by Sherry Lipp
Article first published as DVD Review: Touch – The Complete First Season on Blogcritics.
Is it possible that everything in the universe is connected by some kind of cosmic string that can only be seen by putting the right sequences of numbers together? That’s the concept the FOX show Touch attempts to explore.
The show stars Kiefer Sutherland as single father Martin Bohm struggling to raise his emotionally-challenged son, Jake (David Mazouz). Jake does not speak or appear to communicate physically and he hates to be physically touched. At its core, Touch is about the relationship between father and son, but the story that pushes the show along from week to week is about Jake’s connection with the rest of the world. The show is a drama and a supernatural thriller rolled into one. At times it could seem disjointed, but in the end the father-son relationship and the allure of seeing how everything is going to connect draws the viewer in.
At first glance, the idea that Jake has some kind of “magical power” allowing him to see connections no one else can is far-fetched. It also might seem offensive. The suggestion that autism (or some part of the autism spectrum) gives a child some kind of supernatural ability is exploitative. However, Touch shies away from saying that Jake is autistic. In the pilot episode Martin tells Jake’s social worker Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) that the diagnosis never seemed to fit. We have to take explanation at face value. The show does not spend a lot of time talking about the specifics of autism, so we don’t know why Martin feels that way. What we do know is that Jake appears detached, doesn’t speak, hates physical contact, and is obsessed with numbers and cell phones. We also know that he is trying to find something, or tell someone something, but he doesn’t know how. He repeatedly runs away, which results in his father losing full custody of him.
After Jake is placed in a care facility Martin is desperate to get him back. Martin is a widower whose wife died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Before his wife died he had been a prominent reporter and his work often took him away from home for long periods of time. He feels he owes it to his son and his wife’s memory to be a good father. Martin does a quick internet search for “Mutism + Cell” and finds Dr. Arthur Teller (Danny Glover). The man tells him that Jake is trying to communicate with him through the numbers. Martin starts to piece the patterns together and finds himself helping people who have some kind of problem too big for them to solve on their own.
Touch is a very episodic show. Each week Jake is focused on a new set of numbers, the meaning of which Martin must decipher. An overriding story arc forms slowly throughout the series, solidifying in the last half of the season. It would involve too many spoilers to give away more of the show’s secrets, but the bigger picture has to do with Jake’s cosmic place in the universe. I liked how the mystery of it all slowly unfolded, becoming more mysterious with each episode while at the same revealing more and more about Jake.
Each passing episode revealed more about Martin as well. As he followed the path Jake’s numbers led him on, it would usually be discovered they were connected to his life as much as the people he was trying to help. Throughout the course of the season we learned more about his late wife, his marriage, and what his life has been like since his wife’s death. We don’t learn much about what Martin’s life was like before Jake was born, or what kind of person he was. It would be nice to get an even bigger picture, but what was revealed gave the show greater emotional weight.
Most of Martin’s quests were pretty interesting. The numbers are connected to different people throughout the world and it was interesting to see how it all tied together, relating back to Martin and Jake. One of my favorite episodes revolved around a plane crash survivor (David Julian Hirsh) who ends up connected to the social worker Clea’s mother (Carlease Burke). Everything cleverly tied together in such unexpected ways, and the episode packed an emotional punch. The two-part finale, “Gyre,” culminated in a more action-oriented episode than usual as Martin starts to put more of the pieces together and must decide how he can best help Jake. This episode deepened the mystery, making the show even more interesting. The episode was also emotionally touching. In addition to Martin trying to keep his bond with Jake, it dealt with survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as a woman (Maria Bello) searching for her missing daughter. These episodes made me anticipate what is to come next season.
The DVD release of Touch includes only a few special features, including the extended pilot episode, deleted scenes and two featurettes, “Fate’s Equations” and “Touch the World.” The featurettes have interviews with Sutherland and show’s creator, Tim Kring. They offered some cool insights into the show and it was nice to see how dedicated to it they are. The DVD set unfortunately does not contain the bonus episode “The Road Not Taken,” which aired in September 2012. It was disappointing this episode was not included on this set as it is considered to be episode 13 of the first season. Hopefully it will be included with the eventual season two DVD release.
Season two of Touch is scheduled to air February 1, 2013. You can learn more about Touch at the show’s official website.