There aren’t enough sassy older women on television today, which is why we are so psyched that Game of Thrones’ Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) both exist. Here’s a look at why both of these women totally rock our socks.
They know how to make a point
When Olenna or the Dowager Countess are in a room, they are more than likely the smartest people in it. Whether it be from years of experience or natural inclination, both of these women are highly intelligent and command respect for it. Recent examples include: Olenna listing off the Tyrell resources lent to the kingdom’s war effort as effortlessly as she might what she had for breakfast (and thoroughly owning the conversation with Tyrion, one of the most clever characters on the show).
And do you remember the Season 2 Downton Abbey episode in which the Dowager Countess subtly convinced Dr. Clarkson to make sure poor William had a room at the Downton hospital? “Finally, I would point out, your living is in Lord Grantham's gift. Your living is on Lord Grantham's land and the very flowers in your church are from Lord Grantham's garden. I hope it's not vulgar in me to suggest that you find some way to overcome your scruples.” Bam!
They’re wizards (McGonagall!) with the family tree
Olenna’s scene last episode where she railed off the will-be-connections between the Tyrells and Lannisters with a mock-confused air (we think she knew exactly what she was talking about) was one of our favorites: “But, your brother will become your father-in-law. That much is beyond dispute.” Margaery and Loras did not seem to find the whole thing as amusing as Olenna did, but we think Violet would have enjoyed it.
On Downton Abbey, Violet always seems to be dropping a family name. Whether it’s the great aunt whose vase she’s hated for decades or a slight against her late mother-in-law, she has a dead (and, sometimes, alive) relative to put down for any situation. We think Violet’s family knowledge may come in handy in Season 4, now that great-niece Rose will be playing a larger part on the show (according to TVLine).
Though women don’t have as much obvious power in the world of GoT, that doesn’t mean they can’t manipulate things behind the scenes (right, Cersei?). Olenna seems to be one of the best. We have a feeling she was the mastermind behind the Sansa/Loras proposed marriage, and we wonder if she didn’t give counsel to her son when deciding if it would be a good idea to send Margaery to wed Joffrey. If we were in House Tyrell, we’d want Olenna pulling the strings.
Violet Crawley is no stranger to the world of careful manipulation, either. She and Mary spent an entire episode planning an elaborate party at Downton to convince Cora’s mother to invest further in Downton Abbey. That scheme was less than successful, but she has had better luck with her granddaughters’ love lives. It was Violet who told Matthew that Mary was still in love with him in Season 2 (those were the days), and Violet who physically inserted herself between Edith and Sir Anthony at their wedding altar when the latter started to show signs of doubt. This one doesn’t miss a beat.
They put their families first
Unlike some characters on their shows, Olenna and Violet are supremely likeable because their characters seem to do everything for their families. They may scheme or berate, but they do it all in the name of their kin — and not, such as in Tywin Lannister’s case, for legacy, but for love. We haven’t had as much time to get to know Olenna, but so far everything’s she’s done seems to be for her grandchildren and to keep her family in power (i.e. safe).
As for Violet, though she can be a bit critical of her son and his family sometimes, she is always there when the going gets tough. One of the most moving scenes in Season 3 came when a suddenly frail-seeming Violet let Sybil’s death physically slow her as she moved across the Downton hall.
They deliver the best one-liners
And, finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for. Olenna and Violet happen to be amongst the most quotable characters on their respective shows. Wise words for any occasion. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite Olenna and Violet gems...
- “I eat from plates stamped with roses, I sleep in sheets embroidered with roses, I have a golden rose painted on my chamber pot — as if that makes it smell any better — roses are boring, dear."
- “No, she isn't until she is married — then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”
- “What happens when the non-existent bumps against the decrepit? A question for the philosophers.”
- “I'm a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.”
- “Dr. Clarkson, I am no Jacobson revolutionary nor do I seek to overthrow the civilized world. We just need one bed for a young man from this village.”
- "Sir Richard, life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.”
Why do you love — or, if there’’s anyone out there, hate — Olenna and Violet? Do you see the similarities? Let us know in the comments below!