With Swarm, Janine Nabers and Donald Glover (both writers on Atlanta) have created a series so unconventional yet timely it’ll speak to an entire generation. It’s a story so surreal, you start to believe it’s real, and perhaps some of it even is. I found myself pausing certain episodes and Googling specific events, because I was certain I had heard about it before. Up to you to see if it’s fabricated or if you become a believer.
There’s little to nothing I can talk about regarding plot, without spoiling big twists and shocking revelations. In Swarm, we follow Dre (Dominique Fishback – Judas and the Black Messiah, Project Power), a young Black woman obsessed with global music sensation Ni’Jah (Nirine S. Brown). Together with her sister Marissa (Chloe Bailey) they work at the mall and live in a shabby apartment. When a tragic event sends Dre to the edge of her sanity, the world around her starts spiralling and Dre finds herself amidst a series of unforgivable actions to get to her life’s purpose: meet Ni’Jah and befriend her.
There’s so much I want to dive into, but it would be unfair to take those shocking turns away from you as I myself didn’t expect it to go down such a dark path. By the end of the final episode I was emotionally drained and needed to watch something lighthearted. This was mainly due to Dominique Fishback’s committed performance. What a star. She plays Dre so awkward and disconnected from the people around her. It’s a unique role for a Black woman to portray and I’m glad Nabers and Glover have created such an unusual piece of cinematic television for her to shine in. Fun anecdote: Malia Obama (daughter of) is one of the staff writers on the show.
Chloe Bailey does an acceptable job, but it’s only later on in the series we get more of a background story on Marissa, which makes you appreciate her character much more on repeat viewing. It’s hard to comment on other supporting performances without spoiling their cameos, and trust there’s some big surprises in here. One in particular makes her debut as an actor and certainly has a future in Hollywood based on this one big performance. She’s a natural and will definitely have social media buzzing.
What I can tell you is that each episode goes with a small time jump to race to the finale. These events don’t go without bumps in the road, but are so well directed and acted I’m surprised they didn’t just make a movie out of this script. The writing is sometimes a bit all over the place in terms of dialogue (or lack thereof), but does flow because of technical aspects and Fishback’s performance. The seven episodes run for about thirty minutes each and makes it an easy binge, if you can handle the material. My personal favourites were episodes 4 & 6.
Swarm is controversial, and challenges its viewers to look at stan-culture on social media and within themselves. The mental health aspect that goes paired with the facade of Dre’s actions are a ballsy combo, but a necessary one when you look at the bigger picture. To what lengths would one fan go to meet their idol and protect them from harm from outsiders?
SWARM premieres March 17, 2023 on Prime Video.
Reviewed online (screeners provided by Prime Video), March 15, 2023. Running time: 7 x 30 min.
PRODUCTION: An Amazon Studios & Gilga production. Producers: Kris Baucom, Dominique Fishback, Alex Orr & Lauren Heath. Executive producers: Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Janine Nabers, Steve Prinz, Michael Schaefer & Fam Udeorji.
CREW: Directors: Adamma Ebo, Ibra Ake, Donald Glover & Stephen Glover. Writers: Donald Glover, Janine Nabers, Karen Joseph Adcock, Malia Obama, Ibra Ake, Stephen Glover, Kara Brown & Jamal Olori. Cinematography: Drew Daniels & Gabriel Patay. Editing: Sharidan Sotelo, Ali Greer & Franky Guttman. Music: Michael Uzowuru.
CAST: Dominique Fishback, Chloe Bailey, Nirine S. Brown, Karen Rodriguez, Heather Simms, Kiersey Clemons, Damson Idris, Leon, Paris Jackson, Byron Bowers & Rory Culkin.