‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ episodes 5 & 6 give the series its best and its most frustrating moments

By Ben Konuch

“If you can help, then you must help.”

Spoiler warning for episodes five and six of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

So far, the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series has reached some pretty high highs and some very low lows. When it’s at its best, the series follows the story beats of “The Lightning Thief” novel while not being afraid to change up events details in order to allow the story to fit best on a screen. When it’s at its worst, however, the series can tend to change too much and try too hard to force the story to fit into something that it’s not, oftentimes at the expense of what makes “Percy Jackson” stories so special. Both these highs and lows are on full display in episodes five and six of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

To be completely honest, I adored episode five. Not only does the episode cover an event from the books that the previous attempt at an adaptation completely cut out, but in my opinion, this episode shows the best chemistry we’ve seen yet from our trio, and showcases their strength in unique ways. When god of war Ares shows up to offer Percy, Annabeth and Grover passage to the Lotus Hotel & Casino, the next stop on their quest, the trio is suspicious. But with few options left, and a deadline for heavenly war rapidly counting down, Annabeth and Percy embark on a fetch-quest for Ares while Grover stays behind as insurance.

To get the obvious out of the way, this is the episode where Percy and Annabeth ride the Tunnel of Love boat from the novel, and the series makes it a fun yet tense sequence that shows the characters’ growing respect for one another and perhaps even the spark of romance. The episode demonstrates Annabeth’s determination and wisdom in crisis situations, as well as Percy’s strength in his selflessness and bravery in ways that even a god marvels at. In addition, Timothy Ommundson makes his picture-perfect debut as Hephestus, god of the forge, and it’s also important to note that this episode marks the first time we hear Annabeth call Percy “Seaweed Brain,” a monumental win for Rick Riordan readers everywhere.

For me, though, I loved that episode 5 finally gave Grover his moment to shine. So far, the series hasn’t done the best job at proving to us that this young protector is still worthy of his role, yet watching him slowly and ingeniously gain Ares’ trust only to turn around and use that for information was brilliant. The entire conversation between him and Ares felt tense and unpredictable, with Grover’s subtle manipulation and eventual accusations about the lightning thief serving not just as great character development, but also as natural storytelling and worldbuilding. The series focused so much on the adventures of our main characters trying to reach the lightning bolt and delving into human-god relationships that they’ve rarely taken time to stop and wonder who stole it, so seeing the series and the characters start to take that question seriously was a welcome shift.

Would you like another Lotus Flower? Not in this version of the Lotus Hotel & Casino, you won’t

That being said, episode six was much more of a mixed bag for me. This episode saw our beloved trio head to the Lotus Hotel & Casino to try to persuade Hermes, Luke’s dad, for aid in reaching the Underworld. While not the worst episode in the series, it was perhaps the most frustrating to me based on the wasted potential of the Lotus Hotel. In the novel, the hotel is insidious in how it stretched time by tricking its guests into falling for its influence, entrancing its unsuspecting victims in its time distortion as they enjoy luxuries, games and refreshments. One of the most tense and scary moments of the novel comes when Percy realizes that there are people around him from older time periods and realizes that he is slowly losing his awareness in his consumption of “fun” and “rest.”

Yet in the series’ version of these events, there is no shocking, tense moment of understanding what the Lotus Hotel is. Instead, in a move that mirrors episode 3’s changes to Medusa except on a much worse scale, Grover and Annabeth realize within moments of stepping into the building exactly what the place is and what its effect can be, spoonfeeding it to viewers with no tension or suspense paid off whatsoever. There’s still some excitement from the episode as Percy and Co. try to escape after seeing that time is still passing, but it’s frustrating seeing “The Lightning Thief’s” most unique scene become just another escape sequence.

There are good elements to this episode, as I was surprised to find that Lin-Manuel Miranda was fantastic as Hermes and the scene when Percy is trying to drive out of the parking garage was genuinely funny, but I hate that look at the Lotus Hotel episode and say that the most tension I felt was when our main characters were driving a car. The trio dynamic is improving greatly and Percy and Annabeth’s chemistry continues to shine, but allowing the quest’s deadline to expire on episode six changes absolutely everything about the tension and stakes of the series which was already on shaky ground. 

I still enjoy watching “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” on a surface level as a longtime Rick Riordan fan, but with only two episodes left to go, I feel the weight of the series’ wasted potential a whole lot heavier.

I give “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” episodes 5 & 6 a combined score of 7/10

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is now streaming on Disney+

Ben Konuch is a junior Strategic Communication student and one of the A&E editors for Cedars as well as the social media lead. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and swing dancing in the rain.

Images courtesy of Disney

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