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The Swarm

The Swarm season 1





Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

There’s a theory in the scientific community that we may know more about space than we do about the Earth’s oceans.

Of course, there’s no way to prove this theory, since we have no idea how large space actually is. But if the vastness of space can inspire stories about sentient beings on other planets, then it shouldn’t come as a shock that the unexplored depths of the sea can do the same.

In the CW’s The Swarm, scientists around the world are baffled by the oceans’ activities. Schools of fish are drowning fishermen; whales are collaborating to attack boats; and people are contracting a deadly and contagious virus from the seafood they’re consuming.

Nobody is quite sure what could be causing marine wildlife to revolt in such organized fashion. But it certainly begs the question: If scientists can hypothesize about intelligent lifeforms on unexplored planets, why not consider something just a little closer to home?

An Ecological Horror

Adapted from German author Frank Schätzing’s Der Schwarm, The Swarm is an ecological horror story—and one with a surprising number of philosophical issues.

In Schätzing’s novel, scientists discover that there is a sentient, oceanic lifeform that operates with a hive mind. Tired of humans’ relentless destruction of the world’s oceans, this species uses its power to take over the oceans and fight back, even going so far as to infect humans with a disease that will wipe them out entirely.

Scientists band together to reason with the species and hopefully to save mankind. But (at least in the novel) the concept that humans aren’t the dominant species on Earth throws the world’s religious orders into chaos.

That presupposition alone might give some families pause. But even setting that fictional plot point aside, the story still touches on the very real topic of environmental responsibility.

We hear a little from both sides of the discussion. A marine biologist accuses a community of overfishing, depleting entire ecosystems. But someone defends that status quo, arguing that most fishermen in that area are just trying to earn enough money to feed their families. In another area, men are accused of killing an orca, but a reliable source states the humans were acting in self-defense after the animal attacked them without provocation.

The show’s environmental thesis is certainly provocative, one worth evaluating from the perspective of the biblical call to stewardship of creation that God gave humankind in Genesis 1-2. However, there are still other concerns as well, including some light language, premarital sex (which takes place offscreen) and, of course, the violent deaths that occur at the hands, er, fins, of marine wildlife.

This series will make you feel about as warm and cuddly as a cuttlefish—meaning not at all. So it might just be better to steer your ship back into harbor and find something else to watch.

Episode Reviews

Sept. 12, 2023 – S1, Ep1: “Episode 1”

Marine wildlife across the planet begins acting strangely, targeting and killing humans without cause.

A humpback whale leaps out of the water right onto a whale-watching boat, capsizing the vessel and throwing its passengers (including several children) into the water. A nearby motorboat rescues a few people, but a pod of orcas attacks the other victims, dragging them beneath the surface. (We don’t see any bloodshed, but the sequence is still quite disturbing.) A fisherman dives to retrieve his snagged net from the ocean floor. While underwater, a school of fish swarms him; he doesn’t surface again.

We see a beached whale with many deep lacerations. Later, we learn the beast attacked a small fishing boat and that the fisherman fought back to save themselves from sinking. A scientist accuses a community of overfishing (though a local fisherman counters with the argument they are just trying to feed their families).

A man says he helped train dolphins for special missions when he was in the U.S. Navy. However, after their mission was complete, the animals were kept in captivity since they couldn’t survive in the wild. Angered that the creatures were kept in cages too small to swim in, the man freed the dolphins and was dishonorably discharged as a result.

Some rare ecological anomalies begin happening en masse, worrying marine biologists about the ecosystem. A scientist listening to whale songs hears other strange sounds through his microphone just before those same whales attack a tourist boat.

A man wakes up shirtless after spending the night with a woman. (She’s already fully dressed.) We hear about someone’s absent father. People drink at a pub. An unknown profanity is bleeped (and the speaker’s lips are blurred out). We hear a few uses of “h—” and one abuse of Christ’s name.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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