Adapted from Rick Riordan’s novel “The Lightning Thief,” the first season of the long-awaited “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” television show has come to an end, leaving audiences with even more anticipation than they went in with.
The eight episode-long journey concluded Tuesday with the season finale’s release on Disney+. While most of the season’s episodes had a runtime of under 40 minutes — resulting in a slightly rushed narrative — the show somehow manages to deliver everything it needs to make for a captivating watch.
What viewers will witness in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is not only the action-packed adventure of three demigods trying to retrieve Zeus’ stolen “master bolt,” but an emotion-filled account of them navigating the challenges of their unique world. Fans of the novel can expect an authentic adaptation of the beloved story with natural deviations that mostly serve to enhance the series.
After the disappointment of the 2010 and 2013 film adaptations, the fandom was hopeful for a more accurate redo when the Disney+ series was announced in May 2020. This time around, Riordan himself contributed as an executive producer, keeping the soul of “Percy Jackson” intact throughout the project.
The season takes the audience on a wild ride with twelve-year-old Percy, played by Walker Scobell, who has just discovered he is the forbidden child of the great sea god Poseidon, played by Toby Stephens. After being accused of stealing Zeus’ bolt, Percy ventures on a dangerous quest to retrieve it and prove his innocence.
He cannot do this alone, so Percy calls upon the help of his loyal satyr friend Grover, played by Aryan Simhadri, and the clever fighter Annabeth, played by Leah Sava Jeffries. The pair fights by Percy’s side, as he has unfriendly encounters with various mythological monsters determined to stop him from completing his mission.
Scobell delivers an outstanding performance as the titular Percy Jackson, embodying all the characteristics that make the demigod so lovable. From his witty and clever personality, to his drastic development as a hero, Scobell consistently remains true to Percy. One can easily forget the young actor was just 13 years old when filming.
The age inaccuracy of Percy, Annabeth and Grover in the previous film adaptations were a major drawback for book fans. This time around, casting directors ensured the ensemble remained more true to the ages of the original book characters, satisfying many viewers.
Close friends in real life, the trio’s chemistry translates seamlessly onto the screen. The playful dynamic between the three are the core of the season, as a majority of the episodes follow them and their journey.
A small but appreciated choice was to have each episode title taken directly from the book’s iconic chapter names such as, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” and “A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers.” This detail makes it fun for fans to anticipate what the next episode has in store after being left with the show's characteristic cliffhangers.
The quest overall remains book-accurate with some minor stops along the way left out. Nothing omitted keeps from following the general structure of the quest, nor largely upsets the plot. What is most notable about the series, however, is how it manages to not only mirror, but in many ways enhance its original source material.
A significant example of this is the relationship between Percy and his mom, Sally Jackson, played by Virginia Kull. Sally’s character and storyline is one of the show’s most significant yet organic changes. From the very first episode, the showrunners establish a mother-son relationship that transcends the source material by portraying her as a stronger agent in Percy’s life and a more protective figure.
The season also allowed viewers to get a deeper understanding of both Sally’s and Percy’s relationship with Poseidon. The penultimate episode makes it hard to fight back tears during an emotion-filled dialogue between Percy’s parents about Percy’s future. Without even making eye contact, the two are somehow able to tell you everything — while explicitly saying nothing — about their complicated past. The scenes that explored these dynamics were some of the most powerful of the season.
In addition to the characters’ relationships, the television-adaptation also elevated the original source material by sophisticatedly translating the book’s fictional universe into a very real-looking world. Through the use of virtual environments, production designers were able to create dark, vast mountains that appear never-ending and large cities that radiate with energy.
This technology brings all these locations — from Zeus’ great keep on Mount Olympus to the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas — to life while filming. With the high technology used to flawlessly blend the real with the virtual, the possibilities are nearly endless.
“The world of ‘Percy Jackson’ is an incredible canvas for us,” said Computer Graphics Supervisor Mihai Cioroba. “That alone brings excitement because of the challenges.”
“The Lightning Thief” is just the first book of five in Riordan’s series and only the beginning of Percy’s story. Although not yet renewed, the show’s great success points to a strong potential of a second season — which we all need after that cliffhanger on which the first season ended.
In more ways than one, this is the adaptation of “Percy Jackson” fans need and deserve.