Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Disney+ series vs. book (2024)

See you in season 2, Seaweed Brain and co.

Much has been said and written about the differences between Disney's Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the movies. Even I had my own take on it.

This time, we're talking about the series vs. the actual book. Remember that the Disney+ show tried to faithfully follow Rick Riordan's first book in the series, The Lightning Thief. For the most part, I think they did well.

And they should, seeing as Uncle Rick, as he's known to his fans, is involved in the show as one of the executive producers. He's also done a lot of press for the series.

So here's my take on the differences between the show and the books. I'll focus on the ones which I feel strongly about. Because in the end, that's the point, right? Whether I care enough about the differences and how it affects my enjoyment of the show. ScreenRant did most of the work here since they have a list of what the series changed from the books so I'm going to start from there.

More focus on Percy's childhood in the series vs. the books

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I liked that the show fleshed out Percy's childhood, especially in the episode where Sally was teaching him how to swim. She may have been preparing him for a life without her, but to me it felt like she was, in a way, introducing him to his father's world without telling him who he was exactly. It could also be just for safety reasons, but I'd like to think that she had his father in mind for that activity.

Gabe Ugliano isn't depicted as abusive in the series

Maybe this is a hot take and maybe it isn't, but I think the reason Percy's stepdad Gabe Ugliano isn't depicted as being abusive in the show is that it's geared towards a younger audience. I'm not a parent so I can't say whether showing an adult character as abusive is beneficial or not to children watching the show. If the argument is that children also read (or are currently reading) Riordan's books, reading how a character is abusive andwatching it unfold are two completely different things.

Series Percy knew his dad was alive vs. book Percy who believed he was dead

In the books, Percy believes his dad died. In the show, he knows he's alive but he's not there. I think this makes their meeting for the first time even more fraught. Humans have a tendency to be more forgiving of those who are dead. Or you could call it pragmatism. There's nothing else they (the dead) can do, right? Whatever mistakes they've made, they can no longer fix.

But someone who's still alive and has wronged you has many chances to fix things. It's when they don't that makes you resentful, and this is the backdrop of Percy meeting Poseidon for the first time.

Percy and Annabeth's relationship is different in the series

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In the books, Annabeth was the one to show Percy around Camp Half-Blood. In the movie, it was Grover. In the series, it was Luke. I actually preferred the change where Annabeth is NOT the one to do that because it sets up their story better. I like that in the series, they really showed Annabeth trying to be distant and aloof since she has a reason: their parents don't get along.

And it's not just a matter of one parent forgetting to return a dish or the other constantly mowing their lawn at ungodly hours. There's millennia of history between Poseidon and Athena. Their children aren't meant to fraternize even if they do spend most of their childhood together training.

Book Percy had diagnosed dyslexia and ADHD

One of the maybe-not-so-obvious exclusions from the book is Percy's ADHD and dyslexia. In the both the book and the movie, Percy has both. In the book, he's told that his ADHD is why he keeps seeing monsters, and he kept getting kicked out of school due to his dyslexia. The movie explains his ADHD as his battle reflexes kicking in and dyslexia as his brain hard-wired to read ancient Greek instead of the Latin alphabet.

While I would like this to show up in the series, I'm not bothered that it hasn't — yet. I am hoping that it does show up in season two.

The book Big 3 promise not to have children due to World War II

In the book, Grover explains to Percy how after World War II, the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) agreed they wouldn't father any more children because they were too powerful. So powerful that they started affecting the course of human history basically causing World War II.

This doesn't show up in the series. And I have a theory as to why. While the second World War may not be that sensitive a topic, if it came up in the show, it may come off as a little trite explaining the reasons of one of the world's greatest conflicts as “basically a fight between the sons of Zeus and Poseidon on one side, and the sons of Hades on the other.” Then you have parents scrambling to explain Hitler's invasion of Poland, Nazism and fascism.

The series changed how Percy decided on his companions for the quest

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I'd actually forgotten this detail when I saw the episode, but in the book Percy chose Annabeth for the quest rather than her volunteering. I appreciate this change mostly because it shows how discerning Percy is. After the Oracle had told him, “You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend,” he decided to choose Annabeth because he thought they would never be friends.

However, he had enough faith in Grover to know that he would always have his back. Series Percy is a strategist and a softie at the same time.

Book Annabeth had a crush on Luke

I actually prefer this change from the book. In Riordan's The Lightning Thief, Annabeth's crush on Luke explains her loyalty to him. In the series, she's loyal to him because he's family. When she ran away from home, he and Thalia basically adopted her. Her loyalty doesn't stem from romantic feelings but from a sense of belonging — one that she'd been looking for and found in an unexpected place. Which makes his betrayal all the more heartbreaking.

The series slightly changed Medusa's story

I'm going to have to repeat myself when it comes to most of the changes here, but I loved how the series added details to Medusa's story. The book doesn't really explain Medusa's hatred of Athena, just that she turned a beautiful woman into a monster. However, in the series, Medusa's story is more fleshed out and explains the betrayal she felt at the hands of Athena for punishing her for doing something that she didn't think was wrong.

Athena's punishment to Annabeth wasn't in the book

In the book, Athena didn't punish Annabeth when Percy sent Medusa's head to the Olympians. In the series, her retribution came in the form of allowing the Echidna and the Chimera into one of her sacred spaces: the St. Louis Arch. I liked this inclusion because it displayed the gods' willingness to cut of their noses to spite their faces. It also gave the audience — at least those unfamiliar with the books and/or mythology — just how casually cruel the gods can be.

Series Percy chose to fight the Chimera

From that same episode, Percy intentionally fought the Chimera, choosing to do it alone to save his friends. It's not in the book, but I like the change in the series because of two reasons: one, it was a badass move for a kid; and two, it showed how self-sacrificing Percy can be.

Series Grover chose to stay with Ares

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This is an Ares twofer. In the series, Grover opted to stay with Ares instead of joining the other two in Waterland. I like this change because it gave us that moment with Adam Copeland (Ares) and Aryan Simhadri (Grover). In an interview, Copeland had said that scaring Simhadri the way he did in the first take was something the director had asked for — and to do it again.

Series Percy found out about his mother's fate from Ares

In the book, Percy doesn't know that his mother is still alive when he sets off on his quest. In the series, he knows his mother didn't die when the minotaur took her. This changes his motivations for wanting to go on the quest.

Remember that all of this — Camp Half-Blood, his demigod status — is all new to him. He's not invested in any of this. But going on this quest allows him to do what he really wants to do: get his mother back, which makes more sense than just acquiescingto your crazy relatives' orders.

Series Hermes ends up sort of helping the trio out in Las Vegas

This, I think, was an important change to make the narrative clearer. I believe this was added to establish Hermes' and Luke's back story, and for Percy to hear it from Annabeth's perspective as well. This will set up his confrontation with Luke later.

Book Percy makes the summer solstice deadline

I think this was done to up the stakes to Percy's attempt to return the master bolt. In the book, he makes the deadline. However, I think it worked better for him to miss it and like he told Zeus, he still showed up knowing full well that the Olympian could have used the bolt against him.

Book Sally and Poseidon don't have a lot of interactions

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Three words: more Poseidon please. Aside from my very obvious crush on Toby Stephens who plays the god of the sea, storms, earthquakes and horses. By the way, if you saw him and thought, “This guy looks familiar,” that's probably because if you're a millennial you've seen him as the Bond villain Gustav Graves in 2002's Die Another Day.However, if you're younger and on social media, you may know him as Dame Maggie Smith's son.

But in all seriousness, this just might be my most favorite change from the book: a glimpse into Poseidon and Sally's relationship. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it has been 19 years since the first book came out and I was at the age where I was more focused on Percy's adventures than what the adults were doing. Now, though, I think I'm maybe Sally's age. I relate more to her than I do Percy and I want to see her side of the story, too.


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Book Zeus denies Kronos' return

It makes sense that Zeus accepts Percy's news about Kronos returning. As the late great Lance Reddick (Zeus) said, “I know where Kronos is. I put him there. I know who Kronos is. I am his son. Of course, he's gathering strength. Of course, he's coming. That is what we do. We snap and plot and strive. It was only a matter of time before he did again.”

How Luke's betrayal was revealed

I love that Luke isn't painted as a complete villain here. In the books, Luke tries to kill him with a scorpion. In the series, he tries to get Percy to understand where he's coming from, which is easier for him to do since his father Hermes had already given a glimpse of what it was like for Luke growing up.

When he insists, “I AM your friend. Percy, none of this was meant to betray you,” it sounds believable.

Because it is. His argument is sound. Sort of. He wants out of the gods' control, but he thinks aligning with Kronos is better?

He's a demigod; he knows what Kronos was like to his own children. What makes him think he would be better, do better?

Maybe it's more than just a change of management. I wouldn't even try to hazard a guess on the psyche of someone who suffered parental neglect compounded by his mother's mental breakdown.

Gabe's ultimate fate

I honestly prefer the show's version because in the book — while not explicitly stated, Gabe was turned into a statue which Sally sold as her life-size concrete sculpture called The Poker Player to fund her deposit for a new apartment as well as Percy's private school and her first semester at NYU. That's a lot of money! Considering how much of a bad guy book Gabe was, I honestly don't blame her.

However, series Gabe was irritating and not exactly shown as abusive as he was in the book. If Sally had deliberately turned him into a statue, I would say that punishment doesn't befit the crime. So it's a good thing his own recklessness caused all that.

Book vs Series

All in all, I'm really happy with how the series was able to remain faithful to the books and at the same time make what I think are necessary changes. With Disney having confirmed season two, I'm excited to see all the other changes (for pacing, narrative or just artistic license) the writers, showrunners and Riordan himself will make.

I'm looking forward to seeing Polyphemus (Tyson in the book), Percy's cyclops half-brother, Thalia and most especially the Party Ponies.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is currently streaming on Disney+.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Disney+ series vs. book (2024)


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