Outer Banks season 4 is coming to Netflix later this year (most likely!), and it’s a big season for the Netflix original series for so many reasons. After Outer Banks season 3 ended with a time jump and cliffhanger with a new mystery to solve in season 4, the stakes might not be as high as they’ve ever been, but the bar for keeping the series running past season 4 is at an all-time high.
Netflix has been producing original content for more than a decade, and in that span, only a handful of scripted shows have run for more than four seasons. Stranger Things just passed the season 4 mark in the summer of 2022. Before that, we’d seen popular shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, BoJack Horseman, Grace and Frankie, Narcos, The Crown, Elite, and a few others last longer than four season, but that’s basically the full list.
The list of Netflix shows that ended before or immediately after the fourth season is so much longer. Popular and beloved shows, including Santa Clarita Diet, The Umbrella Academy, Ozark, Vikings: Valhalla, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, 13 Reasons Why, The Ranch, Shadow and Bone, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and many others, never made (or won’t make it) past the four-season mark. For some of those shows, the show had run its course. Reports vary, but there have been roughly 3,500 Netflix original releases, including shows, movies, documentaries, and comedy specials. It’s hard to calculate exactly how many of those are scripted shows that planned for future seasons, but it’s definitely in the hundreds of releases that ended rather abruptly with a cancellation or a heads-up that the final season was happening.
While Netflix has a bit of an unfair reputation for canceling shows, there’s no debate about Netflix’s overall strategy. The streaming network renews its most popular shows and keeps them running, but the other shows have a much shorter lifespan. To say this is a problem is, again, maybe a bit unfair to Netflix. The streamer produces more shows than any other, but what’s the point if only a handful live for an additional two to three years? And, how does this relate to Outer Banks season 4?
Unless Outer Banks has already scored the rare two-season renewal at Netflix, it can’t be overstated how big of a season this is for the Pogues. Way back in the beginning of the series, the creators revealed they had a four or five-season plan for Outer Banks. Then, after season 3, they [WHO?] claimed they’d like to keep the series going as long as they can.
That’s a dream come true to Outer Banks fans. Ten seasons of John B and the Pogues getting into trouble and finding treasure? Count me in! But, the next step is obviously securing that season 5 renewal. How can the show hedge its bets to make sure Outer Banks season 5 is fully a go by the end of 2024?
What Outer Banks needs to do for a season 5 renewal
There are four steps necessary for Outer Banks to score a season 5 renewal at Netflix. They don’t necessarily need all four, but in a perfect world, the show checks all four boxes heading into season 5.
1. A reset of the story
So, the first step, to me, was actually accomplished in the season 3 finale, and that’s a hard reset for the series. Instead of just ending the story immediately after the Pogues found El Dorado and returned to the Outer Banks, we got a brilliant time jump that can be backfilled with story drama, a reset of sorts back to square one, and a new treasure to find with the mysterious benefactor and Blackbeard’s treasure.
That’s just what the doctor in Nassau who saved Sarah’s life ordered to kick things off the right way. The story from the first three seasons revolving around the Royal Merchant is over, for the most part, and this is a great way to spin the Pogues off on a new adventure. Remember, these Pogues are going in for the kill, and they’re doing it for the thrill. They’ll stop at nothing to achieve their goals while causing tons of drama along the way. We have three seasons of evidence of this.
2. A dynamite new treasure hunt
For the second step, Outer Banks season 4 needs a killer story, mystery, and treasure hunt. Yes, we all tune in because we love the ships, the drama, and the vibes, but it’s the treasure that’s so critical to this story. It gives the Pogues purpose. In the first, second, and third seasons, the treasure became personal. It started with John B. connecting with his long-lost father and honoring his memory. Then, it looped in Sarah and her father. They couldn’t let Ward win, after what Ward and Rafe had done. Then, it became about Pope and his family history. The treasure was his, by right. The third season brought it all together with the return of Big John, Ward’s redemption arc, and the bigger quest into the South American jungle.
We need that same energy in season 4. Because there’s a reset of sorts happening, the mystery and treasure hunt has to be on the level of the first three seasons. It needs to hook viewers. It can’t feel like we’re just hanging out with the Pogues. Outer Banks does twists and turns as good as any show on TV right now, and that needs to continue in the fourth season if Netflix is going to renew the show for season 5.
3. Season 5 set-up in the season 4 finale
In the third part of this, and it’s probably the second most important part of the checklist, the creative team needs to set up the fifth season at the end of season 4. Outer Banks has done this for three seasons in a row, and it’s the perfect way to end each season. Basically, by the end of the season, the treasure has been found, but there’s a wrench thrown into the gears. There’s some adversity that the Pogues must overcome together, and that spins the series into a new story and season.
In the first season, we saw the Pogues find the treasure, lose it to Ward, John B. accused of murder, and John B. and Sarah venturing into a tropical storm to avoid authorities. Then, at the very last second, we see them saved and on a boat headed to the exact place where the gold was just taken. It’s a perfect ending.
In season 2, the Pogues find the Cross of Santo Domingo, lose it, and then Sarah is kidnapped by her family and ends up on the boat where the cross is being transported. They don’t win the cross back, but they escape with their lives and end up on a deserted island. Again, it’s another great ending that makes viewers ask, “What happens next?” And, that’s the hook for the next season.
In the third season, the Pogues find El Dorado, lose two fathers, and return to the Outer Banks to a time jump where they’re being honored by the community for all the things they have found related to the Royal Merchant. It looks like that’s where the season is going to end when a mysterious man asks the Pogues if they’re interested in helping him find Blackbeard’s treasure. And just like that, we’re asking questions about who Blackbeard is, where his treasure could be, and what’s going to happen next.
It was, again, the perfect ending to the season. Luckily, we already knew Outer Banks season 4 was happening by the time we’d seen the ending, thanks to the announcement at Poguelandia. But, it was a perfect way to wrap up this part of the story and spin it in a new direction.
4. High viewership metrics
This is the only part of this that’s out of the creative team’s control. We need Outer Banks fans, the hundreds of thousands of us, to tune in for season 4 as soon as it’s released. We need to watch every episode of the season in a relatively short amount of time. Those are the huge signals to Netflix that fans are interested and want to watch more. Netflix pays close attention to those numbers, and they definitely factor into the renewal decision. It’s, perhaps, just as important as the other three factors discussed, combined.
If the creators, cast, and crew want to make more seasons AND the fans can’t get enough, the next season is a done deal.
If Outer Banks season 4 stumbles with viewership or they don’t find a way to keep this story interesting and fresh as they did in the first three seasons, we should be worried about Netflix ending the series after season 4.
We have a while to wait until Outer Banks season 4, unfortunately, but the good news is that production restarted in November 2023. Hopefully, we’ll see the new season by the fall of 2024.
Stay tuned for more news about Outer Banks season 4!