Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) (GoT spoilers: Season 4)

Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrrell in Game of Thrones.
Lady Olenna Tyrell has to be one of the world's greatest chaperones. She has come to the sordid city of King's Landing to accompany her granddaughter, Margaery Tyrrell. Shae, the woman that Tyrion Lannister keeps against his father's orders when he came to King's Landing, says the city stinks of shit and corpses—a metaphor for corruption made so strong that the nose can sense it. We hope the port smells better from the vantage point of the gardens where Olenna spends her time—she doesn't complain of the odor there, but only of the tedium of walking endlessly in the garden where she spends her time.

We see Olenna frequently during Season 4, when Margaery's marriage to Joffrey is imminent and comes to pass in Episode 2, only to have Joffrey poisoned and dying in his adoring and enabling mother's arms. Cersei directs her fury to her brother Tyrion, whom she already hates, and whom Joffrey had been publicly humiliating for the past several minutes. Clearly Tyrion has motive to kill his nephew. Sansa slips away because whoever murdered Joffrey provided an escape for her. Yet we, the audience, have a pretty strong inkling that Tyrion is innocent. The episode leaves us with a "Who shot J.R.?" kind of feeling. I confess that though I was brought up never to rejoice at the death of even my worst enemy, I smiled and clapped when that vile and evil boy king collapsed.

We learn in Episode 2 that one of the conspirators in Joffrey's death, though not the actual deliverer of the poison, is Lord Petyr Baelish. He has been waiting offshore in a ship. Dontos Hollard, his henchman, pulls Sansa away from the wedding and guides her through the city, and finally delivers her to Baelish only to be paid with an arrow in the neck to permanent silence his knowledge of Baelish's involvement in the regicide. Posession of the Stark girl is a ticket to a long profitable journey for Baelish. He tells Sansa that she was the unwitting courier who delivered the poison to the scene of the crime, but he is too discreet to reveal who the senior partner in crime is.

Yet only two episodes later, that senior partner confesses her crime to her one confidant in King's Landing:
You see, Lady Olenna takes her self-appointed duty as Margaery's chaperone so seriously that she has done murder. Yet Joffrey had few friends and made enemies the way a movie theater makes popcorn, and it's hard to believe that anyone but Cersei would passionately pursue his murderers.

Those readers who were cognizant in the latter half of the 1960s will remember Diana Rigg in her earlier role as Emma Peel on The Avengers (not to be confused with the Marvel franchise of that name), a British production that somehow found its way to American television. It was one of two spy shows—the other being I Spy with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby in his first TV role—in which the spies were not made into superheroes by implausible gadgetry but instead had to rely on native wit, charm, and British suavity (well, in the case of I Spy, California coolness) to get them out of sticky situations and ultimately subdue the bad guys. The show was funny, sexy, and charming, and was a big hit that owed much to Rigg and her co-star Patrick Macnee.

Diana Rigg as the sexy super-sleuth Emma Peel in The Avengers.
Every Sunday for the remaining five episodes of Season 6 of Game of Thrones, I'm putting on my Winter Is Coming T-Shirt, watching the show, and trying to write something interesting about the show with an eye for what takes it beyond sword fights and great conversations in elegant rooms to something that concerns everyone. Indeed, Game of Thrones is an island drama into which all the world, its vanities, its hunger and pain are played out on a relatively small scale, but the drama is universal.

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Since Jon Snow came back from the dead and declared that his watch was over, there has been a lot of speculation about his change in wardrobe. When he hands his mantle over to his friend and second at Castle Black, one supposedly educated critic asked why would his friend want to wear the stinky and bloodied cloak, and wasn't Jon Snow going to get cold? But the critic misses the point: the cloak is a mantle of his office, Lord Commander, and by passing it on, he passes the office on to his lieutenant. I haven't read the books, but that's the way I interpret the gesture. Otherwise I think he would have worn the cloak out the gate. What confuses me, though, is that he appears to leave Castle Black immediately after declaring that his watch was over, but in the next episode he is still there to welcome his long lost half-sister Sansa, whom he hasn't seen in five years of our time—perhaps more in Game of Thrones time. They haven't seen each other or been on camera together since Season One, and it was an emotional greeting for anyone that has his or her heart in this show.