Netflix’s Raising Dion is about 8 year old Dion Warren (Ja’Siah Young) and his mom, Nicole Reese-Warren (Alisha Wainwright), accidental superheroes who must rise to the occasion, and the superheroes who surround them. Some of them have superpowers and some of them are normal humans who are compelled to protect the people they love when danger strikes. Some succeed and some fail. Some turn evil. At the heart of the story are parents and children who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the people they love safe.
That sounds cheesy, but Raising Dion takes the classic superhero origin story to a new level. Dion inherits his powers from his father, Mark Warren (Michael B Jordan), but they don’t manifest until after his firefighter father has died in an accident. Season 1 shows how the supernatural event which gives Mark his powers sends ripples throughout the group of people he was with at the time, his family and their community for years to come.
While he was alive, Mark felt isolated because of his powers. Raising Dion becomes the story of how Dion’s mother protects her son from the same fate, no matter what it takes. The show works because Nicole has the heart of a superhero.
Since Mark kept his powers a secret from nearly everyone, this leaves Dion and Nicole to sort out his training on their own, once they figure out what’s happening to him. They find mentors and handlers to help Dion learn control and at the same time, investigate Mark’s secret life and death, while avoiding various entities who are interested in Dion’s powers for their own reasons.
They look to comic books for guidance while navigating their newly complicated lives and tying to determine who is a friend, who is an enemy and who can be trusted with the truth. The literal and figurative ground beneath them is continuouslly shifting as the elements are exploited by superpowered beings and characters change sides at a moments’ notice.
Since Nicole has recently been widowed, she and Dion have moved into a new neighborhood and Nicole finds a new job. Dion is a typical little boy at the beginning of the season, worried about spilling his cereal, playing with the latest toys and making new friends at school. His powers begin to show up when his anxieties get the better of him, such as when he spills things or he wants to show off for kids he’s trying to impress.
Both Dion and Nicole are still struggling to cope with Mark’s death. He died in the line of duty, but he was on a mysterious out of town mission, so they still have unanswered questions. When Nicole finds a few clues among Mark’s things, she can’t help but pursue them, hoping to find some closure.
Nicole and Dion have remained friends with Mark’s best friend and coworker at BIONA, Pat Rollins (Jason Ritter), who shares Dion’s love of comic books and tries to help Nicole with Dion as much as possible. Nicole also turns to her physician sister, Kat Reese (Jazmyn Simon), for support, but first she has to convince Kat she’s not crazy.
Dion eventually connects with a couple of kids at school: Esperanza Jimenez (Sammi Haney), who has a brittle bone disease and is incredibly patient with Dion, and Jonathan King (Gavin Munn), the leader of the boys Dion wants to impress who bully him instead. Mark and Pat’s boss at BIONA, a scientist named Suzanne Wu (Ali Ahn), takes an interest in helping them, while also hoping to glean new scientific knowledge from Dion. Deirdre Lovejoy plays Charlotte Tuck, a woman who was rescued by Mark and then helps Nicole solve some of the mysteries surrounding him.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for supporting characters. To say that makes it sound like there might be too many characters to keep track of, but there aren’t. As befits a comic book show, Raising Dion has a deep bench of memorable characters who are all vividly written and acted, right down to the little kids and the office workers. The entire cast is fantastic and features some real breakout performances.
It practically goes without saying that Ja’Siah Young, Alisha Wainwright, Michael B Jordan and Jason Ritter are amazing. In season 2 I want more of every combination of all of them. Sammi Haney has to be the little scene stealer of the season. Ali Ahn made Suzanne Wu professional, but potentially many things- a villain, a friend, a superhero, who knows. Griffin Robert Faulkner as young Braydon Mills is definitely someone to watch in season 2.
Did I mention Raising Dion has been renewed for season 2? 😂💖💃🥂
The story is original, exciting, heartwarming, funny and takes some surprising twists and turns. I loved this season so much that I watched it over the course of two days. I’d expected just another superhero series and found a real gem.
The special effects are well done and go beyond run of the mill comic book ideas. Raising Dion uses its superpowers and comic book notions to say something in particular and it gets those ideas across with wit, heart and soul.
I just really loved it, okay? There, I said it. I’m a sucker for parenthood as a superpower. It’s unusual enough to find a family show that’s warm and funny but isn’t sappy and bland. For that to be a genre show which highlights a single mother as a superhero because she’s a single mother, it just makes me verklempt.
On top of that, Raising Dion has a diverse cast and a female showrunner, Carol Barbee. Michael B Jordan is one of the producers. Most of the episodes had at least one female writer credited. Out of 9 episodes, 4 were directed by women. Rachel Goldberg and Neema Barnette directed 2 each. The entire season also had a female production designer, Kalina Ivanov.
I could say a lot more about the show, but I don’t want to spoil anything more. Just go watch it. You’ll be glad you did. Season 2 can’t come fast enough for me.
Grade for the season: A+