From Page to Screen: Adapting “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” Episode 3

It’s a new week and a new episode of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This week we have episode 3 “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium.” From reading along, the basis of this episode comes from two chapters in the book, chapter 10 “I Ruin a Perfectly Good Bus” and chapter 11 “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium”.

While the episode is exciting and brings out a confrontation with a legend of a mythical monster, what was left on the cutting room floor from the book? This week we dive deep into the two chapters to find out what was missed or done differently.

In the book, the trio of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, are gearing up for their quest, and getting ready to leave Half-Blood Hill. In the show we don’t get a lot of dialogue between Percy and Annabeth, but in the book, Percy learns about Annabeth’s invisible cap that she got as a gift from her mother. This happens after the battle with Medusa in the episode.

How the group gets into the city is courtesy of the camp’s director of security, the multi eyed Argus. While he plays an important part in getting the three to the bus terminal, we do not see him in this week’s episode. Becky Riordan has already commented on the constraints they would have been under with special effects to make Argus. Hopefully we will see him later in the show, or perhaps season 2.

Prior to departure, Percy learns in the book about Kronos. Chiron describes the Golden Age of Kronos and how this is a misnomer. According to Chiron, Kronos cared little for mortals and was a brutal leader. In the show, we don’t get any information about Kronos and how dangerous he is.

In the book, Luke catches the group on Half-Blood Hill before they leave and presents them with a gift of the winged shoes that his father gave him when he went on the quest. In the show, this gift takes place earlier down in the camp.

The timing of Alecto’s arrival is very different between the book and show. In the book, after the group boards the bus in New York, they immediately notice Alecto and her two sisters board the bus. In the episode, Alecto doesn’t join the bus until they make a stop at a gas station, where Annabeth encounters her off the bus. The escape from the bus is similar between the book and show, but the major difference at the end is in the book Zeus sends a lightning bolt which blows up the bus.

When the group escapes the bus and runs to the forest, they are on their own, and this mirrors a lot of what we see in the show and the book. In the book, it’s Percy who smells the food coming from Auntie Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium, and Annabeth happily goes along with Percy, while Grover is reluctant to go inside the building with the veiled Auntie Em.

In the show, Alecto chases the group to the doorstep of the Garden Gnome Emporium and forces them to choose between Auntie Em and her. They don’t know that Em is Medusa, the kids just know that Alecto is afraid of her. As the group seeks shelter with Auntie Em, she tries to isolate Percy from the other two and wants him to turn on his friends, whereas in the book, it’s a quick meeting and Auntie Em is trying to lure them into a pose as a group, leading to her removing her veil which would freeze the group as stone statues.

The revelation that Auntie Em is Medusa is shown in two different ways from book to screen. In the show we get a detailed story about how Medusa was a victim of the pettiness and vindictiveness of the gods Poseidon and Athena. Medusa is dangerous, but in the show the viewer and the characters have a greater appreciation for what happened to Medusa than ever before.

Percy, Grover, and Annabeth try to hide in the basement of Auntie Em’s amongst thousands of other statues, while in the book, it is in the open-air garden that Grover notices the statue version of his lost Uncle Ferdinand, that alerts the group to who Auntie Em is. A battle ensues in the book and show, but unlike the series, Percy does not use Annabeth’s hat in the slaying of Medusa.

Since the book doesn’t have Alecto chasing the group, we don’t see a final confrontation between Percy and the Fury as he freezes her in stone using Medusa’s head, like we do in the show. Both the series and the book have Percy sending the head of Medusa to Mount Olympus as a ‘gift’ for the gods. In episode 3 we see Lin-Manuel Miranda deliver the package himself, but there is no mention of Hermes in the book.

Final Thoughts:

A lot happens in a short time span. In the book we get phenomenal character development of the three leads and start to learn more about the backstory of Annabeth and Grover, but we also start to see how the three bond so well in the book and the show.

It’s too bad we don’t get to see Argus in the show, at least yet. He would be an impressive visual addition to the show, but the problem with Argus is that he doesn’t speak. He would be window dressing and would not help further the narrative in an arena that has a time crunch. I understand why the head of security for Camp Half-Blood didn’t make the show.

The difference between the episode and the chapters in the book are minimal, except for Alecto chasing the group into the arms of Medusa. I understand why Alecto needed to have more screen time, she is a compelling villain and Megan Mullally should always get more screen time. However, it sets up the young trio with a problem they must deal with which makes for compelling television, especially for people who have never read the books.

Do you stay and fight the villain you know or take a chance on someone you don’t know?

Another excellent use of source material. Episode 3 is a joy, but it will make you think, and has me reevaluating my take on the legend of Medusa.

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Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving