After watching "Resolution," in retrospect, clearly "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" was never supposed to be a finale. It was, in all ways, the standard penultimate episode every season tends to have, the calm before the finale storm. These episodes lull us into a false sense of security and ready us for the intensity that lies before us.
With that, "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" wasn't a bad episode; it was a victim of bad marketing. It was a bad finale that wasn't actually a finale. It successfully lowered our expectations so that "Resolution" could shine. And shine it did.
"Resolution" finds our favorite fam enjoying 19 New Year's Eves in a row. But their round 20 is interrupted when something weird happens. An incredibly cute pair of co-workers who have a very new (like, hours old) romance find the remnants of a ninth-century battle, during which the vicious creature was so feared that upon defeat it was cut in thirds and scattered across the world. They did their best to hide and deny all season, but as we all know, that creature is — of course — a Dalek. A Recon Scout Dalek, to be exact. This kind of Dalek has powers far surpassing that of the standard battle Dalek we know and love. And that cute pair of co-workers from the beginning was simply too cute and happy, with too much hope, for one of them to not be turned into a Dalek puppet.
But while all that's going on, the season-long focus on family finally came to a head with the arrival of Ryan's long-storied absentee father. But as much as the episode focused on Ryan and this relationship, it focused equally on Graham and the son of the woman he loved, a son who didn't even go to Grace's funeral, leaving Ryan in wait. As Aaron, Daniel Adegboyega gets and gives a full character, one that could easily have been a series of cliches and concepts, but instead we genuinely feel for this lost man who can't cope with loss and grief and wants to be better for his son.
And he's not the only new character to bring that New Year's sparkle. As Lin, the Dalek puppet, Call the Midwife's Charlotte Ritchie is fantastic, existing both as victim and villain in the same skin. And Nikesh Patel as Mitch is a lovelorn dreamboat. We don't just root for these characters because the episode wants us to (a common issue in all monster-of-the-week shows, not just Doctor Who); their shipdom is earned.
Ultimately, of course, the Doctor and fam vanquish this single Dalek. But the road there is genuinely intense and interesting, the stakes somehow higher than other Dalek episodes. Taking out an entire group of armed soldiers in one fell swoop, this Dalek earns the fear factor so many Dalek episodes merely tell us they deserve.
The Daleks and the Doctor have always shared a bit of common ground. In this season, the Doctor cobbled together her most iconic tool from junk and scrap. In this episode, the Recon Scout Dalek does the same with its casing. This season has been about building yourself, building a family, creating the life you want for better or worse. What "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" lacked in a season arc, this episode gave us.
Our resolution? Never lose faith in the Doctor. She always delivers when we need her.