TV Review: Prime Video’s ‘Swarm’ Black Female Rage As Catharsis
Swarm is like nothing I’ve seen on TV in all the best ways. Co-Creators and executive producers Janine Nabers (Watchmen) and Donald Glover (Atlanta) have crafted a jaw-dropping series that centers Dre (Dominique Fishback, Judas, and the Black Messiah), a zealot of “Ni’Jah, the world’s biggest pop star” who inadvertently ends up on a cross country road trip. I’ve seen all seven episodes, and I gotta tell you, this series is stellar. Y’all have got to sit down with your full attention and experience the satirical genius that is Swarm.
I love that we are returning to an era in TV where the road trip genre is back. I’ve enjoyed season one of Rian Johnson’s Pokerface on Peacock with its hint at a female version of Columbo vibe as the main character Charlie (Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black) travels around the country inadvertently solving crimes with a revolving guest starring cast. As a road trip TV series, Swarm is giving a unique look at diverse communities in America through the lens of Dre, a nerdy Black girl who doesn’t quite fit in. Nabers and Glover’s storytelling style is the kind that rocks my world. If you loved the last two seasons of Atlanta, you will go nuts over Swarm. The writing team takes satire to a new level of brilliance.
Number one Fan
As Dre, Dominique Fishback is a force of nature. The beauty of every role she embodies is her groundedness in truth. Fishback’s breakout role in a TV series was playing Donna, a sex worker in HBO’s The Deuce. She stood out in that role because of the authenticity she brought to that role. Dominique Fishback isn’t afraid to hold back. Then she turned around, played Black Panther Deborah Johnson in Jesus and the Black Messiah, and was nominated for a BAFTA award. In whatever role she takes, she invests 100 percent. Before taking TV and Film by storm Fishback wrote, produced and played over 20 characters in her solo show Subverted: A One Woman Show.
I love complex characters, and Dre is VERY complex. Dre is a super fan, a young Black woman, a best friend, a roommate trying to make rent, a retail worker, and she is a woman people take for granted and think they can manipulate. All kinds of people can relate to what Dre goes through, and many of us have wanted to take the actions Dre inadvertently takes but would never dare to. It’s always fun to watch characters who just go there. The special spice of Dre is that she is invisible until someone wants something from her, or until they cross Ni’Jah.
The music is excellent; costumes, editing, and sound were perfectly utilized to build suspense, I never knew what would happen next, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
In the virtual world, Black women are enormous targets for criticism at every level, and online trolls never have a problem trying to demean, belittle, and criticize Black women.
Everyone and their brother feels free to come at Black women with all guns blazing, spewing venom on social media as much as possible, and we are supposed just to sit and “swing low sweet chariot, we shall overcome, praise Black Jesus, take the high road,” in response. Rarely do we get to see Black women articulate rage. The last time I got to experience this kind of freedom and catharsis on screen was when I saw God’s Country last year at the Sundance Film Festival.
Western culture is much more comfortable with Black women as trauma porn, snot crying our way through family members getting shot by the police, or being the best friend or romantic partner to some non-Black character who dies in the beginning of the film and is the catalyst for the non-Black character’s redemption.
Swarm is the kind of show that will compel you to watch several times to see did she just do that? Swarm gives us a nuanced look at super fandom and so much more.
5 out of 5 stars.
Thanks for reading. I am an Entertainment Journalist, Film & TV Critic, VisAbleBlackwoman Podcast host, Contributor Black Girl Nerds.
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