Before I go into the emotional baggage that is the legacy of Clara’s death, let me just say that I think this was a much spookier episode than last week’s. It was darker and more psychological than “Sleep No More”, and Ashildr’s return contributed heavily to this. She has evolved from a sweet, enthusiastic Viking girl to a cold, calculating villain in a metamorphosis that is frankly chilling. She is not completely heartless as seen in the fact that she was genuinely remorseful over Clara’s death, and her idea to set up an asylum for alien refugees fleeing war or slavery shows that there is still some kindness in her. However, in her arrogance she fancies herself equal to the Doctor, but I think today she realized just exactly how big a mistake it was to make the Doctor her enemy. She refused his help in the past, and now he may never offer it again. As a random aside, we still don’t know what happened to Sam Swift, the brigand she saved at the end of “The Woman Who Lived”. Did they part ways? Did he somehow die? Was he elsewhere in the city?
It was great to see Rigsy again; I really enjoyed his appearance last season, and it was nice to see how he turned his life around and was back on the straight and narrow–and he even had a little family with Jen and Lucy. Also, the Doctor once again proved that he is not as gruff as he would have you believe with his fascination with little Lucy. No matter his incarnation, the Doctor will always have a soft spot for children.
And now to the meat of the episode–Clara’s death. I remarked earlier in the season that Clara has been getting more reckless and manic since Danny’s death, a fact which the Doctor and Rigsy comment on in the episode. She’s more and more willing to take wild risks that the Doctor takes all the time–but the Doctor is a 2,000-year-old Time Lord, and Clara is merely human. Although she’s been a time traveler for a while, she still lacks his years and experience, and her plans do not always work as well as the Doctor’s. She tried to buy them more time to clear Rigsy’s name of murder, but her risk was based on incomplete information, and this was what cost her her life. It was certainly a change from Katarina and Adric’s sacrificial deaths to have Clara die due to her own mistake, yet I believe this was suitable to her character arc. As I mentioned earlier, she had become more manic and reckless since Danny’s death, whether from a belief that she had nothing left to live for or a subconscious desire to find Danny somewhere in the afterlife I’m not sure. Still, it was a believable consequence of the choices she had been making, so I thought that part was well done. This doesn’t mean I’m fine with Clara’s death; on the contrary, I’m going to miss her very much. I didn’t like her a whole lot when she first appeared as the Eleventh Doctor’s companion, but she really started to come into her own once Capaldi took over as the Doctor.
Next week, the Doctor must cope with Clara’s death as he faces an unknown adversary on a mysterious world, and at some point during the two-part finale, Moffat has promised that we will revisit this epic scene from 2013’s “The Day of the Doctor”.