Swarm, a must-see thriller, has dropped all seven episodes on Prime, and I hope everyone got in formation. On the backend of the final season of the FX hit show “Atlanta,” we have yet another project from the show creator Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, a playwright and television writer. Swarm is a psycho-thriller about an obsessed, Houston-based fan who goes to increasingly violent lengths for her favorite R&B singer. Donald does not star in this series, but you will see faces you know. I watched the first two episodes, and this is not going to be a recap per se, but let’s get into it. Oh, and let me not forget there are potential spoilers below, so read cautiously.
There will be many characters because it seems like each episode will revolve around someone new. As a viewer, we’re meant to focus on Dre the most while other characters fuel the subplot within the main plot. I won’t connect on every character, but I will highlight the ones from episode one because they kick off this intense killer swarm we’re in.
Dre, played by Dominique Fishback, is seemingly kind but naive. She is very co-dependent on her friend Marissa. She’s inexperienced in relationships with other people outside of her best friend, and she eventually snaps. Dominique is an excellent casting for this because her appearance brings a natural innocence to her. She’s so unassuming, which is key for a killer role. When we have to experience the character’s dark side, Dominique does a great job bringing her to life. You believe the emotion and the absurdity.
EP.1 Sub Characters
Marissa, played by Chloe Bailey, is an aspiring make-up artist with a lot of personality and outgoing. She gives off spicy homegirl vibes who likes to kick it but has her struggles. I did not see much range between this and other characters she’s played, but I think she did well in the role. You believe she has aspirations for herself and worries about her friend.
Khalid, played by Damson Idris, is Marissa’s trifling boyfriend. Not sure what he does, but he likes attention, if you know what I mean. I don’t watch snowfall (don’t come for me), but I’m not sure if this character was a major stretch for him either, but I did enjoy the ridiculousness of it.
SN: To my surprise, we’re introduced to Marissa and Khalid’s characters in a pretty revealing sex scene. It took me a second to realize who I was even looking at! Also, shoutout to regular body Damson. I appreciated seeing a man in a sex scene with an average body. Average body men stand up! Also, note Chloe as Marissa is another connector to Beyonce, seeing how Beyonce signed Chloe and her sister Halle to her record label Parkwood Entertainment.
Is It Buzzin’?
It opens with a title card disclaimer: “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” This immediately piqued my interest because I want to know how much they lean into this. Next, we see Houston, Texas April 2016
And then a countdown clock by days, hours, minutes, and seconds. All are on 0, except there are 08 seconds left. Then you hear it…a swarm of bees as the clock counts down to the main character Dre played by Dominique Fishback, waking up in her bed. Then we’re hit with a montage of text messages and images centered around Ni’jah a popular music artist who announced her tour.
The Beyonce undertone is obvious. We’re in Houston, plus Dre and others are an interpretation of the bee hive. This topic will be interesting because many people have opinions about the BeyHive as well as the BeyHive having its own way of doing things. So conversations outside of this show are going to be fun. Between both episodes, you see how hard the swarm goes for their queen Ni’Jah it’s ridic. Stripper Hailey, stage name Halsey, played by Paris Jackson from the second episode, even said
“You’re a killer bee. Mess with Ni’Jah and get stung”
SN: In Hailey’s episode, she said she identified as black because her dad was half. To which Dre said half what? This is a reference to Paris’s dad Michael Jackson. Even in casting, there’s a deep connection between the actor and the character’s life. I don’t know about you, but I like that web of creation.
It’s fast-paced as they didn’t waste time with the wild and crazy. I assume this is intentional as a swarm of bees moves quickly and chaotic, almost like Dre’s killing style. This series will make you expand the confines of your mind, which is very true to how the show creators operate.
As mentioned, the main focus of this series is Dre. However, we have two juxtapositions of characters between Dre and Marissa. One who is not sexualized and the other who is. This provides glaring differences between the women. Janine’s reasoning behind why they tone down Dre’s sexuality is refreshing. In a recent interview at the 2023 SXSW festival, Nabers said
“For me, it was very, very important that she have a relationship with sex that was a little alien and foreign,”
“I think oftentimes, Black women on TV and in films, especially when they play the protagonist in their own life, are sexualized in some way. You know, it’s like sassy and sexy and someone looking for love,” Nabers continued. “And that is just not the story that I wanted to tell.”
In the first episode, we see Dre take a man home from the club, the next scene is not her naked body; instead, she’s covered up, and the man is walking around naked. They push the scene further, and we get a little twig and berries action (you’ll have to watch to know what I’m talking about).
SN: When I saw the actor playing the male sex interest, I instantly thought he looked like one of the Culkin brothers (both actors you should know of). Lo and behold, he is! Rory Culkin. That family has some strong genes.
Next episode, Dre is what looks like an interpreted dance stripper named Carmen. I used those words wisely because she was not overly sexual. Her dance moves looked awkward, which fit her. Btw the name Carmen is another Beyonce reference because she played Carmen in “Carmen: a Hip Hopera”. Between both episodes, I’ve realized they’ve dialed up the twig and berries, and these men are hanging loose in these episodes! I’m here for it because I understand what the creators are trying to accomplish. They’re trying to change the narrative; the only hanging we’ve seen is from white men. This also could be intentional.
We see little bits of Dre’s awkwardness before she snaps. In episode 1, she repeatedly kisses her friend’s scar from when she tried to kill herself. Again she’s obsessed with her friend. She maintains a fan Twitter account for Queen Ni’jah that she started when they were kids. Again, displaying Dre’s obsession. She’s a needy friend on the verge of insanity, symbolized by the sound of swarming bees. The swarm represents the chaos of her mind. The rage within her buzzing to get out. Madness triggered her, and it would be an understatement to say that it escalated quickly. Dre’s first kill has now entered her into the world of a hyperventilating murderer enthralled by it and food. In episode 2, it finally clicked that she was on a killing spree to harm anyone who did her friend wrong. BUT also Dre reveals in episode 2 that
“A woman needs no one”
she thinks men are a waste. So though murking anyone is wrong, she’s targeting particular men so far.
Overall, I like it, and I’m curious to see where it goes. The fast-paced nature of this satirical thriller has left me with unanswered questions. Nevertheless, I am completely hooked and eagerly await the call of the swarm killer.