charles Esten), in the season-two finale. When a seaplane turns up, the kiddos think they’re being miraculously rescued, only to find out that the aircraft is being piloted by one of Ward’s cronies, leading to a midair fight, a Sully-style crash landing, and a chase scene starring gun-toting guys on ATVs. “It doesn’t make any sense!” yells Pope (Jonathan Daviss), the group’s comparatively brainy one. Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but absolutely nothing that happens on Outer Banks has ever made any sense.
The preposterous has always run rampant on the soapy adventure thriller, which follows five teens living in a coastal North Carolina town defined by its class struggle between the “Kooks” (the money havers) and the “Pogues” (the money wanters), the latter led by Chase Stokes’ John B (who is constantly and curiously called John B despite there being no other Johns around).
Belief was most easily suspended in the first season, the one most rooted in the realities of this divided community, where the search for John B’s lost-at-sea father and the hidden treasure he’d been hunting for decades was balanced by boyfriend drama, beach bonfires, and blue-collar woes (absentee parents, school scholarships, and the like). It also must be noted that the debut season aired in April 2020, when the pandemic prompted a level of patience that allowed audiences to tolerate Tiger King levels of TV quality.
Shifting between bonkers and batshit, the sophomore season cruised by on vibes alone, a gloriously stupid, sun-soaked guilty pleasure more concerned with pumping hearts than warming them, trading in any attempts at a logical plot or purposeful character building for near-constant shootouts, jet-ski chases, and, in one memorable scene, alligator wrestling. The third volume cranks that absurdity up to 11 but instead of leaning wholly into the pulpy fun, it does something worse: It starts taking its messy mythology seriously.
What was once a singular object of desire—that legendary treasure worth some $400 million, last seen aboard a now-sunken historic ship—has become a dollar menu of MacGuffins, from holy healing shrouds to gaudy gold crucifixes to indigenous statues that look like something plucked off a Legends Of The Hidden Temple set. Spanish kings and slave diaries, tribal history, and even Teddy Roosevelt: they all somehow get twisted and tangled up in a migraine-inducing mystery that seemingly confounds even the people making the show. (“You understand this is hard to follow?” one character says, winkingly.)
There’s not just more at stake in season three; there’s more of everything: more locations (we begin the season on Caribbean islands and end in South American jungles), more villains—along with the murderous Ward, we’ve got his son Rafe (Drew Starkey), who has gamely stepped up as the most sociopathic of the Cameron family, as well as Carlos Singh (Andy McQueen), a ruthless Caribbean Don on a treasure hunt of his own—and certainly more daddy drama. (Spoiler alert: After being presumed dead for months, John B’s dad was revealed to be alive and living in Barbados in that cliffhanger season-two finale.) There are even more Pogues, with the gang involving Bahamian teen Cleo (Carlacia Grant) and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Topper (Austin North) in their ill-advised schemes.
Ironically, that’s exactly what Outer Banks season three could use more of: more Pogues. Namely, more screen time for all of the youthful charm and easy camaraderie of the “Pogues for life!” kids acting like, well, kids. (Granted, in the grand tradition of teen TV, these high-schoolers are played by actors pushing 30.) The third season offers up sweet romantic moments for all of its main teen characters—shippers of Kiara and JJ’s flirty banter, in particular, take note—but in expanding the OBX world from small neighborhood rivalries to international crime rings, it’s clear that the showrunners favor sheer adrenaline over any other hormone. How can teen angst do anything but pale in comparison to boat explosions, train derailments, and foreign abductions?
Watching the characters climb higher and higher up this ladder of unhingement, it’d be fair to think that Outer Banks can’t possibly push things much further, especially given how “final season” its third edition feels. But you’d be wrong: Netflix announced a season four pick-up of the adventure series on February 18 at a Poguelandia fan event in Huntington Beach, California, five days ahead of the debut of this third season. “On every quest, even the famous ones, there comes a time when all roads lead to disaster,” John B says in one of his many voiceovers this season. And it’s becoming all too obvious that, even with its future mapped out, Outer Banks doesn’t know where it’s going.
Outer Banks season three premieres February 23 on Netflix.