In the end it probably comes down to whether one feels like her death in Hell Bent was undermined, in its emotional resonance and there is no real way to contest that. It is a very personal reaction, after all. But as someone who adored both Face the Raven and Hell Bent, in their own way, for separate reasons and for the kind of story they tell together, I do think that Face the Raven retains tremendous meaning. I would even go so far as to argue that it gains in importance, becomes even more multifaceted, the first and the last page of Clara Who.
When Clara steps out onto the trap street to meet the Raven head-on, there is nothing diminished in that for me. She wanted to die right and she does, defining her actions as an act of bravery and standing, falling, by that. And if she chooses that path years, decades, centuries later, it will not require less courage. She still dies so a father can return to his little girl. Because she accepts that this is where and why her story will end. And as she blows away to smoke and falls to the ground that is no less beautiful and sad. As beautiful and sad as stars dying, after so many more adventures than we could imagine.
It is just not one story now, about Clara Oswald, who was reckless and courageous, who made a clever decision without all of the relevant information and confronted her mortality. It’s two, three even. There is a second one about the Doctor, within confession dials and reality bubbles, about not accepting death and defeat, about going to desperate lengths, about all of the hope and all of the destruction that lies in determination and love. It is all consequences, what happened in the Trap Street in London resonating for billions of years, to Gallifrey and to Me at the end of the universe. A single human life blows out like a candle and time and space nearly erupt into flames and unravel together.
And then there is the final one. Almost a dialogue with Clara’s final moments in Face the Raven. “Why can’t I be like you?,” she asks and her question is answered two episodes later with a resounding of course you can be like that. Of course, Clara Oswald can steal a TARDIS and run away, Gallifrey, the long way round. In an American diner, no less. Mayfly and immortal in one. Everything has changed, irreparably and wonderfully.
I have said before that Clara’s story is bigger on the inside. But it is exactly here that it happens, in Face the Raven, hidden in the moment between two heartbeats. We can look for them, the next time we watch the episode. And that really is the most stunning thing. All that life, all that narrative potential, in that death.