The opening of Blood of Zeus claims that the saga of its hero Heron is a lost, untranscribed chapter of ancient Greek mythology. The info dump gives the show complete freedom to shapeshift mythical material for its own action use. Created by Charles and Vlas Parlapanides (Immortals), this gore-spurting Blood of Zeus is the latest hard-R animated series from Netflix and Powerhouse Animation, the makers of the Castlevania video game adaptation. Disney’s Hercules this is not.
Blood of Zeus takes advantage of the malleability of myths by borrowing from the ancient stories while spinning its own tale. Within 8 episodes, this first season weaves a tapestry of remixed familiarity for those who have consumed — or devoured — Greek mythology.
[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for the first season of Blood of Zeus.]
Gods vs. giants
The story that incites the plot is the Gigantomachy, the legendary battle between Mount Olympus gods and the Giants. Hesiod’s 700 BC poem Theogony describes the Giants as born from the blood of Uranus, the primordial Sky god, when one of his godly sons castrated him during intercourse with the primordial Earth goddess (yes, really). Less graphically, Blood of Zeus depicts the Giants as emerging from a fallen Titans’ blood. The show throws an extra creation-story spin by showing the ruler god Zeus introducing reason and compromise into the Earth by persuading two of the Giants to ally with the gods.
Heron, the composited demigod
The concept of Zeus shapeshifting into various entities on Earth to evade his jealous wife Hera and seduce mortal women is present in many Greek heroes’ origin stories, and Heron’s background hits every trope. Zeus notices a pretty woman from the heavens? Check. He descends to the Earth in disguise to seduce woman, and in kid-friendlier texts, makes his move with consent? Check. A demigod is conceived? Check. Not unlike some tales, Zeus even assumes the role of husband.
If you have seen the 1981 Clash of the Titans, you know the story of Perseus, the slayer of Medusa, whose royal mother was driven to exile since she gave birth to Zeus’ illegitimate son. Like Perseus and his mother, Heron and Electra live in hiding. A petty Hera devising the torment — sometimes murder — of Zeus’s lovers and mortal children is also nothing new. Heron loses his mother to Hera’s machinations, not unlike Dionysus. And Hera coldly drives Seraphim, Heron’s long-lost half-brother, to murder Electra. The idea of Hera driving a son to unknowingly slaughter his own mother echoes the myth of Callisto: A myth Hera transforms one of Zeus’s lover into a bear as punishment, leading to an event where Callisto’s son nearly kills her in a hunt.
Fortunately, not unlike Hercules, Heron is rewarded a place on Mount Olympus to join his godly half-siblings.
So many gods
While the ruling Olympian gods Hera and Zeus get the spotlight with their marital disputes, the sun-shining Apollo with his golden chariot, the Sonic-agile messenger Hermes in his winged boots, Hephaestus the weapons-forger, and the warrior Ares have supporting roles. For Greek mythology fans, you might spend your time identifying the background gods like Aphrodite, the pink-glowing goddess of love. Apollo’s twin sister Artemis, the blue-clad goddess of the moon, is seen greeting Heron.
It’s not Greek mythology worldbuilding without the stock-but-stunning locales: Mount Olympus, the Underworld, and the domain of the Fates. The show peeks into the realms of the Underworld across the River Styx, including the divine Field of Elysium. A stunning sequence involves the Fates, whose Threads of Life allow Heron a glimpse into his past and his crossroads.
The ancients dreamed of automations
The appearance of the bronze Talos automaton is the grandest reminder that the ancient Greeks dreamed of (proto-)robotics. The mythical Talos guarded the island of Crete and hurled stones at the ships of unwanted visitors, while its animated counterpart guards an enchanted cauldron. Unfortunately, the Talos has its own literal Achilles’s Heel which is exploited in the series: It indeed bleeds “the ichor... [that] ran out like molten lead” as illuminated in the epic poem, Argonautica.
So the story goes, the god of blacksmith Hephaestus designed bronze automations as his assistance, and the animators multiply their presence as training bots and guardians of Mount Olympics. Finally, there’s a shout out to Clash of the Titans’ character Bubo in the form of Hephaestus’s mechanical clockwork owl.