Outer Banks is the height of teen melodrama

ReLAX John B, it’s not like I’ve never seen a boy in underwear before

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If you know me, you know that I have been Stockholm-syndromed by Riverdale, a “teen” “mystery” where a serial killer on the loose and a romantic betrayal by your best friend are given the exact same level of high-stakes emotional heft. Outer Banks is straight out of that playbook. Wilfully, overpoweringly earnest, it will sway even the most agnostic of us to believe in its mad-lib plotlines. Its second season streams tonight!


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Outer Banks S2

There is a scene in season one of Outer Banks that has been rattling around in my (and apparently every TikTok user’s) mind like a deranged maraca. In it, wrong-side-of-the-tracks hot boy John B is shirtless, checking himself out in the mirror. Of course, his love interest — rich-girl queen bee Sarah — happens to walk in. “Relax, John B, it’s not like I’ve never seen a boy in underwear before,” she utters in a life-altering sequence of dialogue. “I have a brother. Get your head out of the gutter, John B!” 

When I am trying to sleep: reLAX, John B! Whispering softly to myself as I make my first meal of the day at 3PM: I HAVEa BROther. My brain during literally every second scene of Outer Banks season two: out of the GUTTER John B… the GUTTER John B... John B… ᴶᵒʰⁿ ᴮ… 

There are many things about this dialogue that encapsulate the heart of Outer Banks, an unashamed, flagrantly hyperbolic teen melodrama that treats even its most absurd plotlines with the greatest of reverence. I could spend an entire newsletter writing about these two lines but instead I will just note: Sarah’s entirely sincere invocation of her scantily-clad (and, as it later turns out, evil) brother during a moment charged with sexual tension is testament to Outer Banks’ commitment to the bit. Can you imagine any other character saying this with a straight face? The answer is no, and yet — in this show about rival teen gangs trying to find buried treasure — the line seems entirely feasible, the least absurd thing in this sun-drenched universe of bonfire punch-ups, underwater expeditions, and adolescent shoot-outs. Of course it’s earnest!

Such is the razor-sharp line that Outer Banks treads, between funny and farcical, between “a lot” and “too much”. It wears its O.C. references on its sleeve — teen angst, but make it beachy! — and infuses them with the high-octane cliffhangers of something like Ozark, another show about money wars in a regional American outpost. 

Season two picks up literally one day after the bated-breath drama of its first season. John B — never John, much less John Booker — and Sarah are presumed dead by all their friends, and villainised by the rest of their town for supposedly murdering the sheriff; in reality, they’re innocent, hiding out on a ship to the Bahamas (!), where Sarah’s dad has stashed away a huge bounty of gold (!!), and they’re wanted by international authorities with a cash reward on their heads (!!!). Also, they are 16. Also, all of this happens in the first FIVE minutes of the season.

It is a moot point to try and explain the set-up of this season beyond the sheer fact of teenage recklessness: John B and Sarah sharing sumptuous romantic moments against a sundown sky where they are literally meant to be on the run from the police (and a cadre of pirates — don’t ask); their friends back home desperately trying to prove their innocence in the most extra ways possible via wire-tapping, snooping around abandoned warehouses, and climbing through sewers; more car chases; more shoot-outs; more high-wire stunts. 

Some teen shows conjure up a distinct sense of envy — why wasn’t my adolescence as exciting? — but Outer Banks makes me almost thankful of my very boring upbringing featuring exactly zero car chases. Almost, because the fact that these outlandish and mile-a-minute plots are treated as commonplace occurrences is the point. Outer Banks backs them so whole-heartedly that we might believe them too. 

Season 2 of Outer Banks streams tonight.


I can’t stop thinking about:

  • Riverdale, because I will never miss a chance to tell you to watch this teen mystery, which only gets deeper and deeper into its own insanity as the seasons go on. Much like Outer Banks, it’s worth watching for the sheer gusto with which it believes in its own outlandish storylines — some would say it’s camp…

  • The Society, a tense, vaguely apocalyptic drama about a group of teens who suddenly find the rest of their town vanished into the ether. What happened? How do they get their friends and parents back? And most importantly, who is hooking up with who???

  • The stone-cold CLASSIC that is H2O: Just Add Water, which shares with Outer Banks its tightrope balance between teen angst and genuine suspense. Ruhckee!!!!! Don’ go out en the war-ar!!!!


And apropos of nothing, Simple Plan covering the Scooby Doo theme song:

Rrrrrrrou’re rrrrelcome.


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Michael Sun is the Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee.
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