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SXSW Review: Swarm

Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/Prime Video

It’s hard to say what exactly Amazon Prime Video’s Swarm is after just two episodes. Donald Glover and Janine Nabor’s show operates on a whole other wavelength, living in a tilted state of awkwardness and boldness. It’s sweaty, pulpy, and toes the line between reality and fantasy, like a modern day Natural Born Killers (at least the blueprint to modernize Oliver Stone’s controversial classic is there).

Co-creating and running the show, Nabors has a vision through the first two episodes that takes some time to develop and hopefully evolves in due time, as the surface story is maybe a bit too shallow — or at least obvious — and at best offers shock value. But with just how graphic it becomes, it seems to be leading towards bigger and hopefully more revelatory ideas that could be simply distilled to: internet fan culture has turned murderously toxic like a swarm of bees.

Yes, it’s a direct parallel to the Beyhive. That’s at least the most direct line to draw. Certainly not without merit but ultimately bit too pointed for any true impact yet as we try to decipher the woman-child and Dre (Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah) who’s a toxic fangirl that runs a popular Twitter account dedicated to this series’ most popular singer Ni’Jah.

Dre’s immediately introduced as a naive child despite being a young adult. She’s fascinated by her roommate Marissa (Chloe Bailey from the musical duo Chloe x Halle) having sex, spying through the door, and her personality revolves exclusively around her fandom to the point that the very first thing we’re shown of her is buying two $1800 tickets to a Ni’Jah concert for her and Marissa. That’d be a totally sane birthday present if not for buying them on a new credit card — which is being used seemingly for the sole purpose of buying tickets — and that she works a dead end job at the mall and can barely afford rent.

What ensues is a multi-year journey that follows Dre chase down her definition of justice through the power of Ni’Jah’s cult following. But it’s not justice sought for someone’s death but for someone insulting Dre’s idol.

It can’t be stated enough that this surface level ideology is carried by Fishback’s performance that shifts seamlessly from annoying, stubborn, and stilted, to charming and hypnotic.

That’s the highest praise that can be handed out right now, helping propel each chapter to more insane heights that feel like you’re watching a true crime podcast where each development ends on a crazier note.

Hopefully that pattern continues and grows into bigger ideas. Right now, it’s a tough nut to crack. If I were to say that in the world of Swarm, I might be dead.

Swarm premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Thursday March 16.


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