Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) along with Janine Nabers, is the creative force behind a new series called “Swarm.” The series is set in Houston, until it takes our heroine on the road to a variety of cities, seemingly summoning memories of real-life fan-obsessed happenings in those cities. (The cities are represented by date and the name of the city.)
It is a super violent series that stars Dominique Fishback (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) as an obsessed fan of a Black singer obviously modeled after Beyonce. The Black songstress, Ni’Jah Hutton (Nirine S. Brown) is about to embark on the Evolution Tour. Dre (Dominique Fishback) is so obsessed with Ni’Jah that any criticism or failure to appreciate the singer’s work as spectacular personally offends Dre, to the point of no return for the critical fan.
The first episode, which screened at SXSW, built the relationship between Dre, her longtime best friend and roommate Marissa (Chloe Bailey), and Marissa’s boyfriend Khalid (Damson Idris). Marissa has achieved some success as a make-up artist and Khalid—although he does not live with the girls—seems to always be around. Dre’s reaction to a sex scene between Marissa and Khalid that she accidentally witnesses gives us a hint about her complete disdain for such emotional entanglements.
The cast, especially Dominique Fishback (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), is good. Dre (Dominique Fishback) has some serious mental issues, not the least of which is the ability to kill very energetically without much provocation. Watching someone bludgeoning another human being to death, especially those who have done nothing to deserve it, is not my idea of “entertainment.” [If it were, we would be enjoying the mass shootings that seem to have reached epidemic proportions in the United States]. Yes, the offender failed to properly appreciate Dre’s singer of choice, but that hardly seems to merit death—except in “Swarm.” Social commentary, yes, and a good thing for this generation of social media-obsessed youth to ponder.
Call me old-fashioned. When I’m watching someone serially murder others with very little emotion (“Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer”), I want to feel that the victim has done something to deserve it. Yes, I know that the Jeffrey Dahmer/Ted Bundy stories have been ratings winners. I’m just not a huge fan of mindless gore or violence for the sake of gore or violence (which is why I disliked “Evil Dead Rise”).
There is a lot of mindless violence in this series. Later in the series, I have read, we are going to learn more about the motivation for Dre’s devotion to mindless mayhem, but all we saw on March 10th was a proclamation that Dre has eschewed sex and its ability to control a person as counter-productive.
The theme of unbridled fan enthusiasm is a good new one to explore. I’m all for that. And the music is great from the outset, as are the costumes. The camerawork on film by Drew Daniels is excellent as is the direction by Donald Glover, Adamma Ebo (“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul”), Ibra Ake, and Stephen Glover.
All are aided by the music. In the series’ sometimes intentionally campy fashion, a buzzing sound will occur when Dre is ramping up toward her next violent act. The score by Michael Uzowuru is a great addition.
While the acting is fine, there is a lot of what I will call “stunt casting.” Paris Jackson (daughter of Michael Jackson) has a substantial role in the first episode. Billie Eilish is in one episode as Eva and shows real promise. Rory Culkin, brother of Macauley, shows up (sans clothing) as a one-night stand of Dre’s. Stephen Glover, who also appeared in “Atlanta,” is a presence and wrote two episodes.
The writing is worth mentioning.
Malia Obama worked with Nabers to pen the episode “Girl, Bye.” She is listed as a “staff writer.”
I am not the target audience for this series. I found myself wondering about such practicalities as the disposal of bodies. That is probably from writing novels, where you realize that a keen reader will be calling you out on “plot holes.” We’re all aware of the clean-up of mayhem that we’ve seen Liev Schreiber and Harvey Keitel handle as “fixers” (“Ray Donovan,” “Pulp Fiction”). Even in “The Sopranos” murders would lead to giving Tony Soprano a call to help with clean-up.
In the episodes of “Swarm” that I saw there was little forethought or planning prior to the murders. This means many plot holes and potential problems—unless one doesn’t mind being caught immediately, which seemed fairly likely.
“Swarm” will air on Prime Video and is an Amazon project. It is available now, after premiering at SXSW on Friday, March 10th