The Swarm Season 1 Review – Deploys a calculated approach to science-first drama


Season 1



Episode 1 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 1.5/5

The Swarm is a German co-production. Adapted from Frank Schatzing’s novel of the same name (Der Schwarm), the eight-part series is structured like a drama but science-led. There is a lot of technicality involved in the source material, although the writers do their best to mitigate its adverse effects.

Cecile De France, Leonie Benesch, and Alexander Karim star in the major roles, with all of them playing people from academia. The Swarm ebbs and flows throughout the first season. A lot of emphasis is placed on driving home the realization of mankind’s destructive impact on nature, especially marine life.

Strange events in the ocean in several parts of the world get scientists curious. The Swarm takes place in different countries through different characters, all of whom encounter such occasions. Instances that the academics find alarming include the emergence of a new, invasive species of ice worms that wreak havoc along the coastlines. This later induces destructive tsunamis that claim the lives of many.

Jellyfish and crabs flood places like Venice and Cape Town to the extent that they cover entire beaches and neighbourhoods. In France, infected lobsters and other sea animals threaten to spread a virus amongst the population, the likes of which have never been toxic to humans before. 

Finally, around the Vancouver region in the ocean, humpback whales connive with orcas to overturn boats full of tourists looking to enjoy a show and kill them…all of this at the behest of an intelligence that has hidden in the depths of the oceans since time immemorial.

The Intelligence, which is the perceived antagonist in the series, engages in what can be classified as ecological warfare against our actions. It becomes a metaphor for resistance to the extent of countering the measures. However, The Swarm does not live up to the expectations of drama. While the characters all go through personal loss, the depiction is such that we do not end up rooting for them. There is a lingering indifference to what happens with their situations. The blame must fall on the writers and the showrunners for not being able to pitch them properly.

The show lacks balance between its science-led narrative and the pre-requisite for plot and story. Despite having such a flavorful and diverse ensemble, they do not have much to do. The Swarm’s struggles are constantly reinvigorated as the action shifts phases. At some point, Charlie and Sigur’s personal tragedies do seem like carving something to resonate with. But it does not materialize as we are immediately taken back to the pursuit of the Yrr. Characters like Leon, Kit, and Alicia are reduced to merely being cardboard figurines low on emotions and high on science. 

One of the most bewildering moments came in episode 2 when Leon did not grieve her girlfriend’s loss for even one moment. He straightaway went back to the action involving the humpbacks. The other major problem with The Swarm’s Season 1 is the quality of its visual effects…or rather the use of them. For a show that operates on the fodder of curiosity and imagination, it is not until the final two episodes we see the effects kicking into action. Despite the numerous opportunities to showcase the heavy budget, the creators chose to hold back their resources. But some of the CGI scenes are also quite disappointing.

Like a broken record, The Swarm goes overboard on communicating the state of a damaged earth. What’s even more baffling is how the threat of a disaster is tapered down as the narrative becomes obsessed with the idea of the humans making contact with the Yrr. Ever since the volunteer group gets on the ship, the change in tone takes away all urgency. When it should have loomed large in the background, the Yrr’s threat is converted into laughable raucousness. 

Relying on science is not a bad choice when the progression in the story is preposterous. It is highly unusual for a show to be this committed to a subject inherently unexciting for general television audiences. But it must be pointed out that Schatzing’s novel is of a similar stature.

The Swarm will prove to be a very confusing show for many. Its interconnectedness puzzle is titillating and comes together well, but by the time it happens, many may have already lost interest. The Swarm also fails to fully justify its tag as the poster boy for rejuvenating the conversation about climate change and the threat of an irreversible disaster. It lies somewhere in between those two spheres, something that greatly diminishes its ability to come good on the promise of either of them. 

Feel Free To Check Out More Of Our TV Show Reviews Here!

  • Verdict - 6/10

Leave a comment