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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

‘Percy Jackson’ debut season takes world by storm

The long-awaited adaptation combines all the best parts of the book with astounding performances by young cast

The name “Percy Jackson” often attracts two different groups of people. In the first group, there are the loyal, original fans of the five-book series, beginning with the release of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” in 2005. The other pool consists of fans of the two movies based on the first couple of books in the PJO series. Regardless of which group one leans towards, both fell in love with author Rick Riordan’s extraordinary world and characters partly derived from Greek mythology. Now, after almost 20 years since the first book’s release, something new has been created for everyone to enjoy.

The Disney+ show “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” expertly combines the witty dialogue and imaginative plot of the original book with the quality of the movie adaptation. There were 13.3 million viewers for the premiere episode in its first six days, awarding the show its title of the most-watched debut for Disney Branded Television in history. Clearly, the new series has captured the attention of both previous fans and new ones.

Now, with all eight episodes under my belt, I can confidently say that this show has the potential to join the ranks of adored book adaptations such as “Harry Potter” or even “The Hunger Games.”

As a long-time fan of primarily the books and then the movie, I eagerly anticipated the show’s premiere on Dec. 19. Since then, I have dedicated myself to watching each new episode released every Tuesday at 8 p.m. Now, with all eight episodes under my belt, I can confidently say that this show has the potential to join the ranks of adored book adaptations such as “Harry Potter” or even “The Hunger Games.”

From the beginning, the casting has been some of the best in regards to movie adaptations of popular book series. Walker Scobell portrays 12-year-old demigod Percy Jackson with expert skill at the young age of 14, truly embodying the recognizable sarcasm and bravery of such a beloved character. Similarly, Leah Sava’ Jefferies as Annabeth Chase and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood have successfully realized the complexity of their respective characters despite being relatively new to acting. 

Nevertheless, some say that, since they do not look exactly like Riordan’s book description, they are unfit for their roles. Jefferies in particular is a Black girl playing an originally blond, white Annabeth, something that raised a debate among viewers of what it means to accurately portray a well-established character. After watching the show, I found that these three young actors, along with the rest of the cast and crew, have worked together to skillfully display the essence of the book and its characters, which is ultimately more important than initial appearances. 

Apart from casting, PJO has proven itself in multiple other ways. With Riordan as an active member of the writing and production team, I share in the belief with many that the show has finally proven true to the books, something the movies failed to achieve.

One detail I loved in particular was that each episode was named after certain chapters in “The Lightning Thief,” with the first episode corresponding with the very first chapter of the series titled “I Accidentally Vaporize My Algebra Teacher.” 

Throughout the rest of the season, readers finally get to see iconic scenes adapted on screen. Some of my favorites include the Chimera fight atop The Gateway Arch in episode four, the introduction of Ares played by Adam Copeland in episode five, and the entirety of episode eight where the lighting thief is finally revealed.

The show was able to craft all 22 chapters into eight episodes packed with their own adventure in a span of 30 to 40 minutes. This was obviously a challenge, and one that I believe was mostly completed. Although I clearly loved the way certain scenes and characters were done, the adaptation did have its flaws. 

The pacing, for one, was uneven at times, with some scenes too long and some too short. As a result, there was an awkward feel to several sections, notably the entirety of episode six, that made me question whether to blame the writing or the acting. Though, despite my small critiques, the cohesion and chemistry amongst the main three stars seemed to smooth over the choppy feel.

At the end of the day, the show has much potential that the cast and crew has already revealed to consistent viewers. Of course, there is also room for improvement that I am hoping to see if and when the next seasons are created. Needless to say, I can not wait to see what the future holds for this evidently timeless story. 

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