“Outer Banks” Season 3 follows same tired formula

"Outer Banks" Season 3 follows same tired formula

The highly anticipated third season lets viewers down with another redundant plot line and little character growth.
Published: March 7, 2023
Cast of Outer Banks in their third season
"Outer Banks" season 3 premiered on Feb. 23 on Netflix.


Netflix’s acclaimed show Outer Banks returned for a third season, though viewers are seemingly disappointed. 

Season 3 began with the Pogues, the working class teenagers, and their newest member Cleo (Carlacia Grant), stranded on a deserted island after escaping Ward Cameron’s (Charles Esten) boat. In the first episode, it is revealed that they have been on the island for about a month, though the group appears remarkably clean and healthy. Their time on the island quickly comes to an end as they are rescued by a suspicious pilot. 

Once they are off the island, the next nine episodes resume to the typical Outer Banks timeline — running away from enemies, escaping mortal danger and messy romance on the side. The previous quest for the cross of Santo Domingo is seemingly forgotten, and the group shifts gears to searching for the lost city of El Dorado. During this adventure, a new villain is introduced by the name of Carlos Singh (Andy McQueen).

The season is a bit chaotic as they explore multiple different conflicts with each character. JJ (Rudy Pankow) has a new nickname (I don’t think Jayje is much shorter than JJ, but I digress), John B’s (Chase Stokes) supposed dead father is suddenly alive and well, and Pope (Jonathan Daviss) and Cleo delve into an investigation of Tannyhill. Part of why the new season was disappointing for many viewers — despite the long-awaited romance of Kiara (Madison Bailey) and JJ — was the lack of character growth.

Sarah Cameron and Topper in the Outer Banks Season 3
Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline) tackles internal battles of identity in season 3.

A prime example of this is Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline). Just like in the past seasons, Sarah Cameron struggles with her identity and is torn between being a Kook and a Pogue. Because of this internal conflict, she reverts back to old behavior, and once again goes back and forth between John B and Topper (Austin North). Of course, coming to the same conclusion as always, that she belongs with John B and the Pogues. 

The revival of Big John (Charles Halford) was also a very confusing addition to the show. John B finds out that his father is alive, and the pair embark on a little side quest to help discover El Dorado. However, Big John quickly shows that he is not the best father, and in many instances prioritizes gold and greed over his relationship with John B. And just after returning to the show and instantly becoming a very disliked character, he dies from a gunshot by Carlos Singh.

Big John wasn’t the only character killed in the new season. We see new character growth in Ward Cameron, surprisingly, as he begins to show genuine remorse and becomes a more dynamic character. His love for his children is obvious, and he tries to repair his relationship with Sarah, before eventually sacrificing his life to protect Sarah and the others.

Outer Banks Season 3 Big John
Big John rejoins the cast in season 3 but meets his demise rather quickly.

Perhaps the most beloved aspect of the new season was the slow-burn romance of Kiara and JJ. The pair seemed to bond on the island of Poguelandia, and go on to share many sweet scenes throughout the season. This development was anything but smooth, with Kiara’s kidnapping, JJ stealing from her dad, JJ pushing her away and Kiara’s parents sending her to a wilderness camp. After many intimate moments and almost-kisses, the couple finally kiss and confess their feelings when JJ saves Kiara from the wilderness camp, Kitty Hawk.

Another new development for the Pogues is the relationship between Pope and Cleo. These two grow very close in the new season since Cleo stays with Pope and his family, and the pair investigate Tannyhill together on the side. Pope opens up to Cleo, and Cleo helps bring him back from the brink when Pope hits rock bottom and considers killing Rafe. Cleo’s character adds depth to the group as she reveals a new vulnerability underneath her tough exterior, and opens up about the struggles of living alone for so long. Eventually, Pope and Cleo kiss, and the couple seem to have a bright future together.

Overall, the new season was a little bit all over the place and began to get redundant. The constant fighting, running away from evil people and searching for new treasure, is getting a bit old. However, it doesn’t seem like Outer Banks will be changing its plot very much, as the finale shows the Pogues becoming professional treasure hunters. Season 4 will most likely bring a lot of the same themes, but it will be interesting to see where the show goes now that the Pogues are accepted and praised by their hometown.