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Outer Banks Co-Creator Jonas Pate On The Aftermath of El Dorado, OBX4

Pate teases the future of the show’s core couples, and the scene that didn't make it into the Season 3 finale.
  • Jonas Pate and the cast of Outer Banks (Photos: Netflix; Primetimer graphic)
    Jonas Pate and the cast of Outer Banks (Photos: Netflix; Primetimer graphic)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers from “Secrets of the Gnomon,” the Season 3 finale of Outer Banks, now streaming on Netflix.]

    Watch out, Indiana Jones: The Pogues of Outer Banks are coming for your gig.

    In the Season 3 finale of the Netflix series, the hunt for Denmark Tanny’s treasure led the Pogues to the lost city of El Dorado in the unforgiving jungles of South America. It was a hard-fought victory, and one that came at a steep price. Ward Cameron (Charles Esten) sacrificed himself to save his daughter, Sarah (Madelyn Cline), from well-armed bad guys; and Big John (Charles Halford), the recently resurrected father of John B (Chase Stokes), succumbed to his own injuries after the two fulfilled his obsession with finding the City of Gold.

    The three-season treasure hunt was one for the history books, and that’s exactly where the Pogues found themselves at the end of it. As the celebrated heroes of Kildare Island, they are no longer the outcasts. Kiara (Madison Bailey) is saving turtles, Pope (Jonathan Daviss) is chasing down his academic dreams, JJ (Rudy Pankow) bought a charter boat, and John B and Sarah run a surf shop. 

    But they also have a reputation that precedes them. In the final moments of the season, a mysterious stranger hands them a manuscript containing the coordinates to a ship once captained by Edward Teach, best known as Blackbeard. A chance to hunt down a quintessentially North Carolina treasure will likely fill the Pogues’ calendar in Season 4, which got an early renewal at a “Poguelandia” fan event on February 18.

    As the show prepares to put its foundational mystery behind it, co-creator, executive producer, and director Jonas Pate tells Primetimer it is time for the Pogues to grow up (bye, high school!) and set their sights on an even bigger treasure in OBX4, which he confirmed will begin filming this summer. He also teases an unleashed Rafe (Drew Starkey), the headwinds ahead for the show’s core couples, and what it’s like dreaming up multi-season treasure hunts at a moment in television when nothing is guaranteed.

    At what point did you decide this treasure hunt you started in Season 1 was all leading to El Dorado?

    We always had this dream from the beginning that we would tell a story that would start really small and granular and local, that could expand to a broader canvas if everything broke right with the show –– and luckily, that’s what has happened. Believe or it, it has always been in the back of our minds. When you start a show you never know how many seasons you are going to get and how far you are going to get to tell the story, but we had always hoped it would go this far –– to El Dorado. And even further. Where we are going from here, we have some ideas we have been kicking around for awhile.

    You directed the finale, which was shot on location in Barbados. Can you talk about elevating the scope for this final leg of the Denmark Tanny treasure hunt?

    In previous seasons, we had spent time in Barbados and it’s a pretty small island, maybe 20 miles. So we had seen a bunch of places that we didn’t have in our scripts from Season 2 that we just thought were beautiful and we wanted to be able to put that on film. So as [executive producers and co-creators] Josh [Pate] and Shannon [Burke] started writing Season 3, a lot of that was on their minds and we knew where we could work it in. Then it was just a matter of making sure we had the time to scout and get in there to film it. The hardest part was the cave you see in the finale because it is just strange to be underground for that long. We shot for three straight days where you really couldn’t see the sun. You would go down into this golf cart basically and you would stay down there pretty much all day and come out 13 hours later.

    Despite the challenges, that has to be a rewarding experience. This show started out small, and now you are shooting in caves!

    It was so much fun! I liken it to a band that evolves from album to album. They start out a little grungy, then they get fancier producers and get slicker as they go.

    For John B, Sarah, Pope and Kiara, this season was all about reckoning with parental figures. Why was now the time to check back in with the parents?

    We have always had these really heightened storylines with treasure hunts and things like that. But we have always tried to keep some emotional reality to it because they still have parents, they still have school. They have all the things that normal kids go through. And it made for scenes we were interested in because it allowed us to wonder, if these were real scenarios, what would the parents do? Kiara’s parents are terrified for her. She’s a pretty unruly kid. Even if they went to an extreme length to send her to one of these therapy camps, they feel it is the right thing to do from their perspective. So we wanted to really keep that reality going this season.

    Big John was this looming presence for two seasons and he finally comes back this season. But he’s not the man fans probably expected. He’s a really bad dad to John B. Why was that the Big John that we met this season? 

    If you think about it, you’ve only seen the romanticized version of Big John because it was through the eyes of John B. But if you look at it more coldly and clearly, he was always this pretty obsessive father who was so focused on this treasure that he neglected his fatherhood. He just continues that even though they get reunited. From a character perspective, he has been consistent. It’s just that we’ve only ever seen him through John B’s eyes of missing his dad. Having that veil pulled back is the story of the season for John B. He has to realize who his dad really is and where he ranks versus what his dad is obsessed with.

    Is that reckoning with his father and ultimately losing him in the finale what will make John B finally grow up?

    One hundred percent. And also in the case of Ward Cameron as well. Him dying in the finale is going to create changes for Sarah and for Rafe as well. We felt like those characters had run the right arc and as we turned the page and fast forward a little bit at the end of the season, we needed to give all those characters space to spread their wings and do it without the oversight of their parents.

    These kids are now the heroes of Kildare Island. That’s quite different from when we met them. How does that change their story? Can they stay heroes for long?

    That’s a great question. I mean, the rebels always become the status quo eventually, right? So it is sort of an age-old story. Where do you go from here when you’ve achieved so much? That’s all the stuff we are excited to dig into in the next few seasons. 

    The season ends with an 18-month jump into the future. So are the high school years behind the Pogues and the Kooks?

    For sure, and that’s what we are writing now. The actors are getting older and we definitely wanted to move into this new phase of life so there is fertile territory to dig into it. We want to rhyme what’s coming next with the past but not repeat it.

    You’ve just gone to South America, a far cry from North Carolina. It was a worthwhile trip for the Pogues, but was this potential new adventure a way to bring the action back home? Blackbeard is so quintessential North Carolina.

    We were all Blackbeard junkies, as are most North Carolinians. We have always wanted to tell that story and the sort of architecture of the show tends to be 70 or 80 percent of the show in North Carolina, and then some far-flung adventure. And I think even with Blackbeard, the shape of the show will still continue like that.

    What about Blackbeard was the right next story for the Pogues?

    It is the ultimate North Carolina treasure, but I think it is also even broader. It is amazing how well known that name is and it is synonymous with dastardly doings. So it is the perfect set up for our universe. It is even better than the Royal Merchant, just in terms of name recognition. It’s sort of like El Dorado in that it is an ancient myth that people have these preconceived notions about, but it will be fun to tweak them and kick them around. Because no one knows the truth.

    One thing that never happens with treasure hunt movies and shows is seeing how the treasure changes the lives of the people who find it. This is a huge historical discovery! Are you going to explore what finding El Dorado means for six young adults?

    Absolutely! That’s the fun part of the show. We aren’t going to walk away from what’s happened but rather lean into it, and think through what this all looks like for these characters and how will people perceive them after this. It will change the rhythm of the story, for sure.

    Is there a chance the aftermath of finding El Dorado will also change the dynamic of the Pogues? That’s a lot of weight to put on their shoulders.

    Definitely. And it mirrors the experience of this young cast. These were all unknown actors when we started, but they aren’t unknown anymore. They are going through, similarly, what the characters are going through and I think it makes it interesting for them and for us. It’s a lot to chew on for the story.

    The only character we don’t see in the finale is Rafe.

    Oh, this was hotly debated. [Laughs]

    Oh yeah?

    There is a scene! In fact, I’m bugging Netflix to release it. There is a scene that didn’t make the cut. It was a last-second cut, and I’m still not convinced we made the right decision. So much so, I have been thinking about releasing on social. It is basically a scene where Rafe very solemnly vows revenge and holds the Pogues accountable for his father’s death.

    Well, he made peace with his dad and even had a moment with Sarah. The last two seasons have been this tight-rope walk for whether or not he will go full-tilt villain. Is that what’s to come?

    We didn’t want to make him a 2-D bad guy, so we really tried to help him grapple with some of the things he had done and we even tried to soften him a bit with this character of Sofia (Fiona Palomo), who will play more of a role with him moving forward. But I think at the end, with his father gone, there will be no guardrails anymore.

    You leaned into some romantic pairings this season –– John B and Sarah go through some rough waters; JJ and Kiara get together; and Pope and Cleo (Carlacia Grant) kiss on a mountain! Was there ever any hesitation about pairing off the Pogues?

    It is always debated pretty healthily back and forth, and we let it emerge naturally why we did it. Obviously John B and Sarah have been together since the beginning, and the fans really led us to Kiara and JJ. And after everything that had happened with the cross for Pope, we sort of wanted to just give this very likable character a win and that’s how it led to Cleo. It just evolved naturally. But there will be headwinds next season for all of them.

    More so than ever, nothing is guaranteed on TV. It’s a tough time right now to be a creator. Netflix seems to really love this show and has already renewed it, but do you have to take that into account when dreaming up new treasure hunts for future seasons?

    I think the show is at a point now where, with Netflix, it will come to an end when we all know it is the end. We know the show has been successful enough now that we will all agree on that together whenever that time comes. But I think a lot of shows don’t get that and can have the rug pulled out from underneath them at any moment in their first few seasons. But I think we are on the other side of that bridge at this point. If we are going into the last season, we will know.

    And Blackbeard is definitely the start of something new. It will be a nice way to reacquaint the Pogues with home.

    And they need it after all they have been through.

    Outer Banks Season 3 is streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums

    Hunter Ingram is a TV writer living in North Carolina and watching way too much television. His byline has appeared in Variety, Emmy Magazine, USA Today, and across Gannett's USA Today Network newspapers.

    TOPICS: Outer Banks