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‘Outer Banks’ Season 3 Review: Netflix’s Superficial Teen Drama Is Not Even Trashy Fun Anymore

Outer Banks, What are we even doing here at this point?

Early on in the beginning of the third season of Netflix’s Outer Banks, which has already been renewed for another despite feeling like it has completely exhausted itself, a duo of characters desperately try to make off with an item that will become central to the increasingly tiresome machinations of the treasure hunting plot. Exact details of this must be kept under wraps, but the basics are that it involves some intimidating antagonists chasing after them — that is, until they get on a boat and take off into the night. You may be thinking that this is about to lead to a thrilling chase sequence of some kind. After all, what would a show like this be without taking advantage of the setting and the potential for adventure on the open water?

This season soon establishes that Outer Banks is a show that remains as lost as where we begin with the characters. After they find their way back, the narrative itself remains a wandering one where a lot is going on, with little of it actually feeling like it matters. This is most clearly felt in this early moment where, instead of going after the escaping thieves, one of the show’s lead antagonists just decides to call it off. His half-hearted explanation as to why is a rather flimsy one, leaving a sense that even he is tired by everything playing out. It creates a moment of revealing yet unintentional humor where the characters themselves just seem like they can barely be bothered to go through the motions.

These motions all begin with the group of Pogues stuck on a deserted island that initially feels reminiscent of the disastrous second season of The Wilds, though somehow becomes more misguided. Dubbed Poguelandia, it is here where the squad of scrappy youths has carved out a humble existence after the explosive end of the last season. Things aren’t too dire as they are able to kick back and relax while subsisting on fish that they can catch. All this is then tossed aside when they flag down a passing seaplane. Thinking they have been rescued, they all come aboard before quickly becoming suspicious of the pilot and who he may be working for. A cartoonish conflict breaks out in the confines of the plane before it comes crashing down with everyone physically okay if a bit rattled. It is a rather awkward start that is meant to be the moment that gets us hooked for the road ahead, but it proves to be fortuitous in how everything in Season 3 doesn’t ever uncover any fun either. The cast does their best to try to salvage the season, but it is a losing battle from start to finish.

Outer Banks then gets back to melodramatic business as usual, with forced narration reminding us of past moments and developments that were so minimal that they had faded from memory. However, this time it has the addition of John B. (Chase Stokes) discovering a newfound familial connection that won’t be spoiled here and a series of scattered adventures that will dominate his time over the course of this season. In this journey, he encounters some of the more violent elements of the show thus far, which could be a sign of the story going into some darker territory. Instead, that never comes to pass; it all just feels stuck going through the same inconsequential elements that offer some shocks in the moment but get subsumed in general tepidness. Even when there is a shootout on the water, it is so clumsily staged that it feels almost like a joke. While such scenes don’t really represent much of a threat to the main characters who continue to be protected by plot armor, it boggles the mind to see this play out in such flagrant fashion when John B. somehow emerges unscathed. As long as there are more seasons to come, there will always be a need for Outer Banks to keep playing it safe so that the characters will be able to continue almost discovering something significant before the story falls back into the vacuous hole it won’t dig out of.

While this is going on, the rest of the Pogues — Sarah (Madelyn Cline), Pope (Jonathan Daviss), Kiara (Madison Bailey), JJ (Rudy Pankow), and newcomer Cleo (Carlacia Grant) — just go about aimlessly. However, that hasn’t stopped the show from plowing on ahead in the past, and it certainly isn’t going to now. For all the ways this series could be a guilty pleasure that coasts on just being about attractive performers going about their soapy shenanigans, even this is starting to grow tired. The new development that Season 3 tries to hang its hat on is the pursuit of El Dorado, which could almost be just ludicrous enough of a goal to hold the overly self-serious moments together. Alas, that is not the case and all the gestures at self-aware lines that acknowledge the absurdist elements fall flat. When we get informed of a story of a test that must be passed and one of the characters remarks that there is always such a barrier to reaching their goal, they might as well have been referring to the path of the show itself. The more it goes on, the more it dances around the main driving story.

When the season finally kicks into gear around a big mission that must be undertaken, it already has the deck stacked against any residual excitement it can create when it takes so long to get anywhere interesting. So much of the story feels like it is just filling time in a manner that may prove challenging to even the most devoted of followers of the show. The entire journey of Outer Banks Season 3 feels like a void of any new intrigue or developments — and proves there is a tipping point where even the most trashy of television can go from being potentially ridiculous fun for the right audience to just plain trash.

Rating: D-

Outer Banks Season 3 premieres February 23 on Netflix.

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