“My sweet boy, why are you the one who has to save the world?”
Another Netflix original that blasts itself onto the scene out of the blue, Raising Dion, the Michael B. Jordan-led tale of a single mother discovering her son’s superpowers is now available to stream/binge, and in its first episode, “How Do You Raise a Superhero?”, it brings us into the world of Dion and his mother, Nicole (Alisha Wainwright, Shadowhunters).
It begins with a voice-over and brief flashes of what’s to come. Through the emotional words and confusing snippets action, what’s next should come as no surprise. After all, every superhero has an origin story. For Dion Warren, it begins (surprisingly early) with a bowl of Fruit Loops. Within the first five minutes, Dion’s telekinetic (TK) abilities are on display. It’s a hectic showing, one that mirrors the life he and his mother have.
After the death of her husband Mark (Michael B. Jordan, Creed, Black Panther), Nicole’s struggling to keep her and her son afloat. It’s not easy for Dion either, considering he’s not been able to make friends at his new school, save for Esperanza (newcomer Sammi Haney) and his lingering questions about his father’s death. Even Pat (Jason Ritter, Parenthood), Mark’s oldest friend and Dion’s godfather, can’t really provide the answers or stability to the boy’s life.
After a near breakdown after experiencing Dion’s TK powers first-hand, Nicole finally relents, telling her son of Mark’s death saving someone else. This sparks a trip to the family cabin where Dion’s powers grow—no longer is he able to just create a hurricane of toys or even hoist a school of fish into the air—he’s uprooting trees and, in one of the bigger surprises, calling what seems like ghosts into reality; one of whom is none other than his father, Mark. Though he eventually fades before Dion can see him, Mark warns Nicole that she has to take Dion and go as bad things are coming. Whether this is a warning from the beyond or something more attune with the preternatural, remains to be seen.
From a plot standpoint, “How Do You Raise a Superhero?” is straightforward, not wasting time or creating a forced tension of waiting for Dion’s powers in action. This really helps give the episode a somewhat chaotic feel instead of a slow burn reveal; though the latter can be a powerful tool, it would not have worked here. Which brings me to some of the shakier aspects of the premiere. One of the more uncertain things with child actors is their consistency. There are very few Abigail Breslin’s or Hailey Joel Osment’s, child actors that blasted the ball out of the park with the consistency of a Hall of Famer. Ja’Siah Young is wholly inexperienced (only two credits to his name prior to this series) and sometimes that shows in certain aspects of his delivery. And yet, there’s an earnestness and heart to his acting that makes up for his somewhat uneven performance. Adding to that is the speed at which some of the supporting characters are introduced, a good soundtrack that doesn’t always coalesce with the on-screen action and this first episode falls into that all-too familiar rut so many series premieres of genre shows do. Thankfully, there’s enough intrigue on what’s to come, not to mention Alisha Wainwright’s outstanding performance that even though it doesn’t stick the landing, the bumps and bruises of “How Do You Raise a Superhero?” are well-earned and demand that you stay for a little while longer.
Raising Dion – “How Do You Raise a Superhero?”