The resurgence of Percy Jackson: Victory or defeat?

Image from The Walt Disney Company, Viria94, and Sarah Hamilton.

Since the release of the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book in 2005, the series has taken the world by storm in a way that would make even the “Stormbringer,” Poseidon, proud. Following Percy Jackson’s massive success, the “Riordanverse,” dubbed after the franchise’s creator, Rick Riordan, grew into a phenomena with over 30 books, multiple book-tours, mass-produced merch, and the creation of a real-life Camp Half-Blood in Austin, Texas. This massive popularity eventually led to the inevitable: a movie franchise during the pinnacle of young adult literature adaptations. However, this specific one didn’t go as anticipated. What was expected to be an amazing adaptation fell short with its inability to stay true to the plot of the books, and disappointed fans all around the world took it as the end of an era. 

Naturally, people were shocked when in May of 2020, Disney announced a Percy Jackson TV show in the works, with Rick Riordan in complete control. People were confident that it would be a faithful adaptation, as Rick’s voice in production would immediately set it apart from the movies. After 3 years of anticipation, in December of 2023, almost 10 years after the last movie, the show was released. But is it what fans wanted? Washington High School juniors Divya Mohanty and Saeesha Gudipati are not so sure.

Although many portions of the show were done beautifully, including its production and casting, its flaws, particularly the pacing, come close to outweighing the positives. Mukul Dangi, a senior, complains how from the get go, the exposition in the first episode felt completely rushed, “with Percy barely spending any time in the camp and directly going on the quest.” Mohanty agrees, explaining how “dialogue and scenes were cut, replaced, or rushed, which was disappointing, because the whole point of the show was to fix the weaknesses that the movie brought up.” From there, however, the show did a complete 180, spending entire episodes on singular events which could have easily been reduced to half an episode to spend more screen time on equally important moments that were cut from the storyline. 

Not only was the pacing of the scenes an issue, but also the pacing of the relationships. One of the most beloved things about Percabeth, the relationship between Percy and Annabeth, was its slow burn, or in non-reader terms, the fact that it took a total of five books to fully develop. In the first book, both children noticeably dislike each other. However, in the show, this tension hardly lasted 2-3 episodes before we were already able to see how much they cared for each other, with Annabeth’s hard exterior already cracking when Percy was in trouble, which many, including Gudipati, believe would have never occurred in the books. 

Pacing is not the show’s sole flaw, as the vastly inaccurate personalities of the characters drastically affect how the plot moves forward. A current senior at Washington High School discussed how he favors Grover and Percy’s friendship in the books as it resembles his with his best friend, but not in the show, where Grover is more of a third wheel. Along with the dissatisfactory friendships, a main issue regarding the roles are that the characters do not act like the young and naive children we expect them to be. For example, one of the most loved scenes from both the books and movies is the Lotus Casino scene, where the 12 year olds get distracted in a casino full of games and lose track of time, as a real group of kids would do if left unsupervised. While the movie perfectly encapsulated this immaturity, in the show, Percy and Annabeth stayed on task, while Grover alone acted like the child. Gudipati summarizes it perfectly, stating how “All 3 of them seemed super well informed, which was so different from the book. In the book they were so clueless at times and it was like we were on the journey with them, and it was so fun and fulfilling to see them complete the quest.”

At the end of the day, fans tend to base their opinions on how accurate the media is compared to the books. Over the past 10 years, people have grown content with the fact that the movies are drastically different from the books, and have begun to see their positive aspects. On their own, the movies are everything you could ask for: interesting with great acting, beautiful sets, and adequate CGI. But if compared to the books, it is easy to scrutinize all the differences. Now, with the show having just been released, people are drawing the same comparisons as they did with the movies. However, many argue that this backlash was fair, as Riordan stated that he made all the decisions for the show. Why wouldn’t the author want it to be just like his books? What many fans fail to realize is that the show isn’t the book, but its own piece of media. Gudipati is able to consider things from both points of view, stating that, “As its own show, it definitely deserves a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s funny and the plot was executed really well. Comparing it to the book though, just because they changed so much, I would personally rate it lower.”

Although the Riordanverse is something that many have grown up with, as the years have gone by, the original fans have changed, just as Riordan has. In this ever changing world, the characters have stayed the same age, but they have continued to be adapted and tailored to a new and younger generation, which the initial readers, including most high schoolers, are not a part of. As the older audience watches the show, it is understandable that they may not enjoy it as much. For these book fans, seeing something that doesn’t fit the nostalgic expectations they wanted is disappointing, but change is inevitable. 

Anjika Singh is a junior at Washington High School, who has lived in Fremont, California her entire life. This is her first year as a part of The Hatchet, and she is excited to cover a variety of topics from reviews to school news through her articles. In her free time, Anjika enjoys dancing, reading, hanging out with friends, and watching movies and shows. In the future, Anjika hopes to go to college, but is undecided about what her major should be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *