When Nicole Reese discovers that her elementary school-age son Dion has superpowers, she works to understand how this is related to the drowning death of her husband and struggles to be a parent to a powerful child.
While so many superhero films are aiming for older audiences, to the detriment of family viewing, Netflix’s Raising Dion takes a more family-friendly approach while exploring complexities that will keep adults hooked. Through the first three episodes, the series provides opportunities to see what it’s like to wrestle with powers you don’t understand (or have complete control over) from both the parent’s and the child’s perspective.
Dennis Liu’s origin story for little Dion plays out in an episodic form that propels the audience from one episode to the next. The series could very well be a feature-length film, slickly incorporating its creative, minimalistic view of special effects while also providing incredibly deep development of its characters. Alisha Wainwright is easy to connect to as Dion’s mother, a single parent raising her child in the midst of various struggles, before he even manifests powers. Little Ja’Siah Young brings humor, power, and wonder to his role as the burgeoning hero-to-be.
For all of the stories that have tried to show us what it would be like to grow into a set of super powers, few have started as early as Raising Dion. As a new kid at a new school, Dion already has the deck stacked against him, before he and his mother experience racial discrimination. Mix in the fact that the new kid can also move things with his mind, and the dynamics about race, power, and relationships are suddenly even more complicated.
But like other superhero stories, tracing their origins in Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, we can see that Dion isn’t alone (and neither is his mother) because Jason Ritter plays Dion’s father’s best friend—and Dion’s mentor/sensei/advisor in all things super. He’s there for comic relief, encouragement, and some heroism of his own, providing Liu an opportunity to sprinkle in Star Wars, comic books, and more. [For children of the ‘80s and 90s who dig this stuff but don’t want the strangeness of Stranger Things, Liu is the answer—he even mixes in Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise!]
From the theological perspective, without giving away more plot points, I found myself wondering if this wasn’t a bit what it was like to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. Your son has power, you know him, but do you really know him? And how do you parent him when you wrestle with a decision and don’t see it the same way? For Dion and his mother, there’s truth to be discovered, love to be shared, and power to be understood. In a way, the only path to the future is forward.
The Dove Take:
Raising Dion provides a powerful drama about being a parent—and understanding your own powers and responsibilities as a child. Due to some language and intense situations, it’s Dove-approved for Ages 12+.