Finally, an episode of Torchwood that doesn’t feel like a stand-alone story! Yes, we had a 2-part story last season, but that’s not what I mean. All the episodes seem to fall into a “view-in-any-order” style show. Back when I watched The X-Files, I wasn’t following it and that never mattered. Come in for an episode here or there, and it didn’t impact the enjoyment. Very much the same can be said of Classic Star Trek. But since Trek’s 1966 release to the 2000’s Torchwood, storytelling had come a long way and seeing those “view-in-any-order” style shows has become somewhat antiquated. Nowadays, shows have arcs. But somehow Torchwood largely missed that. Until now. For the first time, Rhys seems to actually matter and that adds continuity to the character development that has been really an ancillary part of the series. And it’s about time too, because we get hints that Rhys is a cool bloke, but he’s always just background to make Gwen seem dimensional. I say “seem” intentionally. And hey, maybe they were learning something with Owen because they certainly show signs of mellowing him but it’s less evident why, unless you exercise the brain. (And that’s a good thing!)
Meat focuses on a non-enemy. A group of thugs are using what amounts to a giant space whale to make money… by selling the meat from its body. Because the creature is still alive, no matter how much they cut out of the creature, more meat still generates and they have a near infinite food source. But it’s unethical and Torchwood steps in to stop it. Talk about a moral quandary. End world hunger at the expense of one creature… or allows the world to continue to experience hunger and save the creature! If you could save every person on the planet from having to ever know hunger, isn’t it worth the life of one alien creature? It’s storytelling like this that I really enjoy. (I don’t know that there’s an answer here. My feelings say no, it’s not worth it. But could I convince everyone else of that?)
Last season’s Countryside gave us a set of villains calling humans “meat” and this season we get a bunch of humans harvesting meat from a living being for money. Were the writers trying to tell us something? Both are gruesome and both are fantastic ideas that make for some great stories. The cast shines as they bring Rhys into the fold. We should have known Rhys was a good guy by the way he pulls over to take a call, rather than driving on, taking the call and not caring about public safety. Alas, Gwen has another episode where I question her character. While arguing with Rhys, she has the nerve to say “all I ever asked is that you trust me”. Um, Gwen, honey… that stuff where you were sleeping with Owen lost you any right to reprimand Rhys about trust. I was delighted that Rhys calls Gwen out on why she’s marrying him too. I’ve been wondering that myself, Rhys. Still, I can’t help but want to see them happy together, so I am glad they work out their issues.
Ianto is great in this episode. I love his quick wit when he realizes the food source can end world hunger: “We can release a single”. But even more, I am impressed by him when he confronts the lead “bad guy” with a simple but powerful: “Pray they survive” before tasering the guy to the head. Tosh and Owen feel like they are getting closer to a relationship. (If Classic Trek taught me anything, it’s that this is a bad sign! One of them might as well have a red shirt on!) Jack’s conversation with Rhys in the truck is fun (“I just wish you would have been uglier”) but it’s his desire to save the alien that really made me proud of him. Every so often the hero that befriended the Doctor shows up again.
The episode also does something else I used to love in classic Doctor Who: the epilogue. We get 5 minutes devoted to the impact the story has on Rhys and what will come next. And I was delighted to see that the obvious mind-wipe was not the solution of choice. We are going to get development! About time. Maybe now with Rhys knowing about what goes on, we can get on with developing all of the characters. We have 9 episodes left to the season and its anyone’s game. But while I wait, I think I’m going to get a salad… ML