The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” book series was a staple for young adults, following the epic tales of a preteen, misfit demigod, Percy Jackson. Despite the hype, the recent Disney+ series, which adapts the first entry in the series, “The Lightning Thief,” falls flat.
The show picks up where the book begins, with Percy (Walker Scobell) being whisked away to Camp Half-Blood after he discovers he is the son of Poseidon (Toby Stephens), the Greek god of the sea.
Once there, he sets off on a quest to the Underworld to find out who stole Zeus’s (Lance Reddick) Master Bolt, accompanied by his two friends, Grover Underwood (Aryan Simhadri), and Annabeth Chase (Leah Jeffries).
It pains to say this, but even with all the exciting celebrity cameos, minimal changes from the books and amazing digital imagery, the show still can’t hold a candle to the joy found in reading from the source material.
This adaptation has a recurring issue — it constantly underestimates the intelligence of the audience. Every confrontation, every twist and every turning point was spoon-fed by a character.
This aspect of the show is especially aggravating, impacting even its most climatic moments, including the Medusa sequence in the abandoned New Jersey greenhouse. The vivid suspense of the characters unraveling the mystery behind the statues and the test of their friendships is lost in the show.
Despite the series closely following the book, there isn't much intrigue here — it's 50 percent landscapes and 50 percent exposition. There's excitement with the combination of Greek mythology and modern setting, but many conflicts feel half-heartedly resolved.
Other important concepts, including the dream sequences, Percy's efforts to rescue his mom and the chaos at the Lotus Flower Casino, are all dealt with and bring closure, but they’re not interesting enough. There's so much talking in the script — it feels more like a play than a TV show.
Percy’s dream sequences felt especially forced and cheaply snuck in. Percy seeing demons and mythological creatures in visions is straight from the book, but the dreams in the show just felt uninteresting. It felt like a cop-out, with the show looking to transition between scenes more easily, which it didn’t need.
Having Percy receive a vision giving clues as to who stole the lightning bolt doesn’t make for mystery or suspense, it makes for poor screenwriting.
Even with the twist of Percy discovering he was the son of Poseidon, it felt like his character never showed any range of emotion. He sees his mom get taken to the Underworld, and he comes across as bored in the next scene.
The cast is not at fault for their delivery — there are some amazing talents shown in the first season. But they all come off as aloof or monotonous, so the blame deserves to be left on the showrunners and directors.
It was odd to see Rick Riordan ignore many elements of visual storytelling almost entirely, instead going in for filler. Even with episodes he’s credited with writing, the show feels bland, with no atmosphere except for the corporate Disney shine, which has no style or substance.
The show can not sustain this level of quality for the rest of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. If it keeps up like this, it’ll end prematurely like the original movie series or simply just end up drying in the wasteland of streaming services.