All's fair in love and treasure hunts.
When Outer Banks returns in all its sun-soaked glory for season 2 (streaming July 30), a lot will have changed for the beloved Pogues. Kiara (Madison Bailey), JJ (Rudy Pankow), and Pope (Jonathan Daviss) have gone from living it up all summer long on a high stakes gold hunt to starting a new school year and mourning their BFFs John B (Chase Stokes) and Sarah (Madelyn Cline), who they believe died in the season 1 finale storm. What they don't know is John B and Sarah are actually alive and well, on their way to the Bahamas to continue their hunt for the Royal Merchant gold. So while some things may look different this season — like the Pogues trading in swimsuits for sweaters and pants as the weather gets chillier — some things will never change for these treasure hunting teens.
And that means all the romance and adventure you loved in season 1 is back and even more intense this time around. As John B and Sarah make their way to Nassau, they've got more than stealing back the gold on their minds. "It will be interesting to see how are John B and Sarah going to move and groove in the Bahamas, taking in the fact that he's wildly in love with this girl but he's just recently kindled a relationship with her," Stokes tells EW. "Plus there's all of the things that she's lost along the way to support John B and the things that she's learned about her family that she's been unaware of for her entire lifetime."
Cline laughs as she points out how that's "really a lot for anybody," let alone a young teen starting a new relationship. Sarah's going to be struggling with her new Pogue lifestyle warring with her Kook upbringing and leaving behind the family who raised her for this new family of friends. "It's the battle between security and the safety net and knowing that if she does choose her family, she's going to be taken care of, but morally that just doesn't sit right with her," she says. "We see her really battle with that decision."
That means it won't all be glitter and gold for this new couple, no matter how in love they may seem at the start of season 2. And Stokes warns watching John B and Sarah navigate this next chapter will bring about new issues for them that they didn't anticipate.
"It's always fun when you see these young love stories," Stokes says. "I think they know each other better than what the audience has given them credit for. But this relationship has happened very fast and so season 2 is definitely going to test them. They don't know each other as partners, they've only known each other as living on the other side of the tracks and people that don't necessarily communicate. Now that those barriers have been broken and we're seeing these two individuals who have fallen in love first, life catches up inevitably, especially if you're bound by trauma. At some point, you have to face the reality and there's parts of these people that they should learn about."
Cline warns that there will be "highs and lows" for Sarah and John B's relationship this season, more than fans may be expecting. "Which I like because I didn't want their relationship to be perfect," she says. "It's this larger than life story and this larger than life love story — they're like these star-crossed lovers where everything seems perfect and everything is golden. And I didn't want it to stay that way. I wanted there to be some conflict. Reality kind of slaps them in the face. They're hit with the reality of the fact that they've been caught up in this whirlwind romance, and is it real? Is it going to last?"
Back over in the states, Kiara and Pope shared a kiss in the season 1 finale. So what's their deal in season 2 — are they dating or what? "Pope starts out this season in a place of grieving his friend. He's hoping to figure out whatever [that kiss] was with Kiara, but everything they've been through is weighing on them," Daviss says. "Over the course of the season, we'll see them figuring out what they are to each other, they're making moves and they're trying to be there for the other person and explore what that means and see what it's like when they are together. And they get that answer this year."
Ahead of season 2, Bailey spoke at length with the showrunners about where Kiara and Pope's relationship was going this season. "We talked a lot about what that would look like, and this season is me and Pope defining our relationship," Bailey says. "I kind of had the same talk with the writers about this season really being more focused on Kiara's Pogue and Kook pull and seeing more of my family life and seeing where that divide comes from [for her]. I was excited and I look forward to seeing that through a little bit more."
She adds that while "there's just so much happening in this season, there's so much action," she was happy to see how "there's also so much more emotional scenes with the Pogues, emotional scenes with our families, and stuff like that."
"I think it really is important to show for these characters," Bailey says. "We definitely see how deep Kiara's loyalty goes this season and how dedicated he is to her friends."
As for how JJ is feeling about Kiara and Pope entering into a new kind of dynamic, Pankow says that his character starts off season 2 in a depression — but not just because he's now a third wheel. "JJ's asking himself, 'Am I going to be okay without John B?' For a moment there you question if the dynamic with the Pogues is going to last," Pankow says. "I think the whole entire reason of why the fans really related with the ups and downs of all the Pogues is how JJ feels like he only has his friends, and that continues... I don't think relationships are on his mind at the start of the season. He might actually understand why [Kiara and Pope] need each other, but I think he's a little worried he's going to be left out."
Pankow and Bailey know how passionate some Outer Banks fans are in shipping JJ and Kiara together, but they both are happy to just go along for the ride wherever the writers take their characters romantically or platonically. "I don't have an insane amount of say or preference," Bailey says with a laugh.
"It's really fun to see fans connect with characters and wanting to see dynamics between them, that's all good and fun," Pankow adds. "It's just more validation that we did a good job of bringing these characters to life."
But enough about the romance — let's talk treasure! At the start of season 2, John B is hot on the trail of Sarah's father Ward (Charles Esten) and the stolen Royal Merchant gold. "All the cards on the table," Stokes says. "Ward knows that John B knows everything, and Ward is dealing with the reality that John B, over the microphone to the entirety of the police force and the FBI, gave a testimony that Ward is responsible for the murder of his father and that Rafe [Drew Starkey] killed the sheriff. Everyone's looking at Ward in a completely different light and what does that do? John B doesn't really know."
As John B arrives in the Bahamas, he'll be faced with a pivotal choice: does he wipe the slate clean and move on with Sarah or does he continue his quest for the gold? "He's in the middle of the ocean on this boat with the love of his life and he's trying to figure out what his next move is going to be, but nonetheless he still has this looming vengeance for justice for his father's death," Stokes says. "Inevitably that's something that is going to move any human being to try to find a resolution to all the crazy circumstances that he's faced in season 1."
But as season 2 moves forward, the Pogues will find themselves embroiled in a new treasure hunt with even higher stakes than the search for the Royal Merchant gold. "It's got a much more hopeful sense this season," Pankow says. "The treasure in general is like a goal, rather than like a necessity, and when the Pogues have a goal they work better. But this is bigger than just winning and getting rich."
Daviss was thrilled about the season 2 treasure hunt arc because of what it means for Pope. "Just like how last season's mission was personal for John B, this season has a personal connection to Pope," he says. "It was everything to me. Now there's a thing linking Pope to the treasure, emotionally through his family, and he has more of a personal attachment to not just finding this thing but making sure justice is served. It makes the treasure hunt a way more personal goal for all of them, and it makes you feel for why they're looking for it and why they would go through all these extremes now."
But Cline warns that the hunt will be more dangerous than ever too. "The Pogues didn't realize how deep they were getting into all of this," she says. "They're confronted with that reality this season. It's just a group of teenagers going after this treasure that people have been searching for, for forever. They get confronted with the reality that they're not the only ones who were in on this."
And Stokes teases that season 2's treasure hunt is actually grounded a lot more in reality. "Everything that these guys go through is something that is researched and incredibly real," he says. "What the Pogues thought was one thing has now turned into a completely different thing. It's definitely going to test their will and it's going to test their abilities — they're young, but they're pretty damn witty when it comes to figuring out solutions to this stuff."
There's one moment in particular during season 2's adventure that Bailey can't wait for fans to see. "It ties in for all of our characters to understand that the show is not about the gold, it's about friendship and family," she says. "We're all brought closer together and realize that all that's ever mattered is family. That's such an important arc for Kiara because she does feel like these friends are her family."
Spoken like a true Pogue.
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