Thursday, 9 May 2013

Review: Torchwood 2.4: Meat

Rhys finds out the truth.
Torchwood - Series Two, Episode Four - Meat
Written 16/3/13

I'm not quite sure where the meat of this episode lies. (My only pun, I promise.) On the one hand, we have a very well-executed main plot that sees long-suffering boyfriend-cum-fianceƩ Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) upped into a main(ish) character. On the other, we have a literal Space Whale Aesop whose intentions I'm not quite sure of. Something to do with vegetarianism. The problem with vegetarian messages in sci-fi is not so much the content, which I sympathise if not fully empathise with, is rather their sheer frequency.
     Rhys owns a lorry firm, and is called when one of the trucks gets involved in a road accident. He arrives at the scene to find Torchwood investigating, and is shocked to see Gwen there. The team find alien meat, and knowing the company's origin, Jack immediately suspects Rhys. The welshman acts on his suspicions and sets up a racket with the company supplying the meat. That night he and Gwen have it out, with Gwen bringing him to Torchwood to prove to him that she does in fact catch aliens. Using Rhys's racket, they go in to the warehouse and find a massive, regenerating whale. After a gunfight, Owen is forced to euthanise the whale before it grows out of control. When Jack wants Gwen to follow protocol and retcon him, she refuses and, after realising he loves her too much to fire her, he lets it slide.
     Kai Owen has played an often unappreciated role in the series, and following a homologous progression with its parent show, he's very much been the Mickey Smith. There are times in the series where he can be a bit of a prat, but after Gwen's standard transformation from audience identification figure to One Of Them, we sorta need Rhys to be the everyman. His interactions with Gwen, and the weirdly introductory episode it creates, are nice to watch in a heart-warming way, and that's purely because Owen makes Rhys feel like such a normal person.
Everyone's having a whale of a time.
(Sorry, I know I promised, but I couldn't help myself.)
     The moral message of the episode is either, "Be careful to make sure that your sources of income are legal and ethical" or "Don't kidnap an alien and use it for meat." The setup of the caring Jack who wants to save the whale whether it's sentient or not versus the evil criminals who see the whale as just "meat" and an opportunity to start a profitable business. I will admit that it's not a topic I'm overly concerned about, but regardless I felt that it wasn't either weak enough to let us ignore it or strong enough to make us thing... it sorta just hung there without anything to give it a kick up the backside.
     Despite the aimless nature of its moral message, the episode's character moments for both Gwen and Rhys pulled it into a much more interesting shape. I'm still not sure about the Space Whale, and the use of second-rate CGI doesn't exactly help, but the episode had its heart in the right place, and as a way to introduce Rhys into the world of Torchwood it was suitably low-risk. Rhys will continue to be an important character, especially in the last two series, and this was where that influence started.


NEXT WEEK: Something is wrong, and even the title sequence has been fooled... but what does it have to do with Adam?

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