The gods are waiting.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a 2023 fantasy adventure series created by Rick Riordan and Jonathan E. Steinberg, directed by James Bobin and Anders Engström, produced by Quaker Moving Pictures, Co-Lab21, James Bobin Inc., Moorish Dignity Productions, 1492 Television, Sunswept Entertainment, The Gotham Group, 20th Century Television, and Disney Branded Television, and distributed by Disney+. The series is based off of Rick Riordan's book series of the same name, with the first season being based on the 2005 novel The Lightning Thief. It stars Walker Scobell and Leah Sava Jeffries.
"Hold fast. Brave the storm." - Sally Jackson
Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is a demigod; half-human, half-god. When mythical monsters come looking for him, Percy must retreat to Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for demigods. While things are initially safe, Percy soon learns that he is being accused by Zeus of having stolen his master bolt, which will ignite a war between the gods. To prove himself, Percy undertakes a quest to find the true lightning thief.
Okay, before I dive into this review, I need to provide some context on my history with Percy Jackson.
I LOVE Percy Jackson. I have so much nostalgia for the book series and the world of the Greek gods. This was one of the worlds that made me love storytelling. I discovered it right after reading Harry Potter, and it has stuck with me ever since. But I have always, always disliked the movies. I don't think they do justice to the books. They feel like generic fantasy blockbusters with bad CGI spectacle. So I have been very excited for this TV show ever since they announced it.
And, through two episodes, I am on board. I think this series has quickly established itself as a better, more faithful adaptation of the novels than the movies were. And that's what I appreciate most. The world of Greek gods and monsters is colorful and lively and interesting, not sluggish and gross like the movies portray it as. Right off the bat, the series establishes the curious and mystical nature of this mythical world. It gets the audience invested in this world. It makes it interesting.
The production design here is another key element. The design of Camp Half-Blood has to pop. It has to be memorable. And, in the movies, it just looks like a summer camp. Here, Camp Half-Blood is infinitely more interesting and colorful, with gorgeous Greek architecture woven in throughout. Because the camp looks more interesting, the world-building is also way more interesting. It isn't just all given through exposition. Instead, we see these magical objects at work and watch with Percy as he experiences this world for the first time.
I also think Walker Scobell was a great choice to play the titular demigod. Scobell first came onto the scene in The Adam Project, where he basically played a young version of Ryan Reynolds, and he was amazing. I ranked him #3 on my best performances of last year. Percy Jackson has a sarcastic charm to him in the books, but that was never really present in the movies. Scobell is able to bring the serious hero nature while also having that funny sarcastic side of Percy that was missing from the films.
I also think that this show will get better. The first two episodes are mostly setup. Yes, we get to Camp Half-Blood, but we don't learn about the lightning thief until the end of the second episode. That's essentially the inciting incident for the story. There's a little bit of action and a little bit of adventure, but the story is going to pick up in the next six episodes. I liked these first two episodes, but I think I will like the show more as it goes on.
While I was a fan of this show, I think there's a part of it that feels like it's a Disney channel version of Percy Jackson. It is a Disney show, and I don't think that's a good thing. I think this material would be best in HBO's hands, because there's a specific tone that Disney goes for that I don't think fits Percy Jackson. This series is similar in tone and vibe to Harry Potter, and I don't think there's a single person on planet Earth who would want to see a Disney version of Harry Potter, because it just wouldn't fit. And that same problem applies to Percy Jackson. It's a young adult show. There's a darker edge to it. And, through these first two episodes, it does not seem like Disney is going to fully embrace that darker edge.
I also think these first two episodes definitely feel slower. As I said before, this is mostly setup. We don't get the true inciting action of the story until the end of the second episode. So I do think it will get better. But as of right now, the show is oddly slow. In the books, Percy fights a Fury disguised as his pre-algebra teacher in the first chapter. In this show, Mrs. Dodds (that's the teacher's name) attacks Percy very quickly, but there isn't really a fight scene. It lasts for, like, two seconds. There were opportunities to have action and speed up the pace, but the show just kind of skips over those moments, which was slightly disappointing.
I also think some of the writing and acting so far is subpar. It feels like the writers got Percy's character down. They nailed his sense of humor and his charm. It feels like everyone else is wooden. Grover is not that interesting. Luke is boring. Even Sally, Percy's mom, feels less energetic than she should be. Annabeth is the only other exception, but she's not really in it until the end of the second episode. I also think the acting for some of the characters (Grover, Luke, Sally, and Clarisse) is not up to standard. Hopefully that changes as we get deeper into the show. But, as of these two episodes, that was definitely an issue.
The first two episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians seem to be a faithful, fun, exciting adaptation of Rick Riordan's iconic series. There are a few things I'm still not sure about, but, as of right now, I am satisfied with this series.
"Percy Jackson and the Olympians"
"I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher"
"I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom"
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by James Bobin
Rated TV-14 for fantasy violence, language, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Premiered on December 20, 2023
Episode runtime: 40 minutes
Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson
Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth Chase
Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood
Virginia Kull as Sally Jackson
Glynn Turnman as Mr. Brunner / Chiron
Jason Mantzoukas as Dionysus
Megan Mullally as Mrs. Dodds / Alecto
Timm Sharp as Gabe Ugliano
Dior Goodjohn as Clarisse La Rue
Charlie Bushnell as Luke Castellan
Olivea Morton as Nancy Bobofit