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Netflix’s Teen Drama ‘Outer Banks’ Illuminates Gen Z’s Need For Companionship In Season 2

Outer Banks

Spoilers ahead.

The long-awaited return of “Outer Banks” ended this weekend with the official Netflix release of its second season. A lot of excitement surrounded the release after the show’s first season saw more viewership than hits like “The Office” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

In addition to the budding romance that made season one so charming, the ten hour-long episodes include major plot twists and action-packed scenes that require viewers’ full attention. Although the season was surprising in how it strayed from a lot of the first season’s themes, it proves to be more than worthy of a full weekend binge.

The show originally came out in April 2020, early into quarantine, and quickly developed a spirited and vastly loyal fan base. The main characters became Gen-Z idols practically overnight as “Outer Banks” took the number one spot on Netflix only three weeks after it premiered on the streaming platform for the first time. Teens who suddenly had no school or social events to attend found solace living vicariously through the romance and excitement of life on North Carolina’s marshland.

As one such Zoomer myself, I can vouch for feeling both equally impressed with the thrills of the pogue lifestyle as I was comforted with the show’s authentic portrayal of the exigency for a strong community, particularly during such a uniquely community-deprived time. 

Barstool Sports capitalized on its soaring popularity early on through the sale of OBX merchandise like t-shirts reading “I would die for John B” and “I would die for JJ,” confirming even further their idolization (my friends and I own three, respectively). Fans were even more elated when the show’s main teen romance between John B (Chase Stokes) and Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline) also kindled into a real relationship off-screen.

While “Outer Banks” season one showcased a rich plotline with the search for hidden treasure to avenge the cold-blooded murder of John B Rutledge’s father, as well as intense personal trials including academic pressures, financial hardship, and troubled home lives, the focus was still largely on the evolving relationships. Between Sarah’s ex-boyfriend and new beau, the undefined but looming tension between Ki and Pope, and the overall devotion between best friends, many viewers fell in love with the more coming-of-age elements of the show.

This season has much of the same relationship drama in which viewers can indulge, but there’s an even bigger emphasis on the thrill of the treasure hunt. Beginning with John B and Sarah Cameron as fugitives on a quest for hidden treasure on a foreign island, the complexity of the search only grew throughout the ten episodes. Most were packed with intense and often violent encounters motivated by finances or family loyalties.

The Quest for Real Friendship

One of the major themes throughout both seasons of “Outer Banks” is the impenetrable importance of family. The characters, many of whom are 16 years old, deal with brutal lessons in love, loss, and betrayal, all of which are made endurable by the bedrock of family.

There were a lot of highs and lows in this season. It was so heavy that it made it difficult to get through — especially in one weekend — but the good parts always outshined the dark moments.

The height of the season took place when the pogue squad and Sarah first reunited. Their radiant smiles displayed unparalleled joy, warranting a slow-motion cut with accordingly cheerful music, followed by a reunion celebration. 

The deep need for friendship and fellowship among pogues and their rival counterpart, the kooks, cements the need for young people to find community. Teenagers today know more about the need for community than other ages as they consistently have the highest rates of depression and anxiety versus any other age group, a fact which was magnified drastically in the last year and a half with the sudden collapse of in-person association.

While many young people already felt lonely sitting in class with other students they hardly know, being forced to stow away in their homes and learn in isolation. The level of affection John B, Ki, Pope, and JJ have for each other is unstoppable by nearly any hurdle, including but not limited to the murder of a family member, potential death, and moving to an island while trying to escape local police.

The Unconditional Commitment to Family

Much of the new season took place in the Bahamas with the two main characters and star-crossed lovers, John B and Sarah, separated from their families and best friends. Their dependence on one another and lack of other companionship compels them, hardly weeks after first getting into a relationship, to get married. Without family around, the two longed for the level of affection and commitment only found in family members. In a nation and age with abysmal marriage rates plummeting by the second and Hollywood films and television shows that typically endorse this fact, the reliance on marriage here was a pleasant surprise right off the bat.

The theme of family materializes as the motivation for much of the season’s biggest happenings. Sarah’s dad, Ward Cameron, is a catalyst for the second biggest surprise of the show thus far (the biggest comes in the last few minutes of the show, so stay tuned for season 3). In the fifth episode, Ward commits public suicide, leaving behind a tape claiming to be responsible for the murder of the town sheriff, to prevent his son from facing the consequence of his homicidal actions. The grandiose scene left me stunned. 

Ward feigned his death to relieve his son of suspicion and then tricked his family into joining him on a secret freight boat destined for another foreign island where he thought it safe for his family to live together again. Despite the poor relationship he has with his undeserving and unethical son, Ward staged the entire spectacle to help Rafe. He also battled with the concept of Sarah versus Rafe throughout the whole show, and, although Sarah was Ward’s favorite, he felt completely devoted to both children. Despite Rafe’s evil and troublesome behavior, Ward cherished his loyalty and willingness to prioritize him against any other moral and legal obstacles. Rafe often boasts of his murder as it was in honor of his father.

It wasn’t until the final scene when Sarah convinced Ward she was choosing John B and her ragtag pogue squad over him that he suddenly no longer saw her as someone worth loving and protecting. The lack of family allegiance was enough to knock Sarah out of his good graces. 

JJ’s father also reappears to ask for money and help from his son after constant abuse in the prior season. Despite his father’s inadequate and cruel role as a father, JJ helps his father with little hesitation. JJ’s dad has never helped him once in either season, yet the ties of family here reveal a bond too strong for debts and grudges.

This acknowledgment of the unconditional necessity of helping family members highlights the role of family plays in shaping adolescents. While so many young people have been separated from their families and loved ones through quarantines and COVID-19 restrictions on top of the general trend of inclusiveness among the younger generations, nearly every OBX main character exemplifies a strong physical and emotional obligation to their family members. And for those high school students who have been living with their parents since the onset of lockdowns in March 2020, parents may have been the only interaction some received beyond their screens.  

“Outer Banks” provides here a message so necessary to the human condition that everyone can relate to. As a show with intense popularity, many different types of people enjoy and can relate to its timeless sense of the need for family and friends that feel like family. Although the issues the show wrestles with reveal the fallibility of family members on an extreme scale, the idea is unfamiliar to no one, which is a refreshing admittance by the Hollywood industry.