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Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 2.04, “Meat”

I feel like this episode was a turning point in the show and it’s one I feel fans either love or hate. I think the viewers’ feelings are based on whether you think Jack/Gwen is perfect or if you think the chemistry is forced and gets in the way of Ianto/Jack. We see Rhys go from a goober of a boyfriend to something bordering on three-dimensional. Before, he was the Torchwood equivalent of a red shirt; useful plot device, but ultimately disposable. The dialogue is snappy and the episode contains one of my favorite Ianto one-liners.

Rhys is driving along, singing to along to a radio ad for his company Harwood when he gets a phone call from dispatch telling him there’s been an accident and the driver of the lorry, Leighton Reynolds, is dead. He heads to the crash site involving his truck that was carrying a load of meat. Rhys is held up by an officer  on the scene because their is something odd with the cargo and Torchwood has to take a look at it first (like Rhys would know what he’s talking about). The SUV pulls up and out steps Gwen, looking all bad ass and Rhys stands there stunned.

Inside the truck, the meat looks suspicious enough for the team to take a sample back to the hub. They don’t know where the meat came from, but they realize the trucking company is Rhys’ firm. There are significant looks exchanged when Gwen relays that information. The team leaves and Rhys, instead of calling out to Gwen like a normal person, tries to follow, but he’s stopped by the police blockade.

At the hub, Owen is trying to determine what sort of animal the slab of meat used to be and confirms that the “Fit for Consumption” label is fake. The team speculates if Rhys’ company is involved and insinuates that Rhys may have known about the mystery meat, which Gwen is quick to dispute. She’s visibly upset that Rhys is in any way involved and probably realizes that real life intersecting with Torchwood life is going to get messy. Tosh calls Harwood Haulage, impersonating a police officer and gets Rhys. She asks for the address of the company that hired Harwood, but he only has a pick up point at a service station and the destination: Caerwen Abbatoir, a processing plant. Rhys knows that his lack of knowledge looks shady and confirms with his secretary that all deliveries were handled by Leighton. Meanwhile, Owen confirms the meat is alien in origin and that while safe to eat, is full of sedatives. Given the size of the plant, the alien meat has probably been in the public supply for months. Ianto chooses that moment to announce pizza’s been delivered, including Owen’s favorite: Meat Feast.

Gwen reaches for the doorknob to leave the apartment as Rhys looks on
“Gotta go honey. Aliens to catch.”

The team narrows down the warehouse where the meat may be coming from when Gwen gets a text. She decides that it’s a good time to go check on Rhys. Jack takes that to mean she’s going to question him about what he might know, when Gwen really means she’s going to be a good girlfriend and support her man. She finds Rhys at the flat and the whole scene is basically about the pair knowing something about the other, but not saying anything. Veerrry awkward. Rhys asks why the police took the meat and Gwen feigns ignorance. Gwen leaves and Rhys follows and catches Gwen meeting Jack outside the hub. He follows them to the suspected warehouse, parking out front while the team hides in the back. Ianto and Owen are sneaking in through a side door, using a gun as a lock pick (haven’t the writers watched Mythbusters?). According to sensors, there’s a huge heat signature inside the building. As they wait for Owen and Ianto to move in, Gwen and Jack spot Rhys as another car drives up and two dodgy looking guys get out. In reality, the guys who get out are threatening Rhys and effectively taking him hostage, but to Jack at least, it looks like Rhys may know the men.

Jack holds Gwen against the wall; their faces are only inches apart
Some find this hot, some find this awkward. I ask, “Why are you letting Jack throw you around like that Gwen?”

Gwen refuses to believe it and goes to intervene, but she’s stopped by Jack who pins her against the wall. It’s either hot or cringe-worthy, depending on the glasses you’re wearing. In the end, the pair stay put as Rhys is lead into the warehouse. Inside, a guy is complaining about not enough ketamine and the other two, brothers Dale and Vic, take Rhys into an office and demand to know why he’s snooping around a remote warehouse. For his part, Rhys improvises nicely, piecing together a plausible story about Leighton filling him in on the operation there and incinerating the meat in his truck. He asks if he can pick up where Leighton left off. When asked how much he really knows, Rhys assumes they’re cleaning up old meat, but it’s bigger than that.

He’s taken into the main warehouse where he’s confronted with the unbelievable sight of a massive creature, looking a bit like a slug. As Rhys approaches, the giant opens its eye and lets out a moan. The brothers have no idea what it is, but it keeps growing no matter how much they cut into it. The use of ketamine makes much more sense now. Outside, Gwen and Jack watch as Rhys shakes the hands of the brothers and leaves. The inevitable confrontation takes place back at the flat. Rhys is pissed that Gwen’s been lying to him about her job (but, given her job, you would too) and goes all jealous boyfriend and demands to know who Jack is, etc. While I think Rhys has a right to feel angry, I don’t like the attitude he takes with Gwen. I think it’s a bit of overcompensation on his part. So in the middle of screaming and yelling, Gwen admits she’s been lying and that she catches aliens. Rhys responds reasonably that Gwen is taking the piss, but she’ll show Rhys that she’s telling the truth.

Rhys looks into an alien eye that's several feet across
You saw this, but can’t believe your girlfriend catches aliens?

At the hub, the team waits nervously as if their meetings their mom’s new boyfriend. It’s an odd situation since none of them have real relationships outside Torchwood. Tosh wonders if they should start forming relationships with people who know what they do, to which Owen replies, the only people who know what they do are in this room. If Owen got the hint, he ignored it and Tosh still hasn’t realized she’s worth more than she thinks.

Gwen brings Rhys down via the lift, which is an awesome introduction to the place and the pet pterodactyl. (I really wish they’d done more with him. Does he even have a name?) [Myfanwy. -PoM] Gwen introduces Rhys to the team, Owen rattles off their mission statement and everyone looks decidedly uncomfortable (especially you Owen). Rhys describes the creature as a giant slug; it probably fell through the rift into the ocean. The creature just keeps getting bigger, which is why they need such a big warehouse. With the creature regenerating itself, the villains have an unending supply of meat.

Tosh: We could feed the world.

Ianto: We could release a single.

Jack and Rhys stad face to face, Jack looks slightly to the side (toward the other members of the team)
All I need in life is some homoerotic subtext

Jack chimes in and reminds them that they’re talking about dodgy meat and a living creature and before focusing in on Rhys and how he screwed everything up by barging in. Gwen’s perfectly capable of handling herself. Rhys gets in Jack’s face and tells them he’s got a way in now. After pointing out that the situation is very homoerotic (everything is erotic to you Jack), the captain pulls the team in to a meeting, Rhys included. Rhys shows the team the basic layout of the warehouse on blueprints and they plan on having Rhys drive in for the pick up as their cover. Of course, Gwen has a fit and Jack suggests she might want to stand down, given her emotional involvement. Gwen finally relents, but not before threatening Rhys with bodily harm if he gets hurt. The plan is to stun-gun the workers and send the creature back through the rift, instead of simply putting it out of its misery. Even if it’s an alien, it needs protection. Seems Jack does have something of a heart. On the thread of people having a heart, Tosh suggests Owen’s a big softie as she brings him some sandwiches. Owen continues to brush Tosh off, even suggesting that they have a group outing when Tosh clearly was asking him out on a date. Tosh, we’ve talked about this; move on. Gwen and Rhys are talking on the couch. Rhys is worried about Gwen; Gwen tells Rhys she doesn’t have to prove anything to her and she fancies him above all the other handsome men there, but as they kiss, she shares a look with Jack that was frankly more creepy than sexy.

Jack and Rhys head to the office to pick up the truck and Jack flirts with the secretary (as he does). The pair head to the warehouse where they have the requisite transit heart to heart. Rhys asks Jack why he chose Gwen, but Gwen chose them because she stumbled across them and she’s good at what she does. Rhys and the others in her life didn’t matter; they needed her. They reminisce about Gwen’s’ tough nature and Rhys quips that he hopes Jack is gay.

They all meet at the warehouse. Gwen tells Rhys to get out as soon as possible, before they all pile into the back of the van. When Rhys pulls up, he asks for a signature and a cup of tea and goes to let the team out of the back, but they’re already gone. Inside, the team stuns the workers and realize the being is sentient. There are huge chunks of flesh carved out of its side and the sight is enough to bring Jack to tears. This isn’t the first time the series has touched on the theme of humans harming aliens, but it’s much more emotional now. A Weevil just simply isn’t as sympathetic. Owen informs everyone the men are armed and Gwen freaks out over Rhys, but Jack tells her to stay put while Owen works on a sedative for the creature. A worker arrives with more ketamine since the creature hasn’t had much pain relief and the head brother accuses him of being a softie. Rhys is looking worried and tries to go, but Dale tells him to wait and then receives a call that there are people in the building. Ianto’s caught and he lies, saying him and Rhys are the only ones there, but Dale doesn’t believe him. Gwen’s about to Hulk smash her way in there, but Jack stops her once again. The team’s locked in the warehouse anyway and Ianto and Rhys are led in at gunpoint. Dale threatens to shoot the pair and Gwen finally surrenders herself, saying she’s the last one. That doesn’t go over too well when Owen and Tosh are spotted. Jack tries to reason with them, but Dale hears none of it. There’s a shoot-out and Rhys takes a bullet for Gwen. As this is happening, the creature begins freaking out, threatening to bring the whole building down. Owen does the only thing he can and gives it a painless death. As the creature is dying, Owen mutters, “I’m so sorry,” as Tosh comforts him and everyone else looks on.

Rhys, with his arm in a sling, and Gwen sit outside the Hub
Ice cream and talking about aliens. Sounds like an episode of Doctor Who.

In the end, everyone is stunned and then given amnesia pills to make them forget the whole thing and they’ve incinerated the creature. Jack tells Gwen she has to make Rhys forget too and she goes to obey her orders, but seeing Rhys geek out over the thought of life on other planets and he’s in on the secret with Gwen. That sentiment sends her back into the hub to tell Jack she’s not giving him the Retcon and he can do what he likes with her; she won’t know the difference. She has something; Rhys’ love. Jack would know the difference however and he tells Gwen to give Rhys his love and he’ll see her tomorrow. After she leaves, Jack watches the pair on the CCTV.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

2 replies on “Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 2.04, “Meat””

Oh no the italics tag got all funky in this post!

This episode is sad. The animal also reminds me of that space whale thing that Amy and The Doctor see early on in the 11th incarnation.

I don’t mind the Jack/Gwen love subext because I think they love each other very much, but not like in the same way Jack and Ianto or Gwen and Rhys do. And because they don’t quite know how to define/act about that, they act awkward instead.

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