I know that the latest episode of Doctor Who seems a bit slight on the surface, but like Gridlock, which had a number of thematic similarities, there are joys to found in the depths. It's been a long time since I could describe this show of having any subtlety whatsoever, but even while maintaining the usual loud tempo in the A-plot, the episode still offered little reveals about the Doctor, and more importantly, about Clara.
Despite the fact that this episode centered on the loss of a parent, there wasn't a big emotional crying scene. I've realized more and more that when the characters' histrionics overwhelm the scene, there's no room left for the audience to connect emotionally.
In just ten quiet seconds, we feel the weight of the moment when Clara's forced to give up her mother's ring. The Doctor asking her to make that sacrifice clearly plants a seed of doubt in her mind about him, and reminds us that no matter how much he walks the walk, he's not actually human.
Nor do we need a big dramatic scene to understand the significance of the fact that when asked for a physical totem of cherished memory, he can only offer his sonic screwdriver. That's even though he once brought his (assumed long dead?) granddaughter to this very place.
(And because you should see it if you haven't, the scene where the Doctor abandons Susan on Earth for Not!AdamScott is one of the loveliest moments of the classic series. Middleman did a riff on this scene, for those of you who enjoy such things).
I've heard it said on Twitter that the episode relies on the usual Doctor Who deus ex machina that is The Power of Love. For once, I think there's something far deeper going on. Clara doesn't feed the monster with love, but with the infinity of loss. It's neatly scientific, wrapped up in a human bow. People who are grieving don't tend to dwell on moments had, they think of moments missed, moments lost. Every time I miss my grandmother, for instance, I don't think about my youth spent with her, I think about how she isn't here, how she isn't sitting next to me, enjoying Doctor Who with me (and enjoy it she did).
There's an infinity of those moments, and you'd go crazy if you try to understand how enormous those missed moments are. No one can comprehend infinity. You just shut down when you go too far down the path.
Which is my long-winded way of saying, well done Who, for having an vaguely comprehensible ending for once.
Clara Clara Clara. SO MUCH LOVE. She's the first companion in the New Era who I'd actually want to meet, and can imagine myself befriending.