‘Outer Banks’: The Real Reason Big John Died

Outer Banks tells the story of John Booker Routeledge (Chase Stokes) — better known as John B — a young man on the hunt for his missing father. When he discovers his father is dead, John B gets mixed up in figuring out who killed his father. Find out why Big John (Charles Halford) was killed in season 1 of Outer Banks.

[Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched season 1 of Outer Banks entirely, spoilers ahead.]

Why Ward Cameron killed Big John 'Outer Banks'
Big John | Netflix

At first, John B thinks his dad is still out there 

Part of the allure of Outer Banks is the mystery. When we first meet John B, he thinks his father is missing. Having gone after the $400 million in gold that sunk with the Royal Merchant, John B assumes his father is lost at sea. Being the hopeful guy that he is, John B still believes his father is alive.

Big John didn’t go missing — he was killed

In searching for the treasure from the Royal Merchant, John B discovers that his father is dead. A flashback scene in episode 8 shows Scooter Grubbs (David Ury) finding Big John’s body on one of the Outer Banks islands. Of his mummified remains, the only object Scooter retrieved was John B’s compass, which has “Redfield” carved into it.

John B’s compass is cursed

Throughout the Netflix series, viewers learn that Big John’s compass comes with a bout of bad luck. So far, everyone in the Routledge family who has owned the compass has died a horrific death. John B’s great-great-grandfather was the first owner and was shot soon after he purchased it. Then it was passed to John B’s great-grandfather, who died in a crop dusting accident. John B’s grandfather was next. He carried it in Vietnam and was killed. Big John had the compass when he went missing. He ultimately ended up dead at the hands of Ward Cameron (Charles Esten) with the cursed compass in his possession.

Why Ward Cameron killed Big John 

Throughout season 1, Ward Cameron’s greed becomes apparent. As a person who holds power and respect in his community, it wasn’t shocking when viewers found out he covered up Big John’s murder. In another flashback scene, we learn Big John recruited the help of Ward Cameron in finding the Royal Merchant ship. After discussing how the gold would be split between the two, Big John thinks 20% is a fair cut for Ward. After all, he did a majority of the work. 


‘Outer Banks’: The Truth About the Royal Merchant Ship

Ward takes issue with this. He believes he earned at least half of the share for his involvement in the treasure hunt. As it did often in Outer Banks Season 1, Ward’s temper got the best of him. After Ward shoved Big John in a fit of rage, Big John hit his head and died almost instantly. With no witnesses around, Ward dumped Big John body into the ocean and he is deemed “lost at sea.” 

Big John’s death was symbolic

Another overall theme in Outer Banks is the class war between the rich and poor. The Kooks, or wealthy members of society, are at odds with the Pogues, or poor residents. As a member of the blue-collar working class, Big John’s death being covered up by the affluent Ward Cameron drives home the divide between Kooks and Pogues. 

Will Big John’s death be avenged in season 2? Fans will have to wait to find out.