Meat

Posted in Episode by - July 10, 2018
Meat

Aired 06 February 2008

It was almost an inevitability that Rhys who has for so long lived his life on the fringes of Torchwood through his tortured but true relationship with Gwen would inevitably come to find out the truth behind his fiancée’s chosen career, and his growing suspicions that he has not been told the complete truth are confirmed when he sees Gwen and her team at the site of a haulage crash that has taken the life of one of his friends.

To the Torchwood team, of course, it’s not so much the crash but the cargo itself that has garnered so much interest, and Owen quickly decrees that the meat that is destined for human consumption with a falsified veterinary inspection stamp is actually alien in nature. Intriguingly, just as Rhys comes to suspect that there is more going on than what he has been told, Jack begins to suspect that Rhys may be involved because of Rhys’s profession and association with the driver. With Gwen standing up for Rhys and believing in him even when she sees him associating with the presumed villains after he unknowingly follows her to a warehouse facility, the truth and depth of their relationship is quickly developed in a much more meaningful fashion than many earlier episodes have managed, especially once Gwen must finally confront Rhys and reveal the truth through an argument that highlights the best and worst of both of them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given that this is his entry into the world of Torchwood Three, Rhys is able to use his connections and charisma to infiltrate this dubious warehouse group more successfully than anyone officially involved with Torchwood ever could by exploiting the fact that there is now a need for another lorry driver. Though it does seem odd that Rhys is initially hesitant to accept the prospect of alien life given what he has just witnessed, the resulting battle of wits between Rhys and Jack as Rhys is shown the Torchwood Hub and quickly asserts his position to ensure everyone knows that this team is not perfect and free of personal consequence is a needed jolt that works well to hint at a shift in dynamic that may occur now that another person knows the secret of Torchwood. Rhys understandably fears that Gwen will continued to be more and more enticed by the excitement and danger that Torchwood entails, but the immense heart that he brings to this world just can’t quite understand that Jack is so interested in Gwen staying on the team precisely because of the humanity and stability outside of work that she brings.

Wisely, both men agree on saving the alien being that by itself poses no threat and that finds itself unwittingly the subject of the worst of human greed and capitalism because of its nature of being a constant source of fresh meat. Almost inevitably, the villains are easily the least interesting aspect of ‘Meat’ since they never really come to life as anything more than a generic presence looking to make money. To be fair, their capture of Ianto and Rhys does lend them an air of danger and power, but suggesting they all did not know or at least suspect that this creature was alien strains credulity at least a little. As distressing as the entire prospect of this episode is, however, the ultimate fate of this creature whom Owen euthanises is a profoundly powerful moment after so many howls of despair and rightfully shakes the team and brings both Jack and Owen to tears.

Strangely, Torchwood once more employs the use of the retcon drug to selectively edit the misguided villains’ memories so that none of this ever happened from their perspective. This drug has always been one of the franchise’s dicier aspects given the immense power and responsbility that the individuals on the team take upon themselves to decide who gets to remember what, but it does at least lead to Gwen standing up to her teammates when she is tasked with dosing Rhys as well. Despite the tension and potential consequences that retcon takes away from alien plot, however, the flawed ‘Meat’ is still an intriguing introduction for Rhys to Gwen’s true world and highlights the immense chemistry of Eve Myles and Kai Owen as well as their characters’ genuine devotion to each other.

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