And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1st Corinthians, 13:13
A danger in writing meta too often is that you can forget that you can write anything else; that you can simply say "I liked this episode because of this" or "I didn't enjoy this, because of that." Sometimes it's best to simplify, to go back to the fundamentals.
So here are some of the very simple reasons that I thought the The Girl Who Waited was one of the best episodes of S06. Whether larger things spring from those, I'll leave to chance.
I liked the cinematography. The bright white nothingness of the anchor and waterfall rooms, the equally bright and frightening empty-airport feel of Two Streams' public areas (which were, I'm sure, filmed at some empty airport, but that Doylist perspective didn't ruin the effect for me), the deep and grimy shades of blue in its working environs, the gold and green-drenched surreality of its fantastical gardens, struck me immediately and stayed with me afterward.
I liked seeing Karen Gillan show me what she can do as an actress. As much as I have become fond of Amy the character - more than fond, really, fascinated and touched by her narrative - and as much as Gillan has infused Amy with an inner light, I've always been aware of Gillan's youth and relative inexperience as an actor. But from the moment Older Amy opened her visor and showed her care-worn face to me, with every bitterly weary comment, I believed in the character. Gillan's performance was a small and welcome revelation.
I liked that the episode focused on Rory, too. I liked that the lovely Arthur Darvill (goodness, the man's acting strengths creep up on one) told me more about how Rory sees the world, about what makes Rory strong and what makes him vulnerable. I liked that it showed me more about Rory's belief system, about how it, and he, speak unwelcome truth to the Doctor's power, about where his faith lies (and oh, how that in particular makes a shambles of the story to come, how it illuminates the blindness of The God Complex).
I loved some things, too.
I loved what it revealed about kindness, even if the reveal was ham-handedly obvious - that kindness without context can be cruelty, that true kindness can often be like a knife in our heart, or the shutting of a blue door in our faces.
I loved what The Girl Who Waited told me about the lies people tell themselves, and the truths that will out despite those lies. (Look at how a weary and bitter Older Amy, hurt by her apparent abandonment and desperate to make someone else feel the way she does, deliberately hurts Rory in turn by calling her silent robot a "pet." Then listen as her rusty little laugh, the one only Rory could have coaxed from her, gives the lie to her cruelty. Listen to the quiet venom in her voice when she addresses the Doctor and says she hates him more than she has ever hated anyone. Then look at her face when he says yes, he can take both Amys into the TARDIS, how she follows his instructions unquestioningly (more of that faith thing, there, too, but I digress.)
I loved what The Girl Who Waited told me about love. It reminded me that love sometimes looks like something else, and that it often bears only a coincidental relationship with kindness - especially when it's tired, when it's been so starved by solitude and the ebb of hope that it's cold and broken almost (almost) beyond repair. I loved its reminders that love doesn't always save the day, but that it can save one's soul (what did you think Older Amy's decision did for her, do you imagine? It didn't save her time line, to be sure. But it did save her. And how very Amy, to decide that it was better to burn out at the cruelly kind hands of the robots, than to fade away.)
It should surprise no one that I loved what that The Girl Who Waited told me about faith.
I won't go on at length about it. Simply consider that Amy could have let herself die at any time in her subjective 36 years once she knew she couldn't escape the facility on her own - could just have let the robots administer their kindness to her. Instead, she chose to stay alive, to wait for another day and another chance, either to save herself, or to hear the wheezing arrival of the TARDIS and Her madman, or to see again the man she loved, the man she ordered to save her.
I don't know about you, but I think Amy made one hell of an active choice every day of her imprisonment, one replete with hope and faith. Was her faith in the Doctor, or in Rory? There was no question in my mind as the credits rolled, that she had faith in both of them, but that her ultimate faith was in Rory.
It is also clear to me that she stayed alive because she needed to get back to Rory, to care for him. That's the secret about Amy; impetuous, self-involved, thoughtless and adventure-addicted Amy is the mask she wears to hide a much truer version of herself, as obstructive to our understanding of her as Older Amy's visor was to her face.
She has a covenant with Rory, you see.
A word about covenants.
A covenant is not a contract.
A contract can often be a very worthy thing, an admirable work of communication and agreement between two parties. But a contract is a formula, an algebraic toting up of one's duties and one's rewards. A contract is rational and relational; it says, "I promise that I will do this and this for you - if you, then, promise to do thus and thus for me." It always - always - goes on to say "If you do not honor your duties, I needl not honor mine." A contract holds within it the mechanism of its own destruction.
A covenant says "What I promise you is not dependent upon what you promise me. You may break faith with me. I will not break faith with you." (And there's that faith thing, again.)
It is why marriage, true marriage, is not a contract but a covenant.
Here is Rory's covenant with Amy: Rory will always love Amy, will always listen to her and try to understand her, will always try to protect her, will always come when she calls, because without him, she will wither and be lost.
Here is Amy's covenant to Rory: Amy will always return to him, because without her, Rory will wither for lack of her. Amy will always return because she has promised to care for him, in her prickly, sometimes thoughtless and hurtful, unimaginably powerful way. She will return to him, will care for him, for all the days of his life.
It is that covenant that powers Older Amy's decision. It is what renders her decision believable. After all the things she seems to have willed herself to forget in those 36 years, it is what stays alive in her heart, and what she remembers when Rory cries out to her that he doesn't care that she grew old, but that they did not grow old together.
Older Amy doesn't give up her existence for nothing; she has clung to life with a tenacity I doubt many of us could have managed under the same circumstances.
It is her covenant with him - not any logical argument, because what could be more logical than Older Amy's insistence on staying alive - that brings the two Amys together in purpose, when Younger Amy asks "What about Rory?"
Her covenant demolishes the imperfect logic of continued life alone, or settling for the time-fractured imbalance of life together as Older Amy and Younger Rory.
She gives her existance up because if Rory cannot grow old with her younger self, if he chooses Older Amy and she dies so much sooner than him, then Older Amy will have abrogated the covenant she undertook, to care for him all the days of his life.
Here's another thing about covenants; they are a thing of faith.
Amy kept faith. She did not let love die, she did not give in to the false kindness of the Two Streams Facility. She kept faith.
That's probably the biggest reason that I love The Girl Who Waited, and why I think it is so very, very much better than The God Complex.
But that's another story.