Percy Jackson Just Reworked an Iconic Character in One Controversial Way
Myths are flexible.
With original author Rick Riordan on board, Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians is poised to be one of the most faithful adaptations of a book series in recent history. In some ways, the series can be even more faithful to the original myths than the books could. In Episode 3 of the new fantasy series, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover come face to (veiled) face with one of the most iconic villains in myth, but her story veers from the original books in a way that makes her much more interesting.
Percy Jackson Episode 3, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium,” follows the newly formed questing trio as they set out for Los Angeles. But after being attacked, their original plan of taking the bus is foiled and they have to explore the forests of New Jersey, a decision that leads them to a strange house.
There, they meet Medusa. But unlike the book character, who recounts a backstory of Athena cursing her as punishment for catching her in a compromising position with Poseidon, the show’s version of Mesuda has a darker backstory. She was raped, then punished for it.
Actress Jessica Parker Kennedy credited co-showrunner Jon Steinberg for the change, telling Variety, “Jon wrote a story of [Medusa] thinking that [Poseidon] was someone she could trust, and he broke that trust. She was feeling safe, and then the situation turned unsafe. So I chose to play that she was a victim of rape and total abandonment, not understanding why Athena would turn on her.”
It’s a dark moment for a family-friendly show, but that’s part of what makes the series so effective: it allows older viewers to grapple with serious issues while keeping younger viewers in the dark. Despite the deviation from his text, Riordan is all for the change.
“There are many versions from ancient times of what happened in that temple with Medusa and Poseidon and Athena,” he told Variety. “Who’s to blame? Who’s the abuser? What’s the real story? It’s fiction, but it certainly is important to acknowledge that there is abuse involved here. Abuse of power.”
Riordan also said Medusa’s defeat at the end of the episode isn’t the last we’ll see of her. “There’s a third act to that subplot of Medusa and Poseidon and Sally that you haven’t seen yet,” he says. “It comes in Episode 7, a really powerful flashback scene where you see Sally and Poseidon together.”
Changes like this may feel like sacrilege for hardcore book fans, but with Riordan on the creative team, it’s clear this series isn’t meant to be a by-the-numbers adaptation. Percy Jackson is adding new layers of analysis and backstory as the saga is introduced to a new generation of fans, and so far those creative risks are paying off.