Flipped script: Stan delivers Swarm’s sting in the tale

By Jenna Williams @jn3nyy

Donald Glover (creator of Atlanta) and playwright Janine Nabers have joined forces to create the seven-part limited psychological thriller series Swarm, focusing on Andrea ‘Dre’ Greene (played by Dominique Fishback) and her devout obsession with famous pop star Ni’jah.  

The series begins every episode with a disclaimer:  ”This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional”. Mainly highlighting the uncanny resemblance of Dre’s idol, Ni’jah (played by Nirine S. Brown) to Beyonce and her fan base, the ‘Killer Bees’, referencing Knowles’ ‘Beyhive”.

Fishback’s portrayal of Dre was hauntingly captivating, showing the dark side of being a ‘stan’ (a mix of stalker and fan, popularised by Eminem in his 2000 song Stan), and urging viewers to think about how far they would go for a celebrity.  

Dre experiences a traumatic event (which won’t be revealed due to spoilers), which is the foundation of her character arc throughout the series. Her response leads her to embark on a violent spree, killing anyone who badmouths her idol, whether it’s online through Twitter or in person. Before committing these homicidal acts, Dre asks each of her victims, “Who’s your favourite artist?” which was the show’s tagline before its release on March 17th of this year.  

Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish makes an outstanding acting debut in Episode 4, Running Scared, where she portrays Eva, a millennial, new-age women’s empowerment cult leader. Eilish’s role was inspired by the NXIVM personality cult, which focused on the potential of human development. Despite only appearing in one episode, many critics and fans of the singer have praised her eerie performance.  

Billie Eilish as Eva in Swarm. Picture: Amazon Prime/Youtube

Swarm is not only a psychological thriller with a modern context but also subverts the stereotypical depiction of black women as ‘saviours’, through Dre’s violent murder spree, presenting her as an undesirable female lead who is also a serial killer.  

Glover said that the idea for the series came to him after seeing a tweet made by a Black woman he follows, expressing how she was tired of watching shows where ‘Black women were always therapists or caregivers,’ and continuing by stating, ‘We can be serial killers too, right?’  

Dominique Fishback in Swarm. Picture Amazon Prime/Youtube

Despite shifting the ideals surrounding the archetype of a black woman, Swarm simultaneously shows how they can be both horrible and good people through the portrayal of Major Loretta Greene (played by Heather Simms), who is hunting Dre.  

In Episode 6, Fallin’ Through the Cracks, Greene says, Sometimes I see nothing, and sometimes I see myself,” when observing a photo of a young Dre. Consequently, this shows how the two characters can be seen as the opposite sides of one coin in relation to the ways black women are presented in television and film.  

Swarm’s  horrifying plot and alluring storyline, paired with incredible acting performances throughout the series, make it a highly captivating series that would entice anyone who enjoys psychological dramas, thrillers, or horror genres. All seven episodes are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

Featured image: Dominique Fishback in Swarm. Picture Amazon Prime/Youtube

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