The Percy Jackson novel series was Rick Riordan’s pride and joy as it was a hit with young readers, but adapting them into live-action has been a struggle, to say the least. The first two films based on the books were mediocre at best as they had a hard time world-building this franchise and making likable characters with our trio of Percy, Grover, and Annabeth. Disney Plus is giving it another go with a television series that would faithfully adapt the books for a new audience and keep the spirit of the stories alive with more time to develop these beloved characters. With Riordan at the helm alongside showrunner Jonathan E. Steinberg, fans clung to hope that the popular YA series may finally get a proper adaptation. After seeing what most of the season has to offer, it is fair to say that it has exceeded expectations.
The first season of Percy Jackson & The Olympians tackles the events of the first novel The Lightning Thief with some expanded backstories of our heroes as audiences are allowed to learn about this world. The first two episodes introduce Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell), a young kid struggling to fit in at school as he develops certain abilities that manifest over time. Alongside his friend Grover (Aryan Simhadri), the two are thrown into a world filled with Greek gods and monsters that are strongly connected with Percy’s lineage. The show gives a lot more space to breathe to address what’s happening in the books, it adds a lot of new aspects that help bring the world of Percy Jackson to life. This adaptation feels a lot better in terms of following the stories closely while also giving new fans a chance to grow and love the series throughout the season.
Once Percy realizes he is a demigod himself, he is thrust into the world of Greek mythology as he learns his place in this world full of gods and monsters who frown upon the existence of his kind. With the help of Grover and his new ally Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries), Percy will need all the help he can get on this dangerous quest. The journey that the trio takes involves Percy’s father who has been missing for most of his life and a powerful weapon has been stolen from the gods. Those who have read the books will know what happens as the show sticks rather closely with the source materials with a couple of changes that fit well into the narrative. There’s plenty of action in the first half of the season that utilizes the visual effects rather well considering how this is meant to be a series and yet it feels like it’s on a movie budget.
What everyone will be impressed by is the natural chemistry with the three leads Scobell, Simhardi, and Jeffries. What helps is that they are kids playing kids, which helps in developing their strong bonds with one another. It does sacrifice some choices in development when it comes to adult characters like Chiron and Dionysus, who are supposed to be more like mentors to our young heroes. Instead, they act like guides to what their quest will be. However, when the kids are on screen together, the show truly shines and it’s thanks to the actors. It is perfect casting and the dialogue that they are given that helps make their interactions feel genuine. Even when they are in situations that are dangerous for them, the show often finds some humor in that with their banter. By putting these kids in life-or-death scenarios on this difficult journey, it makes the stakes even greater.
What is great about the latest adaptation of the Percy Jackson books is the themes that it tackles that the series digs deep on. When it comes to the relationships with the characters, it does go into topics like belonging, acceptance and realizing one’s potential. With the monsters that Percy and his friends meet, the show finds a way to diverge the characteristics of these classic mythological creatures. It lends to the audience to learn that not all of these monsters are what they appear to be. It also has a great mother-son relationship between Percy and his mother Sally (Virginia Kull) who does everything in her power to protect her son. It is these themes that are great for young readers and will likely do the same for young viewers jumping into this fantastical world. By hitting these big life questions, Percy Jackson & The Olympians is a well-thought-out show that doesn’t miss a beat in focusing on heavier themes relatable to young audiences alike.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians gives the proper adaptation that it deserves and feels more spread out in terms of story and character development. It re-imagines the story to modern eyes, but it retains the heart of the books to appease fans and newcomers. The fantasy elements and the chemistry of our leads are the true strengths of this live-action series adaptation. A fresh take on Greek mythology that also hones in on the relevancy of our times. Just like the grounds of Camp Half-Blood, the show is relatable to those struggling to fit in and know that whatever differences anyone has, they will feel most welcome with open arms.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians premieres with the first two episodes on Disney Plus on December 20th.