The silence and power of Touch

Last week saw the first episode of Touch aired in a special event on Fox. The remainder of the show will begin in a couple of months, but we’ve already gotten a taste of the story with this first episode, and it’s impressive.

Kiefer Sutherland gives an incredible performance as Martin Bohm, the single father of a troubled boy, Jake, only channeling Jack Bauer for a few moments at the climax of the episode.

In fact, all the performances were surprisingly great for a pilot episode, including Danny Glover, though we only get to see him for one scene.

It’s not just the performances that make the show powerful. Tim Kring (you may remember him as the creator of Heroes) has crafted a world which is surprisingly evocative for a TV serial.

The story here manages to feel epic within its short timeframe, and the implications for the quickly relatable and sympathetic characters are literally staggering.

The first episode is a braided story with two distinct elements. In one story, Sutherland’s character takes the first steps to understanding a spiritual superpower within his son, and the role he must play, while the other, only tangentially connected to the boy and the father, shows us the tale of a series of connected individuals, who without any of them being able to see the larger picture themselves, become the source of miracles in one another’s lives.

The fantasy elements here are soft, and nearly glossed, but still present, and one wonders what the power’s origin is. Still, Touch isn’t going to be a ‘big mystery’ show in which viewers are forced spend episode after episode learning slightly more about what has happened, and what is happening with these special powers of prescience. There is no real conspiracy to unravel, there isn’t a government agency to investigate. This is the story of a boy and his father, and the uplifting, emotionally tumultuous relationship they share as the father attempts to help his son create miracles in New York.

The relationship is made all the more compelling by the boy’s silence, and his lack of tolerance for physical contact. Each episode will likely see Sutherland’s character trying to unravel the clues that his son leaves for him in the numbers he writes, and the seemingly random behavioral quirks. He’s got help from a CPS agent, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Danny Glover’s character, who takes on the role of a child psychologist who has experience with children who see things the way Jake does.

I’m interested to see if the braiding of stories about nearly unrelated ‘miracles’ will continue through the series. It’s an interesting story-telling dynamic which helps to get the main theme of the show across, that being the idea all of us are connected – and that even seemingly minor actions have a significant repercussions on the lives of others.

Touch will begin airing regularly on March 19, 2012.