Percy Jackson and the Olympians 1×01 & 1×02 Review: “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” & “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom”

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS – “Episode 102” (Disney/David Bukach)

It’s been 84 years, but it’s finally here! The two-episode premiere of the Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians dropped early today, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. With titles taken straight from the book (the first season is based on The Lightning Thief), Percy Jackson and the Olympians delivers a live-action adaptation that fans have been waiting for. If the rest of the season maintains this same level of quality and faithfulness, this show may be my favorite book-to-screen adaptation ever. 

“I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” introduces us to the titular Percy Jackson, named after Perseus of Greek myth, slayer of Medusa. He’s fairly isolated as a child, due to seeing things that seemingly aren’t there – things right out of the stories his mother tells him about heroes and gods and monsters. (One of his “hallucinations” is a pegasus, which makes sense, considering the origin of his name.) Fitting, then, that his story really starts in the Greek & Roman wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Let me tell you, if I didn’t know for a fact that they didn’t actually film at the Met, I never would have guessed. They filmed this scene on the Volume, which uses an LED-immersive soundstage as opposed to a blue or green screen. It has the same gravitas as it would if they had filmed on location, the same kind of awe and quiet reverence that the museum has.

In fact, when I spoke to Director James Bobin at New York Comic Con in October, he talked about this very thing. “Even though the Volume is only supposed to work for the camera the shot is on,” he said, “it does have a sense of presence anyway. It’s naturally just lit, and it feels real and a real space. And so at the end of the day, you don’t feel like you’ve been on a blue screen with a headache. You feel like you’ve been in a museum.”

The scene set in the Met’s iconic fountains, where Percy stands up to bully Nancy Bobofit, is also your first hint of his godly parentage – at least if you haven’t already the books, seen the 2010 film, or not been anywhere on the internet for the last 15+ years. As the identity of his father is revealed in “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom”, I don’t feel bad about “spoiling” it for you. With Poseidon for a father, Percy has some level of control over water, and you can see it with the fountains.

When I spoke to ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Jeff White at NYCC, I asked him about the water effects and he mentioned the fountain scene. “It’s very subtle and I don’t know if you saw it in the clip there, but when Percy approaches her, there’s actually water tentacles that grab her from the back.”

Other major scenes I’d like to highlight include the Minotaur attack at the end of “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” and the Capture the Flag sequence in “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom”. Both of these were previewed at NYCC, and seeing the full scenes just made them even better. The Minotaur was appropriately menacing (even while wearing briefs!), and I loved that they made the distinction of when he was moving on four legs versus two.

Likewise, the Capture the Flag sequence was amazing. It was very age-appropriate (Percy flossing while waiting around was hilarious) and showed you just how dangerous the lives of half-bloods are. I love how Percy starts off like the awkward, untrained twelve-year-old that he is and gradually gets better at sword fighting as the scene goes on. It’s a good way of showing that, as the children of Greek gods and goddesses, half-bloods are just naturally good at some things.

I won’t waste much time comparing this series to the 2010 film – primarily because I honestly remember very little about it – but I have to bring up my biggest pet peeve with the film. They just nonchalantly drop the fact that Poseidon is Percy’s father, despite the fact that it’s a big damn deal, and literally no one but Poseidon and Sally Jackson know this. So the whole time I was watching the Capture the Flag scene, I was waiting for him to go into the water. I’ve been waiting for that epic moment when Poseidon claims Percy as his son, and I legitimately squealed when it happened.

Now I have to spend a moment or two gushing about the cast. We’re only two episodes in, and we haven’t spent that much time with anyone except Percy, really, but so far I can tell that they nailed the casting. Everyone is doing their best and it shows. It probably helps that these are kids who grew up reading the Percy Jackson books and were fans going in, so they didn’t want to screw it up. Walker Scobell (Percy), Leah Sava Jeffries (Annabeth), and Aryun Simhadri (Grover) have all got the vibes of their characters down pat, and I am super excited to see the three of them go off on their quest so we can see what the dynamic is like with all of them together.

We haven’t met many of the adults yet, but while Jason Mantzoukas isn’t who I would have pictured as Mr. D (mostly because I read these books more than a decade ago and had no idea who he was), I think he is perfect for the role. He’s your legitimately crazy uncle who doesn’t care about anything. I love that they showed him drinking a Diet Coke.

And the sets, the sets. I already gushed about how well they did the Met, but I literally want to live in that Camp Half-Blood. It has the perfect mix of upstate summer camp (despite being located on Long Island) and Greek village. I thought the Hermes cabin was a little small until I realized that made it even better, showing how they cram all of these kids in this one cabin. If you haven’t read the books, take note – that becomes important later.

Also, can I for just one second babble about how unbelievably beautiful the ending credit sequence is? Because I could watch that all day. I absolutely love the art.

“I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” and “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom” have set a very high bar for the rest of the season, but I am so optimistic for the remaining episodes because I have a feeling this series is going to jump to being one of my favorites.

I was very fortunate to be invited to the red carpet premiere at the Met last week, and while this show looks amazing even on my tiny television, nothing beats watching it on the big screen with a captivated audience. Not to mention, pictures really don’t do the event justice. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ll ever do in my life, and I’m very grateful to have gotten the invite!

New episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians drop on Wednesdays on Disney+.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.


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