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‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’: A Mixed But Promising Start

The series’ biggest strength is the three leads, who pull their characters straight from the page onto the screen.
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(Image courtesy of Disney+)

 

The freshman season of the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series has ended. The season adapts the first book in the renowned Percy Jackson series with a heartfelt ending for the characters and a promise of more adventures to come.

Adapting the beloved Greek mythology-inspired fantasy book series was bound to be an easy task, with the bar set extremely low by the original movies and with source material author Rick Riordan serving as co-creator and writer on the show. Even so, parts of the show still don’t measure up to the book. Some things are changed entirely, meaning that it doesn’t always stay true to the spirit of the source material. Unfortunately, the series is still not the faithful adaptation fans were hoping for.

A Personable Pantheon

(Image courtesy of Disney+)

The series’ biggest strength is Walker Scobell, Leah Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri as the three leads, Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, respectively. The trio is almost right off the page as they go on their quest to retrieve Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt — they bicker and banter with each other but grow closer as the story progresses. Each of the actors are quite young and more in line with their book counterparts than the film stars were. As a bonus, fans can watch these new actors grow up with their characters.

Along the way they encounter colorful characters that hinder their quest. Medusa’s (Jessica Parker Kennedy) appearance is updated with the times to more truthfully portray the injustice of the original myth. Parker Kennedy portrays the character as such with the integrity needed. Ares (Adam Copeland) appears as a secondary antagonist with just enough bravado to harken back to Copeland’s other career as professional wrestler by the monicker, “Edge”.

Chiron (Glynn Turman) is in the show in a limited capacity as a mentor. Turman gives Chiron a charming “peepaw” energy he didn’t have in the books. An even smaller part is Dionysus (Jason Mantzoukas) who is given a funny zinger to say each time he’s on screen. This plays nicely to Mantzoukas’ strength as a comedic actor.

Sally Jackson (Virginia Kull), Percy’s mother, starts the show self-possessed. Her arc is supposed to be about becoming more confident over time to stand up to her abusive husband, “smelly” Gabe Ugliano (Timm Sharp). The show includes flashbacks to the hardships she faced raising Percy as a single mother. Kull acts these scenes with convincing sympathy. This is good, but it’s clear that Kull absolutely could’ve acted her character’s original arc from the books well.

A Second Draft?

(Image courtesy of Disney+)

Paraphrasing how YouTube book/adaptation reviewer Dominic Noble put it, the series feels like an author’s attempt at a second draft.

Certain plot points, or the time at which characters know specific information, are changed ever so slightly in a way that shifts the drama from the source material. Some of it works just fine, or is even an improvement, but in other instances it’s a little head-scratching why changes were made.

Problems with pacing and presentation lead to uneven quality in the action scenes and set pieces. To name a few, Percy’s fight with Medusa is oddly cut short while his duel with Ares is given enough time to come across as cool and heroic moment for the protagonist.

The fictional Lotus Casino, which is supposed to be a Dave & Busters on steroids, instead looks like the kind of boring casino found in Wendover. But the central location of Camp Half-blood is as homey as it was described in the book. The production designers go the extra mile to differentiate each cabin to match their corresponding god.

Even with these minor quibbles with the show, it’s still leagues better than the original movies whose only cultural staying power has been pointing out how ridiculous it is that Logan Lerman’s Percy Jackson used an iPod Touch to fight Medusa.

The season finale included a posthumous appearance of Lance Reddick as Zeus. Though his scene was brief, Reddick retained an intimidating screen presence as the King of the Gods and the episode was dedicated to him.

The show managed to score a spot within the top 10 original streaming series as of the first week of the new year. The showrunners have expressed that they’re hard at work on continuing the show for a second season, and the green light just came from Disney this week.

 

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@apm_andre

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About the Contributor
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.

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