I was tense mainly because the show’s track record with two-parters had been so poor. The episode was not flawless – in particular some dialogue was rushed and some reveals under-explained but…all the main cast got some great opportunities to shine.
Pearl Mackie was excellent again. Bill has repeatedly been under used as a character and given really shitty situations over and over but Mackie has given the character great depth and emotional range. In this episode split between her self-perception as herself and the reality that she is a cyberman, she managed both humour and pathos in a way that gave the role great humanity. Given that she had to compete with Michelle Gomez, John Simm and Peter Capaldi doing some tremendous speechifying, it is even more extraordinary that her performance stood out.
Much of the episode had a kind of twisted take on the post-apocalyptix zombie film but without zombies. On the next floor up from the industrial cyberman world we saw last episode is an agrarian level. The small number of farmers (apparently all the farms keep their kids in a single farm house) are menaced oon a regular basis by the most basic hospital-gown cybermen.
Into this setting come, the two versions of the Master (Harold Saxon & Missy), a wounded Doctor, Nardole and Bill-as-a-Cyberman. Things only get worse and more desperate from there as the episode gets bleaker and bleaker.
Well, without spoiling things Bill’s deus-ex-machina salvation is both clever and trope subverting. It gives a nice end to her misused character but leaves open the possibility of a return.
Meanwhile the other ending…well fake out regenerations have become so over used that any tensions from them has gone. Even so, a very clever end.