If you’re around my age or younger, chances are the Percy Jackson books were a part of your childhood. Written by Rick Riordan, the initial pentalogy launched in 2005 with The Lightning Thief, but has since spawned a slew of spin-off series. All housed under the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles, the world has grown to 17 books focusing on the Greek and Roman Gods. However, they are also connected to other trilogies by Riordan that focus on Norse and Egyptian gods. With such an expansive world, beloved by so many, it was inevitable that a series, titled Percy Jackson and The Olympians, would arrive.
After a failed movie franchise, Disney+ has decided to bring the world of Percy Jackson to streaming, with an eight-episode first season focusing on the first book. Bringing the series to life is Rick Riordan himself along with Jonathan E. Steinberg and Dan Shotz, with the latter writing six of the episodes, hopefully providing some cohesion across the season.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians has a stacked cast led by Walker Scobell, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri as the demigod and satyr team who must save the day and stop an all-out war. So what do you say? Ready to head to Camp Half-Blood for the first of, hopefully, many seasons?
[Warning: light spoilers and impressions from Percy Jackson & The Olympians are below!]
Danger is coming for Percy and friends
Percy Jackson (Scobell) thinks he is just a normal twelve-year-old; however, he is anything but normal. You see, Percy’s a demigod, half-mortal and, more importantly, half-Greek God, a fact that is hidden from him for most of his life. If he learns about his heritage, a target gets painted on his back, as demigods are hunted by evil forces that remain hidden from humans.
Everything changes one day while on a field trip, an event that propels Percy’s life into a whole new direction. No longer can he hide in the shadows of stinky humans (humans have an odor that can hide demigods from magical creatures), as he now lights up like a beacon on the map.
Percy needs to make it to Camp Half-Blood, the only sanctuary for young demigods from the dangers posed by the Greek Gods and monsters. With the help of his mother Sally (Virginia Kull) and Grover Underwood (Simhadri), his satyr protector, Percy rushes to Camp Half-Blood, before it’s too late. The journey isn’t easy, and making it to Camp Half-Blood is only half the battle.
There’s a war brewing, and Percy is in the epicenter because of his father’s place among the Greek Gods. Something has gone missing, an all-important artifact of the Greek pantheon of the Gods, and only Percy can stop it by going on a quest.
Can Percy, along with Grover, and fellow demigod Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries) traverse the world and save the day? Or is a war between Gods destined to happen? The first season of Percy Jackson and The Olympians looks to answer all those questions for more, as the season slowly unravels across seven weeks.
The positive and negative of Percy Jackson and The Olympians
A moment of truth, when I first attempted to read The Lightning Thief, I wasn’t impressed. I was a Harry Potter child through and through and had a hard time connecting to the characters. Years later, after getting rid of my copy, I was gifted the original Pentalogy box set and decided to try it once again. It was then that I discovered the magic of the series, an easy introduction to the Greek Gods for a younger audience. I couldn’t get enough of the books and subsequently bought each one as it came out.
So a live-action adaptation is right up my alley, something better than the dismal films that boiled down The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters to the bare minimum. Thankfully, Percy Jackson and the Olympians does the exact opposite, creating one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve seen from book to screen.
It’s like watching the pages of one of your favorite books come to life before your eyes. The vibrant world of Percy Jackson is all there, in living, breathing color. The characters are rich, and the story is intact.
There are stories added to the episodes that continue the world-building that Riordan delicately laid out in the novels. One of the best decisions that Disney could have made was having the author involved in the process, while also giving him another mind in which to balance it out. Together, Riordan and Steinberg have created something magical, further proving that television adaptations are the way to go when it comes to book series.
With strong writing to hold the series up, Percy Jackson and The Olympians’ true strength comes from the three leads. Walker Scobell was not my initial choice for Percy, but after seeing four episodes, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role.
Scobell balances out the multi-faceted character perfectly, at times showcasing the goofy and confident side, while also appearing anxious and terrified at other times. The journey that Percy goes through is not easy, with plenty of highs and lows. Scobell uses his craft to explore every corner of this character, leaving no stone unturned as the demigod.
Leah Sava Jeffries is a strong choice for Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena. Her characterization of the demigod begins as guarded, possibly even cold. Annabeth has been through a ton of loss and also feels she has so much to prove to those around her. She will stop at nothing to do so.
Throughout the first four episodes, Annabeth grows considerably, going from a natural leader to a team player. Seeing Annabeth reluctantly embrace her new friends is exciting to watch, so I’d imagine it’s just as fun to play on screen. I’m beyond excited to see where Jeffries takes the character as the series progresses.
Aryan Simhadri’s Grover Underwood is hands down my favorite character in the entire series. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that I saw a lot of myself in Grover; a slightly awkward teenager that wants to keep the peace between the people he cares about.
Grover is smart as all hell, and even hungrier than that, providing a ton of comedic relief for the group. I cannot get enough of Grover and the work that Simhadri puts into Percy Jackson and The Olympians.
The VFX was also impressive for a Disney+ series, with it feeling like quite a bit of time and effort went into Percy Jackson to make it right. There are a lot of CGI figures within the first couple of episodes, but they look good enough to pass in the world of Percy and the Greek Gods. I’m sure some might find fault with some of them, however, I was blown away by the effort.
That all being said, there are parts of the first couple of episodes that are slow. Again, there’s a ton of world-building that’s going on, with the need to establish characters and storylines before the main story can get rolling.
The first part of episode one (“I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”) is a slow burn, with even the action feeling off. However, by the time we get to the end of the first episode, the series picks up and runs at full speed.
From that point on, the majority of the episodes move quickly, but even then, there are moments where it feels like it comes to a grinding halt. These moments become less and less as the series continues, so I’m sure as we reach the climax, the slow moments will almost cease to exist.
Final thoughts of Disney+’s Percy Jackson and The Olympians
Overall, Percy Jackson and The Olympians is a triumphant return to the world of Camp Half-Blood and the demigods that reside there. The first four episodes feature some wonderful writing with strong character moments, all of which showcase the talent of our three young heroes. Sure there are some slow bits initially, but they aren’t egregious enough to warrant skipping this perfect family series on Disney+.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians premieres with its first 2 episodes on December 20th. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on watching this new series!