Nearly 20 years ago, an award-winning book series raised an entire generation fascinated with the Greek Gods. This year, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” written by Rick Riordan, has finally returned with a long-awaited TV show adaptation.
Released Dec.19 on Disney+, “Percy Jackson” is geared toward the original book’s intended audience of young children, meaning the millions of now-adults who read the books back in the early 2000s will find the TV adaptation enjoyable less for its plot and more for its nostalgic value.
Gaby Choi ’26, grew up “obsessed” with the book series. “When I found out they were remaking the series, I got really excited.”
“It’s really nostalgic for me,” Choi added. “When I watch it, everything from the books comes back to me.”
Eurie Seo ’26, who also grew up reading the books, thinks it would be difficult for an older audience to enjoy the show completely without a “nostalgic attachment to the show,” Seo said. “I'm not sure if people our age are anywhere close to the target audience.”
The show is the second attempt to put the series on screen. The 2010 film, and subsequent 2013 sequel took dramatic liberties with the characters’ development, plot and myths referenced in the books to create an ultimately unrecognizable storyline. Riordan himself described the movies as his “life’s work going through a meat grinder.”
Siddharta Laloux ’26 doesn’t remember much about the 2010 adaptation, except “from being absolutely scandalized at how they were vandalizing the source material.”
But for Seo, the movies, while not faithful adaptations, were entertaining, especially in the absence of other options.
The TV show, on the other hand, co-written by Riordan, is far truer to the original work and more accurately reflects Riordan’s dry humor. Even the episode titles bear the names of chapters from the book, such as “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” and “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom.”
Much of the TV adaptation’s success comes from the medium’s format. For Laloux, turning the books into a TV show rather than a movie “gives the directors, the producers and the writers of the show more screen time to work with, which means they're able to analyze the relationships in a more detailed, nuanced, complex manner.”
The three main protagonists — Percy (Walker Scobell), Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries) and Grover (Aryan Simhadri) — look and act like real 12-year-olds, despite the treacherous quest that lies ahead. This highlights one of the series’s main themes: the tension between Percy’s childhood innocence — navigating his relationship with his parents, having his first crush, goofing off instead of focusing on his mission — and the dangers and pressure he faces while fighting monsters and trying to save the world.
Even though the current adaptation is a lot more faithful to its source material, fans will still notice some key differences between the books and TV series. While most changes are minor and have little if any bearing on the plot itself, others, like having the three protagonists immediately deciphering big mysteries — the significance of the Lotus Hotel and Casino and the role of Kronos in the conflict, for example — takes some pressure out of the viewing experience.
But, as Choi highlights, the show also tries to appeal to a larger audience. “In the show, there’s a lot more explanation of what’s happening, I guess because younger kids have to understand it too — especially people who haven't read the books,” Choi said.
For adult viewers expecting a show to match the hype around the books, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” adds very little in terms of complex or engaging plotlines compared to shows created exclusively for adults. Regardless, the adaptation is a high-quality, consistent portrayal of a childhood gem — that alone is enough for any “Percy Jackson” fan to keep watching.
Katie Jain is a University News editor from New Jersey overseeing the graduate student life beat. She is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs and History.