Tuesday, January 11, 2022

REVIEW: 'Naomi' - Naomi Struggles Making Sense of Her Place in the World Following a Mysterious Event in 'Pilot'

The CW's Naomi - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Naomi is living her best life when a "stunt" in the middle of her hometown turns her world upside down. While Naomi's parents are concerned with her strange new fainting spells, the teen's closest friends help her uncover who or what is behind the unexpected event that has the town buzzing. A bit of sleuthing leads them to the owners of two local businesses. Soon Naomi realizes that the mysterious event is just the beginning of a journey that will change her life and challenge her to question everything she knew to be true.

"Pilot" was written by Ava DuVernay & Jill Blankenship and directed by Amanda Marsalis

Naomi offers a quintessential coming-of-age story. Naomi is trying to make sense of the world around her and her place within it. She is a teenager who excels in school. She has a thriving personal life with countless friends she can depend upon no matter what. She has numerous romantic interests she can pursue if she chooses to with no concern for gender or sexuality conformity. She has supportive parents who are curious about her choices but also proud of everything she is capable of doing. And yet, something strange is starting to happen to Naomi. It starts as a mystery that presents externally. An event happens in the middle of town that suggests the existence of a real Superman. Up to this point, the character has solely existed as a piece of comic book fiction. Naomi is obsessed with the character. She runs a fan website that shares her appreciation with the rest of the world. In fact, the site does very well for her. She is proud of it and so is her community. As such, it's understandable when the extraordinary happens that she would be contacted about it. It presents the world in a new light. One where she is personally invested. It happened right in her backyard. She can become part of the story. She can join the investigation and provide valuable insights to the world looking for answers to these questions. Of course, nothing is as simple as it presents. The original assumption is that it is some elaborate stunt. No one comes forward to take credit for it or explain why they did it. It almost seems primed to grab Naomi's attention. That's the power Superman has in her world. She views their connection as being deep because they are both adopted. That story had resonance for her. It allowed her to forge her strong path despite the tragic deaths of her birth parents. She is lucky to have Greg and Jennifer in her life. She appreciates them. And yet, she is now a part of a mystery that needs to be solved. Some people have parts of the answers and are choosing to keep them from her. Dee believes he cannot speak the truth. It's not time to fully reveal what happened to Naomi just yet. Meanwhile, Zumbado seeks to intimidate her. She was weary of him long before he too entered the extraordinary corner of her world. She viewed him as a businessman actively trying to scam service members. It's tragic that some people are willing to sacrifice everything for a greater purpose while he is just trying to support himself at the expense of others. That's the mentality Naomi has off the bat towards him. It actually runs much deeper than that. Naomi's instincts might be right. He only confirms that they are special. They are unlike everyone else in this world. That is vague. It's appreciated how the show reflects the typical teenage coming-of-age story while exploring a person discovering they have superhuman abilities. It's a unique approach to the superhero genre. Naomi instinctively understands the beats. It's invading her life now. It's a mystery that consumes her world. Some of it remains external by the conclusion of this premiere. Another event happened on the day she was adopted. Zumbado has a newspaper clipping in his office about it. Dee is willing to answer some questions but only if Naomi asks the right ones. She comes to the realization that she truly doesn't know anything about herself. That too is quite an existential crisis. Everyone would love to associate her recent fainting spells to anxiety and panic attacks. That's not how she felt in the moments before losing consciousness. Something more is going on. The show teasing that but never revealing the truth to the audience could be incredibly frustrating. It is to a certain extent too. However, the show earns some time as it develops an ensemble around Naomi. She remains the focus. Kaci Walfall is a fantastic discovery in the lead role. Isn't it great that an actual teenager was cast to play a teenager on TV? As Naomi, she is curious about the world while standing firm in what she has accepted as real. That is being questioned. People in her life are willing to go along for the ride. It also has the glint of the adults not trusting what she can handle in order to protect her. That too can be condescending depending on how long it lasts. Naomi can accept a lot. But she is terrified by the unknown. That remains her headspace even when the fantastical continues to happen around her and she may be responsible for some of it.