01st Nov2019

‘Raising Dion’ Review (Netflix Original)

by Rhys Payne

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Raising Dion is a Netflix original series that follows the life of a boy called Dion as he discovered his special powers and abilities. While this can seem an overused storyline and oftentimes childish, this series tells the story in a way to make it a serious show which deals with important issues, give representation to those who are often voiceless and, towards the end, creates extremely tense and dark scenes which make sure even the most mature audience are engaged with. I can honestly describe this as a series that engaged me throughout. Also, the dramatic twist at the end of the series is one of the most unexpected and well-executed climaxes that I have ever seen. The first thing about this show I noticed was the fact that name choice of the titular character ‘Dion’ is incredible as it fits with both the child’s background but also is peculiar enough to suggest a magical and almost mythical nature.

Raising Dion is based in the present-day, in a world we all live in despite it being about superpowers it is believable and realistic. Justification of how magic abilities entire the world is always a very important explanation for me and this show dealt with this excellently. The creative team decided to use the idea of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) – which is a real-life phenomenon but also has a sense of fantasy about it – as the origin for superpowers, which I think is a fantastic choice as it encompasses the whole story perfectly. On top of this, the villain of the story is based on storms, which are a concept everyone is familiar with but at the same time unfamiliar to everyone. Similarly, there is a scene in which Dion learns to control his powers through a game of basketball. If someone woke up with magic powers they would use everyday items to learn to master them before speaking to a specialist or whatever. All these inclusions help make the story relatable and believable to the audience which makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

The titular character, Dion, is played by Ja’Siah Young who shows tremendous talent at such a young age. He definitely has a great talent for acting and is destined for fantastic things in the future. Acting as a superhero must be incredibly difficult as you have to pretend that things are moving etc., when in real life they are not. Ja’Siah didn’t flinch at this concept that many people would struggle with, which already shows a high level of talent and professionalism. He managed to pull off the more comical scenes perfectly, as they provided a welcomed relief from the more serious part of the series, but also the more intense scenes that they incredible emotional and raw. He managed to blend aspects of the character to create a well-rounded and relatable character which goes to showcase his incredible talent.

Another key character in Raising Dion was Pat, played by Jason Ritter, who within the story is Dion’s godfather and a good friend of the family. At first, I found this character incredibly annoying as he constantly makes bad decisions but in a non-obvious way. Towards the end of the series, I realised that this feeling was intentional and designed this way to give the dramatic twist a bigger impact. Jason Ritter gave a perfect performance in this role and played with the audience’s thoughts and feeling perfect;y, which is the main purpose of the character.

Dion’s mother in this series is played by Alisha Wainwright, who again did what she needed to do. Nicole Warren is a single parent who not only has to raise a child as a single parent but also has to adapt to raising a child with super-human abilities. From a directorial perspective, this character was shown to be rushed off her feet with being super busy e.g. cleaning , washing etc., especially in the opening episode; but also deals with issues of having to return to work and friendships etc. This was an incredibly honest representation of single parents with young children and so was great to see on mainstream television. A part of the story was that Nicole still dreams of dancing once again and the dance scenes were fantastic to watch and artfully performed.
Surprisingly this show is great for the representation of people who often are not shown on a major televised series. As discussed previously, it’s not only single parents that benefit from honest representation but also many other types of people.

Within the narrative, there was a reference to racism in schools and empowerment for those who experience bullying within the school. It is very important to represent the young demography and the issues they face in schools as they are often ignored and, debatably, are the people who need someone to aspire to give they guidance on how to deal with such issues. This inclusion was fantastic to see and made this show even more unique and innovative. The show also has a character in a wheelchair, played by Sammi Haney, who is one of Dion’s close friends. She is a major part of the story and helps Dion to deal with his newfound talents and how to deal with bullies in school. This is very empowering for anyone who is also in a similar situation of this character. Finally, there was also a lesbian couple who just live like everyone else. There is no big coming out story and drama associated with LGBT issues instead it is just accepted fact that they were in a gay relationship which again goes to normalise LGBT relationships and people by presenting them as normal people. Raising Dion represents and empowers so many types of people which makes this show even more incredible to watch.

There was a scene in the first episode that I did, however, find too over-the-top, so much so that it becomes almost comical. When Dion first discovers his powers he skateboarding and he floats in the air for a ridiculous amount of time which was the only thing that distances this series from the real-world. Also towards the end, the children had been working on a weapon to battle storms in school; but when a big final ‘boss battle’-style fight happens I wanted this weapon to help defeat the storm giant but this was not the case. To me, this would have been a perfect way to end the storm that would have fitted with everything that happened previously.

Overall, Raising Dion is an incredible series that use astonishing special effects to create an awesome viewing experience. It is modern, relatable and does the most for the representation of people that I have ever experience. The drama is engaging and at the time incredibly dark/mysterious with the climax of the story being one of the most impactful twists in television history. I would recommend that everyone go check this out this amazing series, I enjoyed it and I believe there will be another season in the future which I am very excited about.

Raising Dion is available on Netflix now.

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