Percy Jackson and the Disney adaptation 

By Claudia Bradley

Look, I don’t think the TV show is bad. 

If you’re reading this because you’re determined to argue it is, my advice is: stop reading right now. Believe whatever critiques you see on Tiktok, and continue to lead a normal life. 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is good. It isn’t amazing. Most of the time, it can’t decide if the characters are endearing twelve-year-olds or experienced monster-fighters with a solution to every problem before it starts. 

If you want to watch the TV show because you read the books, great. Read on. I’ll be telling you about the changes between the two, for better and worse. 

But if you start to think the show is irredeemable—if you feel disappointment stirring inside—stop reading immediately, and go and watch the show for yourself. Once you start hating it too much, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too – and they’ll cancel the show. 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

In the world Rick Riordan created in 2005, the ancient Greek gods mix with modern day America. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was the first novel in a five-book series, an action and adventure about Zeus thundering after the thief of his master lightning bolt. Percy Jackson, an unwitting teenager with more troubles than he can count, is accused as the thief, and is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand. 

Percy Jackson was at its peak alongside other young adult franchises in the 2010s: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Divergent, to name a few. After the failed film adaptations, fans were particularly excited when Disney announced the television reboot starring Walker Scobell, who, as a teenager who had already starred in a Netflix film as the younger version of Ryan Reynolds, was more than prepared to deliver the sarcastic signature of the character. 

While many fans of the books have criticised this show for its poor pacing, changes from the original novels, and lack of fun at its core, the show is also held against some very high expectations, some of which the author himself built when he made the announcement. 

When the series’ final episode arrived on Disney+ last Wednesday (31st February), it solidified many talking points about the series as a whole, both good and bad. 

For starters, it’s undeniable that Walker Scobell was a wonderful Percy Jackson. He captured the witty narration everyone enjoyed from the books and was deeply emotive when the scene required, balancing the sarcasm with questions about himself and his world. Supporting leads Leah Sava’ Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri’s performances were redolent of their characters, with Jeffries commanding her scenes with a wisdom befitting Annabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena she played, and Aryan Simhadri’s endearing awkwardness as Grover Underwood. The three enjoyed their conversations in moments of peace with an easy humour. But as the series went on, while there were some flashes where they might have connected further in times of tension, their bond didn’t seem to develop much further beyond the midpoint of the season. 

This could be partly due to the lack of tense moments for the characters to thrive within in the first place. Some of the biggest points for adventure and excitement in the book were rewritten or skipped over entirely. The magical hotel that tricks its victims into staying forever, continuously creating experiences to fulfil their every whim, was recognised by Annabeth in episode six before they took ten steps through the front door, simultaneously erasing the montage of fun and excitement they could’ve had and stealing one of Percy’s moments of genius, since he was the one to save the trio in the book. It’s when they were allowed to act as children, in their conversations and some beats of humour amid action sequences, the actors truly embodied the characters.

The story also missed tension that should have been there in new scenes, such as with newly increased number of gods the characters came across in this story. Several of the supposedly divine beings felt less than godly, and the characters barely reacted to them. Times when they should’ve been sprinting to save their lives were spent walking slowly, discussing the monster chasing them. More excitement would’ve been created with more urgency and adventure, which was one of the strongest elements of the book. 

However, some episodes were more engaging than others, and some of the re-written scenes may have been changed for the better. For instance, Medusa was shifted from a wicked villain to an isolated survivor, which could be to reflect the way young women have empathised with the mythical figure in more recent years. While a sequence where Annabeth and Percy had to solve a problem on their own was changed, the outcome of Annabeth learning to regard Percy differently was still achieved. 

Overall, the show does have many beautiful sets, but could have been more cinematic at times. The finale sequence was certainly the most visually interesting, with characters lit purple and blue by fireworks sparkling in the background as truths came to light. Unfortunately, a disjointed effect was created by consistent fades to black, which Disney aligned with advert breaks for when the show is aired on television. The story deserved to have an extra couple of episodes and less interruption; the actors deserved more time to embody their characters to the fullest, which its clear they’re all more than capable of doing. 

Fans anxiously await the green light for season two, which, if the writers take fans’ desires on board, has the potential to turn the series into one of Disney’s most successful yet. 

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