Curtain Call: Diana Rigg

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‘Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.’

The Queen is dead. With one last insult to her old enemy, Olenna Tyrell died peacefully. In losing Olenna, we also lose the magnificence that is Dame Diana Rigg.

I was first introduced to Dame Diana the same way as so many Brits are – through her role as Tracy Bond, the only woman to ever marry James Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. None could deny how beautiful she was. It’s hard not to notice the comparison between her and her on-screen granddaughter, Natalie Dormer. But there was something more than beauty there. She was magnetic. Electric. You could not take your eyes off her when she was onscreen. She was fearless, taking on the men in a battle of wits as easily as she could drink tea. It felt like it came so naturally to her. It was the same for everything she has starred in, whether it be The Avengers, or Doctor Who. It is also for this reason that she made a perfect fit as Olenna ‘Queen of Thorns’ Tyrell.

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‘Bring me some cheese.’

It was Dame Diana’s first scene as Olenna Tyrell in Season 3’s ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’. With a single line Olenna, and Dame Diana, entered into legend and into the heart of viewers everywhere. Four seasons later, we still laugh about the Tyrell Cheese Boy, and it was Dame Diana that made that possible.

Through Season 3, and to her end, we have seen Olenna spar with the best minds in Westeros. The Queen of Thorns was aptly named. With her acid tongue and barbed words, she drew blood from many. Wasn’t it fantastic? As soon as you saw Dame Diana’s name in the credits, you know that you were going to get a masterclass in acting, and in wit. Her scenes, regardless of who she was with, were filled with electricity. That lady could act with a tree, and still have chemistry with it – and you could be certain it would be one of the highlights of the episode.

One of my favourite scenes of Season 3 involves Olenna and Tywin Lannister trading barbs. From calling Cersei ‘old’, to asking if Lord Tywin ever had experiences with men like her ‘sword swallower’ grandson, Olenna is on fire. You can’t take your eyes from Dame Diana. Even Charles Dance, usually the one to dominate the scene with his presence, seems to fade in comparison. And doesn’t it look like they’re having fun? I love when you get the sense that the actors are enjoying what they’re doing, and this scene is a great example of that. I could watch those two all day. The scene ends with Olenna being silent, yet still delivering the perfect barb, snapping Tywin’s quill in half. Not for the first time, I found myself saying ‘I love her.’

It wouldn’t be the last time either. Olenna was the grandmother I dreamed of having. Fiercely protective of her granddaughter, Margaery, she took on all comers. It was at her hand that Joffrey met his end. Who wasn’t cheering? Yet Dame Diana’s Olenna didn’t delight in it. It was a necessity. All through, she was nothing but pragmatic. Things had to be done to protect her family – if it meant taking on the Lannisters, or the Faith, she’d do it.

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This season has seen a more subdued Olenna. Dame Diana replaced her fire with the slow, simmering hatred of a woman who had lost everything. As glorious as her scenes in previous seasons had been, this season’s were quietly heartbreaking. Olenna’s admission to Daenerys that she had outlasted everyone was painful in its own way. The last Tyrell. And now that last Tyrell is gone. She played the game better than anyone before her. But, this time, she lost.

‘I was good. I was very good.’

Olenna Tyrell wasn’t just good. She was an incredible force of nature. Her scenes shall be missed. So shall Dame Diana. I have no doubt she will be back our screens soon – even at 79, she isn’t slowing down. But there will be a hole in Game of Thrones without her presence, her wit, and her phenomenal talent. I salute you, Dame Diana Rigg, and I thank you for being a part of this crazy ride.

The Queen of Thorns is dead. Long live Dame Diana Rigg.

Olenna Tyrell The Queen's Justice

70 responses

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    1. I nearly fell off my chair in fangirl delight when I heard she was going to be on the show – and as Lady Olenna, yet!!

      What a perfect casting. What a perfect performance.

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    2. I think my favorite scene she had might be her conversation with Cersei last season. The straight talk AT Cersei was so great.
      “I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met. At a certain age it’s hard to recall, but the truly vile do stand out through the years.”

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    3. A truly great actor with a resume in TV, film and theatre spanning decades – what a tremendous inspiration in casting again! The role of Olenna as a woman striving hard to make her way in a man’s world is not an atypical one in GoT, but she was delightfully waspish to all and sundry regardless of gender or status – Diana brought great qualities of timing and facial expression with her spiky retorts and clear disdain for her inferiors (which in Olenna’s opinion is just about everyone!).

      I never thought much about who could be cast as Olenna when reading the books back in the days of Season 1 & 2 but now I can’t think of anyone else who could have brought such a mischievous and delightful sparkle to a rancorous, scheming character and kept her from just being a crotchety, rascally old woman.

      I hope Dame Diana has plenty more years yet to bring her talents to the entertainment industry and my thanks for lighting up the show along with so many other great talents.

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    4. She was brilliant as Lady Olenna and I’m going to miss her. At least she went out with a bang… or with a lot of sass.

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    5. Dame Diana Riggs has always been a remarkable actress. And thanks to her she made the Queen of Thornes a true force of nature.

      Oh, and she has better cheek bones than Cersei 🙂

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    6. Dame Diana owned every scene she was in. Am so, so happy and thankful she took part in Thrones – her performance will never be forgotten. Raising a glass!

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    7. R.I.P. The Queen of Thorns.

      Thank you Dame Diana Rigg for your contribution to our enjoyment of this incredible story!!

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    8. Perfect casting. So glad she was willing to take the job – it couldn’t have been easy. There is nothing like the Dame, nothing in the world.

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    9. Alas she only appeared in a modest number of films.
      She appeared more on the stage.
      Product of the Royal Shakespeare Company she is one of the most respected theatrical actors in England.

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    10. Ah, Emma Peel Tyrell! Diana Rigg is just a legend, truly. I have too much to say, so I won’t prattle on, but I will miss her!!! The end scene of Olenna, sitting dignified at the table, having truly gotten the last word – brilliant.

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    11. I enjoyed Diana Rigg’s performance as QoT immensely. Most of her lines and delivery brought a grin even to the most jaded fan. Well done! Her final scene with Dany was so desperately emphatic, spoken by a matriarch who has seen her powerful family destroyed. She played the game well. RIP QoT!

      I would have treasured witnessing a scene with QoT and the dragons. In my fanfic mind, I saw her bonding with R or V, getting the hell off that island and owning the skies!

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    12. I have a feeling she was D&D’s favorite character/actress to write for.

      There is a drogon sized hole in Game of Thrones now that can never be filled 🙁

      That shot of her on the balcony of high garden, staring sadly down as the army marches to her… was very haunting..
      Reminded me of all our favorite characters we’ve lost over the years… Ned, Cat, Rob, Marg, etc… As the cast list dwindles, I continue to miss those who help make this show the phenomenon that it is today.

      Her final scene with Jaime should secure her that guest actress emmy that she rightly deserves.

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    13. I meant to add to my earlier comment before I ran out of edit time…

      What I perceived more from the show and Diana’s depiction than as a non POV book character was that Olenna probably became as she did more through deep disappointment in the failings of those around her than any simple meanness. That applies most of course to her son Mace…

      “Not now, Mace”.

      Just three words which said so much!

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    14. She will be missed very much. Wonderfull actress and an amazing performance.

      But once the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder

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    15. Fantastic stuff by Rigg

      One of the actors who, while on the periphery, are of such quality they are part of the magic ingredient that lifts the show to its epic status

      Probably the most memorable scene for me was the “you’ve lost and it’s given me joy” speech to Cersei where she ripped her apart verbally with the Mountain right behind her without batting an eyelid

      Probably the most enjoyable in terms of acting quality is the “sword swallower” conversation between Olenna and Tywin, Dianna Rigg and Charles Dance really came to the fore with their acting ability

      And of course even the last season was great, had a nice undertone of sorrow until she had drunk the painless poison and then delivers the Joffrey bomb

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    16. She needs to get Emmy next years. She just needs! Her scene with Jaime was her best scene and one of the best scenes in this entire show.

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    17. Thanks and congratulations to Diana Rigg for her amazing performance, easily one of the best in a very strong cast. I miss her already! But what a send-off.

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    18. Enjoyed every scene that she was in. She was “grand” in every way. I will miss her!

      And what I wouldn’t give for those cheekbones!

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    19. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t been said by everyone already. Diana Rigg was simply fantastic in this role.

      Olenna was one of my favourite characters. Every time she came on screen, I sat up excitedly. She threw shade better than anyone else, and her one-on-one banter with the various different characters, like Margaery, Cersei, Tywin, Tyrion, Jaime, and of course her son (“Not now, Mace!”) was always delightful.

      And while the writing for the character was incredible, Diana’s performance and delivery certainly enhanced it even further.

      The Queen of Thorns died as she lived – Like a motherf*cking boss. RIP, Olenna. And thanks, Diana.

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    20. Was waiting for her to croak, then open up her eyes and stay alive for one last cliche gasp so she could tell Jaime, “by the way, Littlefinger killed Joffrey too” and then collapse one last time. Oh well. R.I.P. Thorny One. You will be missed. And now her snark is ended.

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    21. Excellently written piece.. I agree with every single word. 😊

      Diana/ Olenna was a simply outstanding character… I adored her in the books and Dame Diana brought her to life and then some, in a way nobody else could.

      I’m delighted at the way she went out, sad as I am to see her go. And equally delighted to see that everyone here and online has the same fond regards for the character.

      And IIRC, she was a trailblazer for pay equality back in the 60s, where she kicked up shit when she heard she was being paid less than the crew on the Avengers. Go Diana!

      Raise a poisoned glass to the QOT. RIP! 🥂

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    22. Oh QoT, in my fan fiction, you and Margery escape to Winterfell in the North and join the round table discussion with Sansa, Arya, Brienne and Lyanna Mormont. You were so delighted at meeting Brienne, I always wanted to watch you interacting with the women of the North. But, you went out as a bad ass and not only owned Jamie but Cersei as well. You’ll truly be missed.

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    23. salacious crumb:
      If we dont see someone actually die on camera….

      salacious crumb,

      It would be funny if Jaime accidentally grabbed the wrong vile and poured Milk-of-the-Poppy into her wine instead of poison.

      She’s all expecting to die, but she only ends up getting high and then goes on about her business like nothing happened.

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    24. RIP Lady Olenna. Diana Rigg’s name in the credits always made me happy, because I knew we were on for a treat.

      Her sword-swallower conversation with Tywin was excellent, her “Not now Mace” has become part of pop culture, her scene with Cersei was poignant. The way she shut up the Sand Snakes in season 6 was one of the funniest moments from that season, and last Sunday’s scene with Jaime was outstanding.

      She surely will be missed. I bet if the Night King came to The Reach he would have trouble handling this badass wight!

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    25. Thank you Diana! Long live the queen! Of the many wonderful things about this series, Diana as Lady Olenna is one of the best.

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    26. I can only reiterate the words of Paige: The Queen of Thorns is dead. Long live Dame Diana Rigg!!!

      I loved her from the first minute and was heartbroken when she was forced to drink that poisoned wine.

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    27. Mr Derp:
      Was waiting for her to croak, then open up her eyes and stay alive for one last cliche gasp so she could tell Jaime, “by the way, Littlefinger killed Joffrey too” and then collapse one last time.Oh well.R.I.P. Thorny One.You will be missed.And now her snark is ended.

      This would be fantastic, they could have a 10 second clip every episode of her doing this in perpetuity….

      “Cersei still a bitch? Ha!”

      “I’m not quite dead.”

      “Night’s King is a sniveling goth with terrible skin. And he had some sort of plastic surgery a couple of years back.”

      “How many titles does Dany have now? Gods…”

      “I should have poisoned you all when I had the chance.”

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    28. One of my favorite characters in the show played by an absolute legend. Held her own and more against Tywin, shamed Cersei and the other pretenders. Boss.

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    29. she is a force of nature, a magnificient actress that has given us so many good moments.

      all her scenes are memorable, but there is one particular shot that moved me, when the Lannister-Tarly forces are arriving in Highgarden and you see the look of her face, she realises that she has lost everything, her son, her grandson, her precious grand daughter, her power, her home…and now, her own life, she knows that the game is over for her. It’s so bittersweet, I actually cried a little bit.

      Thank you Dame Diana Rigg.

      BTW, am I the only one who thought, What could have happened if Tywin and Olenna had gotten married when they were younger? they would have ruled the world!

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    30. That was a great write-up Paige and a fine tribute to Lady Olenna – The Queen of Thorns.

      I don’t recall Dame Diana being in the James Bond film ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service’, but that may have been one I missed, but certainly as ‘Emma Peel’ in the ‘Avengers’ when I was a teenager – back in the days of black and white TV 🙂

      Re Lady Olenna, there were so many great scenes and lines she came out with. Too many to mention, but one I recall and rolled up laughing was when Queen Margaery summoned her to Kings Landing after Ser Loras had been taken by the Sparrows? It was when she was in the coach, opened the window saying – “Ah, you can smell the shit for miles!”

      She certainly didn’t mince her words and told people exactly what she thought of them. Probably it was only the High Sparrow who got the last word in – ‘Have you ever ploughed the fields, sown the seed, etc – You are the few and we are the many’ – The Queen of Thornes had no answer to that?

      RIP Lady Olenna – and bring me that cheese now 😀

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    31. I will forever remember the scenes that she had together with Charles Dance. They were absolutely perfect and both actors showed their best when their characters interacted wirh each other.

      Lady Olenna truly went off in style. RIP, Mylady.

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    32. Many of you have said that you loved Olenna in the books, too. Which means that Old Georgie likely had a commanding, tart-tongued but lovable old lady in his past on which Lady Olenna was based. A bow of respect to you, GRRM, for getting her essence to the page so beautifully. And then to D&D for transporting her so seamlessly to the script.

      Another bow for whomever in the casting department read the words, looked up and said, “You know who I think would make the perfect Olenna? Dame Diana Rigg. I wonder if she’d take the part?”

      Finally, a mighty toast to the Dame herself for bringing this character to life in such a way that none can imagine another playing the part. You took a magnificent character and made her an icon. RIP Lady Olenna. Enjoy your well-deserved high praise, Dame Diana. As you said, you were good, you were very, very good.

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    33. One of the truly great actors on GOT, as show studded with acting talent. And an extremely memorable character. I am so thankful that TPTB got Dame Diana Rigg for the show.

      The Queen of Thorns last lines were magnificent, and encapsulated all the great rings about this character. Long live the Queen. Of Thorns.

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    34. Can’t add any more than has already been said, just want to say that she was mine and the other half’s favourite ‘assistant ‘ in The Avengers. A great write up for The Queen of Thorns🌹

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    35. Dame Diana stars in the new series of Victoria here in UK in the Autumn. She plays Duchess of Buccleuch. Forgot that she also played the redoubtable Mrs Bradley in the Mrs Bradley Misteries, if you get a chance to watch it please do.

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    36. I am 100% certain that she charmed and amazed the scriptwriters so much that they expanded her role + gave her the best lines.
      An excellent character and a radiant actress.

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    37. Loved her.
      Favorite scenes:

      – Her brutal review of an embroidered rose and the sigil/words of her own house, which is followed by a dialogue with Varys (“What happened when the decrepit bumps against the non-existent? Question for the philosophers.”)

      -Conversation with High Sparrow in S5

      -Her last scene with Maraery (underrated, I think, because it doesn’t have a takedown, but really poignant. “I won’t leave you” was a rare and beautiful vulnerable moment for Olenna.)

      -Her non-death death scene. It’s a crowded competition but that might be one of my top 10 final scenes for any character.

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    38. Carole H:
      Can’t add any more than has already been said, just want to say that she was mine and the other half’s favourite ‘assistant ‘ in The Avengers. A great write up for The Queen of Thorns🌹

      Not sure if I’ll be able to watch Dame Diana Rigg in ‘Victoria’ on UK TV. Down here I can’t receive all the channels Sky has to offer and that includes the BBC and ITV.

      I agree – Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel in the original Avengers was the best assistant John Steed (Patrick Macnee) had. Better than the first played by Honor Blackman or the third played by Linda Thorsen. All so long ago now…

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    39. mau,

      Yesss!!! every time I speak or think about that scene in particular I start with ”let;s talk about screen domination” I love her so much

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    40. It’s been such an extraordinary privilege to have Dame Diana Rigg on Game of Thrones for the past five years, playing this role. On a show renowned for, among countless other things its incredible achievements in casting, Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns represented the very pinnacle of that achievement. She was sharp. She was cutting. She was charming. She was ruthless. She was fiercely loyalty to those she loved. She was brilliant. She was wonderful. And faced with this effusive abundance of flowery praise, I’m sure that she would have had the perfect incisive and eviscerating comment to cut it all down to its proper size. Alas, I can’t come up with such a remark on my own. That was her genius, and even if I could think of the perfect cutting line in tribute to her, I could never deliver it in such a way as to do her justice.

      Speaking of tributes, David Benioff and Dan Weiss paid their deep and heartfelt respects to Dame Diana and Lady Olenna in their post-episode interviews, and you could tell that they genuinely meant each and every word. When they said that Lady Olenna was the only character to win her death scene, they were absolutely right. In fact, one could argue that she won virtually every scene in which she appeared, or at least gave as good as she got. Everyone involved in the show knew what a rare and generational talent the great Dame was, and as long as she was willing to share her gifts, they took full advantage of them.

      Over the course of her five seasons on the show, Diana Rigg was consistently given rich and compelling scenes to play opposite some of the very best actors that this show has to offer. Charles Dance. Lena Headey. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Peter Dinklage. Natalie Dormer. Conleth Hill. Jonathan Pryce. The list goes on and on. She knocked each and every one out of the park, while still allowing her co-stars abundant space to shine on their own – which they always did opposite her. I’m not going to try and list off every great scene she had, because I could talk about each and every one, and this post would be far too long. And we all know that the Queen of Thorns appreciates brevity every bit as much as wit. As she once told Varys during a spellbinding scene in Season 3 … “It almost feels as if you’re about to arrive at the point.”

      So here’s the point. Dame Diana Rigg wasn’t just good. She wasn’t just very, very good. She was the best. And I’ll miss her and Lady Olenna Tyrell terribly. Whatever comes next for her in her personal or professional life, I wish her nothing but the best, and I sincerely hope that she will continue to grace our screens and delight us with her marvelous, absolutely singular talent for as long as she deigns to do so.

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    41. Add to Bucket List:
      -Catch Dame Rigg on stage in any Shakespeare play

      Thanks Lady Olenna/Dame Diana Rigg!

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    42. Rigg was superb as Olenna! My only complaint is that she never got a main cast status. Her last scene was brilliant from all aspects…

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    43. Jared,

      So here’s the point. Dame Diana Rigg wasn’t just good. She wasn’t just very, very good. She was the best. And I’ll miss her and Lady Olenna Tyrell terribly. Whatever comes next for her in her personal or professional life, I wish her nothing but the best, and I sincerely hope that she will continue to grace our screens and delight us with her marvelous, absolutely singular talent for as long as she deigns to do so.

      hear, hear! I also cheered when I heard she was playing that role, and loved it everytime she appeared on screen. I think my fav was when she was telling Margarey about her exploits as a young woman, giving her some advice as to how to handle joffrey (before she decided to kill him that is) . Sad to see her go, but it had to be. I couldn’t imagine her lasting much longer without her family.

      BTW I don’t remember in the books if Margery’s mother (Mace’s wife) was ever mentioned. Who was she and why didn’t see appear?

      It is interesting that Dame Diana Rigg, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Judy Dence have all had such splendid careers into advanced age. Would love to see a production with all three of them.

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    44. Thank You for the fine tribute to a great actress and one of the book and TV show’s most delightful characters. I well remember seeing Dame Diana the first time on the show as I binged watched the first four seasons. When she spoke, my ears stood up. That voice! I knew but could not place the face. Momentarily, I wondered in astonishment, if could it be Vanessa Redgrave… in this? After getting closer to the screen I was shocked when I realized it looked like Diana Rigg. I remember saying to myself, Is that Diana Rigg one of my all-time favorite actors???

      It had been years and years since she’d hosted PBS’s Mystery which I eagerly awaited and watched, simply just to hear her speak! That voice’s music is the personification of idealized spoken English. The credits confirmed it and I’ve loved and enjoyed every scene she was in. Just as I watched and loved Downton Abbey for Dame Maggie Smith’s spot on delivery of the Dowager Countess’ lines ah la Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell.
      My favorite GOT scene other that last week’s death scene was in season 6 when she trashed Cersei “My dear! You have been stripped of your dignity and authority, publicly shamed and confined to the Red Keep! What’s left to work with?”
      [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYvcRF8nS2A&w=854&h=480%5D

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    45. Cersei’s Brain:
      Add to Bucket List:
      -Catch Dame Rigg on stage in any Shakespeare play

      It’s a great regret of mine never to have caught her live onstage. Hope she makes it back to Broadway very soon.

      When I was 13, I wanted to grow up to be Emma Peel. Fifty years later, I want to grow up to be the Queen of Thorns. Every syllable that comes out of Diana Rigg’s mouth, every caustic arch of her eyebrow is a gift. So sorry to see such a wonderful character leave the show.

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    46. Black Raven,

      Believe it or not we are rewatching them again week nights going back to the very beginning at the moment we are on Honor Blackman circa 1963/5. They are not supposed to be funny but they are. The CGI and the action sequences surpass anything GOT can muster LOL

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    47. Mr Fixit,

      I thought it was appropriate! 🙂 Throughout her five seasons on the show, Brienne of Tarth was the only person, with the exception of her granddaughter, that Olenna expressed absolute, unrestrained, and genuine delight about interacting with. But I’m not quite as restrained in my admiration – that’s the sentiment that I felt watching all of Diana Rigg’s scenes!

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    48. Amazing character, amazing actor. Game of Thrones was so lucky to have Diana Rigg. And what an amazing way to go. She indeed won her death scene. Thank you, Diana Rigg.

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    49. I seem to remember (was it at t’other place?) there were some folk who had quibbles about the casting of Diana Rigg because she didn’t look too much like book Queen of Thorns (who looks very frail – I think I can say that without it being a book spoiler). Three/four years down the road I think most of us think she did a very good job. Diana Rigg was uncommon handsome in her younger days. I’m pasting a link for a short excerpt from “The Avengers” when she infiltrated a group as “The Queen of Sin”.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZmNOApIv44

      I remember her giving an interview in the 1970s or ’80s when she talked about the fall-out after an American show she was in flopped – apparently when she arrived in the USA the powers that be sent a Limo to the airport but on her departure (i.e. when the show had flopped) she was driven to the airport in an old station wagon. At least she was not too pompous to tell a story against herself. There must be something in the genes because her daughter (Rachel Stirling) is an actress too.

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    50. Jack Hamm: My favorite GOT scene other that last week’s death scene was in season 6 when she trashed Cersei “My dear! You have been stripped of your dignity and authority, publicly shamed and confined to the Red Keep! What’s left to work with?”

      Which was followed by the declaration that everyone in Kings Landing hated Cersei, that she was surrounded by enemies, and that Cersei had lost. Now, I know that many of you delighted in every caustic comment that spewed from Olenna’s lips, but I believe that that tirade was tantamount to the signing of a death warrant for Margaery, Loras and poor old Mace.

      If Cersei was at all wary of using the wildfire, this tipped her wobbly scale of justice toward using it. If everyone hated her anyway, then why not use it? Cersei had come with a tenuous offer/plea for peace between them. As much as I loved Olenna and her barbs, at that point she should have shut up. It was the old girl’s pride and need to be dominant that made her run her mouth like that, and those barbs ultimately came back to stick her in her royal behind. A good lesson for all of us.

      I will say again though, as I said the other day, that Dame Diana’s playing of Olenna is one for the Acting Hall of Fame. I can’t picture anyone else in the part. Both the character and the actress were grand.

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    51. [comes out of hiding from potential spoilers & leaks]

      Ah, a great performance! This character could so easily have wound up a caricature or simply over-the-top. Riggs did it all so drily and in such an understated way that.

      And her closing was great: “from hell’s heart i stab at thee…” could not have been any better! 😀

      Now, to quickly to the other eulogy thread, and then back into hiding…..

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    52. I am feeling so honoured to have had Dame Diana Rigg on GoT.

      A brillant actress, so witty, we couldn’t have dreamt better for the role of the Queen of Thorns.

      *She* was a great player and played the game until her very end.

      I wish Dame Diana all the best !

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    53. Best character actress on show, and one of the best characters around. She will be missed. She made every line resonate!!!

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