Warning: This post contains spoilers from Outer Banks‘ Season 2 finale. But it also talks about teenage boys discussing their feelings with each other, so come on in when you’re ready!
You know, the one that he wears for roughly half of his Netflix drama’s second season? The one in which his character, John B Routledge, routinely evades serious bodily harm? The one that looks so grungy by Episode 4 that it’s a relief when he gets to change into [checks notes] orange prison scrubs?
“I literally tweeted that last night,” Stokes says when TVLine gets him on the phone to talk about the freewheeling series’ sophomore run. “I was literally like, “I’m so glad that I never have to go in that t-shirt ever again.” He laughs. “But I have a feeling [executive producer] Jonas [Pate] will read that, and he will then put me right back in it.”
By the end of Season 2, John B’s problems are as big as his wardrobe is small: He’s lost the gold he spent two seasons trying to procure, he came thisclose to killing his girlfriend’s father, and he’s stranded with his friends on a beach somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean. (Admittedly, that last one doesn’t seem to bother him too much.) But, thanks to the final scene of the finale, the viewing audience is privy to information that surely will come to bear in a potential Season 3: John B’s presumed-dead father, Big John, is actually alive. (Read a finale recap.)
So that’s precisely where we began when we chatted with Stokes. Read on for his thoughts about that tide-turning reveal, John B’s ongoing desire to be Mr. Sarah Cameron and the surprising emotional intelligence of adolescent boys.
TVLINE | So let’s start with the biggest deal that happens: Big John is alive at the end of the season!
Everybody’s fan theories, somehow, are coming to life. We didn’t do it based on anything that social media was predicting, so we’ve got some very intuitive fans, that’s for sure.
TVLINE | I don’t want to get too dark here, but I often think about how much trauma John B has had to go through, without a lot of room or time to heal. Do you think he’s made peace with his father’s death by the end of Season 2?
You know, it’s funny you say that because I think, you know, in the moment in Episode 3 when he sees Sarah flatline, that’s a big moment for him because he realizes in this moment that he’s not just lost her, but it’s a full realization. That scene, the whole idea behind it was that when she comes back to life, it’s, “I’m done with this. I’ve lost too much based on my selfishness, and I’m not going to pursue the things that are driving people to the edge of this Earth.” In a weird way, it’s his way of accepting all of what has happened and moving on from it. So I think it’s going to be a very interesting transition, once that realization is had by him.
TVLINE | It seems to me that, if I were John B, I’d be like, “I’ve been struggling on my own, and you’re still alive out there?!” How do you think he might reckon with that when he finds out?
I have so many thoughts in my head. Obviously, the natural progression when you’re excited about your work is to immediately start planning for what is to come. We’re hoping to continue to tell the story for a couple more seasons. But in my mind, that’s exactly it: What does this mean? There’s so many things that have happened in this period of time. I mean, it all starts with [Big John’s] selfish want to chase this treasure, and so it ends with him leaving his son on his own terms, you know? It wasn’t like he was swept away by a natural disaster or whatever the case may be. It was his choice to go out and leave his son, and what does that look like? What does it look like when a kid comes face-to-face with a parent who’s left and chose to put him in these circumstances and has no idea what has happened in the meantime?
TVLINE | You brought up Sarah before. As she and John B talked about being married over the course of the season, it seemed to mean a lot to him — more, sometimes, than it did to her. Do you think that’s maybe because she’s been part of a relatively stable family and he’s been on his own?
I definitely agree with that. I think John B clings to a lot of the people around him. He’s definitely a little more co-dependent than he likes to give himself credit for. And now Sarah’s a lifeline in his life. And just like any great partner, you want to keep that person around, and society tells us, “Hey, there’s a little shiny thing that you put on somebody’s finger. You go to a courthouse, and that’s how you solidify it.” When you’re young and in love, and you’re so caught up in the moment, it makes perfect sense. And for him, he hasn’t had consistency… His dad’s been gone for a while, and so for him to have something that feels stable in his life — absolutely. He definitely jumps the shark a little bit, but you know, for a kid who’s been through that much trauma, it comes from the right place. Maybe it’s wrong time, right idea.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about John B’s fight with Ward at the end of the season. What was really intriguing to me is that John B pulls back from delivering that final blow. How much of that do you think is affected by the fact that Sarah is right there with him?
We talked about that a lot on the day. It’s funny, because that whole sequence of what I said to him was not scripted. That was me and Chip [Esten], and he told me to speak from the heart. So that was things that I thought were right coming from John B, and it’s really cool that the writers give us enough faith to allow moments like that to live… That’s a testament to looking at your partner as your better half. I think in his heart of hearts that he maybe wouldn’t have done it. I don’t think he has that bone in his body.
TVLINE | I love that, whenever John B, Pope and JJ are alone, they’re always talking about their feelings.
It’s so ridiculous, because it’s so true… Guys really are a little more emotional than, I think, we like to give them credit for, and teenage boys are the most sensitive human beings you’ll ever meet. And as soon as they get their little group of sensitive friends, they’re like, “Why didn’t she love me?” [Laughs] So, you know, John B, JJ, and Pope are no different than anyone else. They like to put on their hard shell, and you know, walk out and be their brave selves, and then when it get down to it, they’re softies.