Aired 29 September 2012
The Doctor’s admission that he tears out the last page of book so that the adventure never has to end provides all the setup that is needed for this adventure, poignantly foretelling of the permanent departure of Amy and Rory from the TARDIS that has been teased for so long. Amy has been the longest-serving companion of the new era of Doctor Who and Steven Moffat’s time as the showrunner has largely been about exploring Amy more than anyone or anything else. She saw him as a child, dreamed of his return, formed a strong comradery with the Doctor as she traveled with him, and even became his mother-in-law. Along with Rory who has increasingly become more prominent and affable, it was never going to be an easy task to say goodbye to such a beloved duo, but ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ certainly provides an emotional and fulfilling sendoff.
The story begins with an ill-fated private eye whose investigations reveal an unscrupulous collector, a hotel with a hidden secret, and the Weeping Angels themselves, including one in plain sight that is certain to draw just as many criticisms and praises. This sequence effectively reiterates how dangerous the Angels can be as the hotel and its narrow corridors provides no opportunity for the victims to not look away from them.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are enjoying some time relaxing in a park. This is perhaps the most comfortable Amy and Rory have ever been around each other on camera, completely selling how in love they truly are and almost making the Doctor a companion to them rather than the other way around. It’s a small touch, but Amy’s wearing of glasses speaks to the passing of time which has clearly become more pronounced over the past few episodes, gaining more importance later as River Song advises Amy not to let the Doctor see her age nor any damage done to her due to adventures with him, two things the Doctor cannot bear to stand as he remains unchanging and tries to do good throughout the universe.
It’s inevitable that peril is going to be present as events shift back to the afore-mentioned collector in 1930s New York after an Angel touches Rory and the story in the Doctor’s novel proves eerily accurate. It turns out that the novel featuring Melody Malone is written by River Song as an account of a past adventure, though of course the River Song present in this time period has no knowledge of events yet. This proves to be a simple yet clever conceit as the story unfolds both from Rory’s perspective as he is trapped in a basement full of Angels and cherub babies as well as the novel’s perspective. The Doctor’s warning to Amy to not look at future events specifically in order to keep the potential for change open is dramatically emphatic, though at least the chapter titles give a broad overview to keep them on the right track while maintaining a tremendous sense of tension. The scene in which River tries to disguise her broken wrist to give the Doctor hope is easily one of the strongest of the main part of the story.
Of course, despite however strong the film noir setup and excellent production values are, it’s ultimately the departure of Amy and Rory that overshadows everything else. Amy and Rory have constantly defied the odds and found a way to stay together, and that proves no different here even in the face of certain death. Rory’s logic is sound, though it certainly doesn’t make the scene any less effective or emotional, as he realises that the only way for him to break the cycle and to not end up a dying man in the hotel is to not get touched by an angel there, the hotel proving to be a temporal feeding ground for them. As such, with no chance of escape, he decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and to jump off of the hotel’s roof.
The episode does a very good job of allowing this scene between Amy and Rory play out slowly and emotionally without the presence of the Doctor or River. Their decision to jump together proves just how strong their bond is, and the dramatic farewell from River and sheer exasperation and sadness from the Doctor are incredibly well done. Amy and Rory plunging to their deaths is certainly one of the darker and more demonstrative scenes of the series, but it provides one final powerful moment of victory for them as they successfully shut down the loop that was powering the Angels.
Only that doesn’t prove to be the end as both suddenly end up in a graveyard with an overjoyed Doctor there to meet them. That overwhelming sense of relief proves to be short-lived, however, as a lone surviving Angel appears and touches Rory, sending him back in time. While there was never really any doubt that Amy would again choose to be taken by the same Angel to be with Rory, this second emotional farewell to the Doctor proves perhaps even more effective than the first, giving her an incredibly moving curtain call as she makes one more sacrifice.
Because of a plot contrivance, the Doctor is unable to retrieve Amy and Rory from the past, meaning that their departure- at least for now- truly is permanent. Amy and Rory had slowly been growing apart from the Doctor over the course of this series, but the sudden loss of his companions will certainly wreak havoc on his soul going forward. The Amy and Rory story gets the effective closure it needed, and the Doctor has to again learn to move on as he remains unchanging. At the end, he finally reads the final page to get some of the closure he needs.