Every aspect of life has some sort of balance, an up has a down, soft has hard, sweet has sour, good has evil, light has dark, pizza has salad, etc. Many of those same aspects are then relative once you get granular. However, when it comes to overzealous fandoms, super fans, and stans, the scale doesn’t seem as if it can be balanced. From online attacks, stalking, doxing, and even murder obsession is a hell of a drug. I can’t help but think, what’s the end game?
“Who’s your favorite artist?”
Oh, you dislike who? You might want to keep that to yourself. Created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, Swarm is where fandom, social media, and blood-soaked thrillers collide. This top-tier creative triumph dove into our minds, swam to the darkest caverns, and yanked out an unhinged and macabre scenario, What would happen if a Beyoncé stan became a serial killer? Now, of course, Queen B’s name is substituted for the fictional, Ni-Jah and Jay-Z becomes Caché, but they aren’t the only figures or situations that will feel familiar along this psychopathic and saddening journey. In fact, you can Google many of the instances as you watch to see the reference, if you’re not familiar with the events.
Taking place between 2016 and 2018, these 30-ish minute movie-like capsules feel both serialized and episodic. While all 7 episodes are connected, there is enough of a timelapse in between each one that makes them feel like stand-alones. From being shot on what seems like film instead of digital, this limited series has a tone and aesthetic that truly transports you into its world. Led by blossoming powerhouse, Dominique Fishback as Dre who absolutely kills as a fangirl fatale, this clash of Atlanta meets The End of the F***king World meets Promising Young Woman is something that will shock, intrigue, and beguiles you. It’s also something that we will all be talking about for weeks.
“Ni’Jah’s our queen and we gotta protect her at all costs.”
Unlike Law & Order which wants to pretend that none of its cases are pulled from reality, almost every episode of Swarm begins with the following words, “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” Seeing that alone creates a certain moodiness and prepares your mind for something that’s potentially twisted. As the opening sequence of episode number 1, titled Stung, quickly grabs your attention when the sight and sound of backshots and moans juxtapose the buzz of a hive and financial irresponsibility, the notion that we’re in for a wild ride is firmly stamped. What initially seems like two friends with simply a deep infatuation with an artist that they love, by the end of Stung, it quickly becomes a tale of violent impulsivity, obsession, and deep-rooted trauma. Moreover, as the nomadic journey spans years and multiple states, the barbaric events continue in an eerily-calm fashion. However, as much as the story seems to be centered around Dre’s unhealthy love for singer Ni’Jah, it is really her search for love and acceptance that is at the forefront.
Nothing is ever as simple as you may think. Yes, Dre is a prolific chameleon. And yes, she drops more bodies than her favorite artist drops albums, you can’t help but empathize with her on some level. While it’s obvious that the means by which she attempts to achieve her goal is horrific, a mental break and childhood trauma are a dangerous combination. With phenomenal writing and direction, excellent performances, and bold freshness, Swarm is sure one of the top shows of the year. Featuring a great score and original songs, exciting guest stars including Paris Jackson, Leon, Billie Eilish, and Rickey Thompson, and cinematography that perfectly frames the bloody story, the only negative of the series is that there aren’t more episodes. Although, less is oftentimes more with a show like this. It’s thrilling, haunting, heartfelt, and unforgettable. I loved every episode and can’t wait to see what they hopefully come up with next. Its rewatchability is high.
As you may know, as good as a show may be, I try my best to pick two to three episodes that outshine the rest. In the case of Swarm, it was more difficult than usual as each episode is incredible and engrossing. The episodes that I picked are immensely impactful or too intense not to choose.
Episode 2: Honey – This episode guest stars Paris Jackson and is our first taste of how far Dre will go after a climactic first episode. It also showcases how ruthless and impulsive she can and will be going forward.
Episode 4: Running Scared – Guest starring Billie Eilish, this episode is the most ominous and eerie. Besides future episodes, this one explains the most about Dre’s psyche and trauma. Oh, and the spilled milk.
Episode 6: Fallin’ Through the Cracks – Unlike every other episode that follows Dre on her bloodstained search for love, this one is in the style of a true crime docuseries. It’s very meta. On the eve of the final episode, every step of Dre’s life is explored answering many questions but adding some new ones.
In a time where people are thirsty for creativity and originality, this series is a giant gallon of “Oh shit! That’s refreshing.” While Swarm can and should be enjoyed by anyone and everyone with an affinity for powerhouse performances, fantastic storytelling, and crime thrillers, this is for The Culture. From the verbiage and the references down to the guest stars, as a Black person, it feels good to be strongly represented in a genre that many of us enjoy. It seems the Nabers and Glover make for a perfect creative pairing, hopefully, they can grace us with more fire. Lastly, I have to praise Dominique Fishback again, she completely bodied this role. She masterfully morphs each episode to become who she needs to be in each situation while maintaining Dre’s awkwardness and its stunning. I think it’s a huge plus when you can’t decide if you’re engulfed by the story or the performance, either way, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
All episodes of Swarm will be premiering exclusively on Prime Video on March 17, 2023. Remain safe and don’t provoke the Hive.
Rated: TV-MA Runtime: 26-38m Showrunner: Janine Nabers Writer: Janine Nabers Executive Producers: Donald Glover, Janine Nabers, Stephen Glover, Fam Udeorji, Steven Prinz, Michael Schaefer
Swarm is where fandom, social media, and blood-soaked thrillers collide.
Senior Critic. Observing the human race since 1988.