TV Recap: Doctor Who - The Angels Take Manhattan
By Edwin Davies
October 1, 2012
This introduced some fairly hefty thematic concerns to the episode regarding free will and determinism: by witnessing Rory die old and alone, she learns two things; that the Angels are going to take him, and that he lived a life without her. This tapped into the relationship between Amy and Rory beautifully, reaffirming the love between them that transcended millennia. How could Amy just let The Angels take away the man who waited 2,000 years for her?
The answer, of course, is that she couldn't, and here is where Moffat managed to seamlessly make plot, emotion and character one, a trick that the show has struggled to pull off lately. Amy's not prepared to let her man be taken from her, so she seizes upon a plan. In order to defeat The Angels, who have turned New York into their own personal feeding ground, the Doctor and Amy have to prevent them from getting Rory. By doing so, they will create a paradox since Rory will have never grown old and died alone as The Doctor, Amy and River (oh yeah, River is in this episode, though she's kind of not that important) saw happen. The paradox would destroy The Angels, and everything would be hunky dory. Or at least as hunky dory as living your life in perpetual fear of being chased by creepy stone Angels can be.
This then led to the second big emotional moment of the episode. As Amy and Rory try to escape the Angels, they find themselves trapped on the roof of the Angel's hotel/home. With nowhere to go, Rory sees a way out; if he throws himself off the building, he will die there and then, rather than as an old man, creating the paradox that is so essential to defeating the Angels. After asking Amy to help him because he isn't strong enough on his own, the two decide to jump together, hopeful that they will come back to life once the paradox takes effect, and certain that if it doesn't work, at least they will spend their last moments together. Fortunately it does work, and everyone winds up in a graveyard somewhere outside of New York, next to a gravestone that bears Rory's name.
Here's where Moffat genuinely surprised me and delivered an exit for the Ponds that was heartrending without being too soppy. Right after Rory sees the gravestone, he disappears. An Angel survived the paradox and so sent him back in time. Unfortunately, the time energy created by the paradox stops the TARDIS from returning there, meaning that Rory is lost forever. Faced with this, Amy makes a final, fatal choice; she decides to follow him into the past. After a brief goodbye to The Doctor and her daughter, she takes one step forward and disappears from The Doctor's life forever.
Again, Moffat makes good on the relationship that he so carefully built up between Amy and Rory, making her decision feel right, even if by doing so she broke The Doctor's heart(s). She leaves him a final note in the afterword of a book, letting him know that she and Rory lived long and happy lives together, but that can be scant condolence to the Timelord, a man who spends so much of his time trying to save people who now finds himself irrevocably separated from two of the most important people in his life. In all these scenes, which required a lot of them, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill did very fine work - the latter especially so, considering he was buried under old man makeup for one scene - and they really sold the emotion amidst the science fiction.