Rick Riordan Rewrites Medusa’s Story — Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode 3 Review

S1E3, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium”

JESSICA PARKER KENNEDY as Medusa in Aunt Em's kitchen
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS - "Episode 103” (Disney/David Bukach)

The following review contains spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians S1E3, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” (written by Jonathan E. Steinberg & Monica Owusu-Breen and directed by Anders Engström)

It’s all happening so fast! Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode 3, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium,” was released at 9 PM EST on December 26th, and it was certainly a holiday treat!

In this episode, we cover Chapters 9 to 11. We’re brought into the story about halfway through the ninth chapter when Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) walks through the attic where the Oracle waits to deliver prophecies to the Chosen Ones. We finally hear the first prophecy of the series:

You shall go west, and face the god who has turned. You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned. You shall be betrayed by one who calls you friend. And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end.

It is taken straight from the first novel and not altered or changed in the slightest, which means that the grief-stricken tween hero is now faced with the future betrayal of someone he calls a friend. Therefore, he picks his companions accordingly. In the novel, Chiron makes this choice for Percy, but in a change for the series, which gives the main character more agency in his quest, he chooses for himself.

WALKER SCOBELL as Percy Jackson in Medusa's basement
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS – “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” (Disney/David Bukach)

Annabeth Chase (Leah Jefferies) and Grover (Aryan Simhadri) must go with Percy, and Luke (Charlie Bushnell) is left behind. Percy explains his reasoning to Luke in a short conversation at Poseidon’s cabin, where Luke gives Percy the sneakers with wings. And it has been quite interesting, as someone who has read the books, to see this camaraderie between Percy and Luke develop. In 2010’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Luke (Jake Abel) is, at first, kind and humble with Percy, but you can see the underbelly of a boy resentful towards Olympus. So far in Disney Plus’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I’ve seen no serious inclination from Charlie’s Luke that he’s holding a grudge; it’s more from Walker’s Percy that we see the growing annoyance with Olympus’s old ways.

Before going out on their quest, Annabeth makes a pit stop at Thalia’s tree on the crest of the valley outside Camp Half-Blood. Here, Percy learns a little more about Annabeth, Luke and Thalia’s journey to camp. However, it is not until later in the episode that we get confirmation from Annabeth that Grover was/is her protector, too. And though this may be annoying to Percy, who thought for sure Grover would always be on his side ultimately, this acknowledgment will bring the three closer as they continue on their quest in later episodes.

Through the trials of Percy Jackson Episode 3, starting with the Furies and ending in Medusa’s desecrated underground temple, Percy and Annabeth undergo some character growth as they learn to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I admired how each of the trio has their distinct reactions to the differing scenarios they find themselves in, whether that be internal strife or external danger.

Aryan Simhadri’s Grover is charmingly naive yet filled with empathetic wisdom; I loved his little song and attempts at keeping the peace between Annabeth and Percy. At points, some of his and Percy’s dialogue comes out like they’re world-building NPCs from a video game, but we’re still being introduced to knowledge like Percy is—it is only Episode 3.

As the story progresses from hill to taxi to bus to Satyr trail to pitstop Garden Gnome Emporium, we see more chemistry between these three actors develop. Especially the rapport between Leah Jefferies and Walker Scobell, who must be so close to calling each other “Seaweed Brain” and “Wise Girl,” and it’s killing me not to hear it. Their power struggle is perfectly balanced, and I appreciate that these children can remain so without their impending romance being introduced too soon. I like the slow burn; I want to see the organic formation of trust before attraction enters the equation as puberty takes over in the later seasons.

JESSICA PARKER KENNEDY as Medusa in Aunt Em's kitchen
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS – “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” (Disney/David Bukach)

I am so happy that these books are getting the adaptation they deserve, but I’m also pleased certain corrections are being made to the source material. Such as Medusa’s origin. In Percy Jackson Episode 3, we see the retelling of this classic myth as far closer to the Roman version with a modern interpretation of Medusa’s rage. Jessica Parker Kennedy is a younger Canadian actress portraying Medusa, and her youth and beauty already chafe against Rick Riordan’s original material, which described her as decrepit. Then she tells her version of events, which frames Medusa as a devout Athena worshipper who just wanted reassurance for her love and was seduced astray by Poseidon and punished by Athena for her naive humanity in a scenario she had no control over.

This interpretation makes Poseidon and Athena the monsters who betrayed Medusa by stripping her of her innocence, rather than a tale centred around the god’s perspective: punishing and shaming Medusa for her seductive beauty as Athena had and abandoning her after leading her to that fate as Poseidon had. However, Medusa’s rage boils in her, no matter how often she states she does not see the demigods as their parentage, and the trio is forced to destroy Medusa to save themselves from her turmoil.

I have mixed feelings about this. I see it as an improvement, but I’m also conflicted by how the event still ends the same way. I guess, no matter the angle, Medusa will always be a tragedy. Is that the takeaway? I’m confused, why change the dialogue to make us feel sympathy and then kill her anyway? For the story that’s being told, it feels counterproductive. What message does sending the head of Medusa to Mount Olympus send now? Ultimately, has the narrative really changed? I’m unsure how to decode this change and the implied nuances; I wonder if there will be a moment later on Mount Olympus where Percy will attempt to give Medusa dignity and justice for all she endured. I need more closure.

Nevertheless, the head of Medusa is confirmed to be delivered to Mount Olympus at the top of the Empire State Building due to a Hermes (Lin-Manuel Miranda) cameo, which hints at his appearance yet to come at the Lotus Casino. I do wish we got to watch someone open the box and get a little hint into how this message is interpreted up there. Alas, we must wait for Zeus’s (Lance Reddick) and Poseidon’s (Toby Stephens) appearances in the finale.

Next week’s episode, “I Plunge To My Death,” will likely cover Chapters 12 to 14, so if you’re reading along like me… call this the ‘Suggested Reading’ portion of the article!

Written by Isobel Grieve

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