Well Swift Squad, the day has finally arrived. Tom Swift has officially made his solo debut on The CW, and as expected, our favorite well-dressed billionaire was worth the nearly two-year wait. Led by a charismatic Tian Richards, Tom Swift promised queer joy and adventure, and boy did it deliver. “…And the Liftoff to Saturn” is a confident pilot episode, one that invites its viewers to strap in for the ride. From romantic triangles brewing to sinister spy plots unfolding, let’s dive into what happened on Tom Swift!
Failure to Launch
The episode opens with a catchy intro showing each member of the Swift family that merges into a presentation by Barton Swift. He’s telling potential investors and reporters about Swift Enterprises’ latest venture: a ship that will allow space travel to Saturn. But as the gathered reporters ask to speak with his son Tom, Barton stalls as Tom’s friend Zenzi rushes through the crowd to find him. She runs into Tom’s mother Lorraine, Tom’s younger cousin Lino, and Tom’s bodyguard Isaac. He saves her from a fall by catching her in his arms, and they share a moment before both resume their search for Tom.
But where’s Tom? Tom is blowtorching his latest invention … shirtless. He playfully banters with Zenzi and his trusty AI Barclay until Barton shows up. He’s all smiles with Zenzi, but the moment she leaves the room he tears into Tom. He tells Tom that he needs to “be a man” while he travels to Saturn, and that he’s not ready to take over his life’s work. Barton makes his protégé Claire interim CEO, calling Tom too “sensitive” (code word: gay) for the job. Tom is incredulous, noting that his “sensitive ass and tailored pants” are the reason Barton even has the right fuel to get to Saturn (see “The Celestial Visitor” for more details). As Barton turns away, Tom angrily says that if being CEO means being like his father, he’ll pass. Barton hits back, saying he doesn’t want Tom at the launch. That night, Tom watches the launch from his observatory, alone.
Death (And Other Activities) At A Funeral
Six months later, Tom prepares to make a speech celebrating his father’s arrival at Saturn as Lorraine tries to drum up business by introducing him to Justin. Justin and Tom have an instant connection as Tom turns the cocky flirting up to 11, but soon enough Tom notices Zenzi in a romantic pickle of her own. He swoops in to rescue her from Congressman Eskol, though she doesn’t seem to want the rescue. Tom is nervous about what will happen when his father transmits from Saturn since their last conversation was an argument, but Zenzie reassures him. As the live feed connects to Barton’s ship, he can barely get out one garbled “Tom!” before the ship explodes. The shocked group is silent as Tom can’t believe his eyes. Barton Swift is dead.
At the funeral, Lorraine leans on Tom for support while Tom leans on alcohol and Barclay. He obsessively asks the AI to run another simulation of his father’s flight path as Isaac pulls him back to deliver the eulogy. Instead of a nice speech full of platitudes, Tom can only blame himself for what happened. Zenzi rushes in to save the day, sharing her own fond memories of growing up with Barton. But her nice memories contrast with the way Barton treated Tom as he flashes back to the things they said to each other before his father left. Unable to cope, he leaves with Justin for a hookup while Lorraine is left to smooth over the damage with the guests.
Isaac finds Tom later, with Tom saying Barton was right to call him sensitive and weak. Isaac protests this assessment, and a crying Tom leans on his shoulder as Isaac stiffly allows it. Barclay pipes up with new information: the explosion started outside the ship’s hull. Tom’s propulsion system couldn’t have killed Barton, and Tom is now determined to find out what actually did.
It’s Not Crime, It’s Research
Tom tells Eskol that he needs the satellite data from his father’s early flight path to reconstruct what happened, threatening him with withdrawing financial support from his campaign. When he gets a little too close, the congressman’s bodyguard Rowan pushes him out of the way. Zenzi arrives trying to persuade Tom to take on new clients to help their falling stock. She points out that Claire is trying to steal his company out from under him and that he only has a year before the board votes for the permanent CEO.
Meanwhile, Lorraine wants Tom to get serious with Justin, who she hilariously calls “Mayor Pete, but with an upper lip and a better jaw.” He apologizes for the eulogy, and Lorraine is understanding. But she wants him there for his father’s memorial dedication.
Tom and Isaac realize the best way to get the classified data that Tom needs to look into why the ship exploded is to head to Windsor Polytechnic Institute and use their facility. How will they do this, you ask? By throwing a massive party and endowing a $20 million scholarship for Black engineering students, as one does. Tom, Isaac, and Lino plan their heist and even loop Zenzi in, with Tom reassuring her that, “It’s not crime, it’s research.”
The quartet heads to the party, with Zenzi and Tom sporting some truly fabulous designer duds. As Isaac gets past the security doors, Tom and Zenzi chat up the dean. When Lino gives the go-ahead, Zenzi keeps up her distraction as Tom makes his exit. He uses Barclay to transfer the data he needs, but it’s only 75% complete when he’s interrupted. Just as security is about to spot him, Rowan appears out of nowhere and pulls Tom behind some equipment. As the security guard stammers that no one is there and that he’s committed to “the organization,” the man with him snaps his neck as a sign of “leniency.”
Ground Control To Major Tom
After witnessing the murder, Tom silently taps out a secret code that Barclay relays to Isaac: get Zenzi, and get out. But Isaac doesn’t want to leave Tom. He goes to Zenzi and pulls her in for a dance to explain the situation, and she’s surprised at both his dance skills and the fact that he mentions an ex-girlfriend (“What, you don’t think trans guys have annoying exes?”). A beat passes between them (another ship already??) before Isaac shares that he thinks Tom is in danger.
As Rowan drags Tom away, he demands answers that the stoic bodyguard refuses to give. Tom notes Rowan’s painted glitter nails, and Rowan notes that, “where I’m from, nothing was pretty, so I like to see something beautiful every day.” This stops Tom in his tracks long enough for the two to make their way back to Swift Manor.
While Isaac is ready to beat Rowan up, Tom reassures him that he’s a friend. Rowan tells Tom he helped him because Tom deserves to know “the truth,” which only confuses him more. As Tom rushes inside to play with the data, he barely gives Zenzi a thank you. She explodes, telling him that while the clients she has brought in may not be glamorous, they are the type that will keep the lights on and the thousands of Swift Enterprises employees from losing their jobs. Tom gets in a low blow about Zenzi only being in this position because she happened to be friends with Tom as a kid, and she retaliates by telling him that his father made the right choice choosing Claire over him.
Tom says that he never stops trying to fix things “because I never stop trying to fix me.” He challenges Zenzi’s view of Barton by sharing how his father always made him feel ashamed of his sexuality and challenged his masculinity. He tells Zenzi that he could never be the man his father wanted him to be, and now he’s dead. Barclay analyzes the data and finds that a projectile was fired onto Barton’s ship. As Tom texts Justin to get more info, Barclay offers his unsolicited and hilarious dating advice. Justin is able to find out who owns the launchpad for the satellite that fired the projectile: Eskol.
The Road Back
Justin tells Tom that Eskol’s company is a front for The Road Back, an Illuminati-esque group with ties to all levels of government and industry (who did their required Nancy Drew homework and already knows who they are?). Tom realizes he has missed the dedication ceremony for his father’s memorial, and Lorraine is angry to say the least. She tells Tom he’s wasting his potential and that she’s glad his father isn’t here to see it.
Going back to his father’s office, he smashes everything in sight. But Tom finds a folder filled with all of his accomplishments dating back to grade school. Barton really did care. Wanting to prove himself to his family, he works on Lino’s shoes and Zenzi’s soap client. He presents the latest innovation in soap to Claire and an impressed Zenzi as Tom tells Claire he’s coming for her spot.
Tom cracks the code in the data they stole to find a video from a still-alive Barton Swift. He’s sending information back to Earth that will allow Tom to find him, but he cautions that only Tom can see it. Before he can say “I love you,” the message cuts out. Tom goes after the capsule with the information along with Zenzi, who gently teases Tom about Eskol now being off her list of potential suitors (“I guess all the good ones are married, gay, or criminal masterminds”). The capsule breaks up into several pieces as it re-enters the atmosphere, landing across the United States. It’s road trip time as Isaac, Zenzi, and Tom head to the Swift private jet. Tom buys Isaac some new clothes as an apology, and Isaac is touched that Tom knows his size by heart.
As the wheels go up, we see Eskol watching them through a camera. He and The Road Back have hacked Barclay and now know Tom’s every move.
Tom Swift airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. You can find the rest of our coverage of the series here!