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Percy Jackson: The Journey So Far

It’s been a long and complicated road to faithfully adapt Riordan’s infamous series. Where has “Percy Jackson” been—and where is it going?

Main cast of Percy Jackson
Disney©2023

With a new Disney Plus series on the way, Percy Jackson fans have a lot of fresh content to look forward to! But this isn’t the first time Camp Half-Blood has hit the big screen—so why did the original movies fail so badly, and how do we know the TV show will be any better?

The Lightning Flop

Original fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will remember that the new Disney Plus adaptation isn’t the first time the Olympians have gone from book to screen. Riordan’s creation originally garnered a two-movie deal with 20th Century Fox: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010) and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013). With 48% and 42% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reception to these movies was decidedly negative.

Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson
Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson in “Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief.” (20th Century Fox©2010)

So what exactly went wrong?

Plenty of things. Actually, almost everything. First and foremost, the movies changed too much from the books. While the characters are only children in the original story, in Lightning Thief, Percy and his friends are 17. In addition to this, almost the entire plot looks different.

Instead of finding his mother and confronting Hades, Percy embarks on a half-baked quest to find “Persephone’s Pearls.” Bafflingly, Percy also makes the decision to leave his best friend, Grover in the underworld and live with his mother. These changes not only derail the source material but undermine Percy’s entire character, which is obviously central to the series. In the movies, he comes across as selfish, shallow, and dull rather than a brave and courageous hero.

More about these changes, as well as Riordan’s own thoughts on them, feature in a letter to fans.

The Quest for Accuracy

Given how beloved Riordan’s original series was, it’s completely understandable that fans were upset with the butchered attempt. That’s why, following a pitch by Riordan, development on a new Percy Jackson TV series began in May 2020. This time, Riordan himself would be a crucial component of the series’ creation, co-writing episodes with showrunners Jonathan E. Steinberg and Dan Schotz.

Main cast of Percy Jackson series
From left to right: Leah Jeffries, Walter Scobell, & Aryan Simhadri. (Disney©2023)

The main cast was announced in April 2022. Barring a brief controversy over the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabelle Walker, fans welcomed the new actors. Each one has the spirit of their corresponding characters, as well as their youthful appearance. Walker Scobell, known for playing Adam in The Adam Project, along with his co-stars Aryan Simhadri and Leah Jeffries, have been confirmed by Riordan to be excellent matches for the heroes they represent.

A Trailer to Remember

On September 19th, Disney released the newest teaser trailer for “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Let’s take a look!

Trailer for “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

The trailer’s caption reads: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians tells the fantastical story of a 12-year-old modern demigod, Percy Jackson, who’s just coming to terms with his newfound supernatural powers when the sky god Zeus accuses him of stealing his master lightning bolt. Now Percy must trek across America to find it and restore order to Olympus.”

Just in this short clip, there’s already so much more book accuracy than the movies—as well as a killer score! We can see that the plot of the show will follow along with the first book, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, as Percy and his friends try to retrieve Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt. Though Percy principally features in the trailer, each actor seems to embrace their role, including Lance Reddick, who passed away earlier this year, as Zeus himself.

It seems like the show will follow the first book to the letter. This is made even clearer through the newly revealed episode titles, which share names with the book’s chapters.

What’s Next?

According to the show’s trailer, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” will release in a two-episode premiere on December 20, 2023. After that, the remaining episodes will be released weekly. There are eight total episodes in the first season.

As of now, season two has not officially been greenlit—but Riordan is hopeful about it, which spells out good news for fans. “I am pleased to tell you we are in a very good place,” he writes, “as we look forward to a (not-yet-greenlit-but-fully-anticipated) season two!”

Given the need to re-cast Reddick’s role as Zeus, as well as the SAG-AFTRA Actors’ Strike, it will likely be at least another year until we can expect more of this series. But don’t fret—Riordan has just released a new book, Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods, in case you need more of a demigod fix after finishing the show.

To read more about Percy Jackson, click here!

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Written By

Haven, she/her, 21 year old English student from University of Florida.

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