The Angels Take Manhattan
So, wow. What a mid-season finale that was. We had laughs, we had tears, but most of all we had a really, really great night.
It’s hard to know what to start this review with. It was clear right from the beginning that this episode was going to be a heart-render. Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last forty years and you didn’t know that this was going to be Amy and Rory’s last episode, right from the beginning it was tangible that this was a better quality episode, that it had been lovingly crafted. The location was gloriously Manhattan and gloriously thirties; there’s something about being on location somewhere big and important that seems to make everyone try harder on this show. Just like ‘The Impossible Astronaut’/’Day of the Moon’ double, everything was slightly more beautiful. The shots loved the city. Everything was elegant and seamless, and in the distance, like the rumbling iceberg to the episode’s beautiful, fun Titanic, the promise of the Ponds’ exit loomed.
The turning point the episode made from being a pin-sharp but essentially normal Weeping Angels episode to being something much sadder and darker came with that shot of River’s broken wrist. This was a moment of horror for both the characters and the audience; we all gasped together. In a strange way, although people seem to die all the time on Doctor Who, they never really get hurt. The Doctor either completely protects people or utterly fails, and as River rightly pointed out people rarely get ‘damaged’ (other than perhaps sometimes emotionally). This was different. This was awful.
But let’s turn to the exit of the Ponds. Their joint suicide was unbelievable. We’ve been shown over and over again that Rory would die for Amy, but in this episode we saw how much Amy has grown, that now she would die for him too. Despite the way ‘The Power of Three’ showed us that she still platonically loves the Doctor, she’s a mature, loving wife now, and her world begins and ends with Rory. His asking her to push him was agonising, and it only got worse. Even those of us who knew that they were going to leave and leave tragically felt relieved when the paradox resolved itself; we thought that perhaps the sad bit that everyone had been talking about was over, and they might live happily ever after, after all. The shock was so much greater for what happened next.
Even in the short time between airing and my writing this I’ve already heard people saying; “Well, it wasn’t as sad as ‘Doomsday’”. Perhaps it wasn’t, but I think it only seems that way because there’s a unique kind of sadness to unrequited love that can’t be compared to anything else. The trio of heartrending sadness made by Amy, steadfast, frightened and grieving; River, heart silently breaking; and the Doctor, agonised, helpless, terrified of being alone and losing her, was something else. It was a scene that was masterful from everyone involved, on both sides of the camera. It was brilliant to see a scenario where for once the Doctor loved his companion too much rather than vice versa. The unrequited love went the other way for once.
It was an episode beautiful, imaginative, clever and heart-breakingly sad. As you’ve seen if you’ve been reading my reviews all series, while all the episodes so far have had their upsides, I’ve been able to pick holes in them all one way or another. None were perfect until this episode. I could write on and on and on about everything that was wonderful, but suffice to say that this was the exit that the Ponds, the Doctor’s best companions, truly deserved.
And, just for the record. The massive, evil Statue of Liberty? Bloody fabulous.