Spoilers ahead for, like, every episode of Swarm.
Swarm, the new show from Atlanta alums Janine Nabers and Donald Glover about a stanning serial killer, has been generating takes and theories since it premiered on March 17. From the classic “Are sex scenes necessary?” Twitter argument to continued debate over Glover’s attitude toward Black women as represented in his art and something involving Halle Berry (??), the takes have been hot and rapid.
The show stars Dominique Fishback as Andrea “Dre” Greene, a freakishly devoted fan of pop goddess Ni’Jah. Ni’Jah is Swarm’s equivalent to Beyoncé, and instead of Bey’s hive, we have Ni’Jah’s fan base of Killer Bees, the titular Swarm. Dre kills for the Swarm, taking down Ni’Jah antis and basically anyone who doesn’t support her queen in the way she deems necessary. But the biggest fan theory for Swarm believes Dre’s first kill was much closer to home.
Did Dre Kill Marissa?
In Swarm’s first episode, Dre’s best friend and ex-foster sister Marissa kills herself. This is based on the real-life (debunked) rumor that a woman named Marissa died by suicide after Lemonade came out. We see Marissa and Dre get into a fight about Dre’s purchase of Ni’Jah tickets, and Marissa speeds off in her car. Then Ni’Jah does a surprise release of her latest project, Festival. Overcome with the songs and visuals, Dre goes to a club and picks up a man (played by Rory Culkin). After punching her V-card, Dre plugs in her phone to find a flurry of texts from Marissa saying that her man cheated on her. Dre comes home to find Marissa’s dead body, kicking off Dre’s slide into darkness. But some viewers are pretty sure Marissa was actually Dre’s first victim.
Swarm is so good and has me thinking A LOT. dominique is an amazing actress #dominiquefishback #fyp #swarm #donaldglover #chloebailey #andreagreene♬ original sound - SHAY 📟
This theory has proponents on Twitter, TikTok, and Reddit — all of whom believe Dre killed Marissa some time after she rejected the Ni’Jah tickets.
But What About the Texts?
Dre could have easily sent those texts herself. We even see her texting herself with Marissa’s phone later in the episode. One Reddit user pointed out that when Dre discovers Marissa’s phone in the hallway, it’s under the bloody bag Dre took from the convenience store: “Her first instinct after ‘finding’ the phone was to text herself as marissa,” they wrote. “So how do we know the texts she received from marissa right before her death (a)weren’t sent by herself or (b) a complete delusion?”
So Dre blacked out, killed Marissa, faked the texts, then secured an alibi in the form of a one-night stand. That is if you even think that club scene really happened.
Is Rory Culkin Even Real?
There are plenty of reasons to believe the scene in which Dre picks up Rory Culkin is yet another fantasy, presaging the finale’s grand delusional ending. Are we to believe Dre was so inspired by the Festival era that she was able to seduce a stranger or even get into the club? “I don’t believe Dre ever went out that night. I think it was a delusion she created to block out the memory of killing her,” wrote that same Reddit user. “In the scene where she’s entering the club, there’s a line of people outside and she just passes all of the people in line and walks right into the club. She appears confident and flirtatious. She hooks up with the first guy she sees and from what we’ve seen of Dre in the show, that’s completely out of character for her.”
But What About the Documentary?
One snag in this theory is episode six’s show-within-a-show, the true-crime doc about Detective Greene’s hunt for a serial killer. In that investigation, it is stated that Marissa died by suicide and that no one is really questioning it. However, the doc itself points out that local police are more than happy to find an easy explanation for all of Dre’s killings — one that doesn’t involve a Black woman as serial killer. And the end of the doc shows Donald Glover teasing the existence of the very show we’re watching. The fact that Dre and Marissa are played by different women in the doc (and that everyone is very clearly saying “Beyoncé” and not “Ni’Jah” when they’re bleeped in interviews) already demonstrates that Swarm is diverging from the “real” events of the true-crime show.
The documentary does give one important clue in favor of the “Dre killed Marissa” theory: Her friend’s stab wound.
Marissa’s Scar Is the Key
When we first see a scar on Marissa’s wrist, we assume it is from self-harm. This seems to be corroborated by Marissa’s apparent suicide later in the episode. But! What if it’s actually a self-defense wound from the sleepover?
In the documentary episode, we find out about a truly fucked-up sleepover that happened when Dre and Marissa were kids. It was for Marissa’s birthday, and Dre was supposed to stay in the attic. Apparently, Dre snuck out and found the sleepover kids playfully attacking Marissa led by mean girl Gwen. Dre snapped and tried to choke and stab Gwen with Marissa trying to break up the fight. Gwen says she didn’t even know she was stabbed until the fight ended, so it seems possible that Marissa got cut as well.
If even this first wound was Dre-inflicted, Marissa’s death becomes that much more open-ended. But getting real, creator-condoned answers to this theory seems about as likely as finally getting those Renaissance visuals.