Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x04: "Meat"

Written by Catherine Tregenna
Directed by Colin Teague

Gwen: “I catch aliens.”
Rhys: “Piss off. If you can’t take this seriously.”
Gwen: “No you piss off.”

It was finally bound to happen. If Rhys was going to be a long term player on this series, there was no way he was going to stay in the dark about what Gwen really did at Torchwood. Here is the exact episode where he finally gets the clue. In fact, this episode is virtually all about Rhys.

The episode opens up from his point of view as he drives out to get a delivery and is soon met with a crime scene. Haulage might not be the most exciting profession in the world but Rhys has done well for himself and thanks to this week, he also discovers that some cargo really isn’t worth delivering.

When he discovers his mate Liam has been killed, Rhys gets rightly annoyed at the insensitive but it’s spotting Gwen and the rest of Torchwood that becomes a big thing for him. Rhys has had reasons to suspect Gwen and now he’s finally got something to go on too.

As for the cargo, it turns out to be meat but not of the great kind. Thankfully this episode isn’t trying to be another “Countrycide” but it does have a fair amount of gore, particularly when the gang investigate the back of that lorry. So what’s so odd about this meat that warrants concern?

Owen pointed out that while it wasn’t poisonous it also wasn’t compatible with any animals. Because I don’t need to see yet another cannibal episode (still recovering from the last episode of Nip/Tuck), the meat is quickly established as alien. This has to mean that the alien is question is a victim and that humans are the oppressors. It won’t win points for originality but it hardly hinders proceedings too.

With Rhys getting wildly suspicious, it’s rather funny that the gang also suspect him of having an involvement in the plot. To be fair, all Jack has to go is the fact that his firm was hired to transport the meat and while Toshiko didn’t get many answers from Rhys on the phone, I just didn’t feel that Jack had a sufficient enough hunch.

Gwen standing up for her boyfriend felt natural. Basically her choosing Rhys over Torchwood gives the character a lot of brownie points here. I know Rhys is innocent and Jack’s dismissive attitude really irked me this week, even more than his behaviour with Beth in “Sleeper”.

Rhys proves that curiosity is a desire you can’t tame when he decided to go to the warehouse to find out what the hell was going on. Following Jack and Gwen put him a position where he could’ve been killed by the villains of the week but somehow, Rhys was able to get more information than Team Torchwood and their mighty guns ever did. Perhaps I’ve underestimated Rhys.

Still Jack seems adamant that Rhys is actually a guilty party and for a brief second, I thought Gwen was going to believe him. I think I would’ve hated her if she had. It’s funny that I found myself liking Rhys more than Jack in this episode. That was probably intention on Catherine Tregenna’s part.

The alien in question was interesting. Basically it was a big massive thing able to regenerate itself despite being constantly used as a food supply and profit for Dale and his pals. Rhys looked more sympathetic than freaked out and although the puking was natural, he composed himself a lot better during that scene than I would’ve expected him to have done.

The best moment of the episode however is the confrontation scene between him and Gwen. Ever since she signed up to Torchwood, Gwen has managed to do damage to her and Rhys and the fact that he takes her to task over this has been a long time coming. I didn’t realise how much I actually missed the swearing until Rhys accused Gwen of sleeping with Jack.

However the reason why this argument works so well is because it isn’t one sided. Rhys isn’t perfect either and Gwen is also quick to take him to task while she defends herself. Arguments like that are a lot more interesting to watch, especially as neither Rhys nor Gwen are either overtly vilified or portrayed as victims.

Gwen blurting out what she does for a living did provoke a strange reaction. Rhys dismisses the idea of aliens despite the fact he only saw one an hour or two before having it out with Gwen. Thankfully though Gwen decides taking him to Torchwood would be a better way of convincing him that she’s telling the truth.

There’s some fun quips with Rhys’ little visit. Owen’s quick to give a brief recap of what Torchwood actually does and Rhys wastes no time in taking Jack to task as well. For this episode, I think Jack should be taken to task, especially given that he lays into Rhys for ruining his plans.

Rhys actually pointing out the reality that through him the gang have a better chance of stopping Dale and company is a delightful moment. Owen even gets to snicker when Gwen and Rhys argue about each other’s safety in front of everyone. Still at least Rhys and Jack are able to agree about the alien. Instead of killing it, Jack and Rhys are all for saving it.

To be fair, I’m with them on this one. This alien in particular doesn’t pose a threat and sending it back through the rift isn’t a bad idea. Plus going by Jack’s line of there being too many deaths, Torchwood should look at solutions that go beyond death or incarceration.

Gwen and Rhys’ antics shouldn’t be as good as they are but thanks to Kai Owen and Eve Myles, it’s fun to watch the couple scold each other one minute and worry for each other the next. Gwen and Rhys do come across as being believable in this episode and Gwen is probably better off with Rhys than anyone in Torchwood.

Heck her faith in her relationship even has a knock on effect on Toshiko. After Owen was so kind to her in the previous episode, Toshiko ups her flirting with the offer of sandwiches and pool. Either Owen is oblivious or is trying to let her down gently but either way, Toshiko doesn’t get the exact response she was hoping for. I’m not really sure where the writers are trying to go with Owen and Toshiko but I’ll try to keep an open mind.

If Gwen and Rhys aren’t interesting enough, then how about Jack and Rhys? I don’t mean as a couple but more how they interact with each other. It doesn’t take much to gather that both of them are threatened by each other. Rhys might be an ordinary guy but Jack knows that Gwen will choose Rhys over him and to me, that’s how it should be.

Rhys however feels that Jack’s crazy world might entice Gwen more and he does have a point. If this whole meat scenario didn’t go down, then Gwen would still be lying to him. Rhys did have to force the truth out of her after a fair amount of goading on his part.

Rhys being able to stand up to Jack is great though. Jack needs more people to challenge him and Rhys raised some god questions as to why Jack has such an interest in question. Believe me, I want to shout “plot contrivance” but I’ll stick to Gwen’s compassion and potential. Like her or hate her, Gwen’s human touch is why Jack keeps her around. Rhys plays a vital role in that however.

As for the bad guys, well they are really the least interesting things in this episode. All Dale and his mates are is a group of pathetic morons out for a quick buck. I know some of them are made to appear to have a conscience but it’s really not enough to make you care for them.

Capturing Ianto and Rhys and threatening to kill them was the only time Dale seemed to have an advantage. The fact that Dale had no idea the cargo was alien was a good touch. Dale shooting Rhys had me dreading that Gwen would actually lose her fiancé for real this time. It is lucky then that Rhys survives.

Unlucky was the alien who was trying to escaping. Jack may have had the intentions of trying to save it but Owen was forced into performing a bit of euthanasia on his part. Watching a mercy killing after having a Philosophy lecture on euthanasia was a bit weird but I loved the effect it had on the gang. Owen and Jack were virtually in tears and hearing that thing howl in pain was pretty distressing. Then again it was hard not to feel for that alien.

However with the bad guys getting the chance to get away with it through the power of retcon, I have to ask the question – what the hell gives Torchwood the right to retcon? I mean Jack retcons those assholes instead of punishing them but then he thinks it’s acceptable to retcon Rhys too. Call me crazy but after the whole Suzie debacle, shouldn’t Jack just lay off the stuff?

I knew Gwen would have trouble trying to retcon Rhys. Granted she’s done it before for far lamer reasons but even if Rhys didn’t blatantly wax lyrical about encountering aliens, even she sees the futility of wiping his memories. When you think about it, why exactly is it harmful that Rhys knows about alien life?

Gwen had every right to point out to the gang that she didn’t want to lie to Rhys and choosing him over her job was smart. Jack needed the threat of losing her to see some sense. That being said the writers better not even think about hooking Jack/Gwen up. This episode enhanced my respect for Gwen. Having her and Jack screw around will diminish on both parties. I get that Jack cares for Gwen and that’s understandable but I’d rather see him and Ianto develop as a couple.

Also in “Meat”

The clips on the monologue seem to slightly differ each week. We still haven’t seen the episode with that wasp creature.

Owen (re his pizza): “What did you get me?”
Ianto: “Usual meat feast.”
Owen: “Great.”

What is up with Owen and the pink shirts this season? Are the writers trying to bring out his metrosexual side?

Gwen (re Liam): “Were you close?”
Rhys: “For God sakes, Gwen, you met him.”

Gwen (re Rhys): “I just want to get him out.”
Captain Jack: “What, by charging in there?”

We learn that Rhys plays five a side soccer and has a thing for Danish pastries. His mate Dav was mentioned again.

Gwen (to Rhys): “Have you never seen something so mad, so extraordinary that for one second you think there might be more out there.”

Captain Jack: “Do I show off?”
Ianto: “Just a bit.”

Jack described his moment with Rhys as “homoerotic”. I found it interesting that Jack didn’t confirm or deny he was gay when Rhys asked him.

Gwen: “So you do have a heart then?”
Captain Jack: “We’ve seen enough deaths.”

Toshiko (to Owen): “Makes you realise. Maybe you can do this job and have a relationship.”

One of the sweetest moments in this episode was Toshiko putting her hand on Owen to comfort him. I liked that he didn’t reject her gesture.

Captain Jack: “Maybe you can fit me in.”
Ruth: “I’d be delighted to.”
Captain Jack: “Would I need a licence for trucking?”

Gwen: “I don’t have a gun.”
Dale: “Well he had one so you must have.”

Ianto showed a rather dark side to him when he knocked out Dale.

Ianto (re Gwen): “Next time, let her take the bullet.”
Rhys: “Never.”

Captain Jack: “Rhys has to forget to you know.”
Gwen: “At least let me give it to him at home.”

Next week after “Adam” airs at 9pm on BBC2, switch over at 9:50pm on BBC3 for “Reset”.

Captain Jack: “You really think you could go back to live your old life before Torchwood?”
Gwen: “I wouldn’t know any different.”
Captain Jack: “I would.”

Chronology: About a year since “Everything Changes” according to Rhys.

Although not necessarily a favourite of mine, I liked the fact that “Meat” was still able to surpass my expectations. Having Rhys in the know was inevitable and Gwen really won my respect. Only Jack behaving like a dick in certain places and the human villains being generally rubbish marred the episode in places.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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