By M.K. Bryant, News editor
I’ve been a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” book series since 2014. I was 13 years old at the time, and I read all five books in the span of a week. In May 2020, I was on FaceTime with some friends and fellow fans of the series when Riordan announced that a television show based on the series had been approved for Disney+. After having my senior year of high school ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic, that news was a light in an otherwise lackluster summer.
The first two episodes of the series finally premiered on Disney+ on Dec. 19. I was delighted at how the first episode seemed to be a scene-for-scene rendition of the first few chapters of the first book, “The Lightning Thief.” In this episode, we follow a 12-year-old Percy Jackson as he navigates the discovery that he is a demigod—the son of a human and a Greek god who, during the first episode, is unknown.
After getting expelled from school, Percy quickly learns from his mother, Sally, that his life up until this point has been a lie, and he is currently at risk of being hunted by monsters from a world of what he thought was simply mythology. After he, his mother and his best friend Grover are chased by a minotaur, his mother stays behind to protect him—presumably dying in the act—while Percy and Grover make it to Camp Half-Blood, which Grover describes as a safe place for demigods like Percy.
Episode two follows Percy as he navigates Camp Half-Blood, very quickly making both friends and enemies. He allies himself with Annabeth Chase, a daughter of Athena, and Luke Castellan, a son of Hermes, during a camp-wide game of capture the flag. Luke explains to him the ins and outs of camp, as well as the fact that children of the gods Zeus, Hades and Poseidon are referred to as “forbidden children,” as the three gods made a pact to not have any more children with mortals. After Percy wins a fight with Clarisse, a daughter of Ares, his team subsequently wins the game of capture the flag which is immediately followed by Poseidon claiming Percy as his son, making him a forbidden child.
Episode three came out on Dec. 16, and, in my opinion, is the best episode so far. This episode sees Percy, Annabeth and Grover set out on a quest to find Zeus’ missing lightning bolt—hence, the title of the first book, “The Lightning Thief.” Prior to this, Percy was given a prophecy informing him that he would be betrayed during the course of the quest. Percy initially tries to keep this a secret from both Annabeth and Grover, but following a run-in with a fury and Medusa, chooses to tell them.
The third episode was the most divergent so far from the book, but I don’t view this as a bad thing. I feel like the divergence helped increase the impact of the plot. I think that it’s important for stories to be able to continue to grow and evolve, even after their initial publication. There’s comfort in the knowledge that even the best stories have room to grow.
The casting for this series deserves as much praise as possible. Walker Scobell as Percy, Aryan Simhadri as Grover and Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth have amazing chemistry with each other both on and off-screen, and they do their characters justice in a way that I didn’t know was possible.
Although I grew up with the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” books, I think that the Disney+ series serves as a perfect piece of entertainment for both old and new fans alike. I watched the premiere of the series with one of my childhood friends—another long-time fan of the books—and his two younger siblings, who had little to no prior knowledge of the series.
About halfway through, his youngest sibling said, “I think I like this show.”
This statement reminded me of my thought process when I opened up the book “The Lightning Thief” for the first time in the eighth grade.
M.K. Bryant is a contributing journalist for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in mass communication with a concentration in multimedia journalism, and she’s double-minoring in theatre and creative writing. When she’s not busy watering her plants or writing, M.K. can probably be found wandering around an art museum or a library.