This is a spoiler free review for episodes 1-4 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Fans of the book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians have been waiting a long time for an on-screen adaptation that captures the action, heart, and stakes of the world Rick Riordan created. A movie series starring Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario was attempted in the 2010s and went as far as adapting the second book before stopping there. But whereas these movies took many liberties with the story and alienated many fans of the books, the Disney+ series seeks to do the opposite.
Rick Riordan himself serves as co-creator, writer, and executive producer for the proceedings, and it shows. While there are obviously some differences between how things play out in the first book The Lightning Thief and how they are depicted in the show, everything that has been changed so far has only further served the story and the characters it follows.
For anyone unfamiliar with this world, the first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) as he discovers that not only are the Greek Gods and monsters of myth and legend very real, but that he himself is the son of a God. Unfortunately, Percy doesn’t have long to process this information because he is soon thrust into a quest that takes him across the country to find Zeus’ lightning bolt and stop an impending war between the Gods. Luckily Percy isn’t alone in this journey, and is joined by Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries), another demigod, and Grover Underwood (Aryan Simhadri), a satyr tasked with protecting Percy.
The first episode does move a bit rapidly – there’s not much room for us or Percy to breathe as he discovers the truth of his existence, fights a minotaur, and travels to the demigod safe haven Camp Half-Blood – but the pacing of this episode feels like more of a symptom of television in the streaming era than it does an indication of the quality of the series. With only eight episodes, a show like Percy Jackson can’t really afford to take its time and instead has to throw us in the deep end.
Book fans should be able to keep up without issue, as the first few chapters of The Lightning Thief similarly throw Percy into this adventure without much breathing room and we’re already familiar with the mythology of this world. Those that aren’t familiar, however, shouldn’t let this episode deter them from continuing on with the series. Once Percy gets to Camp Half-Blood and begins his quest, things even out to a more digestible pace and the young actors truly have a chance to shine as Annabeth, Percy, and Grover learn to trust each other on this journey.
Walker, Leah, and Aryan had massive shoes to fill as these beloved characters, and they far exceed expectations. They are incredible young leads, and I genuinely hope that they get to play these characters for as long as they want to. Walker captures Percy’s humor and sass while also conveying his sadness and the weight he feels as the son of a God. Annabeth has a stoicism about her that’s not easy for a young person to carry, and yet Leah embodies her calm, calculating demeanor so well that it’s clear why she was chosen for this role. Aryan is the delightful glue that holds the group together as Grover, bringing this awkward but caring young satyr to life.
Overall, Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a lot of fun and finally does justice to a world that so many have found solace in for nearly two decades. It stays true to the source material while adding and tweaking a few interactions to better serve how the story is told in this medium. Any small hiccups with pacing are quickly overshadowed by the sheer talent of this cast and the evident care that the writers and directors had for this story. This show is everything that Percy Jackson fans have been waiting for, and so much more.
The first two episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians are available to stream on Disney+ now. New episodes premiere Wednesdays, culminating in the finale on Jan. 31.