Percy Jackson and the Olympians 1×03 Review: “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians continues to impress with “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium”, during which Percy, Annabeth, and Grover begin their quest to find Zeus’s master bolt.

“We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” introduces us to several important pieces of PJO lore. Firstly, Percy meets the Oracle, who lives in the attic, because a quest is not official unless it’s been announced by the Oracle. A quest is announced in the form of a poem, which is basically a riddle. So it’s important to remember that you may not know what you think you know. Percy chooses his companions in an effort to circumvent the Oracle’s prediction, but that’s not really how any of this works.

Second, this episode gives multiple examples of how the gods are usually “hands off” with their children. Luke gets terse and annoyed every time he mentions his father, and when he lends the flying shoes to Percy for the quest, he scoffs at Hermes’s gift. Even Annabeth, who is fiercely loyal to Athena, does not often speak with her. In the world of demigods, it’s just not something that happens.

Third, monsters don’t really die, as we can see with the return of Alecto aka Mrs. Dodds. It’s not really explained in this episode, and I’m not sure if it will be, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to explain the process. When a monster is “killed”, they turn to dust and return to the Underworld, where they are respawned. It’s why what happened to Sally at the end of “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher” surprised Grover so much – because it’s not something that normally happens to humans when they die.

Fourth, we learn that the tree that marks the border to Camp Half-Blood is actually Thalia. This will be important in later seasons, but it also highlights something that Percy points out without really saying – the gods aren’t exactly the greatest problem solvers. In fact, they often need demigods to do their dirty work, as Chiron told Percy in “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom”. 

Fifth, we get our first glimpse of Hermes (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and learn that Mount Olympus is located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. I don’t necessarily think that this is something important to remember, I just think it’s cool and wanted to point it out. I’m actually really excited to see what Mount Olympus looks like. The set design on this series has been fantastic so I’m looking forward to seeing both Mount Olympus and the Underworld.

Anyway, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” was fantastic. From the dynamic of the three kids (they were written like actual kids, it’s amazing) to the score to the appearance of Medusa, this episode proves that the people behind this show really understand the source material. That’s the most important thing in an adaptation.

I mentioned last week that I think all three kids have really got the essence of their characters nailed, and they really shine in this episode. They bicker and they put up a tough front, but these are children.

There were so many little interactions and moments that were just so great. Grover singing the “consensus” song to get Percy and Annabeth to stop fighting was hilarious. I loved Annabeth buying all that candy at the rest stop. Grover deciding to chance poisoned food because he was really hungry. (I don’t blame him, those snacks looked really good.)

Remember how I mentioned that we may not know what we think we know? The way the episode was edited, it looked like Percy chose Grover for the quest because he expected him to betray him. But at the end of the episode, when the three of them are spilling their guts to each other, he reveals that he specifically chose Grover because he didn’t think he would betray him. That’s the kind of thing we have to pay attention to in this series.

I actually like that they don’t trust each other yet. Percy and Annabeth barely know each other, while both of them clearly trust Grover. Grover is struggling to balance the other two, who are both equally stubborn but in different ways. However, they both had the opportunity to get something they really want – Annabeth badly wants to succeed on the quest, Percy wants his mother back – and neither of them took the chance.

Percy keeps getting blindsided by revelations that people think he should already know, which makes him the perfect audience surrogate as we learn not only about the world of gods and demigods but also the backstories of the characters. He admits that he doesn’t know who or what to trust, which I think is why he takes a chance with Medusa, even though Annabeth and Grover want to run.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians takes the opportunity to expand the story in ways that the original books couldn’t. Nowhere is this more evident than in the story of Medusa, who was essentially assaulted in a palace dedicated to Athena and punished for it. Anyone familiar with Greek mythology knows that unfortunately that’s a very common tale; mortals are often punished for the gods’ and goddesses’ shortcomings. I think that’s why Sally uses the story of Medusa to explain to Percy that things are not always what they seem. As Rebecca Riordan explained to Variety, the book doesn’t touch on any of the heavier themes because Percy is a 12-year-old boy, and he’s certainly not thinking about the patriarchy or misogyny when someone is trying to turn him to stone.

I’m looking forward to more nuance like that in the story. The books are fantastic, but they are limited to Percy’s point of view, and as I said, he’s a 12-year-old boy. There are things he doesn’t know, things that don’t occur to him. These can make it into the show in a way they couldn’t be in the books. And considering some of the serious topics that come up later, this can only be a good thing.

“We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium” proves that the first two episodes weren’t a fluke. Percy Jackson and the Olympians has the same vibe of the books. It’s funny and heartfelt and clever, and I’m really enjoying it.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.


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