With attention fully shifted back to the present day, Meat sees the clever integration of Rhys (Kai Owen) into Gwen and Torchwoodâ€™s world.
Heâ€™s the manager of a haulage firm, and one of their meat carrying lorries has overturned; however it is in fact alien flesh, and Rhys â€“ called to the scene of the crash by the police â€“ witnesses his fiancÃ© getting out of a strange black car with her new team and looking around, something she later denies.
Of course, this brings us some character drama; some of the better scenes in Torchwoodâ€™s two runs to date. The backdrop to this isnâ€™t brilliant, however. Some Welsh wideboys have found a giant alien lump with a distinctly sea going shape, and decided to hack it up and sell it as processed meat. Wonderfully for them, it is capable of replenishing the wounds rather quickly. Thatâ€™s right: itâ€™s still alive.
Letâ€™s get it out of the way now â€“ the space whale was nothing more than a giant lump of meat with nice eyes that Jack took a shine to. He admired its sentience and wanted to send it home; meanwhile the Weevils are evidently sentient, but they can stay locked up or be culled. Yet more double standards from Torchwood, Welsh home of moral and sexual grey areas.
The star of Meat is undoubtedly Kai Owen. Weâ€™ve been hearing for months about how good an actor he is, with Russell T Davies referring to him as “wonderful” and “wasted” in a single breath. As Gwenâ€™s fiancÃ© Rhys, he has been a bit of a lumbering fool, taken for granted and kept firmly out of the loop.
Bringing him into the circle of trust is a good move, if slightly unbelievable â€“ but of course Torchwood could always remove his memory of events, couldnâ€™t they?
So the team infiltrate the space meat operation, headed by a couple of brothers who wouldnâ€™t have looked out of place in series 1â€™s Countryside. The new dynamic is quickly captured, and weâ€™re spoon-fed some social commentary concerning the need to make a living.
Those poor unemployed people, always turning to immoral means to achieve material gain…
The spectre of a floundering space whale crushing Torchwood and poor Rhys is one that was well signposted when we first saw the beast, tied to a warehouse floor with a couple of bits of wire. Apparently found as an infant, the whale has just kept growing, providing solid income for the brothers and feeding humans and pets alike across the UK. So think about that next time you buy a kebab.
So is Rhys the sixth member of Torchwood? Well, no. He escapes with his memories intact, however, as the Ianto-surpassing love that Jack has for Gwen becomes clearer.
Do I have to do another Ianto rant this week? Yes I do. The Ianto-Jack tryst is pointless, and after Meat it just cannot continue. Jackâ€™s feelings for Gwen appear to be far more genuine than any vague mutual attraction could possibly distract him from, and certainly Iantoâ€™s involvement with the Torchwood leader is nothing more than filler.
Again, it is the backdrop of the domestic life that Gwen still has and holds onto that pulls Meat out of the mire that so many episodes of similar quality have found themselves in. This instalment will be remembered, mainly for good reasons. Seeing Rhys and Gwen enjoying a moment together as she clearly debates whether or not to spike him with the retcon drug is thought-provoking.
Evidently Captain Jack Harkness has feelings for Gwen so strong that he wonâ€™t let her leave Torchwood or go behind her back and retcon Rhys surreptitiously.
Where will these feelings lead?