I recently finished watching Blood of Zeus on Netflix and I’m feeling a little conflicted about it. It had such great potential (a story about an underdog with divine parentage set in mythical Greece – what could go wrong?) and I kept watching episode after episode waiting for the really awesome bits to finally happen, but in the end… meh. It just didn’t deliver. Let’s take a moment to discuss why.
SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t finished watching the first season yet, then now’s a good time to do so.
Heron, the Main Character
Or so you’d think based on the synopsis and his positioning in the story, but for a protagonist he’s really a very bland character. Yes, tragic origin story. Yes, great genetic potential. And that’s about as far as it goes. Nothing he does is crucial to the story and he has very little effect on the actual outcome at the end. His character arc is non-existent and his training montage was dull and frustrating. Really, the entire story would be better without him in it.
Alexia, the Amazonian General
I loved the grit and general badassery of this female soldier. She’s no swooning damsel in distress and, even better yet, not automatically assumed to be the main character’s love interest. There are hints of interesting backstory (she was trained by Chiron, the great centaur) and that she might have been responsible for her mother’s death (although how this fits into the lore of the Amazons remains to be seen). She’s determined and capable and should really have been the main character, in my opinion.
Seraphim, the Demon Lord
Seraphim’s entire backstory had me in tears. It was so incredibly sad to see the chubby, smiling baby turned wild, carefree little boy twisted into a monster. I completely understand and empathise with his actions (without actually approving of them, of course). Why the writers decided to name him after Jewish angels I don’t understand (unless they wanted to point to his “fallen” status, or the “burning” of someone considered to be a demon), it’s really not appropriate to the setting of this series.
Zeus and Hera, the Bickering Couple
Oh, the drama! Hera has always been portrayed as the jealous wife and Zeus as the straying husband, so there’s nothing new here. What I absolutely hate is that the show makes it look like the roving man was not at all at fault, and that the betrayed wife is an out-of-control femme fatale (and skimpily dressed, I might add, as if all her power lies in her control of the male gaze). She’s a shrieking harpy, calling Heron’s mother a whore every chance she gets and going to great lengths to try to get her and her offspring killed. Only later does she set her aims on the person who’s really responsible for the entire mess, Zeus, but when he winks at her right before his demise, it almost looks like all is forgiven again for a moment.
And Zeus! He basically rapes Heron’s mother by having his way with her in the guise of her husband and only revealing his true self when she threatens him with a knife. When their affair is discovered, he sweeps her and her son away and dumps them in a town where the people treat them as despised outcasts. They have to scrounge for a living, while he uses Hera as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities towards them. His attempts at becoming the father figure Heron needs are just a little too late, and the way he treats his wife, his mistress, and his other children just sparks of toxic masculinity.
Electra, the Hero’s Mother
All my sympathy goes towards this woman, who was forced into an arranged marriage with a cruel man, then duped into thinking he loved her one day and hated her the next, only to find out that she had unwittingly betrayed him with a lustful shapeshifting god. Her one son is ripped away from her at birth, killed to the best of her knowledge, while she and her remaining blue-eyed boy are forced to live from hand to mouth while trying to evade Hera’s wrathful gaze. She does the best she can under the circumstances, with very little help from the one who forced himself on her and ripped her from a privileged and comfortable, although unhappy, life. And then her own lost son kills her. A tragic character, if ever there was one.
Evios and Kofi, the Token Friends
Other than having someone to act as comic relief (Evios) and the token black guy (Kofi), I really don’t know what the purpose of these two characters is. They could be interesting (their past seems colourful), but they become Heron’s allies much too easily, are willing to risk their lives for him for no apparent reason, and in the end just don’t contribute much to the story.
The score was amazing! As a rule, I don’t even notice the music in films, but in this case it was by far the best part of this entire series and I’d recommend you watch it just so you can listen to the music.
I don’t watch anime, so I really can’t comment on the stylistic choices of the animators and the director. I think the grim tones of the animation suit the theme, and the gore and violence might have been a little gratuitous, although it also sets the tone very well. I liked some of the slow-motion sequences and the focus on character emotions, but at around the last two episodes it all felt a little rough. There was one scene where Seraphim and Heron were talking but their mouths weren’t moving and I seriously thought for a few minutes they had discovered some kind of twin telepathy before I realised it was just bad animation.
Demons might be a staple from Japanese tales, but they don’t really fit into Greek myth and I think the writers could have done better in developing their bad guys. At the start, the demons are nigh undefeatable, but by the end the band of heroes just have to crack a whip at them for them to explode into guts and goo (and it wasn’t like the heroes had markedly upped their game by then).
Also, what’s up with the amazing sword Zeus forges for Heron, only to have him toss it aside so that his enemy can pick it up and use it against him? Feels like a bad bit of storytelling there, like something the writers thought was a great idea at first and then decided it would make their underdog hero too powerful.
I liked the idea of the giants, although I thought they were dead after the first war and their resurrection at the end didn’t make much sense to me (perhaps I missed something?). Turning into a demon after eating a giant’s flesh doesn’t work for me, like the writers desperately wanted to include this bit of legend but didn’t know how to do it, and this is another element of the story I would have changed.
I’m also a little disappointed by the portrayal of the Olympian pantheon. Hera was the only female character of note – what happened to Athena and Artemis, Ceres and Aphrodite (to name just a few)? A handful of disapproving goddesses were shown abandoning Zeus to follow Hera’s cause, with no indication of their motivation or reasoning other than sisters standing together on principle. The boys were represented by Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hepheastus, Poseidon, Hades (oddly being portrayed as the real big bad at the very end), and Zeus. Surely the ladies could have gotten some screen time too? And by the way, this series does not pass the Bechdel test.
All in all, I think there are some great characters and some great storytelling potential, but it just wasn’t pulled off. Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each are clearly not enough to handle a tale with such an epic scope. The ending hinted at a possible second season, but I doubt I’d bother with it, to be honest.
What did you think of this series? Did you love or hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.