So, last week we had an episode which decided messages were better than storytelling and prompted to beat the audience over the head with them. Riddled with plot holes, contrivances and refusing to deal with consequences, it insulted the audience's intelligence at more or less every turn. Well, it might surprise you that the Zygon Inversion is a marked improvement. Oh it's still bad, still nothing you'd want to watch again, but it goes from being one of the worst episodes ever to grace science fiction to just plain bad. So, say what you want about Steven Moffat, but he did help elevate the quality of this script
So, with UNIT defeated in seemingly mere minutes and the zygons running amok, the story moves onto the episode's next big objective. It's setting up the scene where the aliens have their grand plan, their objective and desires goal in sight, right after coming within inches of killing the Doctor.
What's going to have most people rolling their eyes from the very start is how the episode actually goes so far as to re-edit scenes to have new outcomes. A big complaint last time was how Kate Lethbridge-Stewart had such a slow reaction time, allowing the zygon to quickly kill her. In this, the same scene plays out, but it cuts a few seconds earlier, and Kate abruptly has a gun in her hand. Normally i'd mention spoilers at this point, but when an episode outright cheats the audience like that, it deserves to be mentioned.
Firstly, this guy emerged as part of a full blown invasion force bent upon conquering humanity and taking their world. As such his claims of just wanting to peacefully live there ring hollow.
Secondly, the Doctor passes several burning corpses of innocent humans left in this person's wake. Corpses only the fleeing alien we're supposed to feel for could have left. Okay, he's scared, but when you turn that guy into a mass murderer, all empathy tends to go out the window.
The sheer lack of any sympathy for any of the zygons only becomes gradually worse as the story goes on, especially when it comes to its chief villains. We see them performing acts of torture, murder, betraying their own kind, hunting down methods to perform mass genocide, and drag their race into a war they cannot win. No, honestly, when confronted over the fact the few million zygons can't hope to win a battle against billions of humans, their reaction is "So what? Better that than living here under the tyranny of a race trying to share their planet with us." Well, by the end, that same person is someone who gets of scott-free. Despite almost leading their kind of extinction and killing how knows how many sentient beings, she more or less gets off with just a warning.
The villain escaping without any justice being dispensed was something which was intended to help the episode establish its message. Well, it's new message anyway. Back-peddling out of the terrorist cliche-storm of the last script, we instead now have a massive "war's bad m'kay?" line which never actually manages to convince the audience of anything. There's a whole speech which tries to present war as being a futile thing entirely, as being not worth making and that murdering thousands is never worth it. The problem is that nothing here even vaguely suggests the zygons would ever agree to this, and actually doing so requires them to act entirely out of character. It's not development so much as one person pulling an abrupt 180 and going from evil to good.
So, you might have noticed that this review is focusing a lot upon that one single point here. Well, that's because almost this entire conclusion is little more than window dressing for the Doctor to make the aforementioned speech and have it all end. Honestly, little to nothing else here actually has any impact upon the tale's outcome and, as such, rather than serving as a natural conclusion it's just rushed. It's a ten minute portion of the episode quickly wrapping up and resolving everything, hammering in the message, and then ending things.
Almost every review itself praises the speech itself and, in fairness, it's a surprisingly good one. A big part of that is down to the intensity of Capaldi's performance and his uncanny ability to turn the most writery of lines to natural dialogue. It makes a few genuinely good points, and taken on its own it actually would work well. The problem is the baggage of the episode and everything else drags it down, and it seems not to want to address that. The script just wants to just set up one single scene to wow the audience but not deal with almost anything else with as much seriousness, riding on the success of that one moment. The sad thing is that it might have worked. Look online and you'll find a thousand positive, glowing reviews, just about all of which hinge upon this one scene claiming it makes the episode as a whole great. It's The Almost People all over again, with one genuinely great moment blinding them to the problems everywhere else.
Look, many of the same problems from last time carry over to here and there honestly isn't all that much which is great. Those which do stand out are often marred or limited by problems in the same damn scene. For example, the horrifying and painful reverse-transformation looks and sounds excellent. The problem is that the humans watching this play out only look on with stone faced apathy, rather than reacting in any normal way. There's a few genuinely great or tense moments in the build up, where Clara slowly discovers the situation she's stuck in. The problem is it's so drawn out, so up front that it gradually loses all impact.
If you have iPlayer it's worth skipping to the ten minute Capaldi speech, but otherwise skip this one entirely. It's a bad ending to a terrible two-parter, and you'd be better off just forgetting this one ever existed.