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(HBO)
(HBO)

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Olenna Tyrell, the One True Queen of ‘Game of Thrones’

A necessary shout-out to the one woman who can lose a battle to Jaime Lannister and still come out on top

The best never last on Game of Thrones. Syrio Forel found himself alone with a wooden stick, facing down half a dozen knights, with predictable results. Oberyn Martell got his head squished, and Daario Naharis — though he kept his life — was left behind with a broken heart in Slaver’s Bay like the Giovanni Ribisi–in–That Thing You Do! of the Khaleesi’s inner circle. Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy, who has never been cool, brave, admirable, funny, or even remotely interesting, continues to cheat death.

Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, was too cool to live long.

How cool was Olenna? She walked up to Tywin Lannister’s writing desk and held her own. She orchestrated the assassination of Joffrey Baratheon, the most horrifying, cruel, callous television bad guy of the 21st century. She got people to take her seriously despite wearing John de Lancie’s dystopian judge outfit from "Encounter at Farpoint" in various colors across five seasons. She smirked and shit-talked like Reggie Miller in his prime, even as alliances shifted, her son stumbled through small council meetings, and her beloved grandchildren were vaporized by wildfire in Cersei’s coup.

And like Reggie Miller, Olenna never won a title. The Queen of Thorns threw in her lot with Daenerys Targaryen, a would-be queen who’s accumulated a list of sobriquets that would make Jon Snow bored and Muhammad Ali blush. But unbeknownst to Olenna, unfortunately Daenerys and her cadre of advisers lack any strategic sense whatsoever. Right now, Daenerys is making Cersei — who is two seasons removed from walking through King’s Landing naked because she couldn’t outwit a potato-sack-wearing, barefoot Jonathan Pryce — look like Scipio Africanus, and Olenna paid for that with her life.

But while Olenna was too cool to live, she was also too cool to die like a chump.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, and you frequently die badly. You get humiliated and beheaded in front of a crowd. You catch greyscale (that usually doesn’t get treated by the revolutionary "peel it off" method). You get burned to death in some form or another. You catch a torso full of crossbow bolts while you’re pooping. You get eaten by dragons, or wolves, or Thenns. You get stabbed by your own men. You get shot with a dozen arrows while you watch your pregnant wife bleed out. You choke to death at your own wedding.

But not Olenna. Upon realizing that Daenerys was John Burgoyne with more leather, and that her castle was lost, she went to work on the Kingslayer. Jaime was magnanimous in victory — he persuaded Cersei not to torture Olenna the way she tortured others who’d wronged her, and offered Olenna a painless death by poison. Olenna told him the woman he loved, to whom he’d devoted his life, was a monster, as was his son. And not only evil, but also corny as hell. (Olenna: "What did he call [that sword]?" Jaime, looking like he’d bitten into an olive thinking it was a Raisinet: "Widow’s Wail.") And then after calling Joffrey the C-word, she dropped the biggest bomb of all. Oh and by the way, I was the one who had him killed, in case you hadn’t figured that out by now.

We should all be so lucky as to die while sipping wine and delivering crushing, psychologically damaging monologues to our enemies. Olenna cut Jaime, and by extension Cersei, with her last breath. How appropriate for the Queen of Thorns. Long may she reign.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.

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