Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Touch," Season 2

I've been enjoying Season 2 of "Touch" a lot more than I enjoyed Season 1. This has mainly been because the series decided to back away from the implications of the metaphysics supposedly driving the show in favor of good old-fashioned drama. As a way of ratcheting up the tension and providing the show more emotional focus, Season 2 of "Touch" has, for most of its episodes, featured a killer named Guillermo Ortiz (ably portrayed by Berber-French actor Saïd Taghmaoui), a renegade Catholic priest who has been using his cosmic gift (the ability to perceive esoteric patterns in numbers and phenomena) to track down and slaughter those who are similarly gifted. This has put Ortiz on the trail of series protagonist Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) and his father, Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland).

Jake, as you'll recall, has the gift of numeric perception, and according to the shaky philosophy of the show, he is one of thirty-six people on the planet who act as "air-traffic controllers," guiding people toward their fulfillment and, whenever possible, away from danger. The number thirty-six is a reference to Kabbalah: the so-called "Thirty-six Righteous Ones" (Tzadikim Nistarim: reference), and in fact, one of the main characters in "Touch" is Avram, a Hasidic Jew (played by Jenna Elfman's hubby, Bodhi Elfman—and yes, they're both related, by blood and marriage, to composer Danny Elfman) who studies Kabbalah, and who helps Martin Bohm demystify what's going on in young Jake's head.

This isn't to say the show no longer has metaphysical problems. One major hitch is that, with Guillermo Ortiz having killed off at least five or six of the currently existing Thirty-six (including himself, in the most recent episode I've seen), one has to wonder why the world hasn't imploded. According to Jewish mysticism, the world will end should there be any fewer than thirty-six righteous individuals to keep it in balance. Another problem is how Guillermo Ortiz, a fanatical murderer, could possibly have become one of the Thirty-six in the first place. Does this give us a sinister hint about God's divine nature? Does God sow evil in with the good when He tills the soil of the universe? This would certainly be unsurprising if "Touch" is following Jewish cosmology as a template. As I've long contended (in 2004, for example), Jews are better off than Christians when it comes to recognizing the possibility that God Himself is capable of great evil. That God might have a Jungian shadow side, and not be the being of perfect radiance that Christians (who so often ignore the Old Testament) wish Him to be, is a matter for theists' serious consideration.

Another problem with "Touch" is that it's gone off the sci-fi deep end, introducing telepathy as another superpower possessed by at least some of the Thirty-six. Jake, who normally doesn't talk, speaks in thought to Amelia, and even communicates telepathically with Guillermo Ortiz. I was annoyed by this at first, but have decided that the introduction of telepathy makes suspension of disbelief easier for me: the show obviously cares less and less about rigorously following the implications of the cosmology it attempted to sketch out in Season 1, and is now more of an adventure series in which any type of random nonsense might happen. This means I just need to sit back, relax, and not think too hard about the show's ontological subtext, allowing myself instead to focus on the human drama, the relationships among the various characters, and the arcs those characters are on. Random stuff may happen, but if all events are driven by the ruthlessly grinding engine of numbers, whose patterns are visible only to a chosen few, then even the random stuff isn't really random. So as I've written before, "Touch" is basically a show about faith—faith that, if we just follow the patterns revealed to us by our guardian angels, everything will be just fine.

But "Touch" is amusing in other ways. I find myself laughing out loud, for example, every time a cast member from "24" pops up. Thus far, there have been at least three: actor Greg Ellis, who plays Trevor Wilcox, Martin Bohm's good friend in "Touch," played a baddie on "24"; Annie Wersching, quite possibly the world's hottest redhead, played Jack Bauer's fellow agent and love interest in "24"; and Mykelti Williamson, who figured in Season 8 of "24" as the hapless director of the refurbished CTU, recently popped up on "Touch" as a police investigator. How Kiefer Sutherland can now play opposite these former castmates and not crack a knowing smile is beyond me.

Season 2 of "Touch" has also featured Maria Bello as Lucy Robbins, mother of the gifted Amelia Robbins. I admit I have a crush on all blonde women with brown eyes (such a fascinating and exotic combination!), and Maria Bello is a fine actress along with being very beautiful. It was a shame to see her character apparently killed off; we never see the actual moment of her death, so I suppose there's hope that Amelia's long-suffering mom might still be alive. I hope she is. Poor, beleaguered Amelia—who has served as a lab rat for an evil corporation trying to harvest her brainpower for its own nefarious ends—deserves a break. And that reminds me: actor Lukas Haas, whose first claim to fame was as the eponymous character in the Harrison Ford movie "Witness," was a brief member of the "24" cast, and he figures prominently in "Touch" as another genius being played by that same vile corporation.

As Season 2 of "Touch" begins to wind down, we've seen characters come and go. Like "24," another Kiefer Sutherland vehicle (Sutherland serves as an executive producer of "Touch," just as he did on "24"), "Touch" introduces many new characters, only to kill them off in a few episodes. It's a shame that Guillermo Ortiz will no longer be around to haunt our heroes, but I imagine that someone or something will take his place. Drama is all about conflict, after all; "Touch" needs fuel for its fire. May Season 3 burn as brightly as Season 2.



John from Daejeon said...

Sorry to tell you this, but there will be no season 3. The ratings are so beyond abysmal that Maria and Kiefer Sutherland have both tried to jump ship with only Maria succeeding. Kiefer had a pilot all set to shoot ("Blacklist"), but he couldn't break his contract to shoot it with FOX as the new program would air on NBC, so James Spader slipped into the part instead. In recent days, he has really been trying to get a "24" film going again to shoot after he finishes a Western with his dad this summer.

Here's a pretty good link showing the Touch's odds of survival. At the top of the page there is a renew/cancel link that takes you to the various networks to see which of their shows are safe and soon to be dispatched.

Kevin Kim said...

Well, that's a shame. "Touch" was improving, in its own slow, awkward way. Nowhere near as gripping as "24," of course, and it's understandable that Kiefer Sutherland might want to return to a proven winner.

So I guess I'm out of "Touch."