Major spoilers for the "Doctor Who" Series 9 finale lie ahead!
This past May, the series finale of "Mad Men" left viewers divided. Sure, Don Draper's spiritual awakening that never was was a fitting way to end the series, but there was a sizable portion of us who just really, really wanted Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway to ride off into the sunset together, leaving the misogynist world of corporate advertising firms behind to start their own thing, separate from all of those meddling men.
They didn't, of course, but seven months later, "Doctor Who" gave us one better -- because the Series 9 finale, "Hell Bent," gave Jenna Coleman's Clara not only the best Companion exit in the long history of the series (sorry, Donna Noble -- your lottery win came with a steep price), but one of the most unabashedly gleeful lady power moments on television. There are now two incredible, intelligent, capable women flying through space and time together. In their very own TARDIS. Without The Doctor telling them where to go and what to do. What a time to be alive! Cancel "Game of Thrones" and that Queen Victoria thing and give these ladies a spin-off!
I'm writing this review a full 24 hours-ish ahead of the episode's Saturday night premiere, so I'm just going to go ahead and predict that many Whovians are currently on Twitter, calling Clara and Ashildr/Me's (Maisie Williams) ending what it kind of is: fan service. But, much like with the aforementioned "Mad Men"'s fairytale finish for Peggy and Stan, the dual TARDIS flyaway felt more like a well-earned swan song than a last-ditch effort to give fans "the feels."
Because, while Clara's demise was brave and respectable in "Face the Raven," it did feel like her death was a punishment for the crime of (gasp!) traveling for the Doctor for years of her life, then actually having the audacity to pick up some of his more reckless tendencies. Clara was the first-ever "Doctor Who" Icarus; while beloved characters like Rose Tyler and Amy Pond served quite well as The Doctor's conscience and the closest thing he's had to family in a long time, respectively, Clara's role was to be his aspiring mini-me.
It didn't work for a lot of people, and I get that -- Steven Moffat and co. had an extremely hard time keeping Clara's characterization consistent over her three seasons -- but as a character, she was selfless, brave, and kind, and didn't "deserve" to have an ending that so closely resembled a punishment. (It's also important to remember that this is a family show -- I don't have any daughters, but if I did, I don't know that I'd want them to absorb the lesson that Princess Leia can't go after Darth Vader herself without getting murdered for it.)
Of course, Clara still will die at some point in this new version of events, but this time she'll get to do it after a series of probably incredible interstellar adventures with a sassy, immortal Arya Stark. And most important of all, she'll get to keep her memories. (Coleman has been fantastic this whole season, and her delivery of "These have been the best years of my life, and they are mine. Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past. I am entitled to that. It's mine," made me cry almost as much as "I'll always remember when The Doctor was me.") For a woman whose taste for earthly pleasures like work, friends, and family seemed to die out with Danny Pink, it's as good an ending as we could have possibly hoped.
And that's important, I think. Especially now, in the midst of some important conversations about how "Doctor Who" has treated its women over the past ten years. They've made strides this season in hiring women behind the scenes, and though they never fully nailed down exactly who they wanted Clara Oswald to be, it's fantastic that they didn't outright kill the first Companion in Nu-"Who" history to demonstrate traditionally masculine-leaning characteristics like recklessness and bravado.
It did completely suck that The Doctor had to lose all of the lessons he learned from Clara in order for her to get this fairy-tale ending, of course, but it seemed to me like his confusion over which Companion he dined with in that New Mexico diner pretty heavily implied that with time -- lots and lots and lots of time -- his memories fade just like Ashlidr's. So while Ten's goodbye to Rose Tyler in Bad Wolf Bay is still a fresh wound for us, to him, it's probably like that time your second grade best friend told you they didn't want to sit with you in the cafeteria anymore.
The Doctor was always going to move on from Clara, but we've known for over a year now that Clara will never get past her time in the TARDIS. That's why we're excited as hell that she's out there in space, bravely hurdling towards certain death with the coolest immortal in the galaxy, with a time machine of her very own. Run, you clever girls.