The trials of a hero’s quest force Percy to both embrace his identity as a half-blood, and to understand the heroic duties and destiny that come with divine parentage.

When Perseus (Percy) Jackson is twelve years old, he learns he is a “half-blood.” Raised by a single mother, it is only after an encounter with a monster (on a school field trip, no less) that he is informed his absent father is an ancient Greek god. In an 8-episode miniseries adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Disney Plus explores Percy’s transformation from a confused, young, and fatherless boy to a confident and heroic “son of Poseidon.” The trials of a hero’s quest force Percy (Walker Scobell) to both embrace his identity as a half-blood, and to understand the heroic duties and destiny that come with divine parentage.

And while Riordan has built a contemporary literary universe around Greco-Roman mythology, Percy’s character arc is familiar to the Christian convert in three ways—in the restlessness Percy experiences when he is unsure of who he is, in his change in identity and self-perception when he is “claimed,” and in the assumption of new duties and a new destiny that accompany his new identity.

The cold open to the series is Percy’s retrospective monologue that mirrors Riordan’s first lines of the book, beginning, “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” But the first episode is initially set, after this opening, by Percy’s voiceover as he questions whether he is a troubled kid. He has dyslexia, he is often bullied, and most significantly, he sees creatures that only exist in classical mythology. Of course, other people don’t have these problems, but then, Percy does not yet know who he is. Percy identifies himself with these struggles, and places his identity in the context of his irregularities. He doesn’t know why he performs so poorly in his academics, why the other kids pick on him, or how he gets himself into enough trouble to move yearly from school to school. 

Percy is restless, but he does not know the cause of his restlessness.

Accustomed to ostracization and isolation, Percy recognizes that he is an unordinary child but attributes it simply to strangeness. In an altercation with female bully Nancy Bobofit (Olivea Morton), Percy accidentally uses his half-blood power to throw her into a fountain of water. He’s clearly confused as she accuses him of pushing her; he never put his hands on her. Afterward, a Fury (Megan Mullally), disguised as a teacher, attacks him; he fights her and watches her disappear in flash before he passes out. When he comes to, his classmates and teachers tell him that it was all in his imagination. While they are lying to him, and he eventually realizes it, Percy is first restless and confused. He trusts his experiences but not himself. In short, Percy is restless, but he does not know the cause of his restlessness.

Likewise, the pre-converted Christian wanders. When the heart and mind do not know God, they try to cling to every form of material satisfaction. Caught in his own vice, the pre-Christian tries to reconcile his identity crisis with his personality attributes or activities. He consoles himself by convincing himself that he couldn’t get any happier, that everyone feels this way. He tells himself, “Maybe I just don’t fit in,” “Maybe I am just not that smart,” “Maybe I can’t get any happier,” or “Maybe this next achievement will make me happier.” The pre-Christian doesn’t know why he has so many problems, why he is left unsatisfied so frequently. Augustine is oft-quoted about the restlessness of the human heart “until it rests in God,” and the convert knows this reality well. Man cannot make his own meaning or find his identity outside of faith. His heart is restless, that is, seeking meaning and answers to the questions that plague him: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? When he tries to invent meaning (as he often does), he may be happy, but he is left still unsatisfied. 

There is no alternative; he cannot be happy, only content, if he does not know himself. And he cannot know himself unless he knows God. Graciously, God gifts all men with natural knowledge of himself, if man only lifts his eyes to the divine. Oftentimes the pre-convert can recognize moments where God has illuminated (even briefly) his mind or experience, but he convinces himself that these were figments of his imagination or manifestations of his emotions. As the Christian seeks answers to questions about human suffering, he finds solace in divine sonship alone. Only in the Cross does human suffering hold meaning.

Percy’s life also mirrors the life of the convert when he is “claimed” by his divine parent. In the second episode, Percy arrives at camp with the understanding that he is a half-blood, but he is still unsure of his godly father’s identity. He is shoved into the Hermes cabin for wanderers and unclaimed children (a nice metaphor for agnosticism) until, after a threatening game of Capture the Flag, Poseidon’s trident appears over his head in the lake.

Percy’s claim represents a kind of emergence into a new identity as claimed

There, submerged in waters not unlike those of a baptism, Percy’s parentage is revealed. It is here that Percy’s life takes on a new meaning. He is no longer unclaimed, and his campmates look agape at the symbol over him. Chiron (Glynn Turman), legendary trainer of heroes, announces over him, “You have been claimed by Poseidon, Earthshaker, Stormbringer. Percy Jackson, the Son of Poseidon.” He has power that the demigods could not have imagined as a child of the “Big Three” (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades), and suddenly the extraordinary events from his past have real context. It is from this point that he can proceed, undertaking a hero’s quest befitting of his half-blood identity.

It is not only Percy’s standing in the water that reflects the Christian journey. Percy’s experience in the lake certainly seems to parallel Jesus’s own baptism, where the Spirit descends on the Lord “like a dove” (Lk. 3:22); however, it is also the reality signified by baptism that Percy shares with the Christian. The trident is a symbol of Percy’s father, but of course Poseidon has always been Percy’s father. This moment in the lake is Poseidon’s recognition of Percy once Percy is prepared to be claimed. Percy is claimed when he comes to camp, believes in the ancient mythologies as true, and desires to know his identity. His claim is thus a sign of his explicit entrance into Poseidon’s family, into Poseidon’s “world.” The Greek god is not so much an involved parent as God the Father, but Percy comes to find that his father has not always been truly absent. Percy’s claim represents a kind of emergence into a new identity as claimed

The Christian likewise, in freely choosing to be baptized, confesses his belief and enters into the family of God. While God has always been his Creator, he acknowledges him as his Father. The Christian is baptized into the life and death of Jesus Christ, entering into the “world” of the Lord. And just as God said of Jesus, “This is my beloved son” (Lk. 3:22), so too does the Christian become a beloved son when he is baptized. The Christian is now a new man and is called to “put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Then what is this new nature? It is simply living out divine sonship. The Christian is given a new name, a new identity, and a new call. Suddenly, the Christian sees himself in the context of God’s family. He knows his Father and he knows his destiny—and in that, he finds his true identity.

Finally, Percy is given a quest to live out his new identity. Zeus (Lance Reddick) and Poseidon  (Toby Stephens) have been at war over the theft of Zeus’s Master Bolt, his symbol of power. While there is an unknown thief at large, Zeus blames Poseidon and a battle rages across Olympus. As a newly-claimed son of Poseidon, Percy is scapegoated as the thief and must find and recover Zeus’s Bolt to prove himself and his father innocent and to stop the war that could tear the gods apart. Although Percy is the newest and thus least experienced camper at Camp Half-Blood, he is given this quest because he is Poseidon’s son. The remaining six episodes follow Percy’s quest and the trials he undergoes specifically because of his father. 

Just as Percy finds himself through acceptance of his divine parent, so too must the Christian embrace the heavenly Father so as to find himself.

Medusa (Jessica Kennedy), for one, wanted to turn him to stone out of revenge for his father’s lustfulness. Further, his friendship with Annabeth (Leah Jeffries) remains contentious as her mother (Athena) and his father share a long history of rivalry. While facing various monsters and his identity crisis, Percy is given the additional burden of his father’s reputation, which vacillates between positively and negatively affecting his quest. In shouldering that burden and moving through trials with fortitude, Percy proves himself a hero. And in turn, he realizes that his once ordinary life as a “troubled kid” is long behind him. He will continue to face quests and monsters until he becomes the hero he is destined to be, and he has two options: to embrace his mission and his destiny, or die trying to avoid them.

In the same way, the Christian is given a new mission in baptism: to be a disciple of Christ. He is now part of the war for souls, fighting against evil in himself and outside of himself. He fights for virtue fervently, no longer trying to be just “a good person.” While the new Christian is inexperienced in being a son of the Divine Father and Creator of the universe, he is given the task that every Christian shares, to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.” (Mt. 28:19-20).

Baptism is a sign from which the Lord’s command immediately proceeds. And the Christian knows that he will suffer because he is called a follower of Christ. Suffering is a promise of the Christian life, but so is the victory of the Cross. As such, the Christian has a challenging task with a divine destiny. The perfection of the Christian life consists in its supernatural end—eternal happiness with God. Everyone experiences suffering, but one can embrace the Cross and hope in the promise of salvation, or reject God and run away from suffering until one’s last breath.

Lauded as one of Disney Plus’s more successful recent projects, Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a worthy adaptation of Rick Riordan’s text which shows Percy undergoing his hero’s journey to find not only the Master Bolt, but also himself. This journey forces him to uncover and embrace his identity as a half-blood, and as he develops an understanding of his divine parentage, he recognizes the great heroic duties and destiny he possesses. Percy Jackson holds a mirror to the Christian convert throughout the whole of the miniseries: just as Percy finds himself through acceptance of his divine parent, so too must the Christian embrace the heavenly Father so as to find himself.


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