Like the many waves through which they choose to surf or sail, there’s no shortage of highs or lows for the Pogues in the second season finale of Netflix’s YA drama series sensation, “Outer Banks.” The season culminated with a final 10 minutes stuffed with attempted filicide, thrilling escapes and the resurrection of the believed-to-be-dead John B. — Senior (Charles Halford).
“Outer Banks” follows the lives of a group of working-class local teenagers — called the “Pogues” — in the titular beach town in North Carolina. They live alongside the “Kooks,” the wealthy residents who have second homes in the scenic area and with whom the Pogues often get into scuffles over socioeconomic politics and multimillion-dollar treasures.
The Season 2 finale alone is a tense, action-packed hour full of family drama and fights (aboard various forms of water transportation, as is always the case with “Outer Banks”). But the deep bonds of friendship are also on display when Kiara (Madison Bailey) rescues a drowning JJ (Rudy Pankow), throwing caution aside and jumping in the water, and when Pope (Jonathan Daviss) lets go of his highly valuable family heirloom, the fictitious Cross of Santo Domingo, in order to help his friends.
“They are intensely loyal to each other, and that’s a constant,” says co-creator and executive producer Josh Pate. “It lays some track for going forward.”
(Season 3 has not officially been greenlit yet but if it is, “sunsets and shining water — because that’s part of who we are” will be another constant,” says co-creator and executive producer Shannon Burke.)
We don’t exactly know which deserted island or beach the gang has washed up at, but we know that the next chapter for these sun-kissed, rowdy teens would include each other — even if some relational and romantic dynamics get shaken things up, such as with new member Cleo (Carlacia Grant). After all, Pogues are for life.
Here, Jonas Pate, Josh Pate, Burke and Grant talk with Variety to get into the nitty-gritty of the finale, including the induction of a new Pogue and the surprise resurrection of another, as well as plans for Season 3.
Why did you throw another treasure hunt into the mix with the “Cross of Santo Domingo” storyline? Is the fictitious artifact based on any in real life?
Josh Pate: It was based on some historical research on Denmark Vesey, although there wasn’t a lone specific story; it was like an amalgam. Treasure hunts are a major component of the show, and their pursuit of The Royal Merchant’s gold had hit a wall, and we knew that we needed to expand the mythology of the treasure hunt moving forward. The cross is part of that. Hopefully, in Season 3, we have mythology in which The Royal Merchant and the cross plug into an even bigger story, also based on historical research.
Shannon Burke: Our goal is to always have things that are somewhat based on history — this is a fictional story, obviously, but from the start, we’ve been planning to encapsulate it all and to try to keep expanding as much as possible.
Many of the finale’s scenes are filmed in tight spaces, with combat choreography thrown in the mix. How did you ensure that the cast and crew were protected and felt safe during the pandemic while filming?
Jonas Pate: Everybody was tested three times a week, and we were basically quarantining when we weren’t working. For the folks that were in close quarters, they were all vaccinated and COVID-free. We were lucky [that] we had very few positive COVID infections over the course of shooting new reels last week. I think we were one of the first Netflix shows back, and one of the first to finish because we didn’t really get shut down.
Carlacia Grant: We had a lot of blocking, safety, and camera rehearsals. Sometimes after dinner our stunt team and I would run a blocking rehearsal with padded mats and safety gear in place. It was important for us to also have rehearsals in between sets sometimes when the camera was being set up. By the time we were actually ready to film in the tight spaces, we had already run the combat choreography hundreds of times. I think COVID-19 affected how cautious we had to be both on and off set. Especially while traveling, it was important to follow all safety protocols, so we didn’t come in contact with COVID-19. The limits I faced centered around interacting with anyone who wasn’t in our production bubble. I’m a foodie and I like to go out to eat a lot, so while we were in production, I took a lot of my food to-go for precautions.
Let’s get into Cleo’s narrative arc from the start of the season to its finish: she’s willingly — albeit stubbornly — helping out the Pogues now, but does that mean she’s one of them? Why did you find her character to be an essential addition to the season’s plot?
Josh Pate: Regarding whether she’s going to be part of the Pogues, the answer is yes.. We wanted to expand her opportunities not so much in Season 2, but going forward with Season 3 — and we especially wanted to expand upon the opportunities of teen romance within the group. John B. and Sarah are kind of spoken for, and Pope and Kiara have kind of run their course.
Burke: As we were talking about what Season 2 was going to look like, Josh and I went back and forth on gaining inspiration from old books, and we were talking a lot about “Oliver Twist” and we began thinking a lot about an Artful Dodger-type character that would fit right in with the Pogues. As it turned out, Carlacia [Grant, who plays Cleo] really fit right in with the crew, and it seemed organic to continue with her character and to bring her back to the end of the season.
Grant: She is 100% a Pogue now. She doesn’t agree with their “plan” to take over a dangerous ship without any weapons. That’s really the part that makes her upset, but she does respect how far they will go to save a friend. It makes her soften and want to help. Cleo is loyal to those who are loyal to her. She respects the love and loyalty the Pogues have amongst each other. Cleo is the added “spice” of Season 2. I believe she adds an extra layer of heart, humor and muscle to the show. The show was already a wonderful blend of friendship and treasure hunts. Now we have another strong female of color who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants and she’s unapologetic with being who she is. She is extremely smart. She can kick anyone’s ass and she has layers to her. I believe Cleo fits in with the Pogues because like everyone else she has a “home” situation that she wants to get out of. She funny, she’s a total badass and she wants a piece of that gold. Cleo is different from the other Pogues because Cleo is very meticulous. She thinks of every possible way a plan can go wrong and prepares for that before she embarks on a journey. She’s not even entering a fight unless she has figured out how exactly she will beat her opponent. Cleo brings the Outer Banks to the Caribbean. I wouldn’t say nailing the accent was difficult, but it took a lot of repetition. I worked with a dialect coach and since we filmed in Barbados, I would talk to a lot of the locals and take certain mannerisms. I would often use soca, reggae, and dancehall music to get me in that zone.
The finale really showcases the degradation of trust amongst the Cameron children with each other, with Rose and with their father, Ward. What are some of the most definitive scenes that emphasize how far the Camerons have crumbled — other than Ward almost choking his daughter to death?
Burke: I’m not sure if it was a degradation of trust per se, but in that last scene when Rafe repeats that the family has “everything” and Ward says, ‘Not everything,’ referring to Sarah — without her, the family is falling apart. And there’s an obviously implicit parallel between the Pogues and when they’re at that beach in the finale, laughing and having fun with each other despite the circumstances. The Camerons who have “got everything” — well, [then] you see that last look at Ward seeming miserable, knowing that he’s just tried to kill his daughter, filled with shame and remorse.
Ward’s injury at the hands of John B. is a direct parallel to what happened to his dad in the first season — do you think justice was served?
Josh Pate: I think it’s been a progression of Ward being comfortable doing bad things. When he first had the altercation with John, he doesn’t expressly mean to kill him. But then, later on, he does cover it up and with these bad things, he’s done the threshold has moved. And so, he becomes kind of immune to it, making him more and more capable of monstrous acts.
Jonas Pate: We try to humanize Ward and make his terrible decisions legible emotion — that’s what we’re trying to get at.
Pope raising his fist in the air in triumph, in the hope to reclaim what was stolen from his family, was a powerful image. Why did you decide to shift the focus on Pope and the Heyward family’s ancestry and legacy? How did this inform Pope’s decision to let go of and sink the cross — for now?
Josh Pate: Pope’s story came organically out of the seeds we planted in Season 1. And that was in the original conception, and we were excited to develop that story with J.D., and J.D. gave us a lot of input and ideas. He contributed the idea for the scene where his grandmother explained to him why she never told him, and really, it’s Denmark who is being protected. The image of Pope raising his fist, I think that was just something that J.D. did. It wasn’t planned. In the end, Pope has the decision to let go of the cross or to help his friends, and he picks them.
Jonas Pate: It also gives him agency over what he hopes is the final resting place for the cross. And it’s all taking place against the backdrop of all these terrible things that happened to Denmark, where everything was taken from him. In the end, it’s not a win, but it’s where he can at least inflict some serious damage.
Rafe is rising up, taking the reins, and will be emulating his father. What are your plans for him? What pivotal points throughout the season suggested that he’d become the next “Big Bad”?
Jonas Pate: We adore Drew Starkey and we love what he brings to the role. We wanted his character to have a national evolution to step into more of a potential antagonist role, and we hope to do that moving forward. I think it’s prevalent at the very end in Episode 10 and throughout the season. He’s excited when his dad asked him to go, as he starts to take more of a role in the central plot as it goes on.
Burke: That scene in his father’s boathouse is critical, where his father asked him to go. Also, he had done this smart thing where Ward asked him, “What did you do with the car?” and Rafe says that he parked it at the airport, you feel like it’s the first time his father has ever complimented him for doing a job well done. That is bolstering him up and he wants to emulate his father, so I think we all will get to see the possibilities going forward with that dynamic.
What moments from the finale reflect or encompass the character growth and friendship dynamics that changed throughout the entire season amongst the Pogue crew?
Burke: That moment when they all get in the container ship is a continuation of the way it’s always been, but the reasons are different: For Kiara and JJ, they have nothing to lose, and for Pope and John B, they have specific reasons to jump in. It really upped the ante for all of them, and it’s a turning point. Jumping in means leaving the Outer Banks behind, at least you know, for that moment.
Grant: I believe the scenes where we see Sarah and John B. on the smaller boat, Cleo and Pope jumping off the container ship, and when we realize we haven’t seen Kiara or JJ’s character since earlier in that scene, are the moments that reflect the friendship dynamics that changed throughout the season. We immediately go into panic mode in a search to find them. Then we see that JJ is injured and we really don’t know if he’s going to make it. We have those moments amongst each other of sadness and worry. Then JJ starts coughing and we realize he’s OK. Immediately, we start laughing and having a good time. I think those scenes encompass who we are as Pogues. There is no man or woman left behind on a mission and no matter what we are going to have a good time with each other. As long as we know everyone is okay. My favorite scene to film together though — and it keeps changing — was the scene where Cleo, Terrance and Stubbs are escaping the Cameron house and we run through that beach into that beautiful turquoise water. That water felt like a sauna, and I could see straight through it. Running on a beautiful beach like that, I felt like I was on “Baywatch.” [Laughs.]
Will we see more of Topper next season? What should we interpret from his appearance?
Jonas Pate: Oh yeah! We love Topper. We wanted to work him in earlier, but Josh and Shannon found a great moment to introduce him in his quest to rescue Sarah, and we love Austin North as an actor. We’re looking forward to playing [with] him more.
Burke: We love Austin! This season, his role was a little smaller, but it’s not a reflection of what we feel about him. It’s just the way the story went this year, but he’s part of the crew. And what he had with Sarah — that’s always a fire that we could restart. There’s a lot of history there, and Topper has been so relentlessly kind and good to Sarah. He actually saved them at the end of Season 1, and he saved her in Season 2. We like the idea of keeping the love triangle percolating, between Topper, John B. and Sarah.
“Outer Banks” got rambunctious in many cities — and bodies of water — in Season 2. What adventures are in store for the Pogues and the “Kooks” next season? Have you already set your eye on potential new filming locations?
Jonas Pate: I think it’s a little too soon for us to commit, but the fictional Outer Banks will always be a central part of the story. But, there’ll be some new locales in Season 3, we just can’t reveal them yet.
Why’d you choose to resurrect John B.’s dad, and what will his return mean for the third season?
Josh Pate: We brought his dad back because we were excited about the creative potential of it, and that storyline is going to be a big part of Season 3 — no more spoilers!