Created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, SWARM (Amazon Prime) is about a young woman pushed to the brink and who decides to take vengeance on anyone who besmirches the pop star she idolizes. Roughly inspired by separate true events, it’s a strangely compelling if bleak watch, a dark comedy that never had me laughing.
Dre is a young woman living in a big city. It’s obvious she’s both a troubled soul and that she idolizes Ni’Jah, a pop star roughly modeled on Beyoncee. Tragedy forces her onto the road, where she decides to kill people who insulted Ni’Jah online. What follows is a road trip of sorts to various cities and towns, providing glimpses into weirder aspects of American life, long moments of contemplation, and sporadic bursts of artistic violence.
I’m really torn about this one. I liked it, I couldn’t stop watching, but it was hard at times and I’m not sure what it added up to. Artistically, it wallows but it’s good and it meanders but it’s good, and every episode has an artistic but almost documentarian feel to it, like this is a work of hyper social realism. Unfortunately, the show’s commentary on superfandom is so subtle that it comes across as really a sad tale of unchecked mental illness. (Though it’s interesting how everyone who meets the honestly vapid Dre regards her as a blank slate to project their own desires, the opposite of Ni’Jah, who presents a perfect life.) The separate events the story is based on provides its own sharp commentary on society’s many hairline fractures, however, and this ultimately proves far more effective.
Overall, again, I liked this one. Maybe even loved it a bit. Even if in the end I wasn’t totally satisfied with what I’d just experienced. Recommended if you’re looking for something offbeat and where you can enjoy the strange dark art of the parts without worrying too much about their sum.