The real Outer Banks were the friends we made along the way

Abbey Lenton on the wholesome friendships beneath the melodrama

You’re reading Scene & Heard, a weekly newsletter where I chat to a guest writer about the one scene from a recent Netflix that left them floored. It’s part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get three free newsletters in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.

I’m Michael Sun, Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee and famous teen. This week, I chat to writer and Outer Banks stan Abbey Lenton on the one scene from season two that encapsulates the wholesome friendships at the heart of the show.

MS: Another week, another tour de force of chaos. This time, it’s Outer Banks, whose mile-a-millisecond plotlines have left me with whiplash (and not the Miles Teller variety). There is one moment, though, where the car chases and shoot-outs are abated for a night of good old partying…

AL: Tell me about it! My number one source of cardio through lockdown has been watching Outer Banks. The action-packed nature of the first few episodes really makes us earn our first moment of reprieve, which comes when teen heartthrobs John B and Sarah Cameron finally reunite with their gang — the Pogues — for a night of hot-tub-splashing, terrible-rapping goodness. After weeks spent on separate, high-octane adventures — with John B and Sarah in the Bahamas trying to steal a stash of gold, and their friends Pope, JJ, and Kiera back home in the Outer Banks going to extreme lengths to clear John B's name of murder — this is the first time the group come together to take a breath. And it's when the ensemble cast is all together that Outer Banks really shines. 

There's something so earnest about this party scene. Outer Banks is hardly known for its realism, but there's a real sense of truth in how the characters interact with each other when they're relaxed and just hanging out. They laugh at each other's jokes, talk over one another, affectionately take swipes at each other's relationships —- it really captures the mischievousness of teen friendship. We've seen these characters literally wrestle alligators and survive gun wounds, but in this scene, a light slap on the arm is enough to have them laughingly yelp in pain. 

I also really enjoy how well this moment depicts boy-girl friendships when you're in your teens. Sure, there's romance and relationships between some of the characters, but that's almost beside the point — there's a genuine respect and curiosity that every single character has for each of their friends. 

I feel like this scene has the two ingredients essential for any good party: 1) a fire pit 2) a remix of M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’. (The only other place that I have experienced both is Sydney’s infamous Greenwood Hotel, but that is besides the point.) It sounds weird to say, but Outer Banks — despite its jacked-up adrenaline — actually…taps into the teen experience with surprising accuracy? 

There's no doubt about it: when you're in your late teens, your friends are your family. For the first time in your young life, you're given the space to choose how you spend your time — and who you spend it with. And with that sense of independence and choice comes this overwhelming, all-or-nothing loyalty to the people you care about — the people you've chosen

That's what I love so much about the Pogues. They choose each other over and over again, which is particularly significant when you remember that this ragtag group of young people come from such diverse, complex experiences of the family unit. You have the likes of JJ and John B, who come from single parent (and eventually, no parent) households where money is scarce and support is zilch. Then, on the opposite end, you have Kiara and Pope, who come from very secure nuclear families, whose parents stand back heartbroken as they watch this incredible distance forming between themselves and their kids... and don't get me STARTED on poor ol' Sarah Cameron, who went from daddy's little Princess to fugitive and attempted murder survivor in a flash. 

Would I embroil myself into a life of crime for my high school besties? Look, maybe not. Would I chat nonsense with them in a hot tub until the crack of dawn? Hell yeah I would.

The five characters prove their loyalty to each other every damn day. Which is why I think Outer Banks is at its best in these calmer, more joyous moments — just like this party scene! Because (dare I say) loyalty doesn't always look like climbing into a drain pipe, loyalty looks like hyping your friends up and taking an interest in their relationships and taking the piss out of them and showing them you love them. 

I don't know about you Michael, but I personally can't relate to joining a gun-wielding, guerilla treasure hunting cartel... But I can relate to that feeling of high-stakes teen friendship, when you feel like the people you hang out with are the centre of your universe. Would I embroil myself into a life of crime for my high school besties? Look, maybe not. Would I chat nonsense with them in a hot tub until the crack of dawn? Hell yeah I would. And I did. 

Look, for what it’s worth, I am open and willing to embroil myself in a life of crime, so DM me if you have any leads. While we wait, though, please tell me more about these hot tub chats in question.

Ha! Look, nothing too spicy unfortunately. But just like the Pogues, my core friendship group growing up was a real mixbag of personalities and experiences. I was a total Pope. I'd bang on about following the rules and not getting into trouble... while knowing full well I'd go along with whatever adventure or plan I was presented with. I really like that about these characters — there's something in each of them that the audience can relate to. 

Underscoring the outlandish action scenes and can't-look-away cliffhangers of Outer Banks is a really considered, very honest commitment to depicting the full spectrum of teenage love stories.

You mentioned something interesting about Outer Banks, and how detached from reality its actual plot is. This isn’t a show that claims to be anything close to the real adolescent experience (unless, as you said, your adolescent experience was joining a treasure cartel). Do you reckon that heightened melodrama makes these smaller, more quote-unquote authentic moments hit even harder?

Absolutely! These ~ authentic ~ moments — of friendship, love, burgeoning romance — are certainly there, but they underscore grander goals (even if those goals are stealing a hunk of gold). That’s what makes these tender, quieter moments so satiating. You feel like you've earned them! 

Underscoring the outlandish action scenes and can't-look-away cliffhangers of Outer Banks is a really considered, very honest commitment to depicting the full spectrum of teenage love stories. The grand, knock-your-socks-off first love. The one that got away. The complicated and unconditional love of family. And, above all else, the unbridled, all-or-nothing love you have for your friends — on full display in this scene.

As they say, friendship is romance!

In that case, Michael, will you marry me? *tears off a piece of my bandana*

Abbey Lenton is a Sydney-based writer and radio host whose work has appeared in Stellar magazine, Body+Soul, 10 daily and She is also the proud owner of a Kath & Kim tattoo. You can follow her on Instagram here
Netflix Pause is produced by the Netflix ANZ editorial team who you can also follow on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. If you haven’t already, subscribe to us to get three free newsletters in your inbox each week filled with deep dives into screen culture. And leave us a comment too, if you’d like!