During the first season of Game of Thrones, Cersei (Lena Headey) said the words to Ned Stark (Sean Bean) that defined the theme of the entire series: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Ned’s head was separated from his body not long after, so obviously the Mad Queen was onto something. But nothing is ever so black and white, especially in a world where the dead become their own army, and people like Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) are still around — and flourishing. With winter officially here, the white walkers on the move, and dragons flying overhead to make everyone feel small, mortality itself seems less and less important for the humans of Westeros. With this in mind, there can be victory in death as well. On Sunday night, Game of Thrones showed us how it was done when Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) met her fate.
Aware of Danaerys’ (Emilia Clarke) plan to take Casterly Rock, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei shift their focus to Highgarden. The Lannister army seizes the castle, and Jaime confronts Lady Olenna with a glass of wine mixed with painless poison. Lady Olenna drinks it in a single gulp, without hesitation. What is there to fight for? Her children and grandchildren are all dead. There would be no pleading. Olenna met death gracefully, which is more than can be said for most of the now-dead characters on Game of Thrones.
Additionally, Lady Olenna admits in her final moments that she has done terrible things just like Cersei has. But while Cersei clings to life just for the sake of saying she survived, Lady Olenna is clearly at peace with the idea of dying. Taking the poison gleefully also showed that she was not afraid of meeting the same fate that she had sentenced other people to while defending House Tyrell. That Olenna could take it just how she dished it out is the kind of strength of character that would have made Ned Stark proud.
Lady Olenna uses her final moments to stand in her truth while waiting for the poison to do its deadly work. And this is where she truly won. Never one to mince words, she tells Jaime to his face that his late son was a “cunt” and that his sister-lover Cersei is a “disease.” If you expected death to prompt Lady Olenna to feign niceties, you thought wrong. And the look on Jaime’s face when she confessed that she was responsible for the poison that killed Joffrey at the Purple Wedding showed that dying by the same principles that she lived by was all worth it. If you have to die on Game of Thrones — and chances are, you will — this is how you do it.
This is exactly how showrunner D.B. Weiss intended for it to be. He told Entertainment Weekly that what he loved about the scene was that, “[E]ven though you leave the scene knowing she’s soon going to be dead shortly after you cut to black, you still feel like she won. She’s probably the only character to win her own death scene.” I don’t mean to be morbid but can you say #deathgoals?