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April 20, 2020
Reprinted courtesy of the Outer Banks Voice
By Peter Hummers
For a remote group of barrier islands, the Outer Banks are not as obscure as we might sometimes like.
In the 1983 movie “Brainstorm,” Christopher Walken’s character is on the run and makes a phone call from the Wright Brothers monument in Kill Devil Hills. In an episode of “Wiseguy” (1987), an off-screen character is said to be “on vacation in Nags Head.” Outer Banks local Andy Griffith shot a double 1989 episode of “Matlock” in Dare County. The Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode “Scared Crazy” (2005) featured an antagonist with a background in a secret military group “on the Outer Banks” (Hatteras Island).
In John Grisham’s novel “The Pelican Brief,” an assassin comes ashore to find a truck with North Carolina plates and drives inland towards D.C., going “across the bridge to Manteo.” The comedy (to OBX locals) “Nights in Rodanthe” (2008) is set here. In the Breaking Bad episode “Four Days Out” we see an Outer Banks travel poster in Albuquerque. And of course, there is the 2019 film, “Peanut Butter Falcon,” written and directed by OBX native Tyler Nilson, that is a big screen homage to the area.
Now, Netflix has released the new teen-drama series “Outer Banks,” which I admit to approaching with some skepticism.
Not a few Bankers felt burned by the strange geography and weird characters in “Nights in Rodanthe,” but were soothed somewhat by the resulting publicity — and those of our number who became extras in the film. The good news is that I needn’t have worried.
“Outer Banks” is a suspenseful, complicated yarn that hits the right marks. A group of local teenagers finds a sunken Grady-White boat in the marsh, and after a quick dive, bring a motel-room key out of it.
The motel is in repair following a hurricane, so two of the kids enter the room surreptitiously and find a big ol’ bag of money and a SIG Sauer pistol. They pocket a few packs of cash and the handgun when they’re interrupted and almost caught by a pair of deputies who come in to search the room.
Meanwhile a local dock rat washes up dead, someone who, the kids know, couldn’t afford even a surfboard, and the police tie him to the missing boat. Sinister outsiders are also looking for the boat, and only the kids know where it actually is.
The general look of the setting is about right, and the writers have done their homework: There’s a hurricane, tourist mega houses, sunken treasure, smuggling and piracy. The county is called Kildare County. One of the kids, feeling pressured by the situation, says, “I’m livin’ the nightmare!” But there’s also an invented caste system for the kids that serves the plot: working-class locals, “tourons” and a largely fictional community of rich teenagers in their families’ second homes.
For us Bankers, it’s good to remember that in addition to being our home, the Outer Banks is also an idea, one that is gaining purchase across the country. “Outer Banks” is set there. (It was shot in Charleston, S.C.) The lighthouses are wrong, the deputies’ badges read “Kildare County,” and there are palm trees.
But when we moved past the distractions of location errors in “Nights in Rodanthe” (which only we noticed), it became a tolerable Hollywood movie. “Outer Banks” is better than that. Here’s the trailer.