Touch is somehow about everything and nothing

Yesterday's Touch was its usual mix of heartwarming contrivances and miserable main characters, as Kiefer Sutherland chased circles and brought families together... all while dealing with forces that threatened to tear his own family apart. I just wish I knew where any of this was going.

Spoilers ahead...

"Entanglement" was another pretty solid episode of Touch, all things considered. This time around, Jake gives Martin three interlocked circles instead of some numbers. Considering today is Jake's evaluation by child services, Martin is tempted to ignore the pattern and just focus on keeping custody of his son, but a run-in with a pickpocket circuitously leads him to sitting next to a gun-toting woman on a crosstown bus. She wants revenge on a man who killed her father and slaughtered her baby brother... or so she thinks.

Meanwhile, a young woman in Saudi Arabia rebels against her father's plans of arranged marriage by going for an illegal joyride — only to come across a pregnant woman on the side of the road. And in Montreal, a young doctor has to search for a bone marrow donor for an adopted child with leukemia — and if he doesn't find a donor by 8:00, he might miss his last chance to tell the object of his affections how he feels.

I'll give credit where it's due — a lot of this episode pretty much works. The theme of familial connections is simple enough that the writers can weave several vignettes around it without overtaxing the premise, and while a lot of the beats were obvious, they still had some emotional impact. It helps that they have learned enough restraint to occasionally drop a subplot — such as the story of the world's least subtle pickpocket — once it's run its course.

The show still suffers from the problem where you can pretty much pause it at the 20-minute mark and guess how these characters are going to fit together, but the episode works well enough if you're just sort of willing to go with it and not think too much. I'm not sure I could say that a couple weeks ago.

Touch is somehow about everything and nothingS

Indeed, I have the sinking suspicion that those earlier Touch episodes were so bad — particularly the truly atrocious second episode — that I've been effectively inoculated against this show's worst sins. The connections here are contrived, the characters are two-dimensional at best, the social commentary is clumsy and vaguely condescending, and the dialogue is purely perfunctory and does nothing to add personality to the various characters.

But! Just a couple weeks ago, the connections were ludicrous to the point that it shattered any suspension of disbelief, the characters were one-dimensional ciphers, the social commentary bordered on outright offensive, and the dialogue was laughably bad. This all counts as progress, but I'm not sure it's really all that much in an absolute sense.

Still, none of this really speaks to my major issue with Touch. As much as a lot of this show still bothers me, I've got to be fair to the writers here — they've pulled off these weekly coincidence-driven narratives way better than I expected, insofar as I expected an unmitigated disaster. If the show was a sort of anthology of coincidences, with each week simply introducing a bunch of vignettes and slowly weaving them together... well, I could see that being a decent show, and I even could see this show's writers doing a decent job with the premise.

The problem with this show lies right at its center — I just don't know what purposes the Bohms really serve. Oh sure, from a plot perspective, they are there to facilitate the connections on behalf of the math of the universe or whatever. I get that. But from a character perspective, I don't really get why Martin and Jake are the best characters to build this story around.

Case in point — we're five episodes in, and we still have absolutely zero idea if Jake is actually a person. All we've seen so far is him serving as a cosmic conduit, and there's very little evidence that Jake has any characteristics that aren't connected to this higher purpose. I keep going back to Walter King, the homeless man from a couple episodes back who saw the same patterns. Sure, he was a nutcase, but he clearly loved his family and wanted to connect with them, even if his condition prevented it. I don't really have any sense that Jake cares about his dad beyond making sure Martin follows his purpose in this grand design, and the fact that he can't talk doesn't help matters.

This is especially troublesome because Martin's whole character arc so far has been about connecting with his son, which means both finding a way to communicate with him and make sure child services doesn't take him away. And, five episodes in, it feels like we've made almost no progress in either of those plots. Martin and Clea keep having the same basic cycle of conversations over and over, and much as this episode's disastrous evaluation suggested Martin would face a few more delays in getting his son back, that's really all they feel like: delays.

Touch is somehow about everything and nothingS

This whole arc just feels like a way to kill time, and a fairly repetitive way at that. And I still haven't really seen anything yet that convinces me why this show needs the whole custody battle plot, other than simply to make Martin miserable, which this show seems strangely obsessed with. Seriously, other than maybe losing out on Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is doing perfectly good work as Clea Hopkins, what would this show actually have lost if it never bothered with any of the child services stuff? And we're talking about the main arc for Jake and Martin here. Something like that shouldn't feel so inessential.

Really, I'd just like some sense of where this all could possibly be going with the Bohms. Is there a way out of this where Martin doesn't spend the rest of his life torturing himself in increasingly desperate attempts to reach his son? (As far as Kiefer Sutherland shows and torture go, this truly is the masochist to 24's sadist.) Does Jake actually want anything, does he actually have even the slightest connection to the world around him as an individual? And if not, then why are these the people this show is built around? It just seems like a fundamentally miserable premise in a way even something as grief-soaked as Awake doesn't, and I just wish I could see some way out of it.