‘Swarm’ review: Amazon Prime Video, Donald Glover, Dominique Fishback

TV lost a true visionary when Donald Glover’s Atlanta capped off a spectacular four-season run on FX last year. Lucky for us, he’s not done making great television just yetAnd Atlanta fans will feel right at home with his new horror thriller Swarm, premieres this Friday on Prime Video. (I’ve seen all seven episodes.) Brutally violent and darkly hilarious, Swarm is a stunning statement about the dangers of extreme fandom, anchored by an amazing and terrifying starring role from Dominique Fishback that is destined to be ranked as one of the very best of the year.

Amazon Prime Video - March 2023Fish back (The deuce) plays Dre, a devoted superfan of a BeyoncĂ©-esque pop idol named Ni’Jah, whose fanatical followers are known as The Swarm. (As one character points out, “Talk about Ni’Jah, you’ll get stabbed.”) Dre and her sister Marissa (Chloe Bailey) were big Ni’Jah fans together, but now Marissa has grown up and moved on, while Dre is still getting stuck in teenybopper mode, obsessing over Ni’Jah’s every move. When disaster strikes, Dre spirals downward into a very dark place…and launches her on a savage killing spree across the country, wreaking vengeance on anyone who dares question the supremacy of Ni’Jah .

Glover (credited as co-creator and executive producer) is once again collaborating with Atlanta writer Janine Nabers, who serves as showrunner here, and brings them Atlanta‘s unsettlingly surreal tone and dark humor with them to Dre’s story. Swarm is vividly rendered and thick in atmosphere, and takes place in everyday environments, which makes the violence all the more prominent. It also puts us in a sickening moral position: Dre is funny and even sympathetic at times… but then she snaps and sees red, with a disturbing buzzing in her ears. (She asks her victims, “Who’s your favorite artist?” and anyone who doesn’t say Ni’Jah soon regrets that decision.) We don’t exactly support her, but she’s undeniably fascinating.

Swarm Trailer Amazon Donald GloverBailey and Snowfall star Damson Idris does a decent job here in small roles, but this is Fishback’s show all the way, and she’s running with it. Dre is an odd man out: socially awkward and without recognizable human emotion, but also almost childlike. (When she hears a Ni’Jah song playing, she looks like she’s possessed.) Fishback masterfully switches from Dre’s public discomfort, with legs twitching and sudden eye darts, to her secret bloodlust with admirable ease. Towards the end, Dre completely transforms, taking Fishback’s already awesome performance to incredible new heights. If there is any justice in this world, her name will be remembered in Emmy’s time.

Swarm becomes episodic as Dre criss-crosses the country, encountering a friendly group of strippers and then an NVIXM-esque female empowerment group, with a stealth performance from a real-life pop superstar making the whole thing very meta. It gets a bit repetitive – yet another recent example of a limited series that probably could have just been a movie. (A detour to true-crime parody, fun though it may be, only serves to dilute the momentum of the main story.) But Fishback’s portrayal never gets old, and while Glover and Nabers’ story takes some pretty wild turns towards the end, it’s a great story. ride I won’t soon forget.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Donald Glover proves he can use horror too Swarmanchored by a dazzling starring role from Dominique Fishback.

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