Here’s everything that happened in Boy Swallows Universe Season 1

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: January 11, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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Boy Swallows Universe Season 1 Recap (Episodes 1-7)
Boy Swallows Universe | Image via Netflix


Adapted from Trent Dalton’s novel and filmed in Brisbane, the seven-part Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe is an original and empathetic coming-of-age story, quite unlike anything else. Season 1 is an almost anthological account of the protagonist’s eccentric adolescence, and incorporates many magical realism elements that are symbolic of trauma and growth. Luckily, we’ve provided a full recap of everything that went down, for your convenience.

Episode 1, “Boy Smells Rat”

“Boy Smells Rat” is largely an introduction, but to several things — the characters, the stakes, and some faintly fantastical elements to be extrapolated on later.

First, the characters. Eli is the ostensible protagonist, a young and precocious Australian boy who lives with his mother Frankie, stepfather Lyle, and brother Gus.

Second, the stakes. The premiere’s cold open finds Lyle being tortured by some unsavory types, which means his dipping a toe back into the criminal underworld is sure to end badly (the rest of the episode takes place some weeks before). And, thirdly, the fantastical bits. Gus may or may not be able to see the future, he communicates by writing words in the air with a “magical” finger that only Eli can see, and there’s a red phone in a room under Lyle’s house that rings despite being disconnected.

When Eli suspects Lyle has resumed drug dealing, he follows him and discovers he is selling heroin for Bich Dang, the mother of school bully Darren. Bich offers Eli a job, and the episode ends with that red phone ringing again.

Episode 2, “Boy Gets Chop”

“Boy Gets Chop” catches up to the cold open of the premiere, leaving things on a major cliffhanger. Before that, we meet a couple of intriguing new characters and get to enjoy the family dynamic before it all goes wrong.

Lyle takes the kids to work for Atlas Prosthetics, which is owned by the odd Mr. Tytus Broz. Lyle also starts taking Eli with him on drug deals. In the process, Eli overhears chatter about Dustin Vang, who cuts his product with Mannitol and whose pushers keep getting beheaded, and Ivan Kroll, who Lyle claims is just a boogeyman invented to keep people in line but may or may not be doing the beheading.

At home, Eli spots empty packaging of a product containing Mannitol in the bin outside, and begins to suspect Lyle is putting the family at risk by cutting the drugs.

The family also attends an event in Mr Broz’s honor hosted by Bich Dang, where Ivan Kroll is also present (identified by Darren). That night at dinner, Ivan breaks in with some goons and demands to know where Lyle has hidden “the extra”. Lyle writes something to Gus in the air and apologizes to Frankie as he’s dragged away, and she gets knocked out when she tries to follow. Gus starts speaking suddenly, and Ivan cuts off Eli’s finger.

Episode 3, “Run Boy Run”

“Run Boy Run” is a slightly slower-paced installment with fewer key developments. It unfurls mostly in the long specter of the previous episode’s brutal cliffhanger, with Lyle missing (presumed dead), Frankie in prison, having invented some cockamamie story to protect the kids, and Eli and Gus having been housed with their alcoholic biological father, Robert.

Eli spends some time in the hospital where he meets Christopher, a kid around his age with brain cancer, who helps him escape. He visits the emergency tunnel at home to look for Lyle’s stash but doesn’t find it, though he does receive another call on the disconnected phone. The anonymous interlocutor warns him about what he’s doing but reveals little else.

Eli visits Bich Dang, who is fuming about Lyle ruining her reputation by selling a cut product but doesn’t know where he is, and Slim, who is reluctant to house the boys or allow them to get too involved in searching for Lyle, though obviously for their own protection. In a fury, Eli goes to Caitlyn Spies at the local paper with plans to tell her everything, but he backs out at the last minute after she tells him that a severed tattooed leg has washed up on the beach.

Episode 4, “Boy Loses Dad”

The boys are still living with Robert, who remains a drunk idiot. However, “Boy Loses Dad” does give us some insight into Gus’s mildly supernatural abilities. After Eli is caught by Bobby and the local bullies and showered with ketchup, bringing to life another of Gus’s artistic prognostications, Gus explains to Eli that he thinks the two of them have lived the same life multiple times before. When they die, they live the same life again, but a little different. His drawings are his efforts to put together the snippets he has gleaned from previous lives, to try and prevent them from making the same mistakes. He also thinks the voice on the other end of the red phone is him, in the future.

Mrs Birkbeck and the police show up because the kids haven’t been to school. Here we learn the context of the recurring dream that Eli and Gus have both been having of the two of them as younger children in a car floating through space. As it turns out, this is a shared memory of Robert taking them on a camping trip shortly after Frankie left him and, drunk, driving the car into a lake with all three of them inside.

The boys aren’t able to visit Frankie in prison because Robert has an anxiety attack, so she relapses. Eli also suffers a terrible loss when Slim dies from cancer, which he had been trying to tell the boys about all episode. As he’s wheeled into an ambulance, we see Gus foresaw his demise and rendered it in a new painting.

Episode 5, “Boy Takes Flight”

Following the death of Slim, Gus and Eli attend his funeral, where the latter meets George Masoumi. This is the old friend that Slim mentioned who could sneak things into the prison, so Eli asks him to deliver a package to Frankie. Little does he know that she’s strung out on heroin on the inside.

In the meantime, Darren has taken over Bich’s business, since she has suffered some kind of unexpected stroke. He tells Eli that he heard it was Teddy who ratted Lyle out, and later, we see that Teddy is visiting Frankie in prison.

At Chrismas, Eli convinces George to smuggle him into jail to see his mother, where he learns she’s once again addicted to drugs. He gets to have a brief moment with her before he’s chased out of the prison and almost dies during his escape attempt. However, he’s able to make a deal with the guards and secure Frankie’s visitation. The next we see her, six months later, she’s clean (we also learn that Christopher was successfully operated on and is likely to make a full recovery.)

On the outside, Eli and Gus find Lyle’s stash. Eli sells it back to Darren for 50K. However, he’s still there when Dustin Vang and his goons arrive looking for revenge on Darren for burning down his arcade, and Eli gets caught in the gang fight. But he does manage to leave with the money.

As time goes on things seem to be looking up and the boys seem to be preparing a future for Frankie. The episode ends with what seems like a time skip, though, as we see an older Eli swimming out of the sea, played by a different actor.

Episode 6, “Boy Seeks Work”

Older Eli gets us up to speed with what has happened during the time skip in his latest letter to Alex Bermuda. Bich Dang is in a nursing home following another stroke, and Darren is in prison. Robert drinks mid-strength beer now and Gus talks a little more, but not a lot. Frankie has been released into a halfway house but when the boys go to see her with big plans for putting the 50K they got from Darren down on a nice new family home, she reveals she’s moving in with Teddy because she has fallen in love with him.

With Eli incensed, Gus worries that he might do something dangerous with the money, so he gives it all to Shelly and her family to support her muscular dystrophy, which causes a rift between the boys. However, they eventually put differences aside for Frankie’s sake and agree to stay with Teddy for a while, though that quickly goes wrong when Eli vocalizes their suspicions about him ratting Lyle out. He gets violent (which it is hinted Gus already foresaw) and they leave together.

Robert (albeit reluctantly, bless him) takes them all in. When Teddy tries to take her back by force, the entire family arms up to protect her. However, Teddy didn’t anticipate the arrival of Alex Bermuda, fresh out of prison, who has come to meet Eli and scares Teddy and his goons away.

Earlier in the episode, Eli, who wants to be a journalist, gave a tip to Caitlyn Spies about Bich Dang. This results in her being killed by Ivan Kroll at the end of the episode, under the orders of Tytus Broz.

Episode 7, “Boy Meets End”

Eli gets a job at the paper by selling Alex Bermuda’s life story. He’s supposed to be writing fluff pieces, but he begins investigating Tytus Broz with Caitlyn Spies after Gus and Shelly are announced as Queensland Champions for their charitable efforts.

Through Raymond Leary, Eli, and Caitlyn learn that Tytus had a giant facility built in his backyard. Under the guise of an interview for the paper, they’re later able to enter and discover that he’s farming human limbs in there. Lyle’s severed head is in a jar, and Eli takes it as evidence just as Ivan Kroll arrives to kill them on Tytus’s orders.

Eli and Caitlyn are able to escape to the awards ceremony, where they expose Tytus. Ivan arrives, though, and badly wounds both Robert and Eli. He pursues Eli to the top of the clock tower but he’s killed by Gus. Eli and Robert both survive their injuries. Eli is given a proper role on the crime desk, and the entire family remains together, the happiest and healthiest they’ve been.

That was our recap of Boy Swallows Universe Season 1. What did you think of Episodes 1-5? We want to know your thoughts, so let us know in the comments. 


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