The new Netflix superhero show revolving around a second-grader learning about his superpowers "is a bit of a tonal jumble," says Robert Lloyd. "In trying to do many things at once, Raising Dion can feel wayward and messy; it suffers fits of sentimentality, not always well-controlled. And yet what’s ungainly about the series is also what makes it interesting and distinguishes it from the great mass of high-gloss superhero adventures, with their tortured heroes and tortured villains, their supersized scale and Kevlar aesthetic." He adds: "You could cut out the supernatural material and still have a decent little drama about an overwhelmed widow, her rambunctious son, her friends, her family. Much of the series is concerned with Nicole getting and keeping a job, and balancing the demands of an inflexible boss with the needs of her child. Her son has the superpowers, but Nicole is a hero too."
Raising Dion feels disjointed with the normal mother at the center of the plot: "The mundane nature of the personal dramas in Raising Dion creates further dissonances with the big stakes of its comic-book elements," says Samantha Nelson. "The CW shows boost soap opera drama to superhero levels work by making the personal plotlines as outsized as the action, as characters learn that close relatives are secret supervillains or time-travelers. Raising Dion is clearly trying to mimic Stranger Things with its intergenerational conflicts and focus on how relationships grow and change in the face of the unknown, but that show’s ensemble nature makes it easier to have a lot of smaller stories that only coalesce during the setpiece finish."
Despite these with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility teachable moments, the show still feels slight: "That’s because it very recklessly attempts to juggle three stories at once and never zeroes in on one completely," says Jason Parham. "There’s Dion’s story, which is about a young black boy learning to grapple with superhuman abilities. There’s Nicole’s story, about a grieving single mother who is trying to rebuild her life in the face of unexpected loss. And there’s the combined story of Nicole and Dion, about a mother and son learning to make a life in a world that doesn’t know what to do with young black boys or black women despite them doing their very best to succeed."