By: Aiden Holczer
If you were to remove everything that made classic the 1985 film, The Goonies, and stretch that over the course of 10 episodes, the result would be the Outer Banks. An incohesive mess which contains one of the most convoluted plots I have ever seen.
It’s important to distinguish the difference between a complex plot and a convoluted plot: a complex plot involves character over a long period of screen time interacting with each other on multiple levels and establishing relationships that feel genuine and earned. An overly complicated plot involves characters interacting with each other largely through coincidence or convenience and through the writing of the story itself, going back on their individually established character arcs and personalities.
For the most part, the Outer Banks resembles the latter, with the largest collection of coincidences revolving around the location of the Royal Merchant gold. Where to begin? I don’t know much about building codes, but I’m willing to bet my life that the “Craine House”, which is built over a 200-year-old well in an area prone to tropical storms, breaks every single one of them.
The only thing that is more coincidental than the Craine house existing in the first place is how Mr. Ward Cameron comes into procuring the property. About halfway through the Outer Banks, the audience learns, out of the blue, that Ward Cameron made his money in real estate; so, why am I not surprised when the property built over the Royal Merchant gold is dropped into Mr.Cameron’s lap after John B and his friends break in and discover its secret? Because this show was written by a moron, that’s why.
However, none of this compares to what I like to call the “Airstrip Scene”. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, I suggest you watch this scene and take notes on how not to construct your climax. After removing the gold from the Craine house, Ward attempts to use his private plane to move all $400 million dollars of it to the Bahamas, and, for some inconceivable reason, he decides to bring Sarah along. John B and the gang show up just in time, and John B drives his van onto the airstrip and blocks the plane–while it’s leaving–in a scene I’d expect to see in the newest James Bond or Mission Impossible film–not a ten episode Netflix show.
Now that we have a few of my biggest gripes with the plot out of the way, let’s get to the characters. Two of the three interesting characters with promise in the entire show either have their arcs destroyed or end up back where they started due to the convoluted nature of the plot. Of course I am talking about JJ and Pope.
Pope was easily my favorite character in Outer Banks due to his wit and the fact that he was seemingly the only pogue that wanted to do something positive with his life and get out of his current situation–that was until the last few episodes wherein he smoked a blunt and had nearly 8 hours of on-screen character development go up in smoke–ba dum tsss. The complete 360-degree turn in Pope’s personality that resulted from smoking one blunt was so significant that anti-drug agencies should use that episode of the Outer Banks as part of their campaign for years to come. Say no to drugs, ladies and gents.
I’m afraid to criticize this next character due to the internet’s near Timothee Chalamet-level obsession over him. Of course, I’m talking about JJ. I hate this character with every fiber of my being. JJ’s personality can be boiled down to two words–loyalty and stupidity. Essentially, he has the personality of a labrador retriever. I understand the realistic portrayal of abuse in his household is extremely moving, and the show does a really good job of making the viewer feel attached to JJ’s plight, but JJ doesn’t develop as a character.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of static characters in film and television that are great. The problem with JJ is that the Outer Banks tries so hard to convince its audience that he has changed in a significant way and that his final confrontation with his father has deeply impacted him, when this simply isn’t the truth.
If you take the JJ we see at the end of the Outer Banks and put him in any situation that occurred earlier in the show, there is nothing to convince me that he wouldn’t act the same as he did in that exact moment. He would still fire the gun after the fight with Topper and John is concluded. He would still go back to his dad after suffering physical and mental abuse. He is still the same character.
At the end of the day, my number one problem with the Outer Banks is that it acts like it’s something that it’s not. It tries to act like a well-written TV show with complex themes about mental/physical abuse, the extent of loyalty, self actualization, etc, but simply isn’t. It’s terribly written, full of contrived plot points, and stands as a lesson for why you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew.