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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Exploring the Cinematic Odyssey: Unraveling the Latest ‘Percy Jackson’ Series

After four years of anticipation, the ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ adaptation on Disney+ was recently released, and it did not disappoint.
“Young readers especially like to escape reality and slip into a fantasy world. It’s easier to read about people doing amazing things like casting spells and riding dragons that about people doing mundane things like going to school. Kids already know that life. It’s nice to pretend you are someone else once in a while,” said Rick Riordan. (Photo Credit: Andreas Rasmussen / Unsplash)

Look, I didn’t expect this franchise to become such a big part of my life.  

Mr. Scott, my third grade teacher, carried a box of books into the classroom one morning and one by one called a few students over to look at its contents. I was one of the first to approach him, standing on my tiptoes to peer inside. He reached into the box and slowly pulled out a book. The cover featured a young boy, sword in hand, facing New York City. The wind whipped his hair as a storm raged around him, with water roiling about on the edges of the cover.

I read the title, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, cracked open the first page, and began a ten year quest alongside these powerful young heroes. Now, as I open my laptop and log into Disney+, I feel the same rush of excitement I did nearly a decade ago. 


First announced in May 2020, the long awaited T.V. adaptation for beloved book series Percy Jackson has taken the fandom by storm.  All around the world, fans new and old were anxiously awaiting its release this past December 2023, and the internet community has had a lot to say.

The show follows the original Percy Jackson trio, focusing on the first book of the franchise. Many fans are already anticipating the potential seasons to follow, five in total to match the number of books in the series. Many people have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the show’s progress thus far. 

Before we go into what I and other enthusiastic fans thought of the show, we should first dive into how we got here. 

On June 28th, 2005, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, written by Rick Riordan, was released. The book follows our titular hero Percy Jackson, a twelve-year old demigod, as he  discovers his origins as the son of Poseidon. Percy Jackson must also embark on a difficult mission to travel across the world in order to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt before war is unleashed amongst the Greek gods.

Since then, Rick Riordan’s universe has expanded beyond the original Percy Jackson series into a plethora of mythological stories, including the Roman, Egyptian, and Norse pantheons, which follow more daring young heroes. In addition to all of Riordan’s famous novels, production companies such as 20th Century Fox put The Lightning Thief into multimedia, launching the first live-action adaptation in 2010. 

Unfortunately, it was not well received. 

A Disaster to Remember 

Despite being the author and creator of the entire Percy Jackson franchise, Rick Riordan was not included in the filmmaking process. Though there are scenes that viewers found amusing, fans generally agree that the movie did a terrible job at adapting the story which many of them had grown up with. 

Riordan himself was livid with the way the films turned out, and eventually publicly released a series of emails he sent to the producers. One of his main issues regarding the live-action was age. In the novel, the characters are in their early adolescent years, just shy of 13. However, the cast members of the movie  were much older than their book counterparts. Riordan warned the team that this age distinction would alienate his novel’s core audience, repeatedly expressing concern over the movie’s performance because of this. Not only was the cast a problem, but so was the foundation of the movie, the script. In the aforementioned email chain, Riordan stated, “The script as a whole is terrible. I don’t simply mean that it deviates from the book, though certainly it does that to the point of being almost unrecognizable as the same story. Fans of the books will be angry and disappointed. They will leave the theater in droves and generate horrible word of mouth.”

But these critiques were met with apathy. 

The disappointment and frustration surrounding the films accumulated into a series of inside jokes between the Percy Jackson community and Riordan, sharing laughter at the “adaptation that must not be named”. Ever since, fans have had their fingers crossed for a second chance at a proper adaptation. Now, Riordan grants that wish in hopes the show will do the books justice.

In Anticipation 

After the show’s initial announcement, fans have been at the edge of their seats waiting for more information. They immediately took to the internet with each update on the show’s progress to demonstrate their excitement, theorizing on casting and talking about scenes they were excited to watch. With Riordan finally able to influence the course of the adaptation, fans were assured that this adaptation would be a success.  

Conversations before the show’s release on December 19th, 2023 mostly surrounded speculation on the cast and how the production team would present the most iconic scenes of the novel. Riordan selected Aryan Simhadri, Leah Jeffries, and Walker Scobell himself. However, there are still fans who would have preferred a cast that looked more like the characters’ appearances as described in the books. 

There was an intense amount of controversy about casting Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase, with those opposing her role pointing to the fact that she is a black actress. Other fans had faith that Jeffries would do an amazing job at playing her character no matter her appearance and racial background, and I agree. Just because she doesn’t look like or have the same ethnicity as the book character, does not mean that she isn’t a good fit for the role. I strongly believe that she will do a great job at portraying the strong-headed quick-witted Annabeth Chase whom readers know and love. 

A General Review 

From the first few seconds of the pilot episode, I was hooked. As the title slowly appeared on the screen, one of the most iconic lines that Percy Jackson is known for rang out: “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.”

As I eagerly watched each episode, I found myself drawn to the bonds between the characters, especially in regards to Percy. Percy’s connection to his mother, Sally Jackson, is particularly important to the story’s narrative. The show presented the strength of a mother and son relationship, which I found to be particularly heartwarming, especially during the trying times Percy had to undergo throughout his quest.

Throughout the show’s first season, we see Percy’s friendship between characters such as Luke, one of the first demigods Percy becomes friends with upon his arrival at Camp Half Blood, and his soon-to-be best friends, Annabeth and Grover, develop as he navigates challenges that he never asked to be a part of. Our heroes attempt to understand a conflict far greater than them, putting their lives in danger to meet an impending deadline. 

Rick Riordan and his team did a fantastic job in making sure the stakes remained high throughout the series, but not without running into critiques from the audience. 

One of the main criticisms was on the amount of changes Riordan was making to the storyline. Personally, I believe a lot of the changes he made still worked well in the show. Some added humor to the series, which audience members believed lacked in the show in comparison to the novels, and others heightened the stakes in ways I didn’t expect. 

Most of the humor in the novels was from Percy’s inner monologue, which we don’t have in the show. Viewers are watching the story unfold from the outside, so Riordan’s team needed to find ways to maintain this aspect of the story’s charm in a different way, particularly through the characters’ dialogue and expressions. I loved listening to Percy’s quick witted quips throughout the series, and a lot of them made me chuckle. 

As for heightening the stakes, the show added a few twists that weren’t present in the source material, which in some cases confused readers and left them wondering how the characters would handle these new obstacles. 

As a reader myself, I had to learn to trust the process that this show was going through. When I first witnessed the changes made, I, along with many others who read the original books, began to judge the show, particularly with the installment of the sixth episode. After watching through the whole season however, I reevaluated my critiques and realized just how well they worked for the story. Of course, I’m not satisfied with all of the changes made, but I did thoroughly enjoy the series in its entirety.  

“I realized early on that I could not treat the T.V. show as an extension of the books, as they make too many changes to scenes and chronology. The timeline changes. However, as a piece of media, I think it is fantastic. The characters are intricate and well-developed and the acting is incredibly skilled. The mythology and lore are effectively communicated. I cannot wait for Season Two,” said Hallel Abrams Gerber ’24.

Percy Jackson is a twelve-year old boy who could have never fathomed that his mother had been trying her best to protect him from the godlier side of himself. The structure of the show helped construct a beautiful narrative of Percy’s character becoming stronger, physically as well as mentally, as he charged through the dangers ahead of him and his friends. I found the flashbacks to be the most impactful during my watch. We as viewers got to see parts of Percy that, unbeknownst to him, all culminated together to become the role model we aspired to be as kids, a facet that we didn’t see in the franchise’s first novel ten years ago. 

Fans continued to debate with one another about the quality of the show as the episodes aired each week.

“I thought it made a good synopsis of the events of the book, and a lot of the changes made sense to me. That being said, the pacing felt so weird. It started pretty slowly in the first few episodes, but then as the quest continued, the show’s plot started going much faster and became more difficult to follow,” said Zachary Meryn ’25.

I kept these criticisms in mind as I watched the show, and despite all the back and forth happening within the show’s audience, I couldn’t help but feel excited. I finally got to see a world that I’ve dreamed about for years come to life. This long-awaited adaptation has surpassed all my expectations, despite all the divergences made from the source material to the screen. I can almost imagine my past eight-year old self jumping up and down with excitement after each episode’s release. 

Thoughts So Far (Warning: contains a lot spoilers) 

The show’s first season was divided into eight half-hour to forty-minute episodes, each titled after select chapters from the novel. Focusing on the two-episode premiere, the initial scenes of the first episode already brought a few small changes made from the novel to the screen, but the changes still worked well in driving the story forward. In the first chapter of the novel, there are various incidents which set Percy apart from his peers, but those incidents were mostly accidents he caused during field trips. In the show, Percy has visions of strange things, such as a Pegasus on a nearby roof. Despite this small tweak, I do appreciate that Riordan and his team made it clear that Percy was different from his classmates, that there was something more to him that we were about to see. 

Percy’s relationship with his mother is a huge driving force in this novel, pushing him to embark on a dangerous quest into a mythological world he unwillingly tumbled into. His incessant need to find and save her is one of his key motivations to keep going, despite the difficulty of his quest. The addition of a flashback in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) established the sheer amount of love they have for each other, and I believe it was conveyed beautifully. 

Reaching out to the broader details of the show thus far, there is some debate about a few aspects of the show.

The most important parts of the novel have been largely kept, and so far the biggest changes have been in the fifth episode of the series, during Percy and Annabeth’s scenes inside Hephaestus’ amusement park. I found their moment at the golden chair to be absolutely beautiful. It demonstrated Percy’s later-to-be-revealed fatal flaw, loyalty, as he valiantly sacrifices himself to become a golden statue stuck to the chair so that Annabeth may continue on the quest with Ares’ shield without him. 

It may not have been the same as having mechanical spiders attack them as they’re stuck inside a net, but the slight change still demonstrated to viewers, readers and nonreaders alike, how profound Percy and Annabeth’s friendship has become at this point, and how it will build as their journey continues. 

Earlier in the show, the teenagers encounter Medusa, and the confrontation is markedly different from how it plays out in the book. Rewatching the show from the beginning, it becomes abundantly clear just what Sally Jackson meant when, looking at the statue of Perseus displaying Medusa’s severed head as trophy, she said, “Not everyone that looks like a hero is a hero, and not everyone that looks like a monster is a monster.”  

Medusa’s tale in the show was slightly different from the one presented in the novel. In the show, she is a victim, punished for a crime against the goddess Athena that was not her fault. This change alone had an immense impact on Annabeth’s character arc and relationship with her mother, whom at this point in the show we have yet to meet. Poseidon disrespected Athena’s temple with Medusa, and Percy committed an act of impertinence by shipping Medusa’s head to the gods. Both actions angered Athena, and Medusa and Annabeth both had to face the consequences of it, which I think was incredibly impactful storytelling. 

I believe that the audience as a collective should take a step back and see what Riordan has planned for the changes he has made to his story so far; trusting him will allow us to enjoy an amazing product. 

Another point, though potentially not discussed as often, is the humor of the show. Critics of the show say the jokes and sarcasm do not land the same way as they do in the novels. However, I mostly disagree. There were a few times I felt iffy about the way the characters spoke to each other, but then reminded myself that I am older than the target audience, and the actors are supposed to be portraying twelve-year old children. So of course, the way they will speak and interact with one another is not going to resemble the way older viewers interact with their friendships now. 

Even then, I still think the jokes are quite funny. I never expected Percy Jackson to floss in the second episode, but when I saw it, I have to admit I chuckled a little. At that moment I knew Walker Scobell, the actor behind Percy, truly embodied his character’s silly and semi-chaotic spirit. The sarcasm, more specifically the sassiness, was absolutely on point from episode to episode. Percy’s little quips have been nothing if not iconic, and best represent one of the character’s key characteristics. 

I’ve already noted the casting, but that was for the main cast. I’m not familiar with the majority of the actors who play the other notable characters we’ve seen so far, such as Medusa, but I do know one of them: Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Hermes. 

Many have been on the rocks about this particular casting decision. I personally feel the same way. The way that I see Miranda versus the way that I see Hermes as a character do not exactly align, and I think that many people hold skepticism about Miranda’s performance for the same reason. 

Speaking of Hermes, his official appearance does occur when the trio arrive at the Lotus Hotel and Casino. I do respect Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acting a lot. It just did not seem to me that he presents the same “vibes” or characteristics that Hermes does. Hermes is not just a traveler, he is a troublemaker, the god of thieves and a messenger. The way that I and many others view Miranda does not seem to match that description. I suppose seeing Miranda in a space in which I am not used to seeing him was just a bit off putting, but I did enjoy his performance thus far and hope to see more of him in future seasons.

After watching the sixth episode, I felt conflicted. The changes made in the earlier episodes made sense. They were exciting, and as someone who’s read the majority of the books from this franchise, I found it to be just plain fun to have to guess what might happen next. 

The changes made in this particular episode left me with many questions. Readers, non-readers, and movie fans alike, all highly anticipated this episode because of the suspense involved in watching Percy and his crew unknowingly waste two days of their quest in a  hotel that traps its victims in time. 

However, those who were excited to watch the live action version of the original scene from the book were in for a surprise during this episode. Unlike the events in the book, Percy and his friends were already well aware of the hotel’s trap upon entering, and even spent time discussing the dangers they would face inside. It felt less like an authentic discovery and more like they were simply telling the audience what was meant to be happening, as opposed to letting them experience it for themselves. 

While watching, I really wished that they stuck to the books for this scene. New fans would have been able to feel what the book readers did: the panic, suspense, and eager anticipation that came barreling through, as Percy and his friends found out they were stuck in time, and then scrambled to escape. We didn’t exactly get too much of that since we were already told what the problem was supposed to be. 

The final change that I would like to critique, which also falls in line with the ‘telling, not showing’ issue that this show had, was the reveal of May Castellan and what Hermes did to her. May Castellan’s tragedy wasn’t revealed until much later in the series, but I do understand that it might have been viewed as a necessary addition to the script in this episode, in order to explain why Annabeth did not want to tell Luke which god they were going to see next. I felt as if the quick reveals, of the secret behind the casino and the drama in Luke Castellan’s family, took away from some of the suspense and anticipation that we have seen and enjoyed in the books. 

After watching the seventh episode though, a few of the big changes made in Episode 6 make a lot more sense. I think it’s important to acknowledge that the first novel of the franchise came out over ten years ago, and Riordan is bound to want to make some changes to his work. Though I do wish there was more suspense in the casino scene, it makes sense why the trio are bound to know the monsters they are dealing with. Annabeth and Grover have been a part of the demigod world for the majority of their lives, so it would have been odd if they were unaware of the dangers lurking beneath. Additionally, the rest of the episode set up the events from the seventh episode through to the finale surprisingly well. Many viewers were especially confused about Percy being given four pearls instead of three; in the novel Percy had to make a difficult decision about saving his mom or saving himself and his friends, when he was short on one pearl. Fairly enough though, the trio in the show lost one pearl, and I think that heightened the stakes for them all in a way the characters didn’t anticipate. 

The setting was also impeccably done; the underworld looks exactly the way that I pictured it, and the souls trapped in the Garden of Asphodel were more unsettling than I thought they would be. 

Finally, let’s talk about Hades, the lord of the dead himself. I didn’t  know much about his character before I started the show, so I found his characterization on the screen to be interesting, yet still fun. He’s not the brooding lord most would expect from him, but I still think his slightly sassy and humorous persona works quite well to set him apart from his two brothers. 

All in all, I do think the seventh episode did a great job at picking up where the sixth episode left off, and I really hope we get more seasons to see Hades again. Now that the seventh episode is over, we can turn our attention to the finale we’ve all been waiting for this month.

Needless to say, the finale was amazing. I loved it as much as I loved the premiere.  It answered my questions about what would come next for the final two installments of the series, and I appreciated how the finale kept me on my toes despite the fact that I have read and obsessed over the franchise for years. 

The final episode showed us where all of Percy’s key relationships are now. We saw his acceptance of his power and his demigod heritage during the fight with Ares, his relationship with his father as Poseidon surrendered to Zeus, and his flowering relationship with his two best friends as they reach the end of their quest. We also saw the strength of his bond with his mother, developed throughout the entire show through his memories and his deep desire to save her, and now we finally see them reunited. 

My favorite part of the episode was definitely Luke’s betrayal. We see Luke trying to recruit Percy to join his cause against the gods. This is truly the moment where all of Percy’s efforts throughout the series is about to meet its epic conclusion as he refuses to go with Luke to work for Kronos. The most impactful moment for me, however, was Annabeth’s sudden appearance. It absolutely shocked me, knowing that in the books there are still moments where she is trying to defend Luke, holding onto the hope that there’s still a bit of her big brother figure in him. I think this part was handled fabulously, and I applaud all three of the actors for their strong performances in this monumental scene. 

Though I’m a bit upset that the show has come to an end, I’m very excited to learn more news about the upcoming second season. In the meantime, I know that the magic will still be there when I sit down to watch it all over again. 

To watch Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Disney+ subscription required), click HERE.

First announced in May 2020, the long awaited T.V. adaptation for beloved book series Percy Jackson has taken the fandom by storm. 

About the Contributor
Ruby Moran, Staff Reporter
Ruby Moran is a Copy Chief for ‘The Science Survey.’ She believes that journalistic writing is essential for educating the public on crucial issues affecting all types of communities around the world. She enjoys a multitude of creative hobbies such as prose writing and creating visual artwork, as well volunteering in her free time. Ruby plans on continuing her volunteer work to advocate for environmental issues and marginalized voices in creative fields. In college, she is interested in studying business administration. She hopes for a future in which she continues to pursue what she loves while creating positive change for future generations.