Touch 1.4 Review: "Kite Strings"

By John Keegan

touch_tv_show_iconThis episode crystallizes everything that works and does not work for “Touch” on a conceptual level. When the story centers on human drama, as it does with its three main plot threads in this episode, it is a reasonably good show about the better angels of our nature. As soon as Jake’s numerically-based insight comes into play, along with all those spurious connections, it all falls apart.
First, the good parts. Despite the fact that it was mentioned in the pilot, this is the first time I really felt as though the writers were addressing the fact that Martin’s wife died on 9/11. More than 10 years later, this still has a great deal of resonance as an emotional touchstone. The episode focuses on the personal aspects of Sarah’s death, and for that reason, it works.

Like I’ve said since the start, the show might have worked better as an independent film, and this episode makes the case more than ever. This is a meditation on life after 9/11, in many ways, from so many perspectives. Martin and Bobby each have their regrets and responses to the loss of Sarah from their lives, and stripping away the whole “Jake connects the world” nonsense would have left more time for the two men to find peace in a more realistic way.

Maybe because it relied far less on Jake’s magical specialness, the plot thread with Randall and the priest was exceptional. Randall’s confession that he wasn’t sure if Sarah was dead when he left her in the tower, because he wanted to save himself, was a powerful moment. While the priest’s predicament was far too obvious, in terms of how Randall would be able to use his lottery windfall to make amends, the connection to Laura made it more palatable.

Touch-FOX-Kite-Strings-Episode-4-12-550x366Laura’s connection to the whole 9/11 theme is less direct, but the presence of American troops in Iraq says it all. One could posit that Laura, like so many young people, felt a desire to serve their country in the wake of 9/11, and this is where it led her. Filling in that backstory might have been compelling, especially given her decision to risk her own life to save her fellow soldier. That her fate is left unresolved, perhaps for a future episode, adds to the measure of sacrifice.

It’s all a meditation on regret, loss, and survivors’ guilt, and on that level, the episode was easily the best we’ve seen from “Touch” yet. So it’s deeply unfortunate that so much of the episode was hanging on Jake’s role as the one connecting all of them together. Let’s remember that the show presents Jake as intelligent behind the mask of his autism; in essence, he knows what he’s doing. Was it really necessary for him to risk falling several stories to give Bobby a metaphorical sense of closure?

Also ridiculous was the reappearance of Abdul. Considering the constant reminders of 9/11, it doesn’t make any sense for Adbul to be running around without a hint of consequences for failing to do what the insurgents in the pilot intended for him. Are we to believe that suicide bombers that don’t follow through are simply left to their own devices? Especially when that entails celebrating the profane American culture that they inherently despise? (And Chris Rock is often profane, even for many Americans!)

It adds to a growing sense that another underlying theme of the series is that one component of the connections throughout the world is the awesomeness of Western culture. How many of the international scenes thus far have been all about linking into American pop culture? One might argue that it’s just a metaphor for how the world is getting smaller, but the way it’s being expressed seems rather limited.

But it all comes back to the sloppy nature of how these connections are supposed to work. When the connections feel organic, it’s fine. But all too often, it doesn’t add up. When even the basic math discussed in the series is revealed as utterly wrong, and thus messaged to make the story work, it underscores how the writers aren’t really putting thought into it. And given how the ratings are plunging, I think the viewers are beginning to recognize it. If it wasn’t for the emotional resonance of the character work in this episode, what remained would not have saved it.

John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.

Latest Articles