Lightning Strikes Twice in Blood of Zeus’ Exciting Second Season

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Lightning Strikes Twice in Blood of Zeus’ Exciting Second Season

Millennia later, stories about the Greek pantheon continue to strike a chord, as seen in the myriad of novel retellings, videogames, TV shows, and more. Of these many riffs, a fun recent rendition was the adult animated series Blood of Zeus, which had a firm grasp on why these tales haven’t gone out of vogue. It delivered a world of myth that showcased squabbling gods and grisly, grandiose battles, finding its own spin on this material in the process.

Now, more than three years after it debuted on Netflix, we finally have a follow-up season that largely matches and, in many cases, surpasses its predecessor thanks to compelling bad guys, improved visuals, and similarly clever allusions to age-old narratives. While there are occasional pacing issues, and events don’t have enough room to breathe in its brief runtime, this second season is still a brutal, sword-and-sandal epic.

The story picks up as Heron (Derek Phillips), a demigod son of Zeus, reckons with the new status quo caused by the death of a certain deity in last season’s climactic battle. Although that previous conflict has been resolved, an ensuing power vacuum has left the world in a state of discord. In response, Heron embarks on a quest that will hopefully restore some semblance of peace, both for himself and the realm. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Hades (Fred Tatasciore) and his wife Persephone (Lara Pulver), who view these chaotic times as an opportunity to right a longstanding wrong.

Just like before, one of the show’s most satisfying elements is that it isn’t only inspired by the aesthetics of Greek mythology but also its motifs and story structures. All the classics are here: allusions to self-fulfilling prophecies, weighty dramatic irony, politics on Olympus wreaking havoc on the world below, doomed lovers, gods who essentially behave like mortals but with terrible power, and more. The series channels these elements to create a contemporary analog to these older tales, wringing out Greek tragedy as it weaves an original yarn that isn’t directly ripped from existing legend but captures their undercurrents all the same.

An essential reason why this works is that this portrayal of the pantheon is full of complex characters, whether they’re with our hero or against him. While there are references towards a larger, future struggle against a prototypical force of evil, this run is mostly focused on flawed people bashing into each other as they attempt to claw their way out of unfair circumstances, right past wrongs, or divine who they are.

For instance, there’s the well-rendered relationship between Hades and Persephone, whose deeply felt love (in this telling) leads to understandable motivations and devastating encounters with our hero. Heron also has a lot going on, and it becomes even clearer that his simmering anger is the tragic flaw he must overcome. And perhaps most impressively, even Seraphim (Elias Toufexis), who was previously set up as a classic cartoonish big bad, is given nuance as he stews over how his vengeful actions caused him to abandon someone he loved. Overall, the cast is given well-conveyed motivations that make it conflicting when they cross swords, and even the unambiguously rotten figures are conniving in entertaining ways.

All that said, I’ve partially buried the lede here regarding what likely drew many to the first season: big, bloodily animated brawls involving creatures and gods from myths of antiquity. Like in the previous run, these battles are gory and suitably epic in scale, bringing to life fantastical beings that channel the iconography of old legends. Overall, the presentation nails this larger-than-life ambiance, using chanting choruses, gut-punching title drops, and imposing character designs to place us in this world where regular people are dwarfed by powers outside their control.

It also helps that the animation is noticeably improved this time around. Powerhouse Animation Studio returns to production duties and delivers much smoother movement, both inside and outside the battles, resulting in visceral confrontations that capture the brutality of this setting. If you’re a full-blown animation geek, what’s here won’t necessarily knock your socks off, and things don’t quite match the studio’s best work on their Castlevania series, but at the very least, it doesn’t hold the rest of the visuals back.

However, if there’s an unresolved issue from last season, and one that sometimes feels even more apparent here, it’s that this story of Homeric scope doesn’t quite fit into the runtime of eight 30-minute episodes. The first three episodes are made up of backstories and lengthy digressions into side characters, and while these are mostly interesting, well-executed, and a key ingredient that develops the previously mentioned antagonists into intriguing foes, it also leaves our leading man in the lurch. When we eventually pick back up on Heron’s quest, his journey doesn’t have enough room to breathe and feels stuffed into the margins in a way that could have been alleviated if this were a longer 10 or 12-episode series.

Perhaps more flagrant is how this season ends with a blood-soaked cliffhanger that will prove unbearable if we need to wait another three years to see its resolution. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ending on a gut punch, but as a whole, this stretch feels like too much setup for future happenings without much short-term catharsis, making this finale lack impact.

Still, despite these plotting issues, Blood of Zeus’ second season is still a mighty follow-up. It does an excellent job emulating and evolving Greek myth to deliver a modern retelling that fleshes out its characters into flawed but frequently sympathetic figures. And when it comes to the fights, the improved animation results in exciting displays of swordplay and pankration. Overall, it makes for an electrifying follow-up that makes me hope we’ll be able to return to this land of tragedy and mythical beings soon.

Blood of Zeus premieres Friday, May 10th on Netflix. 

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant Games and TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing and watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves film, creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to, and dreaming of the day he finally gets through all the Like a Dragon games. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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