How Percy Jackson and the Olympians changes the books: Episode 4

"I Plunge To My Death" may be the episode with the most differences from the book so far.
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 fourth episode of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is finally on Disney+, and what a way to start off 2024!

“I Plunge to my Death” is the episode that differs the most from the Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan so far in terms of plot, but the changes are still minimal. There are some slight timeline changes and a few bits that were cut in the adaptation process. We’ll analyze all the changes one by one.

If you’d like to read along with me, this episode covers chapters 12-14 from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Differences between the Percy Jackson books and the show: Timeline of important reveals

So far, the show included various reveals and conversations that don't actually happen in the book until around this moment. For example, in the book, Percy doesn’t yet know that Grover was the satyr who brought Annabeth and Luke safely to Camp Half-Blood and was therefore held responsible for Thalia Grace’s death. In the show, he already knows this. In chapter 12 and 13 of the book, he comes close to figuring it out twice, but first Grover and then Annabeth change the topic before Percy can jump to the right conclusion. This means he’s not fully aware of the bond between his two quest-mates. The show, on the other hand, serves Percy this information on a silver platter with Annabeth literally saying about Grover, “He’s my protector!” and “He was my protector first!” We also learn earlier what this quest means for Grover and his future.

Another reveal that takes place in chapter 12 of the book is Percy confessing to Grover that he only agreed to the quest so he can save his mother in the Underworld, whereas in the show Percy and Grover have been on the same page about that from the beginning.

Differences between the Percy Jackson books and the show: Grover's environmental mission is minimized onscreen

During a conversation in chapter 13 of The Lightning Thief, Grover tells Percy all about Pan, the god of the wild who disappeared two millennia ago, and how the bravest satyrs go on solo missions to try and find Pan to restore Nature to its ancient splendor. Grover opens up about his own dream of obtaining a Searcher’s license to find the lost god of the wild.

Even before this moment, Grover is very concerned about pollution and the poor state of the environment, criticizing humans for bringing the world to a climate crisis. Saving the environment is the force that drives Grover. In the show, Grover seems much less concerned about the environment; we haven’t even seen him eat any plastic containers or cans to reduce waste, and at this point, I doubt we will.

It’s interesting how Rick Riordan made environmentalism such a big part of a book published 19 years ago and quite disappointing that a TV show coming out in 2023 consciously decided to tone down that aspect significantly, now that it's more important than ever. This is my only qualm with the adaptation so far.

Differences between the Percy Jackson books and the show: Getting to St. Louis, Echidna and the Chimera

"I Plunge to my Death" cuts a funny scene from the book where, the morning after our main trio defeat Medusa, Grover finds a runaway poodle who agrees to be returned to her rich owner so that our heroes can get the reward to buy Amtrack tickets to Denver. Other than providing comedic relief after the tension of killing Medusa and showing us that Grover can speak to all animals, which might have been fun to see onscreen, the scene is completely irrelevant to the plot; I'm glad it was cut.

This episode has a fast pace as the monster-fighting action starts much earlier than usual. In the book, the protagonists have a quiet train ride and encounter no monsters until they get to St. Louis. Percy is restless and feels like he’s being watched, but they’re safe; there is even time for more bonding between Percy and Annabeth, who don’t bicker as much. They talk about their dreams and their pasts, and Annabeth confesses her ambition to become a great architect. In the show they have to leave the train to escape from monsters, while in the book they simply have a long layover in St. Louis and Annabeth takes the boys to sightsee. They only meet Echidna, the Mother of Monsters, in the elevator going to the top of the Gateway Arch and don’t recognize her until it’s too late.

In the show, Percy heroically pushes Grover and Annabeth away from danger after he’s already been stung by the chimera on the train. In the book, there is no urgency; he simply lets them go in the elevator first and remains on the deck with the lady he’ll soon discover to be Echidna. Percy tries to fight the Chimera but is badly hurt and loses Riptide. Echidna taunts Percy and dares him to jump from the Gateway Arch to prove his bloodline. Defeated, weaponless, and with chimera poison coursing through his veins, Percy doesn’t have another option but to be eaten alive, so he jumps and hopes not to die from the force of the impact. His last thought of the chapter is a prayer to his father. 

Down in the river, Percy realizes two things: he has survived a crash that should have killed him and he can breathe underwater. He hears a woman’s voice that he believes to be his mom but turns out to be the river itself, a messenger sent by Poseidon. The voice tells him his father believes in him, that his mother’s fate is not hopeless, warns him about gifts, and commands Percy to go to the beach in Santa Monica before he heads to the Underworld. The path ahead is clear.

Despite these small changes, the fourth episode of the TV series is still highly faithful to the source material. I hope that the show continues to surprise book fans in small ways without twisting the material for shock value.

Episode grade: A- 

Next. pjo. How Percy Jackson and the Olympians changes the books: Episode 3. dark

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