Percy Jackson’s Echidna Actress Fixes 1 Decades-Old Book Problem To Make The Villain Even Scarier

Spoilers are ahead for Percy Jackson and the Olympians season 1, episode 4, “I Plunge to My Death.”


Summary

  • Percy Jackson‘s adaptation of Echidna makes her a scarier and more psychologically terrifying villain compared to the book.
  • Suzanne Cryer’s chilling portrayal of Echidna adds to her intimidating demeanor, especially when accompanied by the Chimera.
  • The show’s decision to keep Echidna in her human form and focus on her mind games instead of her physical appearance is a smart move that enhances her intimidation factor.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians‘ Echidna actor fixes a decades-old book problem, and, in the process, makes the Rick Riordan villain even scarier than her on-the-page counterpart. While Disney’s adaptation of the best-selling novel series of the same name is much more faithful to the source material than past cinematic efforts, Percy Jackson still makes several key book changes. So far, the show has leveraged its new medium’s strengths, making story alterations that serve to deepen its characters, world-building, and plot. In the fourth chapter, the series retools Echidna (Suzanne Cryer), Greek mythology’s notorious mother of all monsters.

In Percy Jackson season 1, episode 4, “I Plunge to My Death,” the titular demigod (Walker Scobell) and his quest-mates, Annabeth Chase (Leah Jeffries), the demigod daughter of Athena, and satyr protector Grover Underwood (Aryan Simhadri), continue their journey west to Los Angeles. While passing through St. Louis, Missouri, the trio is derailed (quite literally) by another agent of Hades: Echidna. While the villain does make a mess of the trio’s train compartment, Echidna doesn’t really resort to physical intimidation herself, making her one of Percy Jackson‘s most sinister foes to date. The fact that Cryer, who’s known for her comedy series work, plays against type only helps matters.


Suzanne Cryer’s Echidna Being Psychologically Terrifying Makes Her A Way Better Villain Than In The Book

While discussing strategy in the train’s dining car, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are detained by a cop who believes they smashed the window in their compartment. Apparently, Cryer’s character, who initially appears to be an ordinary human woman, heard the whole thing. While the trio sit in detainment, Cryer’s Echidna approaches them, toting a carrier that holds an unseen pet. Claiming to be a mother herself, Echidna tells the kids that it isn’t their fault; in fact, their parents are to blame for leaving them alone and unattended. As the conversation progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the woman is anything but ordinary.

Impatient, the creature inside the pet carrier lashes out at the show’s heroes, revealing itself to be Percy Jackson‘s version of the Chimera. Annabeth and Grover realize that the straight-faced woman is Echidna, mother of all monsters, though she insists that, from her perspective, the Olympians and their spawn are the real monsters. Thanks to Cryer’s chilling performance, Echidna has a truly intimidating demeanor. With Chimera at her side, Echidna walks slowly toward her prey, digging at them psychologically. This is a welcome change from Riordan’s Lightning Thief, which plays into harmful stereotypes and makes Echidna the butt of its problematic, fatphobic jokes.

How Percy Jackson Season 1’s Echidna Compares To The Real Greek Myth

Echidna sculpture by Pirro Ligorio

Best known for her roles in comedy series like Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Silicon Valley, and Seinfeld, Suzanne Cryer certainly plays against type as the haunting Echidna. The character is deliberate, choosing to play with her prey before striking. Apart from her mind games, what sets Percy Jackson‘s Echidna apart is that she never takes on her mythical form. It’s a smart move from the series: the Chimera brings the terrifying, fantastical element, while Echidna is made all-the-more intimidating because of her seemingly ordinary, cardigan-wearing human form. Of course, her physical appearance is a big departure from the Echidna of Greek mythology.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians‘ first season contains just 8 episodes.

Echidna is the mother of all monsters in Greek mythology, including Hades’ three-headed guard dog Cerberus, the many-headed Hydra, and, of course, the fire-breathing Chimera, among other creatures. Known to be a drakaina — a creature with the features of a serpent and a human woman — most sources depict Echidna as having the visage and torso of a woman, while her lower half is a snake’s tail. In addition to birthing the monsters faced by many heroes and demigods, the cave-dwelling Echidna presides over disease and rot. Hopefully, this form is being saved for Percy Jackson episode 4’s villain’s future appearances.

Percy Jackson’s Echidna Changes Prove The Show Is Still Getting The Villains Right

It’s no secret that Percy Jackson episode 3 changes Medusa’s myth for the better. Instead of painting Jessica Parker Kennedy’s gorgon as a one-dimensional villain, Medusa upends the trio’s beliefs in what, exactly, makes a monster. Poseidon, Percy’s father, and Athena, Annabeth’s mother, both had a hand in Medusa’s transformation, after all. Similarly, Echidna harbors resentment toward the gods and their demigod children for slaying her own spawn. Much like Medusa, Echidna pushes Percy and his friends to question their own deeply-held perspectives. By interrogating the very nature of its so-called monsters, Disney’s Percy Jackson creates a much more complicated, compelling story.

New episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians are released on Disney+ and Hulu every Tuesday through January 30, 2024.