Boy Swallows Universe – Episode 1 “Boy Smells Rat” Recap & Review

Boy Smells Rat

Episode 1 of Boy Swallows Universe, titled “Boy Smells Rat,” kicks off with a group of assailants barging inside Eli’s house and kidnapping his stepfather, Lyle, demanding something that Lyle has stashed away somewhere. What follows next establishes the event that led to this mishap. 

The story shifts 6 weeks earlier when Lyle is getting ready for his driving lessons from Slim, a middle-aged man who served time for murder. It is Slim who advised Eli to start writing letters every day to Alex Bermuda, a prisoner serving time. Slim is also friends with Lyle, Eli’s stepfather, who also did time for petty thefts, dealing drugs, and other misdemeanors.

Slim also babysits Eli and Gus whenever Frankie and Lyle are away. Eli also has a brother, Gus, who, for some reason, has never spoken a word since he was seven. His teachers believe that it’s because of some past trauma involving his mother’s addiction and his biological father, Robert, leaving their family, but Gus refuses to share anything. Even though Gus doesn’t speak a word, he’s in no way mentally disabled, as proven by his excellent grades. 

Eli writes regularly to Alex Bermuda, telling him all about his day, and what goes inside his family. As a nice gesture of goodwill, Bermuda also replies to Eli’s letters, informing him about the nooks and crannies of being in prison. Bermuda also gives him pointers on how to deal with bullies. 

According to Bermuda, there are only two ways to deal with bullies: accept your fate and keep out of their way, or take matters into your own hands and retaliate. The problem with the second choice is that you don’t know where it will take you. Maybe that’s why Eli doesn’t rat out Darren, who stole the lab rats from the school laboratory. Eli takes a heavy spanking from this teacher but chooses to maintain his silence. 

As the series progresses, we learn that despite being jailed for a long time, Lyle is still trafficking drugs. Eli doesn’t like it a bit, as it was originally Lyle who introduced her mother to drugs. Even though she has been sober for a while, Eli fears that she’ll start doing drugs again if she keeps hanging out with Lyle. 

Gus takes Eli to their house’s basement via the emergency tunnel, wherein a phone call is waiting for him. The person on the other end of the call gives Eli three chances to guess his name. Lyle finds them in the tunnel, and when Eli confronts him about the red telephone, Lyle states that it isn’t even connected. 

Eli strongly believes that Lyle is dealing drugs again, and thus, one night, when he slips out of the house, Eli follows him. Eli sees him meeting a bunch of shady people. Therein, Eli also meets Darren, the school bully who hints that the guy on the phone might be Ivan Kroll. Darren’s mother, Bich Dang, is a drug dealer and also Lyle’s supplier. She, after learning that Eli didn’t rat out her son, praises him and promises to even offer Eli a job the next time they meet. 

When Eli confronts Lyle on why he’s trafficking again, Lyle answers that he’s doing it for the money so he can give Frankie, Gus, and Eli a nice life where they don’t have to worry about their next meal. Eli understands Lyle’s reasons and even talks to Gus about selling drugs so they, too, can earn some hard cash and move out of this godforsaken place. But, like always, Gus doesn’t say anything. 

As the episode nears its end, we see a strange man camping outside Eli’s house, possibly Ivan Krull. It’s also possible that it was Ivan on the other end of the call. Whatever the case, the next episode will certainly clear it. 

The Episode Review

Boy Swallows Universe is not your everyday show. It’s got it all – a captivating plot, well-crafted characters, and the way it keeps the mystery alive around the telephone call and the man camping outside Lyle’s house deserves some extra credit.

The first episode sets the scene for Eli’s family situation and the daily challenges they face. Alongside that, it drops hints that Eli and Gus are about to dive into an exciting coming-of-age adventure. 


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