Today happens to be the ten year anniversary of this blog! Happy blogversary to me!
The reason I bring this up here is one of my earliest posts for this blog was about events happening during the 2012 Comic Con. This includes a video released to announce casting of new characters for Season 3 of Game of Thrones. You can see it right here:
I was SO excited when Diana Rigg appeared and announced she was playing Lady Olenna Tyrell, AKA The Queen of Thorns. (She charmingly mispronounces the name of the character in the video.)
It turns out the excitement was warranted, as Rigg quickly became a Game of Thrones fan favorite.
Game of Thrones, for those not in the know, is a fantasy show about the fight over who will sit on the Iron Throne and rule over The Seven Kingdoms. Lady Olenna is the matriarch of the noble Tyrell family. When King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) dies, it sets off a civil war because of doubt cast on the paternity of his son and heir, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). The Tyrells make an alliance with Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), the brother of King Robert, by marrying him to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).
Since Renly is not interested in having sex with women this marriage is never consummated. When Renly is killed, the Tyrell’s quickly change sides and offer Margaery to Joffrey as a bride. A clever and deeply ambitious young woman, she doesn’t much care who she marries as long as she becomes queen.
Problem is, Joffrey is a violent sociopath. At the wedding feast, he is poisoned and dies.
In the books the series is based on (two more are still to be released in the series; author George R.R. Martin is a notoriously slow writer) it’s still up in the air who actually murdered Joffrey, though for many years there was a fan theory that Lady Olenna did the deed.
The series puts all doubt to rest: she did indeed poison him, to save her granddaughter from having to stay married to a man who would undoubtedly abuse and possibly eventually kill her.
Sounds like a nice grandma, doesn’t she? Weeeell, it’s not as if granny Olenna has given up on getting the queendom for her granddaughter. She encourages her to seduce the adolescent brother of Joffrey, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), to secure a marriage with him.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you will immediately recognize Olenna as a sister in fiction to the Dowager Duchess Violet from that series. Neither has any you-know-whats to give about anything. They are privileged, want what they want when they want it, and are not about to stop speaking the truth as they see it, even if it violates the niceties of polite society. Both are deeply devoted to family, though that won’t keep them from talking about their family members’ flaws. Olenna’s son and Margaery’s father is a dope, she knows it, and never pretends otherwise. Her grandson is gay and she doesn’t bother to pretend he isn’t.
Which brings us to Rigg’s superlative performance. Her timing delivering Olenna’s barbs is impeccable. You can tell Rigg was having a grand time playing the part. Somehow, even when she’s putting down a servant, you don’t hate her because she is showing an intolerance for stupidity rather than just throwing her weight around. And she punches up way more than she punches down, putting other noblemen and women in their place. She understands the power she wields and knows how to use it to advantage. She can call Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), Joffrey’s mother, a tart because Cersei desperately needs the support of the Tyrells. Ditto making fun of Cersei’s father Tywin (Charles Dance), an overly serious rat who despises his own children.
She doesn’t yell, she doesn’t scream, just uses her words to slash and burn those around her. So many great quotes, but my favorite, hands down:
“I’ve known a great number of clever men. I survived them all. You know how? I ignored them.”
It was Olenna’s death, however, that made her an internet meme. Forced to drink poison by Cersei’s brother (and Joffrey’s true father) Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) she calmly confesses all about killing Joffrey. “Tell Cersei I want her to know it was me.”
Famous last words, indeed.
Diana Rigg was quite disappointed when the character was written off. She said she loved playing her and it’s not surprising. Older actresses rarely get to play such a complex character that captures the imagination of even younger viewers. Her Queen of Thorns is one for the ages.