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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Cast
Kiefer Sutherland as Martin Bohm; David Mazouz as Jake Bohm; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Clea Hopkins; Danny Glover as Arthur Teller
Channel
Fox
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Touch

I wrote this so you could read it.

It's a simple, obvious statement—and not something you'd think would even need an explanation. Of course I wrote this so that people could access it, readers could find it. That's my job. So let me restate:

I wrote this so you could read it.

Not people. Not readers. You. Perhaps you're reading this days or weeks or even years after I wrote it. But somehow, in this moment, we're connected. And what if the connection was meant to be? What if this moment is important somehow? What if there's purpose behind it? Meaning? A plan?

Fox's drama Touch asks these kinds of questions with each episode, taking viewers on a metaphysical roller coaster through life and purpose and faith. So while much of the television landscape is filled with mindless escapism, this program dares viewers to think.

Touch centers on Jake Bohm, a now 12-year-old special-needs child, and his weary, oft-frustrated father, Martin. It's a trying life for Martin (played with focused subtlety by Kiefer Sutherland). He's poured his whole life into his son, who has never said a word in return. Who barely even acknowledges his existence, much less thanks him for a job well done. Jake's not a hugger. He doesn't horse around.

But while he may be clinically dumb, Jake's not stupid. In fact, he's gifted, seeing the world in numbers and picking out the patterns and plans therein. Where we see random happenstance, Jake sees purpose. Direction.

"When Jake sees [numerical patterns], he sees the entire universe," says Arthur Teller, one of the few folks with the wherewithal to understand Jake's gifts. And when the numbers don't add up, that equates to cosmic pain.

Touch is out there in the middle of that cosmic pain in more ways than one. Each episode requires Jake and Martin to piece together an outlandish puzzle of improbability. A child missing a mom. A man burdened by debt. A lost cat. A failing grade. All are connected somehow, and Jake knows that if he can just tweak one little thing, he can help the world find balance again.

As he tries, the show has taken a more serial, sinister turn. It seems as though Jake is not alone. He is one of 36 remarkable people—people who represent a stunning step forward for humanity. Echoing the biblical story of Lot, some in the know believe that souls like Jake may justify the existence of mankind to God. To others, the 36 represent a threat to God's natural order—and are determined to kill them all. Still others think the 36 just represent a new stage of evolution.

Regardless, the series still invites viewers to muse on their own improbable connections, the interconnected moments that make up our lives. And it keeps forcing us to ask probing questions about what, in the end, it all means.

Touch is not a Christian show. It's closer, actually, to Lost, tracking down a trail full of sometimes cluttered spiritual metaphor. Or maybe it's veering toward Fringe, with Jake's patterns asserting themselves as simply part of the natural order. Where the Touch writers are taking us isn't exactly clear. It's not supposed to be clear. The numbers Jake sees add up to something akin to karmic destiny more than anything. It's as if the world is a spinning top, and there are things we do, decisions we make, that can set the whole thing a-wobbling. Jake's job is to find and fix those wobbles.

But implicit within the show's framework is that the universe is governed by some sort of intelligence and purpose. There's a plan out there, Jake's ability suggests. We're meant for lives of meaning. And as such, Touch gives us loads of spiritual points worth exploring.

More often than not, though, those tantalizing hints are a source of frustration—not enlightenment—for Martin. He knows there is a purpose. But Jake, who somehow understands that purpose, won't just come out and say what it is.

"You need to follow where it leads," Arthur explains to Martin.

"Blindly," Martin says in exasperation.

"If need be, yes."

And so he does—sometimes landing in embarrassing or dangerous circumstances. In Touch's universe, Martin and Jake often find themselves pinched in places of discomfort as they attempt to see the job through—just as sometimes happens with Christians walking by faith through confusing circumstances in the real world.

Beyond the spiritual, Touch brushes up against a few other rough spots. Sutherland, best known for his work on 24, shows he hasn't forgotten how to throw a punch, and he and others hurl occasional obscenities. We've seen cold-blooded murders that generate quite a lot of very warm blood on the screen. Episodes might also include encounters with gangsters or prostitutes or any number of other wayward souls.

All that means Touch may not be weekly Bible study fodder. Nevertheless, the importance of faith, in a generic sense, lies at its very core. It's not about what we believe, but it is about, in a curious, sideways sense, why we believe. It tells us that we have a purpose here: a purpose in our lives, our jobs, our relationships. We're reminded that we're all part of a bigger picture.

It's not often we're told that—particularly on primetime television.

Episode Reviews

"Perfect Storm"

Jake is making progress. He laughs at a joke told by his Jewish protector, Avram. He allows his peers in school to touch him after he finds a rabbit—and impresses a girl in his class.

But elsewhere, things are not going so well. We learn that a man named Guillermo Ortiz, a member of a Jesuit order, is on what he calls a "mission of mercy"—killing members of the 36 because they're disrupting God's plan. Avram sneaks into his hotel room and finds a file of photos—some of people he's already killed … and one of Jake. Ortiz discovers Avram and threatens him with a knife, but backs off when Avram tells him that if Ortiz kills him, "You are just a godless murderer."

Elsewhere, Amelia's ability to predict the future is tested by her captors as her mother struggles to find her—helped by Martin. Violent threats, theft, subterfuge and outright lies worm their insidious way into the story here. And in a voiceover, Jake suggests that all those lies may factor in to a coming perfect storm. We hear about people whose throats have been cut (after seeing it happen in the previous episode). "H‑‑‑" is twice used as a profanity.

"1+1=3"

Jake directs Martin to visit a pawn shop where he interrupts an apparent robbery. When the thief asks why Martin is there, he says, "I'm just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

That's hard to do on this show. Turns out, the robbery was simply a setup. The cancer-stricken pawn shop owner, Arnie, was trying to kill himself (so his insurance money could go to his estranged daughter) and the thief was supposed to get $10,000 for the deed to pay off a mysterious debt. But good comes out of this bizarre (but rather clever) set of circumstances: Arnie is reunited with his daughter, the burglar is given a second chance by his Russian collector, who in turn gives up his gangster gig for the sake of his own family. Indeed, most of the episode's characters are happier by the end of the show than they were at the start of it. And Martin expresses deep compassion and offers profound freindship to a stranger in the process.

Still, we see Arnie trying to commit suicide twice. And a pair of female Japanese tourists are dressed in provocative outfits. Martin tackles a robber and thwacks someone with a baseball bat. "H‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n" pop up three or four times each, "b‑‑ch" is said once and God's name is misused at least three times.

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