Percy Jackson and the Olympians finally has a god-worthy adaptation

Disney’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Saba Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. Photo Credit: Disney
Disney’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Saba Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. Photo Credit: Disney /

It is mere days until the first two episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians hit Disney+; and here at WinterisComing, we were lucky enough to be granted early access to Camp Half-Blood and the world of demigods and Greek mythology come to life. For fans of Rick Riordan’s much beloved book series, the wait for this TV show has been a mixture of excitement and quiet nerves; after all, the 2010s film adaptations are widely regarded as so detached from the books that even Riordan himself declared that he felt the scripts were terrible.

Therefore, I am very glad to say that finally, with Disney+’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Riordan’s world has been given an adaptation which is truly worthy of the gods dotted throughout its story. It is funny, it is fast paced, it has heart, and the excellent scripts are brought to life by a perfectly chosen cast.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians brings the books to life

Now, this may seem a slightly strange thing to say, because aren’t all adaptations technically meant to be that?

Well, as any fan of books which have become films and TV shows will tell you, when it comes to faithfulness to the source material, it tends to be a bit of a roll of the dice. Sometimes we’re granted a flawless cast who seem to know and understand the characters but just aren’t given the right scripts to work with. Sometimes the casting itself feels off, even if the script technically works. Sometimes (as is sadly the case of the original Percy Jackson films) the casting and the script can be off (Percy was aged up to 17 in the film, and the script disregarded vast amounts of the original book material).

However! In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, it immediately feels as if we are transported into the book world ww know and love. The respect given to the books is felt in every single beat of the show; from core moments between characters to having Percy narrate direct lines from the book, or the episodes themselves being named after book chapters (with titles such as “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”, these chapters always lent themselves to TV adaptation).

Camp Half-Blood itself feels like the books come to life as well; all of the demigods in the famous orange Camp Half-Blood t-shirts, the cabins all unique to individual gods, the many different areas of the camp such as the archery range, climbing wall, and canoe lake…it’s all there. This is contrasted with the slightly oppressive feeling of school for Percy; he’s a smart kid who actually wants to learn, but just isn’t in a place where he can. As soon as he’s at Camp Half-Blood, we see him slowly feel like he can not only belong somewhere, but that he does belong here. This is a feeling we slowly get in the books, and it is demonstrated perfectly in the show. Which leads neatly onto another thing the show has done incredibly well…

Disney’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Saba Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. Photo Credit: Disney
Disney’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Saba Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. Photo Credit: Disney /

The relationships are real and believable

If you don’t believe in the relationships underpinning the story, then the story won’t work. Thankfully, Percy Jackson and the Olympians takes characters relationships seriously and not only cast characters incredibly well but wrote them incredibly well too.

Percy is embodied fantastically by Walker Scobell, who has the difficult task of being the main face of this franchise and therefore needing to have strong and believable relationships with basically all of the main characters. Yet ably carries the mantle on his young shoulders, perfectly balancing all of the intricacies of Percy’s character; a sarcastic and funny kid who is also immensely loyal and caring to those he loves, someone who’s feisty and bold but who also has insecurities from years of being seen as a difficult, troubled kid. With the wrong actor, this would be too much. With Scobell, it seems effortless.

And because of that, the relationships Percy has are instantly believable and important.

Percy’s relationship with his mother Sally (Virginia Kull), is fundamental to both who he is and to the story that season 1 is telling. If we as an audience failed understand how important Sally is, how she is the main reason Percy hasn’t felt unloved and ostracized through his difficult childhood, then Percy’s desperation to find his mother again would feel empty. But the script, and the way in which Kull and Scobell interact in the show, makes it instantly believable; this is a fiercely loving relationship between a mother and son.

Similarly, Percy’s relationship with Grover (Aryan Simhadri) is fundamental, as he is Percy’s first-ever friend. Of course, there are other reasons Grover has been around since before Camp Half-Blood, but that doesn’t take away how important Grover is to both Percy and the story. Scobell and Simhadri have an easy, natural, and deeply amusing dynamic onscreen; the moment when Percy realizes Grover’s true identity and essentially yells Grover’s name over and over until Grover stops talking is the book relationship brought to life. It is loving, caring, but also incredibly chaotic. We understand that while Grover has a responsibility to Percy, ultimately they are each others’ best friends.

And finally, of course, we have Percy’s (and Grover’s!) relationship with Annabeth (Leah Jeffries). This makes up our core trio, and without that chemistry working, the whole thing would once fall apart. But the chemistry works so well that, once again, it feels like these characters have all walked right out of the books.

When it comes to Annabeth, we don’t see a great deal of her in the first two episodes (she becomes far more central in Episodes 3 and 4), but what we do see is firstly incredibly loyal to book Annabeth, and secondly still establishes a definitive connection between her and Percy. She sees something in him which she hasn’t seen in anybody else before, and is extremely open about the fact that she is somewhat monitoring him. Her first line in the show is identical to her first line in the book, which will please book fans.

As the show continues, we get the same feeling we do in the books; that both her and Percy have spent a lot of their lives ostracized, and in finding each other they’ve finally found somebody who understands the suffering they’ve been through, someone who actually sees and respects them for who they are. Leah Jeffries is a flawless Annabeth, navigating the shy uncertainty Annabeth has with her borderline brazen intelligence, while slowly but surely coming to trust and care for both Percy and Grover. Scobell, Simhadri, and Jeffries are all perfectly cast separately, but together it truly feels like lightning has been captured in a bottle.

So… what are we in for, exactly?

If you love the books, then I barely need to tell you, because all the reasons you love the books will be the same reason you love the show.

If you haven’t read the books then here’s a quick summary of what to expect from Percy Jackson and the Olympians: you’re in for friendship, adventure, chaos, laugh-out loud moments as well as deeply emotional ones, Greek gods and monsters being both scary and incredibly funny, and a fast-paced story which will twist and turn and have you on the edge of your seat. The cast is endearing, the scripts are perfectly written, and it is a joy to finally see an adaptation of a beloved book series which seems to understand why those books are so beloved and intends to respect every element.

Disney has a good one here folks. This could well be the jewel in the crown of Disney+’s original TV adaptations.

Episodes 1 and 2 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians will be available to stream on Disney+ on Wednesday, December 20.

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