Review: Naomi sets a high bar for 2022 superhero television

Naomi -- “Pilot” -- Image Number: NMI101a_0218r -- Pictured: Kaci Walfall as Naomi -- Photo: Fernando Decillis/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Naomi -- “Pilot” -- Image Number: NMI101a_0218r -- Pictured: Kaci Walfall as Naomi -- Photo: Fernando Decillis/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

The CW’s newest superhero drama Naomi is a compelling new addition to the genre’s ever-growing landscape.

The CW is renowned for its superhero TV dramas. From Smallville to the Arrowverse, the network is credited for reinvigorating comic book adventures on the small screen, and it has been doing so for many years.

The newest addition to its line-up is Naomi. Once again based on a DC Comics character, albeit a much lesser-known one than the likes of The FlashSupergirl or Black Lightning, the drama is developed by filmmaker Ava DuVernay and it comes with a real opportunity to introduce its rich title character to a much wider audience.

Like the comics, the series follows Naomi McDuffie (Kaci Walfall), a quirky and bright high school student who finds herself caught up in some inexplicable events that she recognizes only from the comic books she has read her whole life. And from there, her world – and hometown of Port Oswego – is turned upside down, beginning what she can only describe as her own origin story.

Naomi stands out in an overcrowded genre

Superhero saturation has been a major topic of discussion for sometime now, and it will certainly continue to be for years to come. The truth is that superheroes aren’t going anywhere, but that does make it increasingly difficult for every new arrival to carve out its own identity.

Is that a challenge for Naomi? On paper, yes, especially when you’re premiering on a network associated with the biggest superhero franchise on network television. However, it’s a challenge that it’s not only up to, but one that it excels at overcoming.

Naomi is very much telling its own story – one in which Naomi herself is a major Superman fan, running a fansite about the Man of Steel. That automatically imbues a sense of humanity in the show, because like the comic book fans that will no doubt be tuning in, Naomi loves superheroes.

That humanity guides much of the pilot episode, with the character’s highs and lows all feeling inherently real, helped by the fact that it does such a great job of establishing her relationships with both her fellow high school students and her parents. In just one episode, the premiere builds an interesting group of personalities, and even though not all of them shine right away, there is a real foundation for them to do so in the future.

That grounded nature also lends itself to the show’s inevitable superheroic qualities, using Naomi’s love of Superman to make it feel that much more believable when that Superman-level event raises eyebrows and questions in Port Oswego. The reason it all comes together so well, though, is Kaci Walfall’s central performance. She’s nothing short of spectacular in the leading role and she makes it so easy to be compelled by the central mystery and Naomi’s all-important role in it.

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Naomi — “Pilot” — Image Number: NMI101d_0525r — Pictured: Kaci Walfall as Naomi — Photo: Fernando Decillis/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

What we have here is a character so well-established – and so well-portrayed – in just one episode that it makes its slow-build of a story that much more intriguing. It’s not easy to pull that off, especially when you’re on a network that loves recycling the adventure-of-the-week format in its superhero shows, but Naomi has, so far, made it work incredibly well.

Is the pilot episode perfect? No. There are some issues, with expositional and unnecessary dialogue rearing its head on occasion, but it’s far and few between and never takes away from what’s happening around it.

The story is compelling, the characters are delightful and the heart is very much on its sleeve. It’s grounded and ambitious at the same time, the tone is light and enjoyable but it knows when it needs to be serious, and perhaps, most important of all: It’s full of potential.

Naomi will no doubt succeed in its attempt to introduce one of DC’s best new characters to a much wider audience. But it could also add a unique new chapter to the legacy of both that character and superhero television as a whole, and all of that makes it an incredibly exciting addition to television – one that has set the bar incredibly high for everything that will come after it this year.

Naomi premieres on The CW on Tuesday, January 11, at 9/8c.

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Are you looking forward to Naomi? What are you expecting from the series? Let us know in the comments below!