Warning: This article contains spoilers for Swarm.


A series that isn't (but is) about a certain megastar and their legion of dedicated fans is always going to be an intriguing watch for any TV or music fan out there. But add in a homicidal main character who's on a mission to see her one true superstar love once more and we're venturing into uncharted territory.

It's part of the relative charm and initial unease of Swarm; the fact that you'll watch it and come away from only the first episode knowing – for a fact – that you've not seen anything like it and will likely never watch anything similar.

Swarm follows Dre, played brilliantly by Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah), who is well and truly devoted to fictional R&B icon Ni'Jah. The star boasts over 44 million monthly listeners on Spotify and with her husband Caché leads a "world domination" of music, and is about to embark on her Evolution tour. Sound familiar?

Well, while this series certainly does draw glaring similarities to Beyoncé's Beyhive of mega fans, Swarm is more of an extended look into those individuals (Dre in this case), what drives them and the toxicity of 'stan' culture. Most interestingly, though, Swarm does away with the trope of a doting Black female character and allows Dre to be as violent and angry as the other (typically white male) serial killers we see on TV.

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Swarm - Prime Video
Dominique Fishback as Dre in Swarm. Prime Video

It's uncomfortable to watch on as we see Dre allow life's opportunities to pass her by, instead spending her days scrolling aimlessly on her subsection of Twitter, reading rumours, getting credit cards to fund the tour tickets she really cannot afford and spending her every waking moment questioning people why they don't count Ni'Jah as their all-time favourite artist.

But Dre is not the kind of character you warm to instantly because, well, she's a serial killer. Propelled by the tragic suicide of her best friend and surrogate sister Marissa (played by Grammy Award-nominated Chloe Bailey), Dre seeks a chilling kind of vengeance by looking for those who have Tweeted negatively about Marissa's death. It was a sad suicide (based on a real life social media rumour) that was prompted by Ni'Jah's husband's cheating allegations.

It's as confusing as it sounds and to begin with, you don't really understand why Dre is out on a cross-country killing spree against these random individuals, going to the lengths she goes to in order to assimilate in their lives and then attack them.

But she's part of 'the swarm' and will stop at nothing to avenge her best friend, but also to try and ensure not one soul speaks negatively about Ni'Jah. Dre is in one of the swarm's most prominent positions as the mystery leader of Ni'Jah's fan Twitter account, which is nearing one million followers.

But her character is also quietly revolutionary in the fact that beneath the blood, gore and destruction she leaves in her wake, Dre is the kind of criminal we see time and time again on our screens. Speaking about Fishback's performance, co-creator and showrunner Janine Nabers said of Swarm: "I think as Americans, we’re so conditioned to seeing white men be angry. We’re giving them that space for violence on film and TV."

Nabers spoke about how Dahmer recently became "one of the biggest shows Netflix has ever done" and recalled when Donald Glover came up with the idea for Swarm, referencing a Tweet that asked: "Why does every Black woman on TV have to be a therapist or a funny best friend or someone looking for love or a teacher? We can be crazy. We can be serial killers, too. And the rest is Swarm."

Swarm - Prime Video
Dominique Fishback as Dre and Chloë Bailey as Marissa in Swarm. Prime Video

Trying to understand Dre is kind of useless in this series as her mystery and unguessable behaviour propels the wild rollercoaster you're taken on. But what does underpin her every move is this obsessive drive for sisterhood. She's the archetypal outsider, preferring the company of faceless Twitter accounts than making friends in real life.

But like Dahmer, for instance, or You, Black Bird, Dexter and even The Assassination of Gianni Versace, we watch on as these serial killers (and obviously deeply flawed characters) are explored on screen in an effort to provide viewers with back stories, context and their dark emotions. It's all done in an effort to satiate the insatiable desire to understand the worst kinds of people, and Dre falls into that.

But while she's yet another killer on our screens, her being a young, stylish Black woman in Houston, Texas is a very welcome change of direction for the TV genre. Dre subverts those tropes in the best kind of way, giving us an emotionless, impossible to understand individual that you can never get two steps ahead of. She's not the friendly therapist or the sassy friend that is often the trope thrust onto Black women in TV – and it's refreshing.

Dre is unnerving in the way that you'll struggle to sleep after watching Swarm but the series manages to satirically explore the extremities of these types of para-social relationships.

In episode 6, which is in the format of a true crime documentary, we follow detective Loretta Greene who is investigating the string of murders and seems to be the first one to link them. "It seems like wishful thinking: a Black female detective stumbles on to a Black female serial killer," she says.

But she explains plainly that a killer like this one isn't on the police's radar, saying: "I've seen this before... Black women falling through the cracks."

You'd have thought by now with the boom in true crime as a genre, we'd see some on-screen representation of all kinds of people. And while Swarm isn't just about murder, the series allows for Dre to be as problematic, unhinged and awful as the rest of the perpetrators we see on our tellies.

Swarm allows for an unlikely characterisation of this young Black woman: she's troubled, complicated, a violent killer and that in itself subverts the tropes that have been continually placed on Black women in TV. It's also fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, making this an eerie must-watch in itself.

Swarm is released on Prime Video on Friday 17th March. Try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days.

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