Echidna, The Mother of Monsters, Makes Her Percy Jackson and the Olympians Debut

Echidna, The Mother of Monsters, Makes Her Percy Jackson and the Olympians Debut

preview for Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Official Trailer (Disney+)

THE METAPHORS PRESENT in Disney+’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians—a new TV adaptation of author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series—are wonderfully adept to our modern world. The story of Percy (Walker Scobell), a middle school-aged kid who discovers his father is actually Poseidon, and he himself is a powerful demigod, is a wonderful mix of fantasy tale and coming-of-age story—and that means comparisons that actually make sense.

Sure, there’s some obvious stuff, like Mount Olympus being found on an unseen sky-high floor of a New York City skyscraper, and Hermes (Lin-Manuel Miranda) literally being a FedEx-style delivery guy. But there’s some others that are a little more specific and relatable: everyone who’s ever been a kid can remember having a pain-in-the-ass math (or whatever subject) teacher, and so Percy Jackson and the Olympians has a math teacher named Mrs. Dodds (Megan Mullaly) whose actual name is Alecto, and is a goddess of fury who serves Hades, the lord of the underworld. Typical!

By Percy Jackson‘s Episode 4, Percy, along with Grover (Aryan Simhadri) and Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries), are on a cross-country quest to return Zeus’ thunderbolt (which needs to happen to protect the world, long story), and have already defeated Alecto and Medusa when they enounter another common pain in the ass: a nosy woman on a train.

This woman, it turns out, is more than just any nosy woman: she’s Echidna, the mother of monsters in Greek mythology, and while she’s carrying a little pet carrying case, the “pet” she’s got inside is a little bit scarier than the cat or dog that you may expect to see.

Who is Echidna in Percy Jackson and the Olympians (and in Greek mythology)?

echidna the sacro bosco sacred grove colloquially called park of the monsters xvi century parco dei mostri in italian bomarzo lazio italy europe

Echidna. the Sacro Bosco. Sacred Grove colloquially called Park of the Monsters. XVI century. Parco dei Mostri in Italian. Bomarzo. Lazio. Italy. Europe. (Photo by: Mauro Flamini/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

REDA&CO//Getty Images

Echidna, which loosely translates from the ancient Greek to “she-viper,” is most commonly understood in Greek mythology to herself be a monster whose ancestry makes her half-human and half-serpent. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into this historically, but for our purposes here we can basically boil it down to the fact that she was the mate of the feared serpent god Typhon, and the two of them (via the three writers/poets/authors Hesiod, Apollodorus or Hyginus) were parents to a number of the most famous monsters in Greek mythology, including the Chimera, the Sphinx, and the Scylla.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: Lightning Thief Disney+ Tie in Edition (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: Lightning Thief Disney+ Tie in Edition (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: Lightning Thief Disney+ Tie in Edition (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)

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In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Echidna is reimagined in the form of a nosy woman who Percy, Grover, and Annabeth encounter on the train; she’s outwardly polite at first, before eventually revealing that she’s ransacked their train car and is training a little baby Chimera in a carrying case—a monster that eventually grows to (seemingly) full size by the time of the episode’s climax.

Echidna is pursuing the trio throughout the episode, and we eventually learn the reason why when the episode makes a detour in St. Louis, where the kids believe they can take solace in the St. Louis Arch, a shrine to Athena (Annabeth’s mother). This doesn’t work, Annabeth learns (as she understands Echidna’s monster language), because the previous episode’s endeavor of beheading Medusa and sending her head to Mount Olympus was not received well; Athena, in retaliation, has allowed Echidna and the Chimera to enter the St. Louis Arch, which they would otherwise have not been able to get into.

The episode ends not with Echidna or the Chimera’s defeat, but rather with Percy sacrificing himself to allow Grover and Annabeth to escape to safety, and, eventually, his falling from the top of the arch. This would seem to spell doom, but he’s transported to a body of water where he and the audience simultaneously have a massive revelation: Percy Jackson can breathe underwater.

There’s more to come with Percy, of course, but as Echidna and her monsters are still at large, clearly there’s more to explore there as well.

Suzanne Cryer plays Echidna in Percy Jackson and the Olympians

suzanne cryer echidna percy jackson

Noam Galai//Getty Images

Echidna’s treachery and terror make for a nice surprise because she’s buried under the outward kindness (and comedic timing) of actress Suzanne Cryer.

Cryer is probably best known for her comedic roles on TV: in the ’90s, she starred on the sitcom Two Guys and a Girl (alongside Ryan Reynolds in one of his first roles) and as one of George Costanza’s most memorable girlfriends in the Seinfeld episode “The Yada Yada.”

She appeared on many of TV’s most popular shows throughout the years, with guest spots on shows like Dexter, CSI: Miami, Desperate Housewives, and Veronica Mars, to name just a few. But it was her main cast role on HBO’s very funny Silicon Valley that may be the most memorable to audiences in 2024; she played Laurie Bream, a brilliant and socially inept venture capitalist who works closely with the core team of Pied Piper.

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Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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