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Percy Jackson and The Olympians: a charming adaptation with an Achilles heel

'Though sometimes the sets are not as vibrant as one would expect, the striking monster designs, majestic score, and epic animated title sequence reveal the passion that has gone into this show’s creation.'

Courtesy of IMDb

By Honey Ryder, Second Year, English

Percy Jackson and The Olympians is the new Disney+ series based on Rick Riordan’s hit book series. It follows twelve-year-old Percy (Walker Scobell), whose discovery that his father is a Greek God thrusts him into a world of gods, monsters, and heroes, which only he has the power to save.

Pulling off a book-to-screen adaptation is no mean feat. The backlash of book fans is inevitable whenever an adaptation takes creative liberties with the source material, and the first season of Percy Jackson and The Olympians was no different.

Despite the book’s beloved author helping to write and produce the series, fans had gripes with the diversions from the book, which sometimes seemed futile and unproductive. However, Percy Jackson and The Olympians is too emotionally charged and action-packed for viewers to get bogged down by details.

Courtesy of IMDb

Scobell is the perfect Percy, holding the scenes together as the most experienced actor of the trio (his other projects include The Adam Project (2022) and Secret Headquarters (2022)). He captures Percy’s wit and shines as the show’s emotional centre. Aryan Simhadri, as Grover, brings sensitivity to a character flattened by the 2010 film adaption.

Jeffries is a wonderful Annabeth, letting her eyes convey what her character is too proud to say. Though interactions between the leads can be stilted, it is exciting to watch promising young talent.

With a strong supporting cast, including Lin Manuel Miranda as Hermes and Jason Mantzoukas as Dionysus, Season One seems to scratch the surface of what this cast could achieve.

The show blends reality with unreality and modernity with ancient history. Viewers can never get too comfortable as we journey from the rural Camp Half-Blood to an abandoned theme park, a flashy casino to the desolate Underworld. Though sometimes the sets are not as vibrant as one would expect, the striking monster designs, majestic score, and epic animated title sequence reveal the passion that has gone into this show’s creation.

Courtesy of IMDb

Substance certainly accompanies the style. In episode three, the trio stumbles upon Medusa’s (Jessica Parker Kennedy) stone sculpture shop, which underscores the show’s central themes. Sally Jackson’s (Virginia Kull) warning, ‘Not everyone who looks like a monster is a monster,’ lingers in viewers’ minds when hearing about how Athena cursed Medusa with the ability to turn people to stone with a look.

Annabeth’s defensiveness on her godly mother’s behalf reveals the demigods’ core dilemma: to stray from their volatile parents or continue seeking their approval. As Medusa puts it, ‘We are not our parents, until we choose to be’. These complicated filial relationships will drive the season, with flashbacks to Percy’s childhood revealing the story’s heart: his love for his mother.

Courtesy of IMDb

The show does have pacing issues. The 33–44-minute episodes are too brief, not just for impatient viewers waiting for Wednesday releases, but for the story the writers aim to tell. The show sacrifices interactions between dynamic characters for action scenes, causing it to lose some of the humour and warmth the series is renowned for. Tense moments can feel anti-climactic when they are so fleeting, with the characters solving mysteries too easily. Short episodes also mean that viewers are bombarded with exposition to catch us up on mythological lore. We are spoon-fed details to remember and catapulted towards the end of the episode without any sense of the stakes.

Nevertheless, Percy Jackson and The Olympians is a worthwhile watch, balancing tenderness, and action in a way that the best fantasy stories do. Though it does has tonal and pacing issues, and its inaccuracy as a book adaptation might alienate some viewers, audiences are bound to get sucked into the captivating world Rick Riordan has created.

Do you think the series does the books justice?