‘Outer Banks’ Season 3 Review: Flawed But Better Than Ever Before

Outer Banks Season 3 poster

Outer Banks Season 3 Spoilers Ahead

Outer Banks Season 3 is a doozy to cover. It might just be the show’s best season, but the execution remains clunky, with the character arcs rightfully doing most of the heavy lifting. Still, while the story is the most engaging it’s ever been with the hints of where the newly renewed Season 4 will go, there’s a big chance that Outer Banks could find its rewarding balance. 

But, where the show excels best is how it allows its character to be complicated to continue finding themselves and the necessary growth. And this is the time when much of it happens as the Pogues are split apart, alliances are tested, and relationships are fortified. The story might not be as cohesive as I hoped, but the dynamics are working better, and adding Carlacia Grant’s Cleo as a season regular is an exceptional choice. There’s a lot to break down with the ten episodes, but despite the pacing issues, the typical young adult-themed drama, Outer Banks Season 3, is full of grit and emotionally compelling moments that cement what being “a Pogue” means and why it matters. 

Outer Banks Season 3: Poguelandia 


To start, the first eight minutes of Season 3, Episode 1, “Poguelandia,” thoroughly and beautifully cement the show’s essence and where it wants to go during the rest of the season. At its crux, the show is about a found family, five (now six) kids, whose parents don’t and could never understand them the way their friends do. Some have been through more perils than anyone should live through in their lifetime, let alone teenagers before they even turn eighteen. Their time at “Poguelandia” might have been brief, but it proves that they cemented their bonds more substantially in the one month they had solely together. This found family is the most critical piece of the treasure hunt they’ll each uncover, and while the first episode shows it to us, the rest of the season continues to reinforce it. 

In full transparency, Outer Banks didn’t initially work for me because while the premise isn’t my usual cup of tea, I didn’t feel the depth of their found family dynamic until Season 1, Episode 7, “Dead Calm.” From that moment, it becomes clear that even when it appears as though these kids have nothing holding them steady, they have each other. And Season 3 takes that up a notch by allowing them to continue proving to one another the depths they’re ready to go to and the crosses they’re willing to carry to authenticate that this bond is everlasting.

Ready, Set, Jump, and the Jiara Arc

Outer Banks. (L to R) Rudy Pankow as JJ, Madison Bailey as Kiara in episode 302 of Outer Banks.
Cr. Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix © 2023

While there’s work to be done to make parts of Outer Banks Season 3 resonate better in upcoming seasons, everything that viewers get with JJ and Kiara (Jiara, coined by fans) is pretty close to perfect. The development between friends to lovers happens incredibly with these two because the effortless progression occurs in the small moments where it’s all about ensuring the other’s well-being above their own. On a show like Outer Banks, everyone’s carrying a burden brought on by their parents, but the physical abuse, negligence, and outright cruelty that JJ experiences are unlike anything anyone can understand. Perhaps Sarah could, but a true partner doesn’t need to know it all—they simply need to be willing to show up any time and offer what is necessary to help pull the other out of the waves. 

And for JJ, having someone show up for him, pull him out of waves that ceaselessly drown him, and force him to push out of his head more often than not, is everything he needs and more. They’re all going to show up for each other, and that’s a no-brainer. Still, with Kiara, it’s different because she’s looking toward the pieces of him no one’s fought to see—she’s digging deeper, probing more, and doing everything in her power to show him that she isn’t going to give up, even when he does. She cares profoundly through all of it. When it comes to a healthy relationship, both parties need to be willing to meet each other halfway. They each need to do everything in their power to help themselves before they can help the other, but Outer Banks Season 3 reminds us that still, they’re just kids. There’s so much they each have to learn going forward, but they’re well on their way toward getting there. 

Outer Banks Season 3 jiara. (L to R) Rudy Pankow as JJ, Madison Bailey as Kiara in episode 305 of Outer Banks.
Cr. Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix © 2023

It isn’t going to be an easy road for JJ and Kiara, but they’ve made the jump, and now it’s time to keep swimming—to keep fighting off the tides together. It will be challenging to be sure, but if nothing else, the moments we get between them establish that they’re ready in a way they haven’t been before. None of the relationships have progressed like theirs, leaving ample room for them to strengthen their friendship before diving head-first into something bigger. So much of Seasons 1 and 2 show Kiara stepping forward to pick up JJ’s pieces, and Season 3 finally gives him a chance to authenticate that he not only sees what she’s done, but he’s pulling in everything that he has to show up for her.

JJ and Kiara are it. They’re best friends who grew to understand and see one another in a different light. And that light isn’t merely for the other, but it’s for all the ways they could grow as individuals. In finding a safe space with each other, their world becomes a little less grim and a lot more hopeful. Nothing is more complicated than taking the step from friends to lovers, but with these two, it’s a risk worth taking, and it’s going to change them both in prodigious ways for the better.

What’s Next?

Outer Banks Season 3. (L to R) Carlacia Grant as Cleo, Madison Bailey as Kiara, Madelyn Cline as Sarah Cameron, Chase Stokes as John B, Jonathan Daviss as Pope, Rudy Pankow as JJ in episode 309 of Outer Banks.
Cr. Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix © 2023

Outer Banks Season 3 is chock-full of storylines that need plenty of work, but where we go from here is a big question only Season 4 could answer. The world might not hate them as they did in Season 2, and they might no longer be on the run, but we all know it will not be that easy. Sure, Kiara’s parents are smiling in the end, but will they really be okay with their daughter choosing the Pogue life? Someday, maybe, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate future. What’s going to happen to Rafe? Will he finally go to therapy? Will Topper still press charges eventually? 

Will Sarah and John B make it, or will the deaths they lived through harm them in unexpected ways? What about Pope and Cleo? Blackbeard is a big name to play with, and there’s a good chance Season 4 is going to be the wildest one yet, but it’s hard to believe these kids could genuinely have a moment of profound, worthwhile healing in their lives. Could an adult in their lives pay that they each get therapy?

Outer Banks Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.


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