Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Matt Smith’s second season as the Doctor has come to a… middle, and what a great run it’s been so far!  From “The Impossible Astronaut” to “A Good Man Goes To War,” Season Two has featured the same excellent storytelling, solid performances, and undeniable chemistry among the leads that made Season One so enjoyable (and snagged me as a Who fan!).  Although a couple of the episodes fell a little short for me, Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” is certain to achieve classic status, and “A Good Man Goes to War” ended (middled?) the season on a high note, earning the whole seven episode sequence top marks overall.

As has been typical for this series’ finales, this episode was fast-paced and chock full of a dizzying array of Whoverse denizens (Homo reptilius! The Judoon!), but Moffat’s careful writing and Peter Hoar’s direction made the story easy to follow.  Subsequent viewings reveal layers and richness to the storyline and performances, and explain elements that seemed curious at first, like River’s odd reaction when encountering Rory outside her prison cell.  The entire cast delivered standout performances, including some of Matt Smith’s finest acting in the role to date.  I found some of the new elements, like the Headless Monks, pretty forgettable—but no doubt we’ll see them again in future episodes (who would have expected a Sontaran nurse?!).  I would have liked to have seen the villains’ motivation a little better developed and explained.  We’ve seen the woman with the eyepatch all season; some time spent on her backstory would not have gone amiss.  I’m also a little troubled by the Doctor’s uneven treatment of the Flesh; throughout the “Almost People” two-parter, he was an all-out supporter of Flesh Rights—but he destroys Amy’s flesh avatar without a second thought.  I can believe the Doctor’s rules go out the window when the people he loves are concerned, but if that’s what we’re meant to understand, it needs to be explicit in the writing, not left to longtime viewers to infer.

Overall, the little hiccups are forgivable; there’s a lot to juggle in this episode, and the balls stay aloft pretty handily throughout, with some spectacular and ultimately satisfying surprises.  Moffat gave us enough to please, without giving everything away.  Plenty of tantalizing questions left for the rest of the season.  How long until “Let’s Kill Hitler”?

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