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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series is a hit with lifelong fans

Courtesy Photo | Disney
Leah Sava Jeffries, Aryan Simhadri and Walker Scobell star in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

Dec. 19, 2023, one of the most highly anticipated series of the year, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” premiered on Disney+.  This television series is based on the titular book series by author Rick Riordan with season one following the plot of the first book, “The Lightning Thief.” 

The show follows 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) as he finds out he is a demigod, and the son of a powerful Greek god. He must go on a quest alongside his demigod friend, Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries), and satyr protector, Grover (Aryan Simhadri), to seek out and return Zeus’s lightning bolt.

The Percy Jackson book series was my absolute favorite when I was a kid, and shockingly, the television series lived up to my expectations.

When I heard that Rick Riordan would be closely involved in the production of the show, I knew that the soul of the show would be there at the very least. I am not a book purist, despite my love for books. Books simply cannot be transferred word for word into live-action formats, so I was perfectly content with the show changing some parts of the narrative.

Honestly, some parts needed to be changed. The first book came out in 2005, after all. That was 17 years before show production began, and the world looked very different 17 years ago. Some parts of the book either did not make sense or were problematic, which is okay to admit. For example, there is the highly “memed” moment where Percy jumps off of the St. Louis Arch into the Mississippi river with no explanation, despite the physical impossibility of doing so. The show provided an explanation, smoothing that wrinkle out. Not every change made to the narrative was entirely necessary. However, think about it from Riordan’s point of view. If you wrote a book nearly two decades ago, would you not have at least something you would want to change? I would.

I also feel like I cannot properly review the show without at least briefly mentioning the casting, particularly as far as the main trio of the books is concerned. Walker Scobell plays the titular character of Percy Jackson. While his blond hair and blue eyes are a change from the way in which Percy is described in the books, Scobell’s acting removes any doubts about his portrayal of the character. He effortlessly captures the combination of sass and fierce loyalty that defines Percy while also reminding the audience that the character is a child. In fact, all three actors of the trio are great at maintaining the childlike aspects of their characters.

Aryan Simhadri plays Grover Underwood, a satyr who acts as a guide and guardian for young demigods. While Simhadri was not exactly what I originally pictured Grover to look like, he did a fantastic job at bringing the innocent, worried and lovable character to life. There was discourse amongst fans about the casting a person of color for the role of Grover, but unfortunately, the most vitriolic discourse was reserved for another actor.

Leah Sava Jeffries plays Annabeth Chase. When Jeffries casting was announced, the public’s reaction was similar to Halle Bailey’s casting as Ariel in the 2023 live action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” The circumstances were also very familiar, with a Black actress playing the role of a character that had historically been portrayed as white. 

Jeffries does a truly amazing job in this role. In defense of Jeffries’ casting, Riordan told the Hollywood Reporter that Jeffries embodied the soul and personality of the character. She is believable in every conceivable way as Annabeth Chase. She is stubborn, witty and caring beneath a guarded exterior. Jeffries’ micro expressions endear the audience to Annabeth in every scene, and her performance even earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Youth.

I saw someone comment on the casting online and I would like to reiterate their message here to summarize my sentiments: If Riordan shook the book to find his real-life characters, these three would have fallen out. Season one was a great success in my opinion, and I need season two to be greenlit pronto.

About the Contributor
Haylee Morman
Haylee Morman, Staff Writer
Haylee Morman is a senior English major. Haylee is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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