The first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians came to a close Tuesday, and although we’ll all be stuck in the mortal realm until a potential Season 2 hits Disney+, there’s still a lot to unpack in that sword-slinging finale. Not one, not two, but three villains came out of the woodwork. We already knew Ares (Adam Copeland) was conspiring with Kronos to take down the gods—but who’s the third?
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for the finale of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.)
Percy (Walker Scobell), Annabeth (Leah Jeffries), and Grover (Aryan Simhadri) suspected Clarisse (Dior Goodjohn) to be the last of the evil trio—but they were wildly off-base. Instead, the real culprit is Luke (Charlie Bushnell), Hermes’ (Lin-Manuel Miranda) estranged son with a real penchant for the gods. Luke stole the master bolt and tried to use Percy to transport that tool to evil overlord, and grandpa to all demigods, Kronos.
“I do believe that [Luke’s] feelings towards the gods are justified in many ways,” Bushnell tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed over Zoom, ahead of the finale’s premiere. “He could’ve maybe gone about it a little differently. I like to joke that he should’ve started a peaceful protest or told all the demigods to go on strike. No more quests until the gods are more involved in their lives!”
Luke is an “extremely complex character,” Bushnell says, who was portrayed as a nice guy (with some caveats—like, for example, his pure hatred for his dad) from the start. It was a tricky role to nail, especially since it’s the big twist of the first story. But Bushnell says author Rick Riordan, who served as an executive producer on the show, was vital to his wicked transformation.
“I got to chat with [Rick] on that first day [on set] about Luke,” Bushnell says. “More than anything, the writing—what he gave me in the writing in the books—laid out all the groundwork for me. He really made my job easy in that regard, getting to know Luke as a character and how to play him.”
Below, Bushnell reveals the weapon that Scobell nabbed on his behalf from the set, who inspired him to nail Luke’s villain arc, and who he wants to meet most during Season 2.
Let’s just start with the big fight at the end. You’re fighting with a sword that is maybe the same size as Walker Scobell in that scene. Was that all CGI, or were you actually swinging that monstrous weapon around?
I was fully holding that sword. When we were doing the fight training, I had a sword that was similar to that one. But when I actually got on set, that sword was much heavier than the one I was training with. When I saw that sword for the first time, I was like, “Aw, man. This is so cool.” They made fully real ones, too. Obviously we didn’t film with the real metal swords! But they made a real [version of my sword] Backbiter, same with Riptide, Percy’s sword. They made true lethal swords with those. Me and Walker got to hold them and take some cool pictures.
I heard that Walker stole some of said swords from the set. Did he nab Backbiter and Riptide?
I don’t want to make Walker out to sound like a thief or anything. I don’t know if he necessarily stole that stuff from set, I think he told everyone on set that he was going to steal stuff from set, so they just gave it to him. They were like, “Okay, we don’t want him stealing this.” But he’s Percy Jackson. He can do that. He has a lot of his wardrobe, he has Riptide, he took a lot from set.
I remember one day, I was at my house, and I received some mail from [Walker]. I opened it, and it was Backbiter. Huge shoutout to Walker for sending it to me—I actually have it, it’s in my room. It’s not the real metal one, unfortunately, but it was one of the plastic ones we were using when we were filming the scene.
Were there any other villains that inspired your take on Luke?
Absolutely. There are a lot of characters I pulled some inspiration from, but specifically ones that have a similar story to Luke, the anti-hero—Killmonger from Black Panther and Anakin Skywalker. I feel like there are a lot of parallels there between all of those characters. The main thing is that they’re all revolutionaries, in a way. They took a step back and looked at how things were being run and were like, “Maybe this isn’t the best way to run things. Something’s not working.”
Was it hard to play an evil character?
That’s the thing. Personally, I don’t see Luke as a villain. As an actor, the one thing you learn in acting class is that you can never see a character you play as the bad guy or the villain. In their eyes, they believe that their actions and feelings are justified. His actions, especially in the later books, maybe not so much.
If we do get a Season 2, which character would you like to meet? One of the other gods?
Well, at this point, I’ve met most of the cast now, which has been really fun. I met a lot of people for the first time at the premiere. But the one person who I really want to meet is Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course. Who wouldn’t? He’s such a nice guy. We were in communication a bit over text, and he sent me the nicest message after he saw the first couple of episodes. He was amazing as Hermes, I love that episode he was in. But I’m also excited to meet all the new characters next season, I’m excited to see who they cast for those characters.
That’s interesting—you’re super excited to meet Lin-Manuel, but your character is less than excited to meet Hermes.
[Being in scenes together] will be a challenge, because he seems like the nicest guy on the planet. But we’re actors. It’s our job. He’s such an incredible actor that I think he’ll make it easy for me, if-slash-when we get to do a scene together. It’ll be easy to bounce off of him because he’s such a talented guy.
A lot of Percy Jackson viewers know the full story very well, but there are others who don’t know. Some people really think Luke is innocent. Does that surprise you?
Not really! That was definitely something that we talked about, especially for Luke in the beginning of the season. We did just want him to come across as this nice guy, this big brother mentor figure to Percy. There definitely are moments where we can see the true Luke come through, like in Episode 2, where Percy asks him if he’s unclaimed. He’s like, “No, Hermes is my father,” and he doesn’t seem too happy about that.
But I hope people are pleasantly—or unpleasantly!—surprised. Book readers, as well, will be surprised. Even though it does stay true to the story and the overall feeling is the same, how that final scene goes down is not exactly how it goes down in the book. I personally like those changes. I think it works for the TV show adaptation, it’s more exciting.
Why do you like the TV show’s version in particular?
Well, I’m a little biased. [Laughs]
Just a little!
What goes down in the book is so good as well. I remember reading that scene and getting goosebumps thinking, “I can’t wait to film this.” In the book, Luke brings Percy out there and is ready to kill him, essentially. He summons this scorpion and tells him his plan and is like, “You’re not going to be part of this, sorry!”
But in the show, what I like is that [Luke] actually tries to recruit [Percy] at that moment. That’ll make people more empathetic towards Luke as a character and understand where he’s coming from. He really does come across as this villain in the book, whereas in the show, he sees Percy as a powerful asset.
Does Luke try to recruit Percy into his alliance with Kronos to spare him? Are Luke and Percy actually friends?
Walker and I have actually talked about this. I think Luke and Percy were friends. I genuinely believe there was a true sense of friendship there. Though Luke wasn’t fully honest about his true intentions, he does care about Percy. I do think he wants to use him because he sees him as a powerful asset. But with that, he wanted to bring Percy over to his side. I don’t think he would’ve done that if he didn’t trust Percy. There was a level of true friendship there. But then again, he does try to kill him at the end. It’s tough to know with Luke. He’s a complex guy.
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I am well-versed in the intricacies of the first season and the fascinating characters that populate the series. The finale of the show introduces three villains who add an extra layer of suspense and intrigue. While Ares and Kronos were already known to be conspiring against the gods, the identity of the third villain remained a mystery.
The trio of heroes, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, initially suspected Clarisse to be the third villain, but they were proven wrong. It turns out that Luke, Hermes' estranged son, is the true culprit. Luke, portrayed by Charlie Bushnell, is a complex character with justified feelings towards the gods. While he may have gone about his actions in a misguided manner, Luke's motivations are rooted in a desire for the gods to be more involved in the lives of demigods.
Bushnell reveals that he drew inspiration from characters like Killmonger from Black Panther and Anakin Skywalker. These characters, like Luke, challenge the status quo and question the way things are being run. Bushnell's portrayal of Luke skillfully balances the character's revolutionary ideals with his complicated relationship with his father.
In the epic finale, Luke wields a monstrous sword called Backbiter. Contrary to popular belief, Bushnell confirms that he actually held the sword during filming, although it was heavier than the training sword he used. Interestingly, Walker Scobell, who plays Percy, allegedly "stole" some swords from the set, including Backbiter and Riptide.
Looking ahead to a potential Season 2, Bushnell expresses excitement about meeting Lin-Manuel Miranda, who portrays Hermes in the series. Despite their characters' strained relationship, Bushnell admires Miranda's talent and expects their scenes together to be engaging and dynamic.
When discussing Luke's character and the audience's perception of him, Bushnell emphasizes that he doesn't see Luke as a villain. As an actor, he believes in understanding a character's motivations and justifying their actions. He hopes that viewers will be surprised by the twists and turns in the show's adaptation of the story, as it deviates slightly from the book.
In the TV show's version of the final scene, Luke attempts to recruit Percy into his alliance with Kronos, showcasing a more empathetic side of his character. While Luke does care about Percy, his true intentions and complex nature make it difficult to fully understand their friendship.
As a dedicated fan of the Percy Jackson series, I can assure you that the first season's finale sets the stage for even greater adventures to come. The show's talented cast, compelling storytelling, and attention to detail make it a must-watch for both fans and newcomers alike.