“Outer Banks” is one of the most popular shows of 2023. Billed as a teen drama, the Netflix hit is much more than that. It has mystery, adventure, romance, action, and moving moments. At the heart of it all are the “Pogues,” a lovable gang of misfits with a talent for trouble.
“Outer Banks” isn’t exactly a character drama, but it has plenty of rich and interesting characters to get to know. Both the good and bad guys are complex and never entirely predictable — a rarity on TV. Here’s my personal ranking of the major characters on the show.
14. Carlos Singh (Andy McQueen)
For a character meant to be the worst player on the show, Carlos Singh (Andy McQueen) just isn’t very scary as a person. I think it might be the terrible Barbadian accent, ya know. With enough bad guys already on the loose, a millionaire treasure hunter with an armed fortress who kidnaps teenagers seemed like one too many ridiculous complications.
13. Rose (Caroline Arapoglou)
Sorry to say this, but Rose (Caroline Arapoglou) has zero personality except liking money and having no morals. She’s loyal to her husband, but otherwise acts entirely in her own self-interest, even against her stepchildren. Her feeble attempts to manipulate and control Rafe (Drew Starkey) revealed that her character isn’t that intelligent compared to him.
12. Topper (Austin North)
Topper (Austin North) lives up to his first impression as your typical prep-school tool, but he does have some redeeming qualities. He cares about Sarah (Madelyn Cline) and his friends, saving Sarah’s life even after she left him, and was there for her emotionally when John B (Chase Stokes) wasn’t. He would almost be a nice guy if he could get over his insufferable snobbery and blind prejudice against the Pogues.
11. Carla Limbrey (Elizabeth Mitchell)
Carla Limbrey’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) introduction added a new layer of historical intrigue, which refreshed the central mystery in a welcome way. The dying woman looking for a miracle is a little cliché, but her ability to flip from sweet and pleading to cold and menacing makes her perhaps the most intimidating bad guy on the show.
10. Luke (Gary Weeks)
Luke (Gary Weeks) is an abuser, drinker, drug-taker, thief, and all-around bad guy. He doesn’t have many redeeming qualities and permanently damages his son, JJ (Rudy Pankow), by beating, stealing from, and guilt-tripping him. Yet, in subtle moments, actor Gary Weeks gives a glimpse of Luke’s humanity. JJ’s emotionally charged relationship with his father gave us some of the best moments on the show.
9. Cleo (Carlacia Grant)
Cleo’s (Carlacia Grant) introduction to the show was rocky with all that knife-swinging she did in her first episode. She bands together with the Pogues readily for someone who doesn’t trust easily. She’s got a general Pogue spirit, but her character is underdeveloped compared to the rest of the main cast. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her backstory and personality as the story continues.
8. Barry (Nicholas Cirillo)
Although Barry (Nicholas Cirillo) is only a minor character, he steals the show every time he’s on screen. Whether it’s his one-line zingers like calling Rafe “J. Crew” and “the Country Club Killer” or dropping truth bombs about inequality and working-class life, it’s clear Barry is no dummy. He’s a drug dealer with a conscience who tries to steer Rafe in a better direction until deciding enough is enough and turns on him.
7. Ward Cameron (Charles Esten)
Ward (Charles Esten) is the show’s original bad guy with a complex character. I’m still not entirely sure whether he loves his children or if it's all manipulation and self-interest. Ward is realistically rich and powerful. However, his success is because he’s always two steps ahead. You love to hate him for everything he's done, but you also see him through his daughter Sarah’s eyes, which makes him less condemnable.
6. John B (Chase Stokes)
Although he’s the show’s protagonist, John B isn’t the most compelling of the Pogues. His character remains primarily unchanged, despite the insane things that happen to him. He can be aloof and obsessive and has a hero complex. He’s certainly pretty, though, and his upbeat, unphased attitude seems to be the glue that holds the Pogues together.
5. Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline)
Sarah is the good girl gone bad after falling in love with John B and joining the Pogues in a treasure hunt against her own family. Formerly a rich-girl princess, Sarah continually surprises her fellow Pogues with her spunk. She carries some of the most emotionally-charged moments of the show as part of the leading romantic arc and as the character caught between both sides.
4. Rafe Cameron (Drew Starkey)
Rafe is “Outer Banks’” best bad guy. He’s highly emotional and always second-best in his father’s eyes. Rafe will do anything to prove himself, and although he does despicable things, his reasoning is logically consistent. Also, despite being a bad guy, we continually see Rafe’s (usually misguided) attempts to improve himself, like trying to get off drugs, taking over his father's affairs, and regretting misdeeds.
3. Pope (J.D.)
As the voice of studious reason in the group, Pope was never going to be as fun of a character as the other Pogues. But his heart is always in the right place, his brains often lead to breakthroughs, and his loyalty to his friends is unwavering. It’s good to see Pope get some attention from the ladies in later seasons, since he’s actually a pretty great catch as the most stable main character on the show.
2. Best Boy: JJ (Rudy Pankow)
JJ is a hyperactive, bull in a china shop who’s always up for anything, be it a beer, a laugh, an adventure, or a fight. He has a strong bond with John B, providing a window into both characters. JJ is resilient, generally upbeat, and loving, despite the tragic circumstances surrounding him. He provides great comic relief in group scenes with the Pogues and handles heavy emotions well in his home life.
1. Best Girl: Kiara (Madison Bailey)
The eternal cool-girl, Kiara is the most instantly likable member of the Pogues. A daughter to wealthy parents, she may be the only character on the show who genuinely doesn’t care about money or the divide between rich and poor. Her only motivation is her love for her friends. She’s feisty, smart, sexy, messy, compassionate, determined, and always speaks her mind. In the end, whichever of the boys she picks will be lucky to have her.