Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Percy Jackson’: Diving into the demigods

Clara Faulkner

From the captivating pages of Percy Jackson novels to the eagerly anticipated season 1 of the Disney+ series “Percy Jackson,” the demigod hero has been my constant companion from sixth grade to now at 20. My obsession remains steadfast as I eagerly awaited the adaptation that promised to bring Rick Riordan’s beloved world to life like never before.

The new Disney+ series diverges from Percy Jackson’s source material, and surprisingly, this departure feels like a breath of fresh air. While not a 1:1 adaptation, this deviation brings a consistent tone reminiscent of the original “The Lightning Thief” novel. 

The alterations made in transitioning from book to screen not only complement but complicate and, when needed, challenge the core themes of the original series. The adaptation navigates the time constraints of an eight-episode season, skillfully laying the groundwork for the impactful latter half of the series.

As I delved into the series, I was reminded of the delightful humor that pervades the books. The clever sarcasm, witty banter, and perfectly timed comedic moments juxtaposed with the intense monster battles infused the stories with warmth and levity, even amidst the perilous adventures. The authenticity of the characters’ interactions brought genuine laughter when I turned each page in the original novels, and Rick Riordan’s knack for blending humor with high-stakes action carried onto the screen.

The adaptation tackles various shortcomings of the original movie without succumbing to contrivance, a common pitfall in Disney’s live-action endeavors. The impeccable casting choices are particularly noteworthy, especially for the beloved main trio, significantly contributing to the adaptation’s triumph. Walker Scobell, Leah Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri convincingly portray their youthful characters while enhancing the authenticity of the adaptation.

Despite occasional dips in pacing or writing, these talented actors consistently elevate their performances, breathing life into even the slower moments of the series. Particularly noteworthy is the chemistry between Scobell and Jeffries, whose portrayals of “Percabeth” are captivating and authentic. Interactions like Annabeth’s playful nickname for Percy and Percy’s endearing moniker for Annabeth are delivered with sincerity to resonate deeply with viewers.

Scobell, who plays Percy Jackson, encapsulated Percy’s wit, charm, sass, goofiness, and nerdiness with remarkable authenticity. The scene in the bathrooms episode particularly connects with Percy’s distinctive dialogue style, showcasing Scobell’s ability to embody the character. Moreover, the touching moment where Percy prays to his mom beautifully illustrates the depth and emotional complexity brought to the character. Scobell’s performance not only captures the essence of Percy Jackson but also adds new dimensions to his character, enriching the overall portrayal.

While watching the series, several aspects caught my attention right away. The adaptation effectively portrays half-bloods’ challenges, highlighting Percy’s deep love for his mother and his skepticism towards the gods’ methods. It captures Annabeth’s sharp wit and strategic mind, Grover’s initial shyness and eventual bravery, and numerous other aspects of the characters’ personalities and struggles. 

Alterations made to Grover’s character render him far more intriguing and compelling. The depiction of Percy and Annabeth’s behavior, mirroring the typical meanness of 12-year-olds, injects a humorous element for audiences of all ages. 

The revamped portrayal of Sally, Percy’s mother, grants her significantly more agency, deviating from the narrative tendency to justify her self-sacrifice solely for Percy’s protection. Furthermore, exploring the book’s themes surrounding what essentially amounts to manifest destiny adds depth to the series’ narrative. 

The series successfully brings the beloved book to life in a way the earlier movies failed to do, capturing much of the essence and detail of the original story. Scenes set at Camp Half-Blood are well-executed, and specific moments like the bus scene and the encounter with the monstrous Chimera closely match the book’s descriptions. 

While watching the series, I couldn’t help but notice its whimsical tone, which might be attributed to its target audience of children. However, as a 20-year-old viewer, I found the tone somewhat different from what I expected, especially when compared to the beginning scenes of the first movie and the tone established in the book.

In the show, the sense of urgency and the high-stakes atmosphere surrounding Percy’s journey seemed diluted, with characters appearing more relaxed than their book counterparts. Additionally, some gods, such as Hades, who came across as timid and non-confrontational, lacked the benevolent presence portrayed in the books. While these observations may be more critical from an adult perspective, my younger self would likely have enjoyed the series for its engaging lore and characters despite any differences in tone.

However, while some scenes shine, others, like the Chimera battle, feel less fleshed out and lack the sense of impending doom present in the book. The portrayal of Medusa’s lair, reminiscent of “Hansel and Gretel,” falls short, possibly due to the music or the tone of Medusa’s dialogue. Overall, the adaptation leans heavily on exposition rather than visual storytelling. In writing, it’s often advised to demonstrate characters’ emotions through actions rather than explicitly stating them. While Rick Riordan’s middle-grade books can afford more direct narration, television thrives on visual representation.

While the series diverges from the source material in various ways, it infuses the beloved story with new life. This series possesses the potential to be a smash hit, captivating both devoted readers and newcomers alike. 

With its faithful adaptation of Rick Riordan’s beloved world and fresh take on familiar characters, I am optimistic about its prospects for a second season. As the story unfolds, I eagerly await the opportunity to delve deeper into this enchanting universe and witness the adventures of Percy Jackson and his friends unfold on screen again.

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About the Contributor
Clara Faulkner, Managing Editor and Living Arts Editor
Clara Faulkner wears multiple hats at the Beacon, serving as both the Business Director and the Living Arts Editor. Prior to assuming these roles, she demonstrated her expertise as an assistant editor, specializing in living arts—a domain she is deeply passionate about, fueled by her love for pop culture and entertainment. Additionally, Clara served as a writer for the Boston Globe, is a part of NBCUniversal Entertainment Group, and contributed to the music team at Intersect Magazine. In addition to her editorial responsibilities, Clara actively participates in various campus organizations, including SPJ, Associate Entertainment Producer at WEBN-TV, programming director at WECB. fm, and AEPHI. Outside of her writing pursuits, Clara immerses herself in culinary exploration, cinematic enjoyment, and language acquisition, consistently seeking fresh experiences and knowledge.

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