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Torchwood: Meat
(1 episode, s02e04, 2008)

 

Relationships are tough, but in Torchwood they are tougher.

Rhys is driving down the road, singing along to an advertising jingle, when his phone rings. Responding to news of a car accident, he finds that one of his company lorries has overturned and the driver has died. As he talks with the police officer, he watches as the Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen gets out.

He had no idea who she actually worked for.

The delivery truck was carrying meat, all of which Torchwood Three confiscates and takes back to the Hub for analysis. Gwen recognizes the lorry as one from Rhys’s company, and as they depart, Rhys tries to follow the SUV but is blocked by the police.

Owen analyzes the meat and discovers that the stamp that marks the product as fit for human consumption is a fake. Tosh calls Rhys’s company, posing as the police, and finds that the meat comes from Harries & Harries. Owen figures that the meat is alien and has been on the market for some time, and the team discusses the case over pizza (from which they remove the meat toppings).

Owen asks to see Gwen and she heads home. He tries to get the truth out of her, but she doesn’t break. When she returns to work, Rhys follows and watches her meet with Jack near the Roald Dahl Plass entrance to the Hub. When Gwen and Jack head to the meat factory, Rhys follows and is subsequently discovered. Jack and Gwen notice Rhys being taken and assume that he’s involved.

Rhys is taken inside the factory and questioned. He poses as a friendly face, suggesting that he could pick up where the former driver left off. While he’s inside, he discovers the source of the meat: An alien being that regenerates whenever someone slices a piece off of it.

It’s endless torture for the creature.

Rhys leaves the factory and returns home. Gwen’s not far behind him and they have a falling out over the whole affair. Gwen finally admits that she works for Torchwood, but Rhys doesn’t believe the scope of her career. So she shows him.

She takes him to the Hub and he sees everything from the invisible lift to Myfanwy the pterodactyl. He meets Jack, Owen, Tosh, and Ianto and learns what Torchwood does. He tells them what he saw in the warehouse, and after some conflict with Jack, reveals that he has applied to be the new delivery boy.

Jack calls for a team meeting, including Rhys.

Rhys provides the lay of the land, but Gwen is adamant that he doesn’t get involved. The plan ends involving stun guns, saving the alien, and sending it home through the Rift. Owen works on a model of what the creature looks like while Tosh brings him a sandwich. She hints at possibly starting a relationship with someone, but Owen is oblivious to her advances.

Rhys and Jack pick up the truck for the infiltration. While they drive, Jack explains why he picked Gwen for Torchwood. The team loads up in the back of the van and Rhys takes them to the warehouse. When Rhys tries to stage a distraction so the team can exit the van, he finds out that they’ve already gone.

Inside the warehouse, Jack, Gwen, and Tosh find the “cash cow” and discover that it is sentient, but their cover is soon blown and Ianto and Rhys are captured. They are taken by gunpoint to the creature, forcing Gwen to reveal herself. Tosh and Jack are also discovered, and Jack explains what the workers have on their hands. Ianto unties himself as Rhys is shot, and the ensuing fight prompts the creature to strain at its bindings.

Owen develops a sedative while the team dodges the out of control beast. Ianto apprehends the remaining workers as Owen realizes that sedatives won’t work, so he euthanizes the creature instead. Jack mourns for the loss as Owen tends to Rhys’s wounds.

Back at the Hub, Owen patches Rhys as Jack informs him that the workers have been given Retcon. The creature has been incinerated. Jack privately tells Gwen that Rhys will need to forget his adventure, and she requests to be the one to give him the Retcon.

She decides that she can’t do it. She gives Jack an impassioned speech and he relents, unwilling to fire her and lose her from the team.

He gives her the rest of the day off. Torchwood Three has a new team member.

 

Starting with the unnamed creature, the torture is heartbreaking. The howls and screams built instant sympathy, and the need to euthanize it was tragic. The actors completely sold all of it.

Noting, of course, that the creature wasn’t the point of the episode, it was great to see the team dealing with the repercussions of exposing their secret identity and not pushing the reset button less than an hour later. The Retconning of Rhys in Combat was troubling since it betrayed everything about a trusting relationship. This story builds an authentic yet complicated relationship for Rhys and Gwen, which makes them better characters overall.

On a final note, Jack’s flirtation has certainly amplified this season. This is the Jack that we all know and love.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Adam

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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