This post about “The Angels Take Manhattan” has been much delayed partially because I needed time to figure out how I could have two conflicting opinions about one episode. One the one hand, I loved it and thought it was a perfect way to say goodbye to the Ponds. On the other hand, I felt that the episode as a whole didn’t always make sense. And did I ever figure out how to reconcile the two? Of course not. The best that I can do is say that I loved it on an emotional level, but struggled with it on a rational level.
Basically, the story begins in New York City in 1938, with Julius Grayle, who is a gangster/mob boss who collects art. The prize of his collection is a weeping angel, and he now believes that all the statues in New York are out to get him. He sends a private investigator to the apartment building Winter Quay, where he says the statues live. There the man finds his older self living in an apartment. He tries to escape the building, but gets sent up to the roof where he encounters a fearsome weeping angel: the Statue of Liberty.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory were in a more modern-day New York City. The Doctor is reading a pulp novel from the 1930’s about a private detective named Melody Malone. Rory goes to get coffee when we see a cherub from a fountain in Central Park disappear. Suddenly Rory is in 1938 with River and the Doctor and Amy are reading about it in the Melody Malone book.
This is where I feel the story becomes a bunch of great ideas that don’t necessarily fit together or make sense. First of all, I’m not completely sure what I think of the whole “if you read it then it has to happen” rule in this story, but I’m willing to accept it. I was also fine with the way that the Doctor manages to land the TARDIS in 1938, even with all the time distortions. I thought the scene with Rory and the cherubs in the basement was great. The cherubs were creepy and the scene was suspenseful. However, I was left wondering: why does Grayle have cherubs living in his basement?
The cherubs send Rory to Winter Quay, so Amy, River, and the Doctor soon leave Grayle’s house (and it appears that the statues are finally going to get him). I understand that the Grayle storyline was necessary to get all the principal players to New York in 1938, but it really felt to me like he was a plot device more than an integrated part of the story. I would’ve liked to have seen his story connected a bit more with Winter Quay.
Basically, Rory finds a room with his name on it at Winter Quay (yes, the angels helpfully create a label for your door), enters it, and sees his older self die. He seems to have only one chance to not spend the rest of his life alone in the room in Winter Quay. That is to somehow escape, creating a paradox that will poison the time energy that the angels are feeding off of. If he is successful, all the angels will die and he will never have been sent back to 1938 in the first place.
This leads to the best scene in the episode. Rory realizes the only way that he can escape his fate is to kill himself before the angels can take him. If he dies at his current age, he can’t die as an old man in the apartment. This leads to an emotional scene between Rory and Amy, which takes place on the ledge of the room, with a menacing Statue of Liberty snarling at the couple, waiting for a chance to take Rory. The scene really reinforces the love between Amy and Rory, and references several key moments from past episodes. I loved the when Amy asked Rory how he knew he wouldn’t just be dead if he jumped, and he replies, “When don’t I?” In a nice echo of “Amy’s Choice,” Amy once again decides that she doesn’t want to live in a world without Rory, so she decides to jump with him. They jump, creating the paradox, and they end up, back with the Doctor and River, in a cemetery.
Just as they are about to leave, Rory notices a tombstone with his name on it. When he stops to look at it, he is sent back in time by an angel. The Doctor tells Amy that creating another paradox will destroy New York City, so they cannot rescue Rory. Amy then decides to let the angel take her too, so that she can be sent back to be with Rory. She says her goodbyes to the Doctor and River, and then her name appears on the tombstone, below Rory’s. It thought it was a great way conclude Amy and Rory’s time with the Doctor.
Amy ends up writing an afterword to River’s Melody Malone book to reassure the Doctor that she had a good life and asks him to visit her younger self, the one waiting in the yard with her suitcase for the Doctor to come back, and tell her about all the adventures they are going to have.
As I said before, I thought it was a great farewell to the Amy and Rory, and was true to their characters. Still, I was left with a lot of questions. How could the Statue of Liberty move? Wouldn’t someone always be looking at it? It was a memorable image, but it didn’t quite make sense. How does River get her book to Amy? Can she still visit Amy? If she can see her, why can’t the Doctor? And what happened to Rory’s father, Brian? This question, at least, can be answered by the storyboarded scene that wasn’t filmed. I wish it had been, though, because it would have provided closure for Rory, which he really doesn’t get in this episode. Yes, it’s a bit like what happened in “Blink,” but I think it would have been a nice way to wrap up Rory’s story. If you’re interested in seeing it, here it is: