"Who's your favorite artist?" It's the recurring question asked by Dre (Dominique Fishback) throughout the chilling but too-good Swarm series.
The psychological horror thriller television counts Donald Glover and Janine Nabers (whose previous works include HBO's Watchmen and Glover's Atlanta) as its creators.
Released on Amazon Prime on May 17 (May 16 for Prime members), Swarm takes us on a wild ride with the character Dre, a crazed stan goes to deadly lengths for her favorite pop star, Ni'Jah. In short, she goes on a killing spree, silencing those who tweeted ill of the global entertainer who obviously mirrors Beyoncé.
I mean, come on, the bees? Ni'Jah boasting curly blonde hair whiling riding on a pony? The "Running Scared II" tour (the "On the Run" tour)?
The show also references the infamous elevator fight between Solange and Jay-Z and the anonymous celeb who allegedly bit Beyoncé's face at a party. There was even a Ni'Jah song called "Love on a Cloud" (like "Love on Top").
Yeah, there's no denying that the show draws cues from Beyoncé and her diehard fanbase (episode six even features a fellow Hive member).
At the same time, Swarm is based on actual events, too. "This story is 100 percent taken from real events and real internet rumors and real other things, true crimes that have happened between the years of 2016 and 2018," Nabers stated in an interview.
Each episode opens with the message: "This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional."
The series' sixth episode, "Fallin' Through the Cracks," seems to reference some of the actual situations. Its description even reads, "This a true crime story."
It's that realness, matched with Fishback's Emmy-worthy performance, that contributes to the chill factor of the show. Indeed, it's scary-good.
There were plenty of other highlights in Swarm. "Running Scared" sees Billie Eilish make a stellar acting debut as the leader of a cult-like "empowerment group" that attempts to bring in Dre.
Paris Jackson guest-stars in the second episode, "Honey" — ironically, another Beyoncé song — as the exotic dancer Hailey, whose stage name is Halsey after the IRL musician (Hailey states she feels connected to Halsey due to their partially Black roots).
Malia Obama — yes, that Malia Obama — contributed her writing to the episode "Girl, Bye," which is arguably Swarm's craziest but best episode (Dre is forced to confront her adopted parents, who try to off her as she attempts to turn her late sister Marissa's phone back on).
The season's finale was an interesting one. With the police on her heels, Dre is still on the run but seems to be doing alright. She finds love in Atlanta, only for it to end tragically with Dre killing her girlfriend after she — you guessed it — bad-mouthed Ni'Jah.
I'm still trying to determine what to make of the Swarm's ending. We finally see the face of Ni'Jah, a not-so-seamless deepfake featuring Dre's sister Marissa (Chlöe Bailey).
In an unexpected turn of events, Ni'Jah and Dre leave together after Dre rushes to the stage at the singer's concert, with the musician consoling a crying Dre in the car... then comes the credits.
So, Chlöe Bailey is the next Beyoncé? Or perhaps, Dre's obsession was really with her sister? I'm not sure what the message was there, but we'll just go with a "sure" for now.
It was a relatively soft landing for a gripping thriller. But if we've learned anything from Glover's past projects, this move was probably intentional.
Overall, Swarm was a solid watch (I stayed up till 1 AM to finish it). In addition to a strong storyline, it also had some moments of that Atlanta-level humor which made me miss the FX show even more.
Swarm makes me look forward to what's coming in Glover's next chapter. As a fan, I'll be seated for whatever he cooks next.
Speaking of what's next, what about Swarm season 2, Mr. Glover?