Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Town Called 'Mercy' | Struggle after struggle, year after year ...

The title of tonight's episode brings the Jam's classic tune, A Town Called Malice, to mind ... but I digress.

*Obligatory spoiler alert here*

This episode was a bit of a volatile mix of mercy and malice. They cyborg's malice is justified, his mercy for the townspeople tenuous, but enough to make him a complete character, more than just a vengeance engine. The (other) alien doctor's malice is in his past and his mercy has endeared him to the humans he's turned into shields against the cyborg. He was a monster for a cause during a war, now he's less of a monster, trying to make amends.

Our alien Doctor is out of sorts here as well. Hi mercy tested by a man he clearly sees plenty of himself in; his malice restrained by Amelia's compassion.

All those internal struggles should have made for a somewhat more satisfying drama, but pacing and a lack of sufficient things for everyone to do -- Rory, it's your job to get shot at again; Marshall, it's your job to take the bullet and pass the star -- make this one feel like it's spinning its wheels a bit. That feeling was reinforced by the Doctor's decision to essentially resolve the conflict by ... punting. Instead of either deciding to turn the doctor over to the cyborg or finding a solution that allows the doctor to face justice with due process, his decision is to help the doctor escape and, apparently, let the cyborg continue the hunt. Fine for the people of Mercy, but basically kicking the can down the road for the problem to work itself out on some other planet. It doesn't end up that way, but when the final resolution is reached, it's more because the Doctor showed up and stirred the pot than because of any wisdom or clarity he brought to the conflict.

Alan Sepinwall noted one way this episode didn't track from the last,
During the dinosaur episode, Amy admits that she's just hanging around in her life, waiting for the Doctor's next visit now that he's trying to see less of her for her own good. Yet this week, she not only gets a good example of what happens to her childhood friend when she's not around enough, she gets an offer to keep the current trip going, and instead declines to return to her mundane life in England.
I'll add this observation: last week, Amy grabs a sci-fi rifle is capable of holding a bunch of velociraptors at bay with an action hero tagline and everything; this week she's accidentally firing her six-shooter all over the place like a goof. (She does deliver my favorite line of the episode though, "Why would he want to kill you unless he's met you before?" That worked.) We get that she's had a few months off between adventures, but she really got rusty in that time. Too rusty.

Grading this episode out, I'm on the fence between a C+ and B-.  The last couple weeks were in the A-/B+ range.

Nice to see Ben Brower, by the way. Almost unrecognizable behind the facial hair, grime, and accent.

I'm missing Mo Ryan's write-ups, hope to see her come back to the show after the fall season finale.

Next week we'll see Rory's dad again, and be back in contemporary London ... again. (Yeah, I winced a little there. Contemporary London episodes have been feeling a bit claustrophobic lately.)

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