Disney Plus’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians sequence had each an extremely simple and totally inconceivable job: Adapt a e book sequence and do it higher than final time.
Adapting beloved e book sequence that many grew up with isn’t simple, however then once more, absolutely something can be higher than the creator-disavowed notorious 2010 film adaptation. Expectations have been excessive, particularly with writer Rick Riordan closely concerned in each step of the method and guarantees that this present would get it proper.
Perhaps that’s why, in the long run the primary season, Percy Jackson and the Olympians feels a little bit empty. It checks all of the containers, nevertheless it’s nearly just like the present is attempting to get out of its personal approach, frantically scrambling to maintain forward of the viewers who’re accustomed to the supply materials in order that the showrunners can lastly adapt elements of the books that didn’t get an opportunity on the huge display. It’s a disgrace, although, as a result of there’s a sprinkling of fantastic issues all through the present that nearly make it wonderful — and it’s these sparks that fueled the flame of the fandom all through all of it.
[Ed. note: This review contains spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians.]
Photograph: David Bukach/Disney
The primary season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians adapts the primary e book in Rick Riordan’s sequence of the identical title, the place troubled preteen Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) finds out that Greek myths are actual and he’s really the son of Poseidon. Together with Annabeth (Leah Jeffries), daughter of Athena, and his satyr buddy Grover (Aryan Simhadri), Percy embarks on a cross-country quest to get well Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt and (extra importantly to him) save his mother.
Each adaptation modifications some components concerning the supply materials, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians isn’t any exception. On this specific case, although, quite a lot of the modifications really feel like deliberate updates to make the story sustain with the instances. A few of these updates make sense: The casting, for example, is far more inclusive than the primary Rick Riordan sequence. There’s no unhealthy jokes about girly-girls made on the expense of all the Aphrodite cabin. And naturally, there was the entire “the Greek gods comply with the sunshine of Western civilization” bit within the books, a really Eurocentric notion that’s fortunately been retired for the present. These are all small, superficial issues that undoubtedly assist softly replace the books to translate higher with what trendy followers count on. Which is why the change that feels most instantly focused on the viewers that grew up with the e book robs the present of most of its enjoyable.
The unique Percy Jackson books have been very a lot designed to present younger readers an introduction to Greek mythology, however now, a few of these younger readers are older, and the franchise has taught them the ins and outs of the gods and monsters. Within the present, this interprets to Percy and his buddies instantly clocking what threats await them and savvily avoiding the identical hardships of the e book. Positive, you may clarify away how this is smart — that is the world Grover’s recognized his entire life, Annabeth’s been doing the monster-fighting schtick eternally, and Percy grew up along with his mom telling him Greek myths as bedtime tales — however what’s the enjoyable in having characters one step forward of all the pieces? There’s not as a lot pressure, not as a lot sense of discovery. It additionally cuts down on quite a lot of the motion, and it feels just like the characters are telling us what’s happening as an alternative of experiencing it for themselves.
Photograph: David Bukach/Disney
As an alternative, there’s a bizarre sense that the showrunners are urgent quick ahead, attempting to get as a lot of the story out of the best way as attainable in order that they will prepare for the following e book completely. I get it; followers of the e book sequence (like myself) know the plot beats of The Lightning Thief. They have already got the 2010 film, for no matter that’s price. They need the following factor, wish to see their favourite characters and plot factors, wish to see the entire sequence on display as an alternative of the start half over and over. However the first season appears like an echo of the story, prefer it’s relying on a lot on the viewers to be OK with a SparkNotes abstract, when it must be the methodical basis that units up future seasons.
Essentially the most irritating a part of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, although, is the glimmering moments of when it does work, as a result of it reveals that the showrunners do have a way of what a tv adaptation wants. By the advantage of being narrated instantly by Percy, the e book sequence didn’t actually dabble in deeper backstory moments for the opposite characters. However a tv adaptation can. The dialog between Ares (Adam Copeland) and Grover on the diner, for example, was really an effective way to showcase Grover’s savviness concerning the workings of the gods. Sure, he’s figuring one thing out, however there was a transparent methodology and escalation behind it, as an alternative of him instantly clocking a risk. (To not point out, it simply gave a brand new interplay with Copeland’s fairly dang fantastic Ares.) The very best instance, nevertheless, is the tender, poignant second between Sally (Virginia Kull) and Poseidon (Toby Stephens) on the finish of episode 7.
All the episode had many flashbacks to Sally’s wrestle as a single guardian of a troubled child who simply so occurred to be the son of a god, and it culminated in most likely the most effective scene within the present. That complete flashback helped shed some gentle on this advanced world of gods and monsters, expanded Sally’s character and her relationship with each Percy and Poseidon, and in addition gave Poseidon some deliciously human angst. The ultimate scene was superbly bittersweet, and an aggravatingly tantalizing instance of how the showrunners utilized this distinct medium to do what the unique supply materials couldn’t.
Which is finally essentially the most vexing factor about this adaptation: There’s nuggets of an important present in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The whole lot about Sally Jackson is finished so thoughtfully and actually helps flesh out the world. Scobell, Jeffries, and Simhadri have a simple and fascinating on-screen chemistry and an important command of their characters, and their added interactions actually assist hammer their bond dwelling. Copeland delivers as Ares, strolling the road between goofy and menacing with finesse. Hopefully, with the primary e book out of the best way, the showrunners can thoughtfully dig into the good moments within the subsequent season, and residential in on what works as an alternative of simply attempting to speedrun their quest.
All episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians can be found on Disney Plus now. Right here’s all the pieces we find out about season 2.