BLOOD OF ZEUS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace watches the Greek mythology battle royale.
Greek mythology, along with the ancient stories of the Bible, are perhaps the founding tales of Western civilization. They were mined for material by Shakespeare and other playwrights, and later turned into an adventure movie with Clash of the Titans and into a rather bloody series of hack-and-slash games with God of War. Now, they have been brought into another medium: a Netflix original anime.

Perhaps ‘anime’ is not quite an appropriate label for Blood of Zeus; the entire production originates from the United States. Nevertheless, the first episode is introduced with “a Netflix original anime” and the whole shebang looks very anime-inspired, not unlike Avatar: the Last Airbender.

And that’s not the only commonality this show has with the groundbreaking Nickelodeon cartoon; you have your protagonist Heron (Derek Phillips), living in poverty with his mother Electra (Mamie Gummer) relatively ignorant of the ways of the world before he is called to take up a burden that he had never known. It is Heron that leads the show, for he is the metaphorical ‘chosen one.’ To his credit, he is a well-fleshed out character as he reckons with the greatness that he was neither born with nor achieved, but had thrust upon him.
The other characters are hit or miss; Electra gets some incredible moments, as does the major villain Seraphim (Elias Toufexis - a strangely named character for a series based on Greek mythology - his name is a plural of ‘Seraph,’ a name of Hebrew origin referring to one of the types of angels in the Bible). Unfortunately, Jessica Henwick (whose portrayal of Colleen Wing in Netflix’s Iron Fist was spectacular), is wasted in an underwritten part as the Amazon Alexia. Likewise, many of the other secondary characters feel one-note.

This is a story about mythology, and as such the gods of Olympus play a major role in the proceedings. The most prominent are Zeus (Jason O’Mara) and Hera (Claudia Christian), whose quarrels drive much of the plot (yes, it does involve Zeus being unfaithful - but then again, expecting Zeus to be faithful is like expecting James Bond to be chaste). Zeus is given all the haughty majesty of the King of the Gods, with a certain cocksureness that comes from being an embodiment of human flaws. Hera, likewise, is filled with heaping scorn for totally understandable reasons, and her performance shows that.

But the other gods of Olympus are given short shrift. Other than the ruling couple of the Greek pantheon, Hermes and Apollo get the biggest roles, but like the human side characters they are disappointingly one-note. I really wish that Hades, for example, would have played a bigger role, and the other gods like Hepheaestus get more characterization.
The art design is overall good but occasionally suffers from some rather choppy animation. The town that Heron begins his journey in is elegantly portrayed, and Mount Olympus is suitably majestic. There’s a scene that is well designed set on a galleon, and a certain other plot-significant location near the end (whose exact nature I will not spoil) which is engagingly rendered.

The action is presented well; you really do feel like you are watching gods and demons fight over the spoils among men and women. The gods are almost superheroes, flinging lightning and fire and other such things at each other. You feel almost insignificant as the monsters and myths from the Hellenic lands stain your screen with blood, and it can be magnificent to watch.

One of the best aspects of Blood of Zeus is its pacing; for the most part, it knows when to cut to the next scene, and the plot rarely drags (unfortunately, the last episode can feel a bit slow). The actual writing of dialogue is sufficient; it is workmanlike discourse delivered well by talented voice actors. I feel like, though, it could have been made a bit more ornate, purple even, befitting the sort of beings that the Gods of Olympus undoubtedly were.

Overall, Blood of Zeus is good enough. It’s not mind-blowing and it’s not godawful. It’s a competently-made four hours or so of bloody animated mythology, and an enjoyable enough watch. I can’t help but have this nagging feeling, though, that it could have been so much better. I hope that the following seasons (the show has been renewed by Netflix) can deliver on the promise of the premise.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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