In light of International Women’s Day - let’s take a look at one of the most popular female character archetypes: The Ice Queen. Usually presented as emotionally distant, aloof and restrained, this is the woman who gets things done - and doesn’t care about whether society approves of their methods. Over time, this trope has undergone a lot of changes - no longer your run of the mill ‘Regina George’ type, there are so many layers to the personality type, which has been explored in television and film in recent years. In no particular order, here are some of the women on television that I believe have not just embodied these archetypes, but elevated them through their exceptional portrayal - and yes, there might be a few spoilers (sorry not sorry).
Olivia Pope - Scandal
Any Scandal watcher won’t be surprised to see her here. Whilst she starts off as a character who is the champion of the white hat, Olivia soon realised that the righteous way doesn’t get things done. Although you may not completely agree with sis’ character arc, it is indisputable that she isn’t just the face that launched a thousand ships - she is the artillery. Her version of the Ice Queen is not someone who wanted to believe but was shown that sometimes the ends have to justify the means. Through her journey, Olivia transforms from a woman with a good heart who tries to do the right thing into a Queen at the top of her game who cannot be taken.
Annalise Keating - How to Get Away with Murder
Once again, I’m sure for HTGAWM viewers this character needs no explanation. But for those who haven’t, let me tell you why this woman here is in the upper echelon. Firstly, she covers up the gamut of murders, not that she even committed any. And despite loads of people coming her way, trying to bring a successful black woman down, she held her own. Not only did she defend herself, but her whole team, even when they hated her. Her ability to think her way out of tight spots, even when the deck seemed stacked against her is the main reason why she deserves this spot. That and her tough love, of course.
Aunt Polly - Peaky Blinders
Tommy Shelby’s allure and prowess as a strategist shone through the whole show, but so did Polly’s. Similar to Carla, her Ice Queen persona lies not in her ability to be cold and distant, but more so her wise mind. She is the treasurer of the Shelby family, and everyone knows it’s the brains who handles the money. Not only is she one of the strongest characters in the show, but somehow is also the moral compass of the family despite the fact that she's who you would consider as a very moral person. Throw in her otherworldly intuition and Gypsy magic, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Cersei Lannister - Game of Thrones
Now this one requires no explanation. Not only did she do what needed to be done for herself and her family, she had a tendency to overcorrect. She is in no means in a role model, but her grit, strong stomach and unwavering cunning puts her solidly in this category. If not for the fact that she loved her children so dearly, we wouldn’t have been certain that she had any feelings at all! From the way she treated Jamie to marrying a man simply to consolidate her hold on the throne, there was nothing that she wouldn’t do to empower herself, and that is certainly something that we can all take inspiration from, even though it’s not anything to emulate.
Carla Rosón Caleruega - Elite
I wanted to put this character in for sis’ fashion choices alone. A complex Ice Queen, Carla’s appeal lies mainly in the fact that she perpetrates an image of emotional aloofness, but her relationship with Samuel shows how she is far from that. Though not as directly manipulative as some of the other women on the list, her ability to remain at the eye of the storm is why she deserves this spot; knowledge is power after all. Not only has she got a great poker face, but her distant nature seems to always have the boys begging her for more. Aside from her tiny stint as a heroin addict, her cool head tends to prevail, and she is often able to leave the fray unscathed.
Love Quinn - YOU
What’s so interesting about Love is that she is so different from the archetype. A loving, warm character that appears to be highly intelligent, her penchant for killing in cold blood jumps out like an emergence of an alter ego. What I like most about this modern take on an Ice Queen is that her surface persona comes across as the kind of person who could never harm another living thing, let alone murder two people. Her intelligence is displayed through the fact that she was able to pull one over on Joe in the second season, switching the shoe to the other foot in a way that left many viewers reeling from the revelation
Villanelle - Killing Eve
This sociopathic, yet charming assassin requires no introductions. More adjacent to the traditional Ice Queen trope, her remorseless nature made her chilling to watch, but her allure lies in her capacity for learning. As we see her fascination with Eve grow, so does her desire to actualise her inner self, which leads her to her family in Russia. She’s able to come to terms with her childhood and her relationship with her mother by murdering her, which was actually her version of noble. Needless to say, not only does she accomplish tasks with surprising efficiency, but she also looks good whilst she does it.
Wendy Byrde - Ozark
This woman. Words cannot even describe. Although we first meet her in season one fresh from cheating on her husband, the rest of the show illustrates the true Ride or Die-ness of her nature. Constantly having to fight everyone for information - even her own husband withholds honesty and transparency, Wendy swoops in whenever it seems like there’s no hope. Once again, like other members on this list, she is not the ice queen because of her emotional limitations, but rather her strength and willingness to become whoever is required to help her family survive. In one of the most fascinating character developments I’ve seen personally, watching Wendy shift from an ignorant wife who petulantly has an affair as a cry for attention into a seriously potent member of the Cartel, all while keeping up the facade of a quintessential American family is nothing short of brilliance.
Wendy Rhoades - Billions