Netflix released “Blood of Zeus” Oct. 27, showing off an epic narrative with grandiose music and striking imagery. Made by Greek-American brothers Charley and Vlas Parlpanides (“Immortals,” “Death Note” [live-action]), the adult animated series resembles both modern superhero content and the ancient works of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” In fact, it pays homage to Greek mythology and Homer so well that it might even make it difficult for an audience to connect with the story.
In eight episodes varying between 24-40 minutes each, “Blood of Zeus” tells the story of Heron (Derek Philips), an impoverished young man who discovers his father is Zeus, and how he becomes implicated in a power struggle within the Greek pantheon of gods. Simultaneously, Heron finds himself fighting in a war that breaks out as humans face a mysterious force of demons led by a man named Seraphim (Elias Toufexis).
The demigod-hero is an idea many are familiar with and “Blood of Zeus” is filled with plenty of other tropes. One is the parallels drawn between the protagonist, Heron, and the antagonist, Seraphim. While the classic “You and I aren’t so different” isn’t passed between them, everything else along that idea is said.
The reliance on these tropes and their infrequent subversion might make the show seem bland, but the tropes are well-executed. Watching “Blood of Heroes” feels far from any radical or experimental piece since it instead grounds itself in the trends set by the likes of Homer.
Just like in Homer’s works, the passage of time in the narrative isn’t entirely linear. Several episodes largely consist of a character telling a story about the past that explains the present in some way. On a smaller scale, the entire series is heavily interspersed with characters having flashbacks to previous situations, further disrupting the forward momentum of the show.
With an already-short runtime, this back-and-forth method of storytelling can feel like it takes away from the presentness and vigor of the narrative. It does, however, provide relevant information to the audience in moderately succinct fashion, and conflicting versions of these backstories can cause intrigue among characters.
This and many other similarities to this mythological style of storytelling make “Blood of Zeus” a true success in paying its dues to Greek culture. It captures many nuanced elements regarding the nature of the gods and the political intrigue that can arise from their relations. More than it explores its characters, the show explores the Greek world of myth and legend. This is seen when the camera slowly pans over a highly detailed depiction of the underworld in a way that’s more for the audience than the characters.
This depiction and many others rely on the power of spectacle, and the show does this with great success. The freakish and sometimes beautiful designs of the giants are jaw-dropping, and the gleaming city of Olympus is a pleasure to see each time it appears on the screen.
A distinguishing trait of the series is its unabashedness in showing the might of the gods through spectacle. Like in any superhero movie, the gods make incredible displays of power, whether it be hurling sea-curling bolts of lightning or leaping with enough force to rattle a forest. The artistry of the show is sharp and vivid, showing in brutal clarity how these beings use their immense power.
The music is an undeniable part of this spectacle. Composed by Paul Edward-Francis, the show features choral and orchestral pieces for all moods and situations. The music doesn’t match the tone of the scene, it sets the tone. It’s the erratic, lilting violin that might warn of danger before anything on screen does, or the warm chords of the chorus that help the audience to understand an otherwise-ambiguous facial expression.
What sometimes detracts from the grandeur is the choppy animation. It’s not too jarring and is certainly passable, but the pristine beauty of the art is, at times, spoiled by its more rugged-looking movement. Fighting scenes suffer from this especially, but the show makes up for it with exciting fight choreography and cinematography.
“Blood of Zeus” feels like a translation of Greek legend from oral to animated storytelling. It shares similarities with those stories of old in not just content but style, and they ground it the past, though it still makes its own strides with its dynamic visuals and soundtrack. Some of these similarities may drive away a viewer, but, ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to decide whether to embrace this animated epic.
“Blood of Zeus,” rated TV-MA, is now available for streaming on Netflix.
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