Since the show's announcement, fans have known it would closely follow the events of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, incorporating several segments not adapted in the Percy Jackson movies (or adapted in a manner that makes them unrecognizable to book fans) and even adding some brand new scenes.
As such, it came as a surprise to many how much was actually changed in Episode 3's Medusa sequence.
However, the changes appear to be seeing positive responses from fans, showing how the show did not need to stick 100% to the book in order to be successful, and that adaptation sometimes requires adjusting to tell a stronger story.
3 Key Changes to Percy Jackson Medusa
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+ and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.
Most of Episode 3 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians shared a name and basic premise with Chapter 11 of The Lightning Thief — "We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium."
However, beyond the Medusa focus and what Percy does with her cut-off head, not much is the same between the book and show versions of the story.
Ahead are three major differences between Medusa in the books and in the Disney+ show:
Annabeth's & Percy's Perceptions of Medusa
In the show, Annabeth almost immediately figures out that the "Aunty Em" referenced on the sign for the building with a garden full of statues is Medusa.
Given Annabeth's quick wit and sharp intellect, this makes far more sense than in the book, where she does not realize who the woman talking to the trio really is until far later in the scene.
Granted, the book is presented in Percy's first-person perspective, so readers do not know for certain when Annabeth puts the pieces together, but it is not immediate the way it is in the show.
Speaking of Percy, while he is far more trusting of Aunty Em than Annabeth in both versions, his reasoning for that trust in the book and show is very different.
In the show, Percy explains that he trusts Medusa despite knowing who exactly she is because his mom used to tell her Medusa's story, and she would explain that Medusa is far more complex than just a monster who turns people to stone.
This is actually briefly shown in the first episode of the series, when young Percy and Sally Jackson stand in front of the statue of Perseus, holding Medusa's cut-off head.
Meanwhile, in the book, Percy is seemingly tricked or enchanted in some way to want to succumb to Medusa's desires, narrating "I was fighting the sleepy feeling, the comfortable lull that came from the food and the old lady's voice."
The Disney+ series and the book tell different versions of Medusa's backstory, with one particularly notable difference in focus.
In the show, Medusa's backstory is presented in a manner that acknowledges the sexual assault that occurs in her origin myths. This was something both absent from the books, and important to the producers and writers to explore, as explained to Variety in a recent interview.
The show discusses how Medusa "loved" Athena, having prayed to her and given her offerings, despite seeing no response or even acknowledgment from the goddess.
She explains how Poseidon then came to her, and she alluded to the fact that he raped her, which embarrassed Athena and led to her being cursed to turn those who look her in the eyes to stone. She says that she "had to be punished. Not him [Poseidon]," but Medusa herself.
This is all explained in a lengthy, and particularly stirring, monologue from Jessica Parker-Kennedy.
In the books, however, the story is vaguely told (given that Medusa's identity was not yet known to the trio) in one paragraph:
"'It's a terrible story,' Aunty Em said, 'Not one for children, really. You see, Annabeth, a bad woman was jealous of me, long ago, when I was young. I had a...a boyfriend, you know, and this bad woman was determined to break us apart. She caused a terrible accident. My sisters stayed by me. They shared my bad fortune as long as they could, but eventually they passed on. They faded away. I alone have survived, but at a price. Such a price.'"
This paragraph includes no mention that Poseidon is that "boyfriend," or that the "bad woman" was Athena. Further, it does not detail the rape element of the story, brushing it off as "not ... for children," nor does it include anything like the show does about Medusa's initial love for Athena.
With its effort to address the important elements about sexual assault, the show opened up a larger conversation about the relationship among women, monsters, and mythology, and how so-called "monsters," even if they do monstrous things like turn others into stone, are often victims too.
Medusa's Proposed Deal with Percy
The show includes an entire scene between the telling of Medusa's backstory and her subsequent fight against the trio that is not in the book.
After telling her story, Medusa brings Percy into the kitchen, alone. There, she offers him a deal: turn in Annabeth and Grover, and she will make sure Percy will be able to save his mother's life.
What is interesting about this deal and the one offered by Alecto to Annabeth, where the former told the latter if she gave up Percy, she could continue her quest unimpeded (also new for the show) is that they go after what is eventually in the books revealed to be the two characters' fatal flaws.
Percy's loyalty is tested, as he is being forced to choose between his friends and his mom. Annabeth's pride is tested, as she is forced to choose between her friend and the glory of a successful quest.
When Percy runs away, instead of taking the deal, Medusa takes off her hat and has an extended fight sequence with the trio — primarily Percy — in her basement.
The books, however, tell a very different version of events. In The Lightning Thief, Medusa (still with an unknown identity) asks Percy, Grover, and Annabeth to pose for a "photo," to inspire her next statue (with the truth being that they would be her next statue). While posing, they realize what is actually going on, and fight Medusa.
In both versions, Percy uses his sword to cut off Medusa's head — though, in the show, Annabeth puts her Yankees cap (which turns the wearer invisible) on Medusa before the decapitation. This may be because of the show's PG-esque rating and nature.
Following the fight in the show, there is an extended conversation between Percy, Grover, and Annabeth about the bickering and interpersonal struggles they have been having. This conversation does not occur in the book.
Finally, while in both versions Percy ships Medusa's severed head to Olympus, in the show, Annabeth and Grover put up more of a fight. In the book, though, Percy gets the idea after re-entering Medusa's diner following the beheading.
Why Was the Medusa Scene Re-Written?
Ultimately, the book's version of the Medusa scene ignored many key elements in the character's story — particularly the blame she received for being the victim of sexual assault.
Furthermore, the fact that Annabeth did not realize who Medusa really was for a long time in the books is something that has confused readers in the past.
The changes to the chronology of this scene fix that confusion, by evidently showing Annabeth realizing what was going on early on.
Of course, with the television format, other stories can be told and other layers can be explored — another potential reason why the scene was extended in such a capacity.
Regardless, fans now have more context into why Medusa is the way that she is than what the books could have provided.
The first three episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians are now streaming on Disney+, with the remaining five airing weekly.