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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Episodes Five and Six

Updated: Feb 22

This week, we jump back into the word of ‘Percy Jackson and Olympians,’ taking a look at episodes Five and Six, where we finally get to meet a few more of the Greek gods. Our heroes encounter Ares, Hephaestus, and Hermes, send messages through Iris and are offered a terrible future by the Fates.

While they may have escaped Echidna and her Chimera daughter, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are far from out of the woods. Alarmingly, Annabeth soon encounters the Fates – appearing innocuously before her as three elderly women knitting a pair of giant blue socks. The women on the left and right both knit, while the woman in the middle holds the yarn and, most worryingly of all, cuts it. As Annabeth and Grover later explain, the Fates cutting a thread is a sign that someone is about to die.

In Greek myth the Fates, or the Moirai, determined the destiny of many, with Clotho spinning the thread, Lakhesis measuring it, and Atropos cutting it, to determine the length of that life. Though the Moirai are most famously known to number three, it is thought that in earlier depictions there may have only been two, or even one. While some depictions show Zeus as the head of the Moirai and able to interfere with their ruling, others show him as just as bound by the whims of the Fates as any other. 

Our heroes’ luck doesn’t improve from here. Having lost their ride, the three are faced with the unenviable position of having to continue their journey on foot. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, they soon run into someone who says he can help, the motorbike riding Ares (played by Adam Copeland).

Ares is the Greek god of war, son of Zeus and Hera. Unlike Athena, who represented battle strategy, Ares represented the chaos, carnage, and bloodshed of war. Despite his great strength and skill with weapons, in mythology Ares is seen losing in several battles. He was defeated in the Trojan war by Diomedes who injured the god and sent him fleeing like a coward back to Olympus. He was also badly injured by Hercules, only for their fight to be ended by Zeus. Ares even spent thirteen months imprisoned in a bronze urn or cauldron after being captured by the Aloadai giants during their attempted take-over of Olympus.

The Ares of the ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series does seem to fit the more ignoble depictions of the god – picking fights online, being outsmarted by Grover, and doing his best to insult and antagonise our protagonists. One depiction that seems unearned, however, is this Ares’ disdain for his own children, even saying outright that he hates them. Despite the mythological Ares’ love of violence, his bloodshed did not seem to extend to his own children, who he appeared to care for deeply. His battle with Hercules was caused by Ares’ anger at the hero killing Ares’ son Kyknos, and there are several occasions in myth where he is noted to mourn the deaths of his children – he is even said to have murdered Poseidon’s son, Hallirhothios in revenge for the boy’s rape of his daughter, Alkippe.

If the series’ interpretation of Ares does have any care for his own children, this certainly doesn’t extend to the children of other gods. Though he claims to be willing to help, it comes at a cost. He will help the trio on their quest only if they take on another quest on his behalf. He left his shield at a nearby amusement park and needs Annabeth and Percy (Grover remaining as a hostage) to retrieve it. There is, of course, a trick involved. The amusement park was created by Hephaestus, and the whole thing is a trap designed to capture Ares and his lover Aphrodite.

Ares and Aphrodite’s love affair is famous in Greek myth. Aphrodite was the beautiful goddess of love and wife of Hephaestus, but she preferred the company of the handsome god of war and the two had a lengthy love affair resulting in their children – Eros, Anteros, Deimos, Harmonia and Phobos.  Hephaestus, of course, did not take this adultery lightly, and the amusement park is not the first trap Hephaestus laid for the lovers.

In one myth, Hephaestus captured Aphrodite and Ares in chains as they made love. The chains were unbreakable, and the lovers were trapped as Hephaestus invited the other gods to come and witness their shame. Hephaestus refused to release the duo until Ares had consented to pay a fine for sleeping with his wife – and even then he continued to refuse until Poseidon agreed to act as Ares’ guarantor.

Much like the net, the amusement park trap was intended to capture at least one of the lovers during one of their liaisons. And Percy and Annabeth must travel through the ‘Thrill Ride O’ Love’ to find the shield, where they see some of Hephaestus’s history displayed on the wall as they travel through the tunnel.

Being a creation of Hephaestus, this of course paints Hephaestus as a tragic victim of Ares and Aphrodite’s love affair but it is perhaps not so cut and dry. In myths, by some accounts Ares and Aphrodite’s relationship predates her marriage to Hephaestus, and that marriage was certainly not one Aphrodite wished for.

Hephaestus was the child of Hera (fathered by either Zeus or nobody at all) who threw him from Olympus in disgust after realising she had birthed a disabled son. Hephaestus was found and raised by the Neriad Thetis and grew to become a blacksmith of unmatched skill. He sent a beautiful offering to Olympus, a golden chair for his mother Hera. But when she sat in it, she was bound by invisible chains and unable to get free. All of the gods attempted to free Hera, but they were unable. Hephaestus freed his mother from the chair in exchange for Aphrodite’s hand in marriage, which was reluctantly given.

This same chair, golden and covered with a peacock motif – peacocks being sacred to Hera – lies at the end of Percy and Annabeth’s quest. In order to recover Ares’ shield, one of them must sit in the chair. Interestingly, the shield itself may reference Ares’ own experiences with adultery, holding the image of a scarred boar. Once, when Aphrodite found herself falling for the young mortal Adonis, Ares was blinded by rage. Rather than setting elaborate and humiliating traps he just transformed into a boar and gored the youth to death.

In what is quickly becoming habit, Percy steps up to sacrifice himself. He sits in the chair and, like Hera, he finds himself trapped – though these chains are far from invisible. Golden threads weave around his body until he is entirely encased. A distraught Annabeth attempt to undo the mechanism of the chair and, like the gods, she fails. Luckily (in a very literal deus ex machina) Hephaestus appears and Annabeth is able to convince him to free Percy.

Quest complete, Percy and Annabeth return the shield to Ares. Ares upholds his part of the deal, giving the trio supplies and (admittedly unpleasant) transport. He even advises them to head to Los Vegas, where, apparently, Hermes may be willing to help them.

Though the trio accept Ares’ help, they are wary. While held hostage, Grover managed to wriggle some information out of Ares, and believes the god knows who the lightning thief is and is covering for them. They agree he would only do such a thing for his one of his children – his favourite daughter, Clarisse – and contact Camp Half-Blood to warn them of a traitor in their midst.

 Without phones, the trio are forced to use more a more mystical method of communication, sending an ‘Iris Message’. Like Hermes, Iris was a Greek messenger deity, said to bring messages from the gods to humans. She was also the goddess of the rainbow, which she was said to travel along. As such, the Demigods use a prism to create a rainbow against the side of the truck they’re in, paying Iris to carry their message – a pretty cool, if somewhat inconvenient way of sending a message.

The next stop on their quest is the Lotus Hotel, where they hope to meet Hermes. The hotel is a beautiful lotus shaped building with a roller coaster outside, casino, bar and plethora of games inside. It seems too good to be true, and that is, of course, because it is. The Lotus Hotel is a trap inspired by the Lotus Eaters that Odysseus and his crew encountered in ‘The Odyssey’. As their name suggests, the Lotus Eaters’ diets consisted of the lotus plant. When they offered it to Odysseus’ crew those that partook were overcome with a blissful fogginess, forgetting their quest and having to be physically dragged from the island.

In the books, Percy, Annabeth and Grover stumble upon the place (named the Lotus Casino) by accident, exhausted from their journey and desperate for a moment’s rest. They are enticed by the enchanting delights and luxuries that the hotel has to offer. In the show, however, the trio are forewarned – familiar with the myths, they realise immediately that the hotel is a front for the Lotus Eaters and endeavour not to eat or drink anything while they are inside. Unfortunately, this is not enough to save them – the hotel pumps the scent of the lotus fruit into the air – ensnaring any who step foot inside.

Being together, Annabeth and Percy are able to avoid some of the effects as they search for Hermes, but a solitary Grover is not so lucky, and he quickly forgets why he is there. Ignorant to their friend’s peril, Annabeth and Percy continue on, eventually finding Hermes, played by the famous Lin Manuel Miranda, gambling at a crabs table.

We already brushed against Hermes once before, the father of Luke and patron of travellers. Known as a trickster, one of Hermes’ many attributes was gambling – he was also associated with luck and wealth – so it makes sense you would find him in a casino. Hermes would also be a perfect god to help our protagonists sneak into the Underworld to retrieve the Master Bolt from Hades. He has, after all, helped heroes into and out of the Underworld before. When Hercules descended to the Underworld to defeat Cerberus, it was Hermes that showed him the way, and it was Hermes who brought a dead Protesilaos temporarily back from the Underworld to see his grieving widow. Even those heroes not looking to get into the Underworld have benefitted from Hermes aid. He gave the original Perseus a sword and flying sandals to kill Medusa, helped Odysseus acquire the plant moly to take on the enchantress Circe and even aided King Priam in recovering the body of his beloved son Hector during the Trojan War. Sadly, Hermes is not willing to help. Disillusioned by his previous encounters with mortals and his strained relationship with his son, Luke, he has no interest in helping with their quest.

Even though Hermes doesn’t agree to help, the trip wasn’t an entire waste, with Annabeth managing to steal Hermes’ car keys. After a quick pitstop to recover Grover, the three head off to the garage to steal Hermes’ car. Once there they realise that Hermes (god of thieves) was aware of Annabeth’s theft but had changed his mind and was willing to let them take the car.

Unfortunately, all of this happens too late. Time it seems, passes strangely in the Lotus Hotel and despite thinking they have been inside for hours it has actually been days – they have missed the solstice deadline. The gods are going to war.


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