Pictured is a poster for “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”. Picture courtesy of Disney Plus Press.
Kerry Kadel | Arts & Entertainment Editor
Author’s Note: This article was written before the airing of Tuesday, January 16, 2024
I’ll be honest, I was late to the “middle school reading” phase of the book series that we all grew up with and have a place in our hearts for. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is one of these series that many people I’ve met hold a special place in their hearts for. I reread the entire series for the first time when I was eighteen. I would always get to the third or fourth book on a reread trying to finish the whole series, but fail. When I got Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series and even the “Heroes of Olympus” series for my eighteenth birthday, I was ecstatic. That summer, I finished both series, and I knew that even if I had read both at twelve-years-old, I’d be just as obsessed as I am today.
The fandom has been waiting for a true adaptation of the series for a very long time, especially since the live movie adaptations of the first two books “The Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters”. The movies don’t follow the books nearly as closely as the new Disney Plus show, which is why the uproar of excitement from fans comes every Tuesday in hopes of clues alluding to the next books in that night’s episode.
I could talk about many things that make this show so great, from the diversity of Camp Half Blood, there’s a camper in a wheelchair showing off their archery skills, to Rick Riordan’s writing and acting as an executive producer so that changes to the plot are made by his decision, and that the young actors portraying the beloved trio of the series.
There was an incredible amount of discourse surrounding the main female character, Annabeth Chase, being played by Leah Sava Jefferies, a young black actress who, to “booktruthers,” doesn’t look like the blonde and tan description given in the book. However, many like myself were excited for Jefferies to portray our “Wise Girl,” as she was chosen by Riordan himself, and five episodes in, there is no doubt that she was born to play Annabeth. Jefferies brings wit and an open understanding of Annabeth’s character while showing the audience the lengths her acting can reach, bringing emotion and determination to her character. For a young actress who had to deal with an overbearing amount of hatred from online comments, Jefferies is strong like Annabeth, and cares for her just as much as longtime fans have. I can’t wait to see where her talents take her in future projects.
Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood was the best choice for this loving character. As the satyr whose job is to protect demigods, Simhadri thrives in showing how empathetic Grover is, and the show has made his character even stronger than the books show. Normally, Grover is a little softer than any other character in the books, but in the show he gets to be manipulative and strategize, especially when it comes to getting some info out of Ares, the God of War (Adam Copeland). It’s refreshing seeing that a character known for their soft personality remains as such, but can be determined and strong just as the others in the show. Simhadri is able to balance these two concepts while playing Grover, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it came from his own positive demeanor.
Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson was a win for the fandom, as many had seen him starring alongside Ryan Reynolds in Netflix’s “The Adam Project”, where Scobell’s character is sassy, humorous, and troublesome—just like Percy. Scobell is a fan of the series as well, even wearing a Camp Half Blood shirt when he was told he got the part of Percy over a Zoom call with Riordan. In every scene, Scobell leaves no doubt to the viewers who know his character that he is Percy Jackson. He executes Percy’s mannerisms and humor perfectly, as he is an avid reader of the series, fully understanding every angle of the character. Scobell, like the others, has nothing else to prove when it comes to playing as Percy Jackson; he’s got Percy’s determination, loyalty, and motivation, which makes his scenes along with Simhadri and Jefferies stand out just as it did within the books.
There is also some talk about the dynamic change between Percy and Annabeth, some saying it is far too early for the characters to be showing signs of affection and admiration towards the other, but with Riordan writing the script and the interactions being portrayed by the actors, it seems that there may not be much to worry about their slow-burn being fast. I think that since Annabeth is a sheltered, year-round camper at Camp Half Blood, these types of friendships Percy is willing to have with her are new. The show also begins to promote the idea of glory among the Greek gods, which is evident as it follows as a main point in Episode Five, “A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers,” and it seems to me that Annabeth is deconstructing the way she thinks as a demigod trying to impress and be like her godly parent. I will say, some aspects for some episodes do have the plot moving a little too fast, but not so much where the characters don’t find themselves solving every problem.
Anyhow, as a fan of the series, I am ecstatic to see Camp Half Blood as it is described in the books as a beautiful landmark full of activities, the monsters that the Trio must face, and the iconic lines loyal readers will recognize, such as the nicknames Percy and Annabeth give each other lovingly and angrily. Many fans are excited about season two, where the second book “The Sea of Monsters” will be adapted to the show, where new characters and new adventures and plot points are introduced. Speaking of, the show seems to be hinting at the greatest villain of the series, Kronos, whose appearance grows stronger in each book.
Otherwise, I have nothing more to say about the show, praise or criticism. It is what fans have wanted for so long, and those who have followed closely, such as myself, with the filming updates from social media, I remember the day the show got greenlit when I was a freshman at UD. I am hopeful for the second season to be announced, filmed, and just as spectacular as the first season.
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