Boy Swallows Universe is one of the best shows I’ve watched this year. Yeah, I know it’s the 13th of January, which is why I can say that. However, I think it’ll still end up on an end-of-year “best shows” list. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age series that follows Eli Bell (what a cool name though), a 13-year-old boy who lives in the crime-ridden town of Darra, Brisbane, in the early 80s. Eli’s story is told from his point of view through some letters he writes to his prison inmate friend Alex Bermuda in an almost autobiographical fashion. It’s a convoluted, heightened-emotions kind of plot that is told in a very exciting and fresh way. The show begins with Eli’s stepfather, Lyle, being taken away by some terrifying-looking criminals. Lyle has been selling heroin for a massive drug gang in Darra; however, they’ve sniffed him out and realized he’s been hiding a precious stash. Will Lyle come back? Where are the drugs? But moreover, what happens to Eli and his brother Gus?
What Happens In The Show?
We then go back in time to learn what led to this disturbing turn of events. Gus is Eli’s 15-year-old brother who hasn’t been speaking since he was 9. Their father is out of the picture because he was an alcoholic, and some traumatic events led to the separation of the family. We’ll get to that a bit later. So Gus writes words in the air for the family to read and understand him. It’s usually Eli doing the translations for him. Gus is an artist, but he’s also somewhat psychic, because all the things he writes in the air somehow end up coming true in the future (spooky and so cool!). Lyle isn’t the best stepfather, according to Eli, at least; however, it looks like he’s working hard to earn money and keep the family afloat. He’s got a decent factory job, and Frankie, Eli’s mother, gets to stay at home and look after her kids. At the beginning of Boy Swallows Universe, it is revealed that Lyle has gone back into the heroin-selling business because he wants to give the family a happy life. In truth, Lyle really cares for these boys, just like his own, so he wants to fix things up for them and Frankie. Earlier, when Frankie had been addicted, Lyle had left the family for a bit to sort himself out and then saved Frankie from overdosing. They’ve both been clean ever since, so this isn’t the best step for him to take.
The drugs come from a Vietnamese drug lady, Bich Dang. Her son, Darren, is kind of a mix between a bully and a golden retriever. Eli is a curious child and can’t keep his mouth shut, so when he follows Lyle to Bich’s house to check if he’s actually back in the drug business, he runs his mouth in front of her. Somehow, Bich is impressed, and she tells Eli he should come by for some work opportunities later. On the other hand, there’s a huge factory event for Lyle, and he introduces the boys to his boss, Tytus Broz. Now imagine the male version of Agatha Trunchbull in an ivory suit. Of course, he frightens the kids and leaves them bewildered. A little while later, Eli starts to accompany Lyle on the drug deals as the “safety man.” He’s also worried though, and he asks his friend and babysitter Slim Halliday (these names though), who happens to be a convicted murderer, for some advice, and he gets a bad gut feeling about the whole thing. At the gathering for the factory workers, there’s a man named Teddy who fancies Frankie and is a bit of a weirdo. He also happens to be Lyle’s partner in crime, though.
After the event, when the family sits down for a family dinner—a moment they’ve all been waiting for—a man named Ivan Kroll shows up. He knows that Lyle has a secret stash, so he wants details; however, Lyle doesn’t give in. Lyle does some air-writing for Gus and then gets taken away by Ivan’s men. They beat Frankie up, and she’s left unconscious, leaving only Gus and Eli at the table. Ivan tells Gus to tell him what Lyle said, but Gus refuses to answer (plus he doesn’t speak, so). Ivan threatens to cut off Eli’s finger if he doesn’t get what he wants, and this scares Gus. Gus tells Ivan that Lyle said that no matter what happens, he loves the two boys dearly (sorry, got sweaty eyes). However, there is another message Lyle left for Gus that he doesn’t quite understand, and instead, he spits out some profanity at Ivan, which leaves Eli unconscious with a perfectly sliced left index finger.
What Happens To The Family When Lyle’s Gone?
Lyle’s leg is found washed up on a beach from a supposed shark attack. Of course, Eli knows Lyle was killed by Ivan. After Eli’s wound is tended to, he’s taken to Robert’s house, his father’s, while Frankie is arrested for possession and distribution of drugs. Frankie needs to protect her family, so she admits to the charges and goes to prison. The boys try desperately to meet her, but Robert’s agoraphobia won’t allow him to get out of the house, leaving the boys on their own. Robert’s been drinking his life away ever since Frankie left him, and the boys try really hard to bring him back to something close to normalcy. At the same time, Eli wants to figure out what happened to Lyle, so he tries to go to the press with his whole story; however, it’s all put to an abrupt halt when he learns about Lyle’s washed-up leg (poor kid).
What Did Robert Do For The Kids To Resent Him?
It turns out that Robert had taken the kids camping back when they were younger and driven them into the dam. Everyone believes he tried to kill the boys, but in reality, he was having a panic attack and lost control the car. This was when he and Frankie weren’t getting along very well; Eli almost drowned, and Gus stopped speaking, which is why Frankie blamed Robert, and they got divorced. In the present day, when the school counselor comes to visit Robert at home because the boys haven’t shown up at school for 3 weeks, he admits the whole truth, as he doesn’t want to lose his boys again. Gus and Eli hear the whole story and give him the grandest of hugs in front of the welfare officer and counselor, giving them a green signal to leave the kids alone. For the next four years, Gus and Eli live on with their father, being good children (mostly), and figuring out a way to get their mother to know they’re okay and that they love her. Eli continues to write to Alex, his good old friend, and makes plans to break into the prison using Slim’s ideas for Christmas day. Eli somehow manages to get smuggled into the prison and learns that his mother has gone back to heroin. He promises her that things will be alright and they’ll be together soon so that she can go back to being clean again. Since it’s Christmas (and he’s a smart little fellow), he manages to get out of there unharmed.
As if the whole situation isn’t messed up enough, Slim has cancer. Now, Eli and Gus have only Robert to look out for them. Slim’s parting words to Eli are that sometimes it’s better to forget about all the nasty things and get on with your life. Slim’s the reason Eli is able to reach his mom in prison, but it’s also one of the biggest factors that led to Eli growing up into a fine young man.
Who Is Talking Through The Red Phone?
Amidst all the chaos, there’s a red phone in a panic-room-like space in Lyle’s old house. The phone in there rings only when Eli and Gus are down there. According to Gus, it’s his future self talking to the boys and giving them a warning; however, the person always speaks in riddles. Somehow, these clues lead to the right answers for both boys, who always end up bracing the storm. Eli and Gus decide to look for Lyle’s hidden stash and then sell it so they can get money to put a deposit on a house for their mom (stop it!). The clue that Lyle left Gus actually helps, and they’re able to get the drugs. Presently. Darren has taken over his mom’s business, so Eli sells the heroin to him and gets 50 grand in return. They bury the money so that they can bring it out when their mother is out of prison.
Where Does Teddy Come Into The Picture?
In the time that Frankie was healing and Eli and Gus were growing up, Teddy, the creep, found a way to get Frankie to “fall in love” with him. Of course, all Frankie is really thinking about is a home for her boys, food on the table, a roof over their heads—that kind of thing. However, the boys believe Teddy is the reason Lyle got caught in the first place. Eli and Gus hate the idea of their mom moving in with him, but they have to deal with it. When the boys come over to stay with them, Teddy acts all nice and then makes fun of Gus for not talking, but Eli tells him that he doesn’t talk to Teddy specifically because he’s the reason Lyle’s dead. This puts him into a frenzy, and he then shows his true colors. An enraged Teddy physically abuses Frankie after having his dogs eat the food she prepared. Fortunately, the boys manage to smack him in the head as he’s dunking Frankie’s face in the dogs’ water bowl. With no other choice, the boys get Frankie to Robert’s house. Teddy shows up the next day, claiming he’s going to take Frankie back, even bashing in the windows despite the family saying they’ll call the cops on him. Just before things get really violent and awfully terrifying, Alex Bermuda shows up like a bolt from the blue and beats Teddy up, making sure he never shows his face again to Frankie.
What Happens To The 50k?
Gus worries that the money they have from the drugs will get them in trouble, so he anonymously drops it off at his friend Shelly’s house. Shelly has muscular dystrophy and has been doing charity work since she learned about it four years ago. Gus has been helping her because he likes her very much. On the other hand, Eli is furious to learn that his money is all gone, but he’s learned to let go thanks to Slim, no? Now he’s got to find a job, and he returns to the newsroom where he went four years ago to talk about Lyle. He’s now looking for a job, but it’s too late to apply. He speaks to the boss, who tells him he has to write a unique piece in order to get the job mid-year. Alex agrees to give him his whole story since he’s done his time and has nothing to lose.
Does Eli Become A Journalist?
Eli’s got a huge crush on Caitlyn Spies, the journalist at the Courier-Mail, where he wants to get a job. When he was 13, he wanted to tell her his story and gave her very little information to go on. However, even the police are involved in this drug syndicate, so she was told not to follow up on the story. Since Alex’s story is perfect for the paper, Eli gets the job. Now, he and Caitlyn team up to catch the big bad wolf. It turns out that the big boss is actually Queensland’s biggest philanthropist, Tytus Broz. To the world, he’s working on research on perfect prosthetics for those who are in need of them because his daughter was born without arms, but he’s actually running a criminal underground business. Eli and Caitlyn interview him for a piece in the newspaper, as per Tytus’ request. In reality, he just wants to threaten the young boy because he’s trying too hard. After the interview, Tytus is supposed to head off to the Queensland championship awards as a host, where Gus is also receiving an award for the work he and Shelly have done together. Eli and Caitlyn stay back and make it into the basement research facility.
Tytus is farming limbs, preserving body parts for research purposes and such. He’s even got Lyle’s head preserved, for who knows what, and after Eli learns the truth and finally gets his closure, he takes Lyle’s preserved head as evidence. Ivan is on his way to kill the two of them in the meantime, and they barely escape him by accidentally hitting him with their car. They make it to the awards, and Eli runs up to the stage with the head in his hand, showing everyone Tytus’ true nature. The cops are already there, presumably called by the two of them with evidence of everything in Tytus’ home (it’s fiction; let’s give them a break). Ivan’s not done with them yet, though. Despite there being cops everywhere, he stabs Eli in the stomach and almost slits Robert’s neck. Gus has seen images of this happening; he’s worried his brother is going to die and rushes to help him.
“Your end is a dead blue wren,” Gus had once written in the air. Ivan steps on a dying blue wren before grabbing Eli for one last blow. Gus makes it in time and pushes Ivan out of the clock tower before he can stab his brother in the chest and kill him. According to Eli, Gus’ blue-wren analogy was true because he was “born” again that day, after ending everything that had messed up his life for all this time. But I’m here thinking it was possibly Ivan’s death that Gus was referring to, and Eli was the woman in this picture. I suppose since the wren is meant to symbolize renewal, we can imagine it’s Eli that helps “renew” his family. After all these years, Frankie’s forgiven Robert, and all the misunderstandings are over. Gus is talking again, and Eli is a famous journalist writing a book.
Boy Swallows Universe is the title of the book he writes, named after the moment when Gus saw Eli yawn so big that it looked like he ate the sky. It was a moment when Gus was trying to explain to Eli how he might have assumed too much responsibility on his little shoulders. Now, he’s got the perfect family and a perfect life ahead of him, so “Boy Meets New.”