There is a plot device much beloved of writers, which is to have a character that doesn’t know some big secret, a secret which the audience is in on. More often than not it’s some long suffering partner or potential partner – Lois Lane in Superman, or Mary Jane Watson in Spiderman being prime examples. The problem is that sooner or later the audience starts to wonder why it is that this character hasn’t spotted, for example, the remarkable similarity between the guy in the fancy costume and their co-worker in the glasses. Either that, or the character is deliberately made out to not be all that bright in order to explain how they have missed something so obvious. The problem is for the writer though is that the longer it goes on, the more unsympathetic the audience will become to the character, and something has to be done to deal with the problem.
Since it started, Torchwood has had just such a secret, and just such a person, with Rhys long suffering boyfriend of Gwen Cooper, who until this week had totally failed to find out what his girlfriend actually did for a job – this despite most of the rest of the local population seeming to know about Torchwood. As a character he was very much falling into the not very bright category…
Russell T has stated that at the end of series one, that had originally intended to kill Rhys off, which is one of the traditional ways out of the situation. However, they had a change of heart, and what they did instead was this weeks episode of Torchwood where Rhys blunders into the middle of a Torchwood investigation, and at the end of the episode Gwen refuses to carry out the order to wipe his memory of what has happened, directly disobeying Jack in front of the rest of the team.
The actual investigation was into some decidedly dodgy meat that Rhys and his transport company were shipping and that was being cut from a large alien whale type thing being kept in a warehouse. Having said that, plot-wise, it seemed to generally be secondary to the need to bring Rhys in on the secret, and also open up the potential future conflicts with Jack and probably some issues with Gwen behaving differently with any investigation where Rhys is at risk – both of which came up in this episode.
It is always a risky move altering the relationships between characters, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. For an example of how things can spectacularly nose-dive, just look no further than what happened with Lois and Clark when the secret came out… The big difference with that though is that the relationship was at the heart of the story – here, the Rhys/Gwen dynamic is secondary, and hopefully will be used to focus on tensions and issues within the team.
In terms of how the series is shaping up, it perhaps wasn’t the best episode – but it is certainly kept my interest, and does seem to be keeping up the standards set in the past couple of weeks, hopefully boding well for the rest of the season.
Famous last words…