Kiefer Sutherland's new supernatural thriller Touch not only engages the intellect on a suspenseful ride around the planet, but clinches the heart as well with seismic emotional shifts that will see many reach for a tissue before the end credits roll.
We are all interconnected. Our lives are invisibly tied to those whose destinies touch ours. This is the premise of this clever one-hour drama from Fox, which was recently renewed for a second season.
Blending science, spirituality and emotion, Touch traces seemingly unrelated people all over the world whose lives affect each other in ways seen and unseen, known and unknown. At its centre is the widower and single father Martin Bohm (Sutherland), whose anguish at being unable to connect with Jake (David Mazouz), his 11-year-old son, fills every frame.
Emotionally frail and haunted, Martin's tried everything to reach his son, but Jake never speaks, shows no emotion and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Yet he's obsessed with numbers - scribbling long strings of them in his notebooks - and messes in mind-blowing ways with discarded cell phones.
"The title of the series comes from the fact that his son refuses to be touched," says Sutherland, "and so the father has to deal with that as well as trying to reach out to a young boy who communicates with numbers rather than words. He wants to have as normal a relationship as he possibly can with his son, which I think every parent can relate to. The constant reality surrounding my character is his sense of failure as a parent; the feeling he's somehow responsible for where his own son's at. That is certainly something I responded to as a parent myself. I think the show does that well."
"Patterns are hidden in plain sight. You just have to know where to look," Jake narrates through his thoughts. "Things most people see as chaos actually follow a set of laws of behaviour. Galaxies. Plants. Seashells. The patterns never lie. But only some of us can see how the pieces fit together.
"There's an ancient Chinese myth about the red thread of fate. It says the gods have tied a red thread around every one of our ankles, and attached it to all the people whose lives we're destined to touch," adds Jake. "This thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. It's all been predetermined by mathematical probability - and it's my job to keep track of those numbers. To make the connections for those who need to find each other. The ones whose lives need to touch."
Martin's quest to connect with Jake has the potential to shape the destiny of humanity. In Martin's corner are the social worker Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who initially believes the boy is simply too much for Martin to handle until a supernatural event persuades her otherwise, and Arthur Teller (Danny Glover), a professor who understands Jake's extraordinary gift.
Fans of 24 will be delighted to know that Sutherland, 45, has never been better; his maturing face ably reflects the anguish and intensity of a suffering father, yet here he infuses a new dimension we rarely saw in Jack Bauer - a vulnerability that renders him all the more fallible and human.
Touch earns kudos as one of the most ambitious pilots in recent memory. As satisfying as a feature film, it artfully spins numeric sequences and mobile phone technology to connect the fateful dots between a desperate Iraqi boy's brush with terrorists, a dad's grief for his dead daughter, a British woman's wish for pop stardom, two fun-loving Japanese courtesans, a guilt-stricken NYC firefighter, a call-centre operator and Martin's family.
Sutherland admits he found himself financially set after 24 went off the air in May 2010, and hardly expected to so quickly recommit to the demands of series production.
"If you are going to do a series that can potentially run for another eight years," he says, "you want it to be something that you can really sink your teeth into, something that's different and that's going to challenge you in a different way.
"If there was anything I wanted to be a part of saying through a TV series or a film, it was this beautiful idea of universal interconnectivity and this responsibility that we have to each other, as a people, as a race, to this planet. For all those reasons, that's why I chose to do this show, because it suggests that we are all connected in deeper ways than we believe."
Touch premieres at 10pm on Friday on OSN First.