Spoilers for Game of Thrones ahead.
In Game of Thrones season 7, episode 2, “Stormborn,” many of the main characters have to make hard decisions. In particular, Daenerys is choosing whether to assault King’s Landing with all the force at her disposal, or follow Tyrion Lannister’s suggestion and find another, more diplomatic way to stake her claim. Matriarch Olenna Tyrell warns Daenerys in private counsel against listening to Tyrion blindly, stating that it will only get her killed. “I’ve known a great number of clever men. I’ve outlived them all,” Olenna says. “You know how? I ignored them.” Her advice is proven right when Daenerys’ wishy-washy siege around King’s Landing faces Euron Greyjoy’s overwhelming fleet.
Olenna has been one of Game of Thrones’ most charming characters. The writers have made her witty and brash, and Dame Diana Rigg plays her with an easy sort of verve that suggests she isn’t afraid of anything. Her biggest failing is that she was unable to save her granddaughter Margaery and grandson Ser Loras from the events in the season-six finale. Still, when Olenna is on camera, she’s mostly been a source of delight and comfort. Here’s a quick rundown of instances where Olenna Tyrell was a hero:
1. Comforting Sansa Stark with lemon cakes
When Olenna is first introduced on the show, her humor and offer of lemon cakes immensely cheers up Sansa, who’s understandably in shock after seeing her father beheaded and having to marry Joffrey Baratheon, who ordered him killed. “I’m much less boring than these others,” Olenna says in episode 2, season 3. But the cakes come with a price. This is a pivotal scene where Sansa learns she has a potential ally, and Olenna extracts the knowledge from Sansa that Joffrey is a monster. That sets the gears of Olenna’s mind working, but it’s also the beginning of Sansa’s series-long education in the arts of manipulation and intrigue.
2. Orchestrating Joffrey’s death
After the shocking Purple Wedding where the hateful King Joffrey is poisoned, Olenna reveals herself as the mastermind behind the deadly plot. She tells her granddaughter that Tyrion is definitely innocent of the murder. “You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you? Shh, don’t you worry yourself about all that. You just do what needs to be done.” Those seem to be the words Olenna herself lives by.
3. Surviving the massive explosion in the Great Sept of Baelor
Luckily, Margery warned Olenna to not stay in King’s Landing any longer. Olenna left for Highgarden three episodes before the big explosion, after receiving a note from her granddaughter with a rose drawn on it, referencing the Tyrell sigil. She pleaded with Margery to leave as well: “You leave for Highgarden today. There is no law that says you must stay here.”
4. Being a progressive force for good in a prejudiced era
Olenna is shown to be one of the most forward-thinking, accepting types on Game of Thrones in regards to her grandson’s sexuality. In a scene in season 3, episode 6, Tywin Lannister proposes that Cersei and Loras get engaged, and says Loras has a stain on his reputation because he’s gay. Olenna laughs off the proposal, and even asks Tywin Lannister whether he ever experimented. “Not once, not in any way?” She isn’t just open-minded, she approaches bigotry with the kind of gentle joke that exposes and ridicules it at the same time.
5. Insulting the show’s least popular characters
At the end of season 6, Olenna reached Dorne, where she negotiated new alliances, in hopes of destroying Cersei Lannister. In her meeting with Ellaria Sand and her daughters, she casually slaps down the Sand Snakes, among the series’ least popular characters. “Let the grown women speak,” she tells Tyene Sand, shooing the sisters away from her negotiations. Her confidence and willingness to speak her mind are always satisfying, but she also has the power to back up her attitude. Hopefully, Daenerys is taking notes from their encounters, and she’ll consider Olenna’s advice — and her example as a crafty but ruthless stateswoman — more carefully next time.