Within Netflix’s new young-superhero science-fiction show, “Raising Dion,” are interwoven stories of grief, racism, LGBT+ relationships, disability and coming-of-age through the lens of people of color.
Based on the comic book and short film by Dennis Liu, the Netflix-produced nine episode first season was released on Oct. 4 and written by several writers including: Carol Barbee, Leigh Dana Jackson, Edward Ricourt, Joshua Sternin, J.R. Ventimilia, Kimberly Ndombe, Michael Poisson and Dennis Liu.
Neema Barnette, Rachel Goldberg, Seith Mann and creator Dennis Liu all share directorial duties on the show with all but Liu directing two episodes. A director is not listed for episode two.
The show follows Dion (Ja'Siah Young) and his single-mother Nicole (Alisha Wainwright) after his father Mark (Michael B. Jordan) is killed by a freak storm, and he discovers his inherited superpowers.
As Dion and his mother struggle with many unanswered questions surrounding his father’s death, Mark’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter) becomes a role model to Dion and vows to protect the two — meanwhile fostering feelings for the now-single-mother. Nicole’s sister Kat (Jazmyn Simon), a doctor who’s dating a female colleague in the same hospital, also fills part of the void and is another parental figure in his life.
However, all is not as it seems. Working for a secretive, but highly advanced and successful weather tracking agency named BIONA led by the ambivalent Suzanne Wu (Ali Ahn), Mark and Pat witnessed a highly-spectated aurora event in Iceland. They didn’t realize it at the time but it would have a profound effect on their lives with everyone present developing superpowers.
Keeping the supernatural aspect aside, “Raising Dion” is a clear-cut coming-of-age story. Dion, while learning and training with the help of another superhuman, Charlotte (Deirdre Lovejoy) — leads a reasonably ordinary childhood.
He goes to school, participates in the science fair, goes to birthday parties and has a best friend named Esperanza (Sammi Haney), who has osteogenesis imperfecta. He even deals with the typical “bad apple” teacher, a racist who automatically singles him out for being black — something Nicole had to explain as Dion hadn’t dealt with such direct discrimination before.
In the grand scheme of things, these elements come together nicely to frame the show as a coming-of-age one, and is remarkably entertaining to watch. However, it’s supernatural aspect falls short of being original.
“Stranger Things” is a clear influence — the theme for the hit Netflix series is even Pat’s cellphone ringtone. Similarly is the typical narrative trope of the young-superhero not being being able to control their powers. Oh, and don’t forget the secretive science lab that exists in a small town — they’re always up to no good.
Regardless of this fault, the show is thoroughly entertaining and presents itself as a much more family-friendly option as compared to a more-mature “Stranger Things.” So, while it’s uplifting to see a more representational show — people of color, the LGBTQ+ and the disabled — in a world where the white-male status quo is still the primary default, the show’s unfolding plot didn’t differ itself from others and appears to be the same constantly regurgitated show that Netflix keeps releasing.