Review: ‘The Swarm’ is a binge-worthy horror-comedy

Who is your favorite artist?

It may seem like an innocent question, but when posed by Andrea Greene your answer better be Ni’Jah, or it could be a question of life or death.

Andrea “Dre” Greene is the main character in the new Prime Video miniseries “Swarm”. With Janine Nabers and Donald Glover at its helm, the seven-part series follows Dre and the lengths she will go to defend, support, and eventually meet her idol, superstar Ni’Jah Hutton.

Each episode begins with an ominous opening title card reading: “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.”

This disclaimer quickly makes sense when we are introduced, through Dre, to the world of Ni’Jah and it’s easy to see that the fictional star is uncannily similar to real life superstar Beyoncé.

With references to that infamous elevator scene, nods in Ni’Jah’s discography to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and “Renaissance” albums, and most importantly a legion of fans that love Ni’Jah to a fault, the show draws many direct parallels to the life and times of Queen Bey.

Dre, played by Dominique Fishback, is a devoted member of the Swarm, the term for Ni’Jah’s fanbase in another reference to Beyoncé and her fandom, the Beyhive.

A mutual love for Ni’Jah is something Dre shares with her sister Marissa, played by Chloe Bailey, even though the latter isn’t nearly as singularly focused on the superstar as Dre is. Still, the two are extremely close and live together in Houston (notably, Beyoncé’s birthplace).

Things are amicable until a personal tragedy leaves Dre in a vulnerable place that leads her down a path of violence, eventually targeting anyone and everyone who speaks ill of her favorite artist.

Dre quickly finds herself on the lam, taking on different identities while traveling cross-country on a quest to see Ni’Jah in concert.

Along the way, Dre meets a cast of characters played by the likes of Paris Jackson and Billie Eilish, who makes her acting debut in the series.

While our protagonist is clearly unhinged, there is also a level of sympathy that the audience gains for her as her backstory is unraveled throughout her journey.

Dre’s behavior, even when not committing murder, is unsettling but like an acquaintance says about her, “she’s weird, but she’s got something.”

In this case that something is the ability to completely captivate the audience.

This is all thanks to Fishback’s performance which leaves the viewer analyzing her every facial expression to try to indicate what Dre will do next.

The show clearly makes a point of calling out over-obsessed fandoms, but there are many underlying themes that also have a presence in the story.

When the truth behind Dre’s past is discovered, it becomes clear how she ended up in the mental state she is in as she was able to “fall through the cracks” without anyone noticing.

This idea is especially touched on in episode six which is an outlier from the other episodes as it follows a detective on a true crime show documenting her suspicions of Dre being a serial killer.

The detective, also a Black woman like Dre, pieces together clues from different murders in different states, all pointing to Dre as the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, the detective’s mostly White colleagues are quick to dismiss the idea of a Black female serial killer.

This is a more comical take on “falling through the cracks” as it actually works to Dre’s advantage, allowing her to pull off her crimes without a hitch, even when executed haphazardly.

In the single occasion that Dre is questioned by law enforcement in the show, it ends up being a case of racial profiling rather than in any way connected to what she’s done.

Still, at the show’s heart it is a parody of stan culture and the absurd lengths some people go to for whoever they deem their favorite artist. But then there is the question of why we go to these lengths when it comes to celebrities.

Several answers are given to this question throughout the show.

When Dre talks with Paris Jackson’s character, Hailey, they get into a conversation about race.

It is revealed that Hailey is part Black though she presents as White and jokes that this is why she goes by the name Halsey when working as a dancer at a strip club.

Hailey alludes further to her appreciation for the “Without Me” singer, asking Dre if she knows about Halsey’s work and being shocked when Dre seems less than enthused.

This all points to the idea that representation can make all the difference in who someone chooses to emulate and admire.

The main point that seems to drive Dre’s personal obsession, though, is the connection it brings to her sister and the escape Ni’Jah’s music provides from the harsh reality that Dre’s life has been.

The answer may be different for every person as to why their favorite artist is just that, in the same way that each person will show their appreciation for that artist in a different way.

While the show may seem hyperbolic at times, there is no doubt that, while still fictional, the character of Dre is based in reality, in more ways than one.

Perhaps that is the part of “Swarm” that really puts it over the edge, figuring out exactly where the lines of reality and fiction meet.

Regardless of where you find those lines drawn, the character of Dre will keep you enthralled throughout the entirety of this horror-comedy series that is a must-watch.

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