Outer Banks returns to Netflix for season 3, on the heels of a season 4 renewal that feels like a great omen on the heels of everything season 3 does right. The third season of the show closes some storylines, goes deeper into most of the characters, and even rewards fans with a satisfying journey for a long-awaited ship. But the show also has some pacing issues, particularly in the middle of the season, and at times abandons the dynamics that make the show work.
Ultimately, though, despite the fact that Outer Banks leaves us wanting more in a lot of respects (sometimes frustratingly so), the season on the whole is a satisfying journey that brings the characters and the story full circle. And even if we might need fanfic to fill some gaps, well …at least on the whole, it’ll be good fanfic.
With season 3 around the corner, I’m joined by Lyra to review the season to come, just as we experienced it, together.
JARAH, JIARA, CLEOPE AND NOTHING ELSE
Lizzie: Ship-wise, it all starts and ends with these three ships. They’re all on very different journeys and fans of all three will have something to hold onto, something to rewatch. But Jiara’s journey in season 3 is noteworthy, if only because it’s a straight line, one that feels like it was perfectly set up and executed. The season builds up not just their relationship, but also takes the time to explore why they work together, and what makes this relationship different from what we’ve seen from both of them before. If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking friends-to-lovers is the most boring trope, no worries, Jiara is here to prove you wrong.
Lyra: Ship-wise, Jarah is tested like we’ve never seen before. Seriously. A little too much testing in my opinion. Cleope gets the build-up that they deserve because who they are as people complement each other and help them strive to be better as individuals and together.
And Jiara, my ship on Outer Banks, they come to a place in their relationship that feels natural and deserved. It didn’t just pop out of nowhere. It’s years of buildup, slow and steady, that have led to where we are in season 3. And personally, without giving anything away, there’s something different about adding a romantic element to a pair of people that are already ride or die for each other. Imagine when their eyes are open to what they are to each other and how that’s going to influence scenes and change even the smallest of glances…
I DON’T HAVE FRIENDS, I HAVE FAMILY
Lizzie: For a show that lives and dies not by the ships, but by the friendships, season 3 spends way too much time with the Pogues on individual journeys. In some ways, the season benefits from it, with new dynamics getting a chance to shine, old ones being explored in different ways, and the reemergence of some dynamics we all wanted more of. But overall, the season suffers from the scope widening, particularly mid-season, where the pacing slows down so much it takes way too long for the plot to move along.
Lyra: Have to agree with Lizzie on separating my babies. Exploring new dynamics is important, and I understand that they are individuals who can’t spend 24/7 together, but I wanted a little more of my Pogue family taking on the world together. But don’t let that dissuade you from watching. Our favorite Pogues continue to prove why they trust each other and why they are family. It’s just that season 3 is a little more expansive with higher stakes than ever before. And it’s only because they have each other that they make it through.
WHERE ARE WE GOING? TO HUNT TREASURE!
Lizzie: It wouldn’t be Outer Banks without a treasure hunt, and season 3 does a pretty good job of setting up an interesting mystery — and using its characters to move along the plot. The supporting characters outside of the Pogues work very well within this storyline, and season 3 almost pulls off the unthinkable in making you relate, and at least momentarily, root for a character you never really expected to side with.
Lyra: At the end of the day, I can’t believe that Outer Banks has gotten to this point. Remember when all our Pogues were dealing with was the divide between the rich and the poor and bad parents? Like those things are still there. And we’ve experienced a little of the treasure-hunting aspect of it all. But never like this. Season 3 of Outer Banks expands the reach of this show and this family. And it’s definitely giving me National Treasure vibes.
MOST VALUABLE (VULNERABLE, VOCAL) POGUE
Lizzie: There are high points for every one of the Pogues — but perhaps the highest point goes to Cleo, who doesn’t just become a full Pogue in season 4, but finds her place in a way that makes the Pogues better. There’s no adjustment period, Cleo is just there and she fits in a way that makes it hard to remember when she wasn’t. Most Valuable? She might take this one.
Vulnerable is a different matter, because the journey of vulnerability — what that means, how can you allow yourself to be truly vulnerable with someone else, with all that entails — is, above all things, the journey of Jiara as a couple. But if we’re measuring by growth, then JJ definitely takes the crown. Not that he was ever the poster child for holding back feelings, but it’s one thing to explode or to act without thinking and a different one altogether to decide to be vulnerable with just one person.
Vocal is Sarah, who gets to not just assert who she is, but what that means in the context of the life she has always been expected to live. season 3 is Sarah taking control, and though that doesn’t always mean making the right choices, it means taking responsibility for her actions and always pushing forward to the best of her ability.
Lyra: Cleoooooooo, my baby, is definitely the most valuable Pogue! Look, I know every single Pogue on Outer Banks has there value. But Cleo is just so refreshing but also feels like she’s been there from day one. She’s everything and it has been an absolute pleasure watching her bond with the rest of the Pogue but also become one and find a home at the same time. Just…*cries* I love her!
JJ takes the crown for being the most vulnerable Pogue of season 3. Sure, he’s got a lot of things to still work on when season 4 eventually comes around. But season 3 is about working through some of the core struggles that JJ has been plaguing him from the start. And it’s those incremental changes in who he is and who he allows himself to be as he heals that will change him. It’s going to be painful to watch but that’s what happens when you’re vulnerable. Pain and then the healing.
Then there’s the most vocal Pogue of this season. That title goes to…Kiara. Look, I love the women of Outer Banks and how they don’t wait seasonssss to address things. They grab life by the reins and boldly go forward in exploring new territories, feelings, and the consequences that come with being so vocal about what they want, need, or hope for. And I see that in Kiara. From friendships to upcoming romances, ohhhh and utter disgust at one particular person (can’t forget that), Kiara isn’t holding back.
COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA
Lizzie: Time is our master, and time is what season 3 needed the most — time with the characters, with the relationships. Perhaps this is a nitpick, but the more we appreciate the progression, the more we want to extend the payoff. In the end, though, there are worse things to say about a season of TV than “it left us wanting more, much more.”
Lyra: Ladies and gentlemen, there is something about Outer Banks that feels familiar…but also new. It’s an adjustment that leaves you thinking about what you wanted to see more of…but that’s what fanfiction is for. To fill in those small moments we wanted to see and delete certain people from the overall story. I said what I said.
MEME THAT SUMS UP THE SEASON
Outer Banks Season 3 premieres February 23, 2023 on Netflix.