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Touch Season 2 Premiere Review: (Toughened-up) Variations on a Theme

Touch S02E01 / S02E02: “Event Horizon” / “Closer”

Touch returned tonight with a special two-hour premiere and I was nervous about this one, kids. The "bonus" episode that aired in the fall was a far cry from from the awesomeness we glimpsed during the first season. I mean, let’s not pull any punches here, it was a massive disappointment—maybe even a suckfest—and I vowed at the time that if such episodes were to be the new status quo when Touch returned for Season 2, I would not be sticking around.

Well, I’m pleased and delighted to report that based on "Event Horizon" and "Closer," Touch appears to be every bit as trippy and magical as when we last saw it (not counting that god-awful “bonus” episode, of course). However, it's no longer the same soft-spoken, starry-eyed new kid in school. The show hit the gym in the off-season, bulked up, got a few tattoos, and started incorporating more black into its wardrobe. It looks a little different on the surface, but I think it has the same heart.

Most importantly, Jake is back! Hi Jake! Missed you! Kisses! Jake is still a cute-as-a-button ball of fierce that communes with God or fate or the universe or whatever. You know, just doing his thing. One noticeable variation on last season’s theme, though, is that Jake’s “thing” appears to be much more localized, focused on himself and his companions. Sure, there’s that crazy dude who's wandering around Europe killing people who apparently blasphemed against God or don’t love him enough or something, and he’s got Jake’s picture in his files, which means things are going to get dicey later, but in the meantime, Jake, Martin, and newcomer Amelia’s Mom Lucy are on the other side of the world getting closer to—but always just missing—Amelia herself.

Toning down the one-world-kumbaya-group-hug aspect of Touch’s story definitely runs the risk of alienating fans who are looking for a weekly dose of mushy feelings. The series is now firmly entrenched in action-adventure-sometimes-thriller territory as we focus more on Jake and his family’s immediate experiences with the sinister Aster Corps. There’s more running, hiding, and infiltrating with Kiefer Sutherland being a badass and enlisting a friend’s Wikileaks clone organization for all his altruistic hacking needs. I’m torn on the change myself, even though I totally get why Touch felt the need to “toughen up” a little bit. Ratings slipped as the novelty of the the convoluted weekly stories wore off and I’ll freely admit that the middle of the show’s inaugural season suffered from a case of aimless wandering. Each viewing became less about engaging with the story and more about some contest I was running in my head to see if I could guess where the writers were going before they got there. The fact that I was REALLY good at it by the end of the first season betrays how quickly the concept grew tired.

But at the same time, I’ll freely admit that I’m exactly the type of person who should have found Touch’s occasionally saccharine Season 1 stories hokey and contrived. You have the cute magical kid who quietly brings joy and delight to everything and everyone he touches... oh yeah, I should have hated it. Cheesy feel-good TV? Not really my thing. But maybe I’m getting soft in my old age because even when Touch became, well, kinda boring, I admired its sincere optimism. It was a very positive series, and we live in a time when a lot of successful television is cynical and dark. It was the goodie-two-shoes TV show, but it was still likeable.

And it still IS likeable. I promise. There are more guns and goons and a hint of gore, but there are still moments that make you go “awww” where apparent strangers bring good things to each others’ lives with both grand and modest gestures and everyone has a purpose and blah blah music of the spheres blah blah. The tighter story was desperately needed. Evolution is essential to survival, and the more action-oriented plot could draw in some new viewers even on Friday nights. As long as I can recognize the Touch I fell in love with beneath this tough new exterior, I won’t be going anywhere and I hope neither will you.


Did you watch the episode? What did you think?



NOTES


Gugu Mbatha-Raw won’t be returning for Season 2. No more Clea! I’m kinda bummed about that. :(

Maria Bello plays Lucy, and is already confirmed to be leaving the show. So do you think they’ll kill her off or is this Amelia storyline going to get wrapped up a lot sooner than expected?

– Any theories about that crazy assassin guy? I initially thought he was killing off the 36 righteous people, but what do you think?

– Poll! Will you be tuning in for the second season of Touch? Absolutely? Or not so much?

Comments (47)
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I agree with most of your review. I thought the original Touch season 1 pilot was fantastic but it did get kind of boring at the end of season 1. The show had to tough up or it would surely die. I am glad it did. This 2 episodes did not feel boring at all. Things are at least moving. I thought that crazy guy might be killing off the 36 whom are not using their talents anymore so he might not harm Jake if he knew he was still serving God. Then again he is crazy so I guess the writers could give him some twisted logic. Amelia really look kind of different. I know its been 3 years and they probably got another actress but that casting not really good. She does not look like the younger version at all.
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– Gugu Mbatha-Raw won't be returning for Season 2. No more Clea! I'm kinda bummed about that. :(

I knew she wasnt gonna be in season 2 but i thought she was at least gonna get a "final episode" or at the very least the actors mention/explain her disappearence
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Sorry, I gave it a shot, but it's as crappy as ever. It was nice to see the story behind the code and the story arcs that can play off of it, but the writing is still incredibly weak. I mean, how many times does the master assassin have to drop his file so the audience can see who's next? It's some of the most blatant exposition I've seen in a while. The blank stares at the camera by Jake and Amelia were tough to watch not because of any kind of sentimentality, but because it was embarrassingly bad. Lucy runs screaming and kicking after an armed man for a girl she thinks is her daughter, then completely trusts Kiefer's character when he says he needs to 'go it alone' despite just having met him and saying, "I've been looking for a reason not to trust him". And again, I ask: does Kiefer have asthma? Why is he ALWAYS out of breath?

Sorry, but Touch will never make it to season three, and once again we've seen good shows passed up in favor of bad shows going on and failing miserably. I'll be surprised if they don't have season two cut very shortly.
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The kid is just too annoying. This is mainly due to the 'condition' the writers have saddled the character with. This condition means he is unable to develop any outwardly obvious emotional bonds with other people, not even with his own father. I know there are people like this in the real word, but this is the tv world, the main purpose of which is to entertain. The fact Jake is unable to develop a bond with others creates an emotional void in the show. This and the fact he is constantly running away and being pursued by his hapless father gets old very quickly. The kid cannot show he cares so basically we don't care. Not a recipe for a successful show.
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That's one way to look at it. Another way is to recognize how much Jake has changed so far. He's growing more emotionally, more open socially & given his narration at the front of the show, the little dude's probably gonna speak soon too. I saw the same show you claimed to see & yet I've noticed the marked difference in the character.
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When you say Jake has changed I agree, but the changes are still within the constraints of a character who cannot demonstrate love, loyalty or connection in a way which is recognisable to the average person. Most people who watch TV are 'average', therein lies the weakness of the show.
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If you want to take his female counterpart Amelia as any indication of how one can grow (in relation to where Jake is now), you may be correct.
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you seem to assume Amelia's autistic. I really don't remember any episode earlier where they established that autism is a prerequisite to being one of the 36.
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But that's part of where I said you may be right in terms of 'growing'. There were scenes where Amelia indeed seemed to have some degree of autism -- the sudden tantrum about wanting to go home, then calmed and spaced out, rocking slightly. The other 36 all seem to be adults, from what we've seen so far -- perhaps it's a growth thing, as you suggested. You said yourself you think Jake has been changing (growing), and will eventually speak. Amelia is slightly older, so perhaps she is further down the path, and the adults already grown out of it.

Just a twist in your idea. I still think the show is tripe and am not going to watch it any further. The scenes with Lucy were particularly annoying and her character constantly contradictory.
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I agree. What's more, the looks the kid gives to Kiefer et al at the token moments are just too contrived and make it embarrassing to watch.
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I dropped Touch. If I see buzz about it, I'll catch up on it over the summer, maybe.
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It wasn't just the bonus episode that sucked, but much of the show as a whole aside from the premiere -- it's predictable, has poor emotional scoring (too cheesy with little balance), and Kiefer always sounds like he's having an asthma attack. I'll check out the premiere on the positive review by MaryAnne, but in all likelihood I'll be ditching this show pretty quick.
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Touch with a doubt a top 5 show period, great 2 hours, nice to see Jake opening up a bit!! had no problems with Lucy and made a friend, earlier reach out to his dad just great, we are getting answers maybe too quickly, but with Maria Bello leaving maybe that is why!!
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It could also be because they know the show has a shelf-live and not much time left. Season two was already delayed until now due to a lack of interest (in favour of some other crappy show!), but we'll see. The show has had its moments, but I think it was not a wise decision to recontract for a second season, and I highly doubt it'll see a third if it manages to finish the second.
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i hate the dad so damn much. what was with that scene were the exchange with the money for his dad and he runs up scares the guy so they start shooting
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if Martin did interfere the Guy and Dad would be dead!!!
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MaryAnn if you could, please incorporate whether Kiefer Sutherland overacts every scene and constantly breathes heavy like he's fighting terrorists in 24. I really like the premise of this show but that drives me insane. Thank in advance!
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Kiefer is not overacting!!! he is playing just a plain dude that is not used to fighting running acting franticly hence the breathing!!
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haha ok that makes more sense. But the request remains. There should be a meter for how out of breath Kiefer is for the particular episode.
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I do miss the heartwarming subplots of last season and do hope the series returns to that. Those touchpoints were the magic that kept me coming back every week. Turning it into a slasher action thriller just makes it like every other show in that genre. And I'm not a fan of the religious fanaticism angle... I liked that Touch was about the mysteries of the universe and was spiritual without being specific to one god or religion. I loved the Japanese girls, the cell phone, the firefighter, the Invisible Prince, and how they were woven into the story. At the heart should be Martin and Jake's relationship and how Jake is communicating through numbers, not how they'll keep Aster Corp from taking over the world. I prefer for Aster Corp to be a background threat rather than front-and-center.

I hate to hear that Maria Bello won't be staying; I'm a big fan.
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I totally agree. I loved the Japanese girls and and all the other different people from all over the world. Each episode was way more emotional than any this season. Now it's all about the one story of finding Amelia, Astercorp etc. It's still enjoyable and a huge drop from last season where I thought it was quite magical.
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You have described exactly how I feel!! There was a pleasant moment when Fluffy, the bunny got lost and Jake found her. I was surprised that he allowed the other children to touch him. He smiled happily. I never watched "24" but others are saying that Martin is turning into a similar character. I am not pleased.
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plenty of subplots the only difference they are a little closer to home!!!
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I really enjoyed both episodes. True, the show has changed alot, but I'm with MaryAnn. It's still the same at its core & all about the beauty of universal interconectivity. I think they just had to adapt in order to try & gain a wider audience & stay off the chopping block a while longer. I can't fault them for that because as much as I deeply loved the 1st season, the formula got stale after a while & I welcome the change
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I miss the heartwarming subplots of people who were suffering, grieving, lost, upset, etc., finding something that made everything alright again, like the guy who lost his deceased child's photos, the boy who was going to die by suicide bomb for the money to help his family get money for a new stove, only to make an almost impossible connection via a stolen phone, and those delightful Japanese girls traveling the world and connecting people via their blog, and the nomadic cell phone that got passed from one person to the next, and when Martin Baum fought with the firefighter who tried to save his wife in 9/11, only to have the firefighter save more people, all that stuff gave me goosebumps. They were often more interesting than the main storyline (hey, light bulb moment - perhaps that's why the writers/producers/powers-that-be killed those subplots). In the season premiere, the only thing connected the subplot to the main story was a guy going around slashing talented peoples' throats. It was gory and violent and the complete antithesis of what the program was about originally. And Kiefer, love ya and would love ta tap ya, but c'mon, we had enough Jack Bauer, but I could see Martin Baum morphing into Jack as the show wore on. A room full of computer geeks with state of the art equipment and unmatched hacking skills, Jack/Martin in his whispery voice, "trust me," "I promise," sounding more like Jack Bauer with every line, sneaking up on people and punching them, using technology to capture bad guys, sneaking into a building with tools slung over his shoulder (reminiscent of that backpack that Jack always carried), I was expecting hacksaws and pens plunged into legs and disconnecting wires from lamps and shocking/torturing people. "24" lives on. Let's get back to the original "Touch."
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My daughter and I loved watching Touch season 1 together. We were both very disappointed and disgusted that season 2 opened with so much violence and blood with a fanatical religious throat slashing obsession. This was totally pandering and unnecessary and lowered the standard for what was one of the most intelligent and family friendly shows on TV. I hope the writers and producers can quickly recover and return to relying on their talent and intellect rather than blood and gore to increase ratings.
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Unfortunately, the entire season has already been filmed. I don't like the violence and it is not a family friendly show. Again, I don't know Jack from "24" but I don't really care for where the series is headed. Most believe it will be cancelled. That would be sad.
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I was in the seeming minority of folks who really enjoyed the first season. I didn't mind the emotional manipulation one bit and was often genuinely moved by some of its more tender moments. (Go ahead and call me a sap.) While I didn't exactly like all the changes made in the new season, enough of the original spirit still lives within it to keep me tuning in.

The worst news to me was the loss of Gugu, although I understand that her character really couldn't have played much of a role in the revamped storyline. But the loss of that beautiful actress was more than offset by the addition of the equally beautiful and talented Maria Bello. Sadly, I learned of her departure from the show just a few hours before the season premiere ever aired, and that definitely had an effect on my enjoyment of it. There was no way that a romance wouldn't have developed between her and Kiefer's characters, but now I can't really root for that to happen since I know she won't be around past this season.

Then again, the show itself isn't likely to see renewal. Between all the cast changes, the change in tone and direction, and (perhaps most importantly) being given the Friday Night Death Slot, I'm all but certain that these few episodes will be the last we ever see. With any luck, the producers will realize this and possibly shoot a new ending that will wrap up everything as well as possible.

It was fun while it lasted but I'm 99.44% certain that the show is doomed.
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The "one-world-kumbaya-group-hug" was one of my favorite things about the show, although I did question how long they'd be able to keep it up. I didn't expect them to drop it entirely, which they did in the first episode. And what about the Japanese girls? This new Touch is all kidnapping and killing. I'll still watch, but I'll miss having a weekly fuzzy-feelings show.
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I was on the fence about whether I should watch Touch again this season. A few months ago, I told myself I was done with the show... but now that its started up again, I kind of feel like watching. After reading this review, I think I'll give it another try. I have no idea how it really translates to the screen, but I kind of like the fact that you stated it's gotten a bit more serious and tough and a little less mushy... although I'm a tad disappointed that Gugu's not on the show anymore -- I kinda liked her.
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I think you'll be surprised. It's so much more compelling now!
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Do give it another try it's such an improvement unlike what most people are saying here. Let us not forget that at the heart of this show is a diabolical plot to expoit and separate special children from their parents for some unknown shady reasons.It was crude being sweet when kids are being used as lab rats,how could all you fans miss that aspect! Now if Martin would just stop calling Jake "sweetheart",and yes bring back the Japanese girls,we'd be fine tuned! Great show.
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that Jake kid is anything but cute and nothing close to cute.. there is nothing, and I mean nothing in Jake that resembles cute.. the annoyance of that character and lack of lovebilty of the kid himself was the sole reason I quit watching Touch last season and I rarely quit watching things.. In addition to that Sutherland's character was really wearing me off with his constant "jake? jake! jakeeeeee"s, lack of control of anything, especially his son.. god give patience to those who plan to keep on watching..
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It is easy to become annoyed at the father repeatedly calling his son's name; but if you bear in mind that the character Jake is mentally disabled this is reasonable, - it's sort of like with our 2-year-old; we can't go ten minutes without one parent or the other saying (in whatever tone appropriate to the circumstance) "Mitch" over a dozen times - I'm serious.

-And i know looks are a matter of opinion; but in mine Jake is awfully cute!
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You obviously didn't watch last night. There were very few "jakes"., Certainly none more than a normal father would call his kid. And Jake is much more demonstrative this season. Martin has transformed too as he tries to protect his son. My point is, the show has evolved. You should at least watch the premiere of season two before assuming it's the same as it was. And commenting on it without having watched it is rather silly. It's not!
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my comment was solely about the claim the reviewer made about the kid being cute.. I am not commenting on that specific episode, I am talking about a general status, so I do not find it necessary to watch the premier to comment on that kid.. that lack of cuteness is a constant in that kid, and for him to be cute, he should be cooperative to say the least..
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Ths casting of Jake is perfect. And I do think he is cute, too.
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Mightn't be the best idea to expect an autistic child to be Hollywood-conventionally cute or loveable. Would it help if Jake magically 'cured' himself?
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well, he is not a conventional autistic child either.. so it would't hurt if he were slightly more cooperative, helpful, loving, etc.
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I agree, Nee. That whole "Jake, Jake" thing got really old. Sutherland's character knew what his kid was capable of, so why was he constantly telling him to "stay here," so he could go investigate something, turn his back to take a phone call, and all those other stupid things? I found myself yelling at the TV, "turn around, IDIOT!"
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thank you!:)
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And still you find yourself compelled replying to a post about ... :)
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that's probably due to my immense disappointment with the show:) last year, I had so high hopes for this and it could have easily been my favorite..
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LOVED IT!!!!!!
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Not that it couldn't have stood some "toughening up," it was a little on the mushy side before, yes. I was looking forward to something a little more mature and solid. But they threw out everything that made the show what it was. It's practically unrecognizable.

I was looking forward to an "endless chase" show, a la Fugitive, Incredible Hulk, Starman, etc. It would have fit this show so well to have them on the run from place to place, one step ahead of the bad guys, changing people's lives wherever they went with Jake's abilities, following the clues to find the missing Amelia -- that would have worked so well with this show. Instead it's just another bad guy conspiracy mystery, Jake is just a gimmick who is barely used and barely necessary, the mystical-spiritual element is gone, the international element (the "red thread" connecting unrelated people around the world) is gone, everything that made the show distinctive and inspired is gone, it's just plain old TV we've seen a million times.
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What a HUGE disappointment. Everything that made TOUCH special and magical is gone. It's just more dreary same-old-same-old television factory. I wish they had cancelled the show rather than doing this to it.
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It's already officially confirmed that the guy in Europe is killing the "36"s.
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