‘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.
‘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.
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.