How Percy Jackson and the Olympians changes the books: Episode 8

The season finale of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is an emotional rollercoaster, with several changes from the books by Rick Riordan.
Toby Stephens as Poseidon in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Image: Disney+.
Toby Stephens as Poseidon in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Image: Disney+. /

The final episode of the first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians has landed on Disney+, ending the season as strongly as it began a little over a month ago. 

Now that all episodes are out, I can finally say thank you to the showrunners, Rick Riordan and Jonathan E. Steinberg, and to all the writers, because Percy Jackson and the Olympians is an adaptation worthy of the gods. The cast and crew members deserve thunderous applause, and the showrunners and writers most of all, because adapting Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books for TV is no small feat, as past attempts demonstrate.

We couldn’t have asked for a better first season. With how overwhelmingly positive the critical and audience response has been, I doubt it will be long before Disney makes a renewal announcement, but a tweet or two calling for it can’t hurt.

Differences between Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the books: Episode 8, “The Prophecy Comes True”

The season 1 finale of the show is titled “The Prophecy Comes True.” It follows chapters 20 through 22 of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, with a few timeline changes that invert the order of various events but do not alter the plot too significantly.

The last episode of the season comes full circle in the first moments as Luke Castellan says, “Look, you didn’t ask to be a half-blood.” It’s poetic, because Percy himself said this at the top of the series premiere: “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” Starting with a flashback to one of Percy and Luke’s training session at Camp Half-Blood is a clever way of reminding casual viewers of how Percy immediately trusted Luke in Episode 2… and to make the sting of betrayal hurt even more. Plus, it’s a nice foreshadowing for the two of them to fight in the same woods later in the episode.

The flashbacks help Percy stay focused during his duel with Ares on the beach. In the show, Percy volunteers for single combat, shocking everyone. In the book, there’s a lot more talking; Percy riles Ares up until the god is willing to fight him rather than turn him into a cockroach or kill him with a snap of his fingers. Annabeth gives Percy her Camp Half-Blood necklace for luck before the fight, and Grover promises his support. In the show, Annabeth gives Percy her necklace only after the fight with Ares, before Percy heads to Olympus to confront Zeus, something she is sure he will not walk out of alive.

In the book, there are more mortals present for this fight, since it takes place on a crowded beach in Santa Monica as opposed to Montauk. There are witnesses in the book: mortals believe there is an active shooter on the scene and the police show up. When Percy wins the fight, the Mist does its job and makes the mortals believe that a serial killer had kidnapped Percy and caused all the destruction that Percy was under investigation for causing from New York to St. Louis. Percy and his friends need to get back to New York within the day to make the Summer Solstice deadline, which had not yet passed in the book. The policemen who take the teenagers into custody, touched by their (made-up) story, toss the hat around and fundraise for three plane tickets to NY. On the show, much of this interstitial material is cut. 

Lance Reddick as Zeus in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Image: Disney+. /

When Percy met Zeus

When Percy enters the Olympian council chamber halfway through the episode, Zeus is there alone, while in the book Poseidon is with him. On the show, Poseidon appears just in time to save Percy from Zeus striking him with the masterbolt, and he surrenders to spare his son from his brother’s wrath. Poseidon reminding Zeus of his daughter Thalia, whose bravery inspires all demigods, was a lovely addition for TV.

On the show, Poseidon doesn’t know when Hades will return Sally to the world of the living and says as much; when he gives Percy a pearl to take him home, the demigod is transported to the border of Half-Blood Hill. In the book, Hades immediately upholds his end of the bargain, so after his audience with Zeus and Poseidon, Percy walks to his Manhattan apartment to see his mother. They reunite and Percy tells his mom about his quest; as he fights with Gabe one last time, Percy realizes that Gabe hits Sally. This makes him consider killing Gabe, but ultimately Percy offers his mom help if she wants to get rid of her husband. Sally declines as she wants to start living her life on her own terms, which means disposing of Gabe herself. Percy moves out, not knowing whether he will come back to Manhattan for the school year or if he will stay at Camp Half-Blood. Later in the summer, Sally writes Percy that an art gallery gave her a fortune for a statue she named The Poker Player, and that she has disposed of the tools Percy gave her (read: Medusa’s head). If you’ve missed the post-credits scene, go rewatch the end of the episode! 

As I wrote in the first article of this series, I don’t mind that they the show toned down Gabe’s character. While he's still an absolute jerk, he’s mostly harmless on the show, whereas he's more outwardly abusive in the books. Executive producer Rebecca Riordan explained what is behind this choice: “Because that is in the written word and it’s in your imagination, you can temper it. When you see it visually, it is triggering and difficult to watch. That is why we came at Gabe in a different way, because this isn’t supposed to be a horror show.”

In the book, Percy goes through the rest of summer at Camp Half-Blood believing that Ares was the friend mentioned in the prophecy, the one who will betray him. It’s only on the last day of summer that Luke tries to kill Percy. Luke unleashes a poisonous scorpion on Percy, who faints after being bitten. When he wakes up in the infirmary, he tells Chiron and Annabeth everything. On the show, everything happens as soon as Percy arrives back at camp; he and Annabeth believe Clarisse is the thief. Luke agrees, using it as an excuse to get Percy alone to try to recruit him into a rebellion against the gods spearheaded by Kronos. When Luke fails, he tries to kill Percy. It's only when Annabeth reveals her presence that Luke flees, unable to bring himself to face her and fight her.

Percy, Annabeth and Grover vow to see this through, but for now they go their separate ways. Grover is heading out on his mission to search for Pan; he intends to explore the seas. Annabeth, bidding her own goodbye to Thalia’s tree, is about to spend the year with her dad’s family. (It's only at this moment in the book that Percy makes up his mind about going back to his mom.) Percy, Annabeth and Grover promise to see each other at Camp Half-Blood next year, no matter what.

I sure hope to see the trio reunites!

A full-fledged review of the entire season is coming soon. For now, I will just say that the finale is my new favorite episode… so far.

Episode rate: A+

Next. pjo. How Percy Jackson and the Olympians changes the books: Episode 7. dark

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