And so it’s come to this. The finale of a rollercoaster season featuring a new Doctor, an increasingly unnerved companion, a vague new mystery, and an unreadable entity. Or, more accurately, the start of the finale. This is the first two-parter of the season in a show that has had seasons almost entirely made up of them before. It’s easy to forget that we’re not going to get the conclusion this week and will have to wait another excruciating seven days until you’re staring at the “To Be Continued” screen, trying to make sense of the words.
So, of course, a good two-parter has to have one hell of a problem to kick it off. The episode starts with Danny and Clara speaking over the phone as Danny walks over to her apartment. Clara is uncharacteristically flustered about something, struggling to find words, and reading a mindmap of ideas and events laid out across her bookshelf. She starts her eventual diatribe telling Danny that she loves him—well and truly loves him—but gets no response. That is, she gets no response until a few moments later when a woman picks up the phone and breaks down. It seems that Danny has been struck and killed by a car in what must have been the quietest car accident ever. Quite a doozy of a problem.
Clara spends the next few days in a state of emotionless shock, rambling incoherently to her grandmother. Until the Doctor picks up his phone, of course. And then she’s back to her old self. In the TARDIS, she walks around collecting keys hidden all over while the Doctor distractedly plays with the console. She insists that the Doctor take her to a volcano before slapping a sleep patch on the Doctor, putting him to sleep.
The Doctor wakes up outside the TARDIS inside a volcano to the sight of Clara standing near the edge of a safe piece of ground and holding the seven keys to the TARDIS and threatening to destroy them all, preventing the Doctor from ever getting back into his TARDIS, unless he helps her bring Danny back to life. Either Clara has been massively lied to about the number of TARDIS keys out there (or in the Doctor’s pockets as we’ve seen in “The Sound of Drums”) or something’s happened with the keys off screen. The Doctor holds fast against her and she throws all the keys into the lava, breaking down in tears but saying that she’d do it again if she could.
But there’s been a good ol’ switcheroo! It wasn’t Clara that drugged the Doctor, but the Doctor who drugged Clara when he caught her trying to knock him out. They’re both on the TARDIS just fine, having never left, and Clara was in a dream state. The Doctor wanted to see how far Clara was willing to go for what she wanted. And he saw that Clara hurt him, violated his trust, betrayed him, and was unapologetic about it. But he doesn’t really care about it that much since he says he cares for her enough that none of it matters, so they set out to go and save Danny. Clara plugs into the TARDIS like she did in “Listen” and the Doctor turns off all the controls so that they can go places they should otherwise not be able to go.
NEXT: Life and death and life again