Naomi: Shadow Ridge

What are you worried about? I’m the Black girl in the woods in a horror movie set up…

The first season of Naomi has been odd to say the least. It’s a DC Comics property on the CW, but it’s not part of the Arrowverse. The titular Naomi has powers, but they are undefined and either affect everyone around her or there’s some really questionable writing. We’ve learned that she’s from a different Earth, but how that plays into anything is unclear so far. There are a lot of questions, and they keep growing, in “Shadow Ridge.”

The show opens with a flashback to seven months ago, with Naomi and Nathan on a date, talking about places they’ve lived and going to a movie in a park. In the now, Naomi has less fun in a meditation session with Dee, and it’s apparent her clash with the Bounty Hunter has really shaken her up. Naomi shares some of her recent bad dreams, and Dee continues in his role as calm, reassuring, and steady mentor. At school, there’s some kind of camping trip/leadership retreat, and, of course, our hero and a few of her closest friends are part of it. Naomi, Nathan, Anthony, and Annabelle get assigned rides to get to Shadow Ridge, so of course we’ve got the female lead, the two legs of the love triangle, and the best friend. At least the rest of the gang doesn’t magically show up for no reason.

The arrival and orientation is a bit odd. There’s no cell service (which Annabelle complained about before they left, but checks her phone anyway), and as soon as they get out of the convoy of matching jeeps, they get taken around on a tour. Really as soon as. As in, before they’ve put their bags down. Later, there’s a campfire, ghost stories, and counselors have an obviously well-rehearsed routine for scaring the kids. The ghost story is something of a local legend that Anthony already knows, causing an irked Nathan to say “No spoilers, man.” There’s also some more grade-school-like behavior as Naomi passes a note to Nathan around the ring of kids sitting by the fire.

Back in Port Oswego, the McDuffies meet with Commander Steel (I still want to know why he’s named after a DC superhero but so far seems to be a normal) and we see Jennifer is being brought in to a special project: the analysis of the rock connected to Naomi’s origin. Both the McDuffie parents are uneasy as they learn how much Steel and his men have already put together. Greg is particularly taken aback, as there are images and data that even he hasn’t seen yet. Back at camp (I guess that meeting was at night?), Naomi and Nathan sneak out of their cabins to meet up and Naomi is a bit surprised to hear Nathan isn’t as thrilled with everything as she is. His concerns get interrupted when Anthony staggers out of the woods. It doesn’t seem like he’s trying to mess with their alone time; something has happened to the kid while he was roaming around in the night. Did anyone stay where they were supposed to, and how lax are these counselors?

In the morning (or at least when there’s daylight), Naomi goes to check on Anthony in the Nurse’s Cabin (every building here seems to be Something-Or-Other Cabin). He’s having his temperature taken, which I’d think would have been one of the first things they did, but this is clearly hours later. Anthony tells a tale of attempted stargazing (well, Venus in this case), strange lights in the woods, and a bizarre reaction to being out there. Naturally, the two of them agree to look into this, continuing the general Scooby-Doo vibe of the show. That feel continues as the kids talk about a ghost hunt, Nathan expresses disappointment about a planned canoe trip, and the kids pepper the counselors with questions about strange events around the camp, leading to discussion of a naturalist who briefly worked there some months ago. Dee goes to Zumbado’s dealership, and the two clearly know, and don’t like, each other. Dee pushes Zumbado into helping him find the Bounty Hunter that came after Naomi, and makes a decent argument for the car salesman to actually care about the situation.

At night once again, the kids go out seeking the cabin the mysterious naturalist used to live in. Annabelle doesn’t help the mood by providing a running commentary on how what they’re doing is like any of several classic horror movies, which somehow none of the others have seen. Eventually, they find what they were looking for, at least as far as the physical building goes. Inside they find an utterly random surprise just before they get caught by a counselor. By way of punishment, they get put on chore duty, cleaning up the dining hall that we’ve never seen anyone actually eat in. Anthony is doing research instead of helping, which Naomi and Annabelle seem fine with and Nathan is more understandably annoyed by it. They decide to follow up on something they found the previous night, and Annabelle and Nathan split off to go on a side quest. The elder McDuffies have a hurried talk at home, worried that Steel is going to discover Naomi’s secrets and showing how desperate and committed they are to protect their daughter.

Annabelle and Nathan accomplish their gig by manipulating a lonely counselor, and work in time to talk about the Naomi/Nathan relationship drama. I wonder why Annabelle seems to be the only recurring character on the show that isn’t under Naomi’s sway, be that through some weird power of Naomi’s or weird writing. Nathan actually has some valid concerns, and it’s one of the few times anyone seems to make any kind of criticism of Naomi. Annabelle listens, and does her best to reassure him. Naomi and Anthony go over the notes they’ve found and make some odd discoveries about the camp they’re at. She also makes sure to tell him she’s starting things with Nathan, so points for her. Anthony takes this very well, makes some comments about high school and options. Dee and Zumbado make plans to go after the Bounty Hunter, and Zumbado makes some unkind comments about Thanagarians, Dee’s people. We also learn a bit more about Dee’s background.

The Scooby-Naomi gang get to watch some “found footage” ala Blair Witch (which Annabelle of course comments on) and the mystery of what’s going on in the woods deepens. Finally in a daytime scene with actual camp-type activities, the gang discusses what to do next. Most of them take the reasonable approach of calling the police when they get home (no cell service, remember), and for once Anthony is the one pushing forward on things instead of Naomi and he stalks off in an annoyed huff. Also off doing foolish things, Mama and Papa McDuffie decide their best chance is to try and break into the research lab and mess with the things that would possibly lead Steel to Naomi. To their surprise, a Lt. Ramirez is actually there, and they end up having to make up a story and distract him as they go about their sabotage.

In their cabin, Naomi wonders if she made the right decision and Annabelle is having trouble keeping up with her mood shifts. Annabelle, as usual, gets in some good lines and makes some good points about both the weirdness here and Naomi’s issues with Nathan before Naomi decides she’s off to go investigate. Dee and Zumbado track down the wounded bounty hunter, who also doesn’t hold a high opinion of Thanagarians, and manage to get some information they need.

Things get stranger as Naomi gets to the building that seems to be the center of the odd events at Shadow Ridge. She has displayed at least one new power a few times in this episode, and now shows another as she gets into the locked building. She and Anthony startle each other, both surprised to see the other there. Naomi finds a hidden door (never good in a mystery house) that leads to a secret basement (less good). They make a few interesting finds, and Anthony once again has a bad reaction to the strange substance. Naomi helps him upstairs, where they are confronted by this week’s villain, who Naomi defeats fairly easily. In the morning, the cops arrive (I guess someone had a landline somewhere), and Anthony conveniently doesn’t remember the fight since he was out of it from the substance exposure.

The series of wrap-up scenes both close the episode and introduce some new problems. The McDuffies have another meeting with Commander Steel and spin some lies to protect their daughter. I have to admit, their story sounds at least plausible. Annabelle is very happy to leave the camp while Naomi does some more reflecting on her options. Dee and Zumbado have another chat and Zumbado drops some more hints about things of concern to Dee. Steel shows he’s not easily taken in and has apparently been doing his own research. And Nathan finally gets something he’s wanted for the entire episode, ending things on a decent note at least.

What I liked: I’m intrigued by whatever past there is between Dee and Zumbado. I’ll give the McDuffies points for doing all they can for their daughter. Anthony impressed me more than in his past episodes, both for standing up for himself and the way he took the news about Nathan. Annabelle continues to be probably my favorite character on the show. I’m getting more interested in Commander Steel, odd name choice to one side. I appreciate that they didn’t find an unlikely way to shoehorn in the entire gang for this one.

What I didn’t: While they seem to be toning it down, I don’t like or understand the “Everyone Loves Naomi” thing they’ve been doing throughout the series. I have a lot of questions about how, or if, this series fits in with anything else on the CW, and what they’re trying to do with a lot of the subplots. The show has been ok, but isn’t wowing me. I think, barring a major change by then, I’ll be done with this one at the end of the season.

I’ll give this a 3 out of 5. There were some interesting developments, and some of the stranger elements of the season to date were better under control.

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