Swarm (Season 1) Recap, Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed: Social media has given a rise to toxic fan culture. While it existed even before, social media platforms provided fan communities with tools to convey their hatred directly. It made them feel entitled to speak in any way they wanted to convey an allegiance to their celebrity fixations. Swarm, created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, follows the tale of a similarly obsessed fan from Houston. Starring Dominique Fishback in the lead role of Dre, this Prime Video series is enough to fill the Atlanta-sized hole left in the lives of Donald Glover’s fans.

The plot revolves around Dre, who goes to increasingly violent lengths to prove her love for a multiple Grammy award-winning R&B singer, Ni’Jah.

Spoilers ahead.




Swarm (Season 1) Recap

Episode 1: Stung (directed by Donald Glover)

The tickets for Ni’Jah’s (played by Nirine S. Brown) upcoming tour become available online. As one of her biggest fans, Andrea/Dre (played by Dominique Fishback) tries to get two tickets during its flash sale. One for her and one for her friend – Marissa (Chloe Bailey). But she does not tell her about it just then. She wants it to be a surprise for her birthday. But Marissa’s boyfriend, Khalid (Damson Idris), has some other plans for that day. Dre is unaware of it and still wants to show Marissa how much she means to her.

That’s why she does not even think much while paying Marissa’s due to a store owner. Marissa scolds her for being so gullible and then asks to cover for her at their job since she is leaving for her dream gig. The next day, Dre shows up late and with messy hair. She cannot work that way since they always need to be presentable at their job. So, she tidies herself and covers for Marissa’s shift. Khalid shows up and tries to bond with her. Eventually, he hits on her. But she does not reciprocate his interest. When this happened, she was not present at her store.




By the time she returns, all their stuff gets stolen, putting both hers & Marissa’s jobs in danger. Marissa returns from her gig and is justifiably pissed. Dre tells about Khalid forcing himself upon her. Marissa, however, is so mad that she storms out of her place and drives away. Dre stays home watching Ni’Jah’s performance which lights up something in her soul. So, she goes out to a bar and hooks up with a random white dude (played by Rory Culkin). The next day, once she is sober, she decides to leave the creepy dude’s place.

That morning, she noticed many texts Marissa left, asking her to call her immediately. She couldn’t attend since she was in bed with that guy. She then returns home to find Marissa sleeping in bed, unconscious. Dre takes her to the hospital only to realize that it’s too late to save her. Saying that she does not handle Marissa’s loss well is an understatement. She looks back at their old videos being Ni’Jah’s massive fans.




Then, she takes Marissa’s phone in her possession and sends texts back and forth between hers and Marissa’s. She goes to Marissa’s funeral but gets escorted out by Marissa’s family. Later, she speaks with Khalid about why he didn’t come to the funeral. He keeps insulting Marissa regardless of her tragic death. He also dislikes Ni’Jah, which makes Dre so angry that she stabs him to death. While he lies in a pool of blood, she tries to process what she just did. Initially, she is shocked, gasping for breath and groaning. Eventually, she puts on a wicked smile despite her paranoia.

Episode 2: Honey (directed by Adamma Ebo)

After committing a murder, Dre runs away and gets a job in a stripper joint in Tennessee. She goes by the name – Carmen. However, she isn’t attuned to the fact that she is supposed to do business and dance not just for pleasure. Cheeks, another stripper, tells her about it. Later Halsey (played by Paris Jackson) comes to meet Dre at her motel room. She tries to form a bond with her. That’s when she shares her struggle for not being accepted as a black person (she has a biracial parent). Thus, her stripper name is Halsey (like the pop singer). Because of getting kicked out of her own apartment by her boyfriend – Sir, Halsey moves in with Dre.




Dre is still caught up with the Ni’Jah fan-community gossip. Later at night, she wakes up to a noise and finds Sir in the washroom. She hits him with whatever she can find, kills him, and then drags his dead body out in the backyard. Halsey wakes up, notices that Dre saved her from that creep, and gets an adrenaline rush from this feeling. Dre can’t take her excitement and shoots her to death. She stands right by their dead body and eats a sandwich. The next day, she goes back to work at the strip mall and earns more than everyone expects from her. Impressed by it, Cheeks invites Dre to earn more. But she has to drive them.

During the drive, other strippers share their thoughts on men. It pretty much shows their firm belief in patriarchy (they think that men being controlling, abusive narcissists is fine since they are men). Dre counters it by boasting about women’s autonomy over their bodies and how they don’t need men or a muscular form to seek pleasure. Strippers laugh at her, also because she ends her thought by saying, ‘A woman needs no one’ – a Ni’Jah quote.




They go to a house of a bunch of white tech-bros who probably wanted black strippers to come home. While other strippers earn by entertaining them, Dre sits back in a room, eating pretzels like there’s no tomorrow. A shy guy walks into her room and asks her if she would be okay if he masturbated to her. She earns by letting him do that. Cheeks call her a weirdo. On their way back, one of her car tyres gets flat. Cheeks tries to open her trunk to get a replacement. Dre stops her since there are dead bodies inside.

Cheeks jokes if Dre has a dead body in there. Dre maniacally laughs. So, they decide to call an uber. That’s when they luckily get a ride offer from Reggie (Atkins Estimond). He looks like a jolly, good family man. But Dre has a beef with him since he insults Ni’Jah online. Still, he repairs her car engine and asks her where she is from. Dre ends up sharing her name as Marissa’s (her dead ‘sister’s’ name). While other strippers are ready to return, Dre goes back to Reggie’s house to kill him. After hitting him with a saucepan, he tries to strangle her.

Swarm Season 1

By then, others enter the house and see Dre struggling for her life. They think Reggie was trying to kill Dre. So a stripper shoots Reggie to save Dre. Others decide to call it self-defense. But by the time they discuss it, Dre runs away with the car leaving them to get caught by the police.




Episode 3: Taste (directed by Adamma Ebo)

After escaping the crime scene, Dre flees to another town and kills a man with a hammer. His crime is – Ni’Jah is not his favorite artist, and he insulted her online. By then, Dre is so deranged that she derives joy while dancing around in his apartment and cleaning the blood. Then she steals snacks from his storage. Before driving away, she sees some tweets by a white woman named Alice Dudley (played by Ashley Dougherty), who accused Ni’Jah of police brutality. Then she spots the Swarm (Ni’Jah’s fan community) talking about getting revenge against Alice.

Dre manages to get an entry to a retreat knowing that Alice will be there. She gets in an elevator with Alice and looks at her as if she is her next prey. A man enters the elevator, and Dre notices that he is a staff member for Ni’Jah’s upcoming concert. So instead of following Alice, she now follows him. She follows him back to his place and tries to enter from the window. She poses as one of his neighbors trying to escape a fight with her partner. The man – George Clemons (played by Byron Bowers), is used to it in his neighborhood and decides to let her stay for the night.




He offers to prepare a meal for her. By then she notices that he has Tier 2 access to Ni’jah’s concert. She tries to build a connection with him so she can eventually use him to get closer to Ni’Jah. He gives Dre some low-calorie food. He then reveals that his ex-girlfriend died due to a heart attack. Since then, he has stopped eating unhealthy junk. Still, in the middle of the night, Dre takes out some snacks and starts eating them like there’s no tomorrow. Suddenly that hunger brings her closer to George, and they end up spending the night in the same bed.

The next morning, he says that he cannot let such a slip-up in his health regime happen again in the future. He takes her to his next gig but gets too tired to stay for the after-party. Knowing that Ni’Jah will be there, she persuades him to stay for longer. He agrees. Soon after, she takes his card and jacket and locks him inside a room. Then she enters the party and looks for Ni’Jah. She finally sees her within a few feets of distance. She is mesmerized by her presence but finds it hard to believe that she finally saw Ni’Jah in person.




Lost in thought, Dre picks a plum from a nearby bowl and savors its taste. She derives some strange pleasure in doing so, only to realize that she did not bite the fruit but bit Ni’Jah. So, she runs out of the club, hoping no one catches her. Two guys from the staff see her running away. One of them calls her the woman from Love & Basketball.

Episode 4: Running Scared (directed by Ibra Ake)

While driving away to another town, Dre gets pulled over by an officer. She has someone else’s car with a bloodstain on the backseat. She tries to hide it from him. Still, he gets suspicious of her and follows her while she drives away to a local store. Cricket (played by Kate Lyn Sheil) notices her petrified by the officer’s presence. She scares him away and then offers her a place to stay before the concert. She takes Dre to her lavish villa occupied by a few white girls. One of them, Eva (played by Billie Eilish), talks about leaving the city to stay in their peaceful environment.




Eva puts a spell on her in no time and makes her feel invited. Over here, Dre introduces herself as Kayla. She enters the villa to meet other girls, all of whom are planning to go to the Ni’Jah concert. Dre says that she knows Ni’Jah personally but had a bad interaction the last time they met. They believe her lie, and she feels accepted in their tribe. Later, Eva wakes Dre up quite early in the morning, goes out trekking with the girls, and learns how Eva is their tribe’s spiritual leader who guided them to get their issues resolved.

After returning from the trek, Dre notices that the bloodstains on her backseat are completely cleaned. She concludes that one of the girls must have realized that she is a killer. Subsequently, she goes back to her bed and goes through fan reactions who want to get revenge against her (for biting Ni’Jah). Dre suddenly gets invited to a chamber-like place with Eva. While Dre earlier gets spooked by it, Eva slowly hypnotizes her into talking about who she actually is.




While opening up about her past traumas, Dre ends up revealing her real name and confessing to the tragic details of her past. However, she refuses to reveal anything about her sister, Marissa. The next morning, she gets invited to a spa with Eva and the other girls. Dre enters with a strange reddish scar on her forehead. She notices all the girls unclothed. On Eva’s back, she finds a strange scar. Eva says that it is a symbol of her faith and determination. It has to do with holding themselves accountable.

Dre awkwardly sits through this day at the spa and then returns to her room to find that her phone is missing. She returns to the earlier chamber to ask Eva about it. Instead, Eva tries to make her speak about her past and about the actual owners of the car she came in. It becomes clear that Eva knows more about Dre than what Dre told her. Sensing the danger, Dre confesses that she does not know Ni’Jah in person and that she hit her the last time they met. She found deranged joy in doing so. So, she kept hitting her.




Later at night, Dre joins other women near a bonfire. While she hears music playing around her, everyone else keeps making her feel that she is lying. She leaves in anger and tries to drive away in her car. Eva stops her and reveals that they know everything about her. She wants Dre to be accountable for her actions. Dre, however, only wants Eva to give back her phone. When Eva returns the phone, she says that she is more of a friend to Dre than her online companions. Besides, Eva reveals that she knew everything about Dre from the moment they met.

All the girls stand in front of Dre’s car, trying to stop her. But by that time, Dre gets so enraged that she attacks Eva and then runs over her body. While other girls start crawling over her car bonnet, Dre keeps driving away. One of them stays on her trunk even when Dre drives away, manically laughing. The moment she falls, Dre stabs her to death. She drives to the concert location only to realize that it is already over. She spends the night in her car, watching the footage from the Ni’Jah concert.




Episode 5: Girl, Bye (directed by Ibra Ake)

Dre drives to Houston to get Marissa’s damaged phone working again. While the Apple Store manager Kenny (played by Rickey Thompson) is watching a talk show gossip about a girl who bit Ni’Jah, Dre introduces herself as Marissa and wants to get her phone repaired. He tells her that Marissa’s number will be reassigned to someone else as per Harris Jackson’s orders. Dre terrifies her about wanting the phone to work. So, Kenny refuses to help her.

Swarm Season 1

Dre leaves the store and bumps into her old friend, Erica (played by Karen Rodriguez). While they have lunch together, she cries over her married life with a baby and also gets emotional about Marissa’s death. When it is Dre’s time to spill the beans, she lies about getting a job as Ni’Jah’s mother’s makeup woman. She builds up a story of getting close to Ni’Jah’s family and also to her over the time. Teardrops start falling down her face when she speaks about it. Hearing that, Erica also gets emotional seeing her weird old friend doing so well for herself.




Later, Dre drives to a suburban house of the Jacksons. She sneaks into it and starts around while looking at Marissa’s childhood photos hanging on the walls with her parents. Even the pet dog seems to know her. Dre keeps snooping around in the house and no one seems to be there. She finds a family photo torn from the side of her face. She gets jealous and gets hold of a gun from the house. Then she sleeps in bed, oblivious to the fact that she will be considered a thief if someone catches her.

Late at night, Patricia (played by Kimberly Ann Parker) and Harris (played by Leon) return home to find some lights already on. While Harris goes to check if someone’s upstairs, Patricia watches the news. Dre walks into the hall and sits next to Patricia, pointing a gun at her. Dre asks to get access to Marissa’s phone. Patricia refuses to help. While she tries to intimidate Patricia, Harris walks downstairs with a shotgun. He walks Dre out of the room and then asks her what she wants.




He considers Marissa’s death to be Dre’s fault, which is why she was not allowed at Marissa’s funeral. She tries running away from him and gets inside Marissa’s room. While she gets emotional about her sister’s death, Harris breaks open the door to her room. She jumps out of the window and heads to her car, limping due to the high fall. While Spencer is determined to kill her, she walks away while saying that she killed Marissa and that Marissa hated her.

Episode 6: Fallin’ Through the Cracks (directed by Stephen Glover)

This episode follows a mockumentary approach similar to how Atlanta’s ‘The Goof Who Sat by the Door’ did. We witness a dramatized version of Dre and Marissa’s past with a set of actors. However, these parts are played by some actors posing as real-life people (that is my best interpretation of what the Glover brothers try to achieve in this episode). Loretta Greene (Heather Simms) has been assigned the case of a murder of a white girl named Tiffany. After looking at the scene of the gruesome murder, she goes through her social media profiles. She finds a negative tweet directed toward a singer.




It reminded Loretta of a case she stumbled upon a while ago. While a white woman was killed, the fast-food packets everywhere in the house made her think that the murder was committed by a black woman, who stayed for a while after the murder, devouring food as if nothing had happened. A few months later, another case involving four black strippers came to her notice. They were arrested for killing a guy who gave them a lift. But, a girl ran away from the scene of the crime. (The case from Episode 2). She looks at his past tweets related to a singer, where he kept riling up her dedicated fanbase. The community calls the singer Queen Bee and calls their community – Hive.

One of Queen Bee’s fans – Darryl Robinson (played by Chris Gerard), talks about how Hive is a close-knit community. Still, despite defending the fanbase, he does not defend the recent serial killings allegedly connected to one of the singer’s fans. Meanwhile, Loretta stumbles upon Khalid’s case. She learns from his brother Talib that he got killed within a week after his girlfriend Marissa’s suicide. It makes Loretta trace Marissa’s friend– Dre. So she goes to meet Patricia (enacted by Teresa L. Graves).




After speaking about Marissa and looking at their photos, she stumbles upon Dre’s photos, whom she had called her friend on her social media. That’s when Patricia reveals that Andrea Greene/Dre was their foster child, who had psychological issues since her childhood. Dre was perceived as a lost cause by Patricia, her batch-mate, and her teacher. There were many reasons for that. At a sleepover, Dre tries to kill one of their friends.

Besides, Loretta learns that Marissa was obsessed with the aforementioned singer since her childhood and as a result, Dre was as well. After learning about these details, Loretta goes to Andrea’s caseworker to learn about the roots of her violent past. She refuses to share much since she does not want to label any of the children, she is responsible. Moreover, she lashes out at Loretta’s British male documentarian, saying that he is looking for a sob story about Andrea. She says how finding a specific reason would make others feel like absolved beings feeling that they are somehow different from her.




Loretta feels bad for Andrea’s fate. Eventually, she stumbles upon a photo of her at a concert, dressed as a boy going by the name -Tony. She decides to travel to Atlanta herself to get hold of her. At the end of the documentary, we see footage where Donald Glover talks about making a show about Andrea’s life with Dominique Fishback and Chloe Bailey.

Episode 7: Only God Makes Happy Endings (directed by Adamma Ebo)

Dre stands outside a bar in Atlanta as Tony. He notices Rashida (played by Kiersey Clemons) exiting the bar and gets mesmerized by her presence. Tony offers her and her friend a ride back to their apartment. As a gesture of goodwill, Rashida invites him back to her place and strikes up a conversation. During their playful interaction, she mentions that she dislikes Ni’Jah. Tony says that he adores her. He tries to get out of the place as quickly as possible, scared of getting attached to Rashida. But before he leaves, Rashida hands over her number, hoping they will meet again soon. Tony says he does not have a phone.




Some day later, Tony stumbles upon Rashida again in a store. He shares his hope to prolong his stay in this town. Rashida wants him to buy a phone like every other normal person. Eventually, their conversation leads them back to Rashida’s apartment, where they start having sex. Suddenly Tony gets up since he has a period. Rashida gives him an IUD. Later, on Rashida’s birthday, he goes out to buy her some flowers. But his card keeps getting declined. The shop owner senses something fishy about him and refuses to sell him anything. Still, Rashida believes his lie that the shop is closed and takes her to meet her parents at their home.

Swarm

Rashida’s parents do not want her to work during her years of education. However, she does not want to be pampered. After their meal, Rashida’s father asks Tony about himself. Tony says that he is in between jobs. Rashida praises how he works tirelessly. However, the topic of Tony’s father’s death brings down the mood. Despite all the issues, Rashida’s parents are wholeheartedly accepting of Tony, unlike anything he had experienced in his life as Dre. It moves him and makes him feel guilty at the same time. Later, Rashida also says that she loves him. All this love and acceptance is new to him.




Swarm (Season 1) Ending Explained

What does Dre do at the Ni’Jah concert?

Sometime later, at Rashida’s apartment, she and Tony stumble upon the topic of Ni’Jah. He shares a gift for their anniversary. It includes two tickets for the Ni’Jah concerts for that night. While Tony is over the moon about getting the tickets, Rashida is not. She gets mad since she had told her several times during their time together that she does not like Ni’Jah. She also hates that he spent so much on these tickets. Rashida lashes out at him, which makes him terribly upset.

It upsets Tony to the degree that he tries to strangle Rashida to death. He cannot even look her in the eyes while doing that. The moment he sees her, it makes him feel remorseful. He feels sorry for her and stops choking her. Rashida, terrified by his sudden outburst, also starts apologizing. They spend the day sleeping on the same couch. Cut to – we see Tony next to a fire, which seems like him burning the evidence of Rashida’s murder (The episode skips showing the murder maybe because it seems inconsequential. Also, we already witness Tony/Dre’s violent side when he tries to choke her). Tony starts searching through his pockets and realizes that they are on Rashida.




So, Tony rushes to the concert location and asks around, hoping to get physical tickets without any ID proof. Since he cannot get them lawfully, he finds someone who is selling them in black. He takes that person to his car and stabs him to death. Tony gets hold of the tickets, goes to the front row of Ni’Jah’s concert, and looks at her with dreamy eyes. Soon after, she walks onto the stage while security tries to get her out of there.

Ni’Jah notices Tony and walks up to him. She offers him a chance to sing. However, this time, her face looks like a deep fake of Marissa’s. After the concert, Tony gets to walk back to Ni’Jah’s car along with her. While it looks like a usual ‘happy ending’ for Dre’s character, the episode title and overall tone of the show make you question its intent.




The ‘so good to be true’ ending seems like Dre’s fantasy, or for that ever, every obsessive fan’s fantasy. Besides, the deep fake also seems like a way of showing how Dre’s interest in Ni’Jah stemmed from Marissa’s interest in the singer. Obsessing over Ni’Jah was Dre’s way of seeking acceptance from Marissa since they would have something to share with.

Why does Dre kill all these people?

The reason behind Dre’s serial murders is her crooked idea of seeking repentance. She could not be with Marissa on the night of her suicide despite her repeated texts. So guilt-ridden, Dre saw ‘killing’ as her way of dissolving herself from any sort of remorse. Her first murder, where she killed Marissa’s boyfriend, gave her an obscene satisfaction that she could not get enough of. And as explained before, she spent most of her life seeking Marissa’s acceptance. So killing the haters of Ni’Jah, who Marissa considered a Goddess, looks like her way of attaining it.




Why is the new Dominique Fishback series titled ‘Swarm’?

The title refers to more than one thing, in my opinion. First of all, it is the name of Ni’Jah’s fan community. Her fans call themselves a ‘Swarm’ as a collective. They kept swarming around anyone who even mildly disliked her. It also denotes the traumatic impact on Dre’s mental health. Whenever she gets a hint of someone’s hatred toward the singer, the sound of a swarm surrounds her (I know, I know. It’s a creative choice). It almost feels like all those voices telling her to get revenge against the haters.

Why does every episode say, ‘This is not a work of fiction’ in the beginning?

Most of the narratives come along with a disclaimer noting that ‘This is purely a work of fiction’. The aim is for viewers not to be offended by similarities found in them and take them out of context. Be it race, class, caste, religion, or any other aspect, the disclaimer tries to make viewers feel that its fictional tale isn’t based on their stories.




Swarm appears to take a dig at the same notion and goes on to convey that its narrative is, in fact, based on real-life stories. It does not seem too far-fetched since fan communities are breeding grounds of toxicity. They can reach the violent measures that Dre reached. Besides, considering Donald Glover’s name attached to the project, it seems like a trick used by him to tell people to introspect themselves with respect to this kind of craze of a fandom.

Swarm (Season 1) Themes Analysed

Celebrity Worship Syndrome

Dre’s condition is a classic case of celebrity worship syndrome, where one might even claim Marissa, instead of Ni’Jah’ to be her celebrity obsession. Anyhow, Dre was one of the victims and contributors to the toxic fan culture surrounding the popular singer. It stems from similar fan cultures that exist in the real world and online. While Taylor Swift’s fans call themselves Swifties, Beyonce fans Beys for Queen Bey. These are just two examples from a bunch of such obsessive fan communities that often try to prove their allegiance. ‘Swarm’ takes a scathing look at the terrifying impact of this ‘obsession’ turning into a nightmare.




True Crime Fascination

‘This is a true crime drama’, says the description of the 6th episode of Swarm, which is a mockumentary about Marissa and Dre’s life. It also uses real-life footage of Donald Glover talking about this Prime Video project in the end, which adds to the spookiness. Besides, as mentioned before, every episode says ‘This is not a work of fiction’ in the beginning. All of it seems indicative of the creators pulling on a trick on viewers about our perception of ‘true crime’ dramas. It questions how we take something seriously when we are told that it is based on real life. The trick feels similar to what the Coen brothers pulled at the time of Fargo.

Related Read:  Unprisoned (Season 1) Review, Recap, Ending Explained & Themes of Incarceration, Trauma & Racial Tension Analysed

Swarm (Season 1) Links: IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Swarm (Season 1) Cast: Dominique Fishback, Chloe Bailey, Billie Eilish, Nirine Brown
Where to watch Swarm

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