“Every superhero has an origin story. And this is mine,” the teenage title character explains at the outset of “Naomi,” the CW’s latest DC Comics-inspired series. But that origin story moves in slow motion, feeling like a conventional high-school drama with just a pinch of superheroics provided to pull the audience along.
On the plus side, the aforementioned Naomi, as played by Kaci Walfall, is a likable character, and her coming-of-age challenge mirrors that of other heroes in training informed that they are “not like everyone else,” a rich tradition if there ever was one.
Still, the idea of teasing out revelations about who she is and her destiny at such an arduous pace proves problematic, at least for those who aren’t drawn in by more down-to-Earth concerns about which of the many classmates interesting in her she might wind up dating.
Developed by Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”) with director Ava DuVernay, “Naomi” ties peripherally into Superman, which makes its scheduling alongside “Superman & Lois” (one of the more pleasant surprises among CW’s recent lineup additions) perfectly logical. Before things start getting weird, Naomi runs a fan site devoted to what everyone thinks is the fictional character of Superman, before a strange incident both shakes that assumption and awakens Naomi to the fact that there might be more to the story of her own adoption than she knows.
Naomi also meets two mysterious adults, Dee (Alexander Wraith) and Zumbado (Cranston Johnson), who harbor knowledge about what’s really happening and her broader place in this world. But through the first two episodes, they’re content to spoon out details and speak mostly in riddles, while making references to other quadrants of the DC universe that feel like small compensation in exchange for sitting through them.
Essentially, “Naomi” joins the list of teen-with-a-destiny dramas — “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comes to mind, a relic of the CW’s origins — in which the audience either buys into the soapy aspects or zaps through the at-school diversions to get to the good parts. For those who lean toward the latter, first impressions suggest the series could be a long slog.
Building “Naomi” around a Black teenager does strike a welcome blow for inclusion. But the show needs to pick up the pace, and strike more blows of the superhero variety, if it wants to hang around long enough to see her get much older.
“Naomi” premieres Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. ET on the CW. DC and Warner Bros. are divisions of WarnerMedia, as is CNN.
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