The events of Swarm are kicked into gear by the death of Dre’s best friend and foster sister, Marissa, but what happened to her and how did she die?
*WARNING: Spoilers for Swarm and content of a distressing nature discussed ahead*
Fresh from helming the fourth and final season of Atlanta, Donald Glover and Janine Nabers have teamed up for their latest project, the Prime Video series Swarm, which follows a young woman named Andrea “Dre” Greene who is a massive fan of the world-famous pop star, Ni’Jah. Her obsession has even reached the point where she’s seen getting violent in her defense of the singer.
Dre’s story begins with tragedy, however, as episode 1 of Swarm sees her best friend and foster sister Marissa die, leading to Dre going off the rails in subsequent episodes. But given Dre’s unreliable point of view, many have been left with questions about what exactly happened to Marissa and how she died.
Marissa’s death in Swarm
Dre is joined by Marissa, her foster sister. They live together and work as a team in Swarm.
The pair are almost inseparable and since childhood have shared a love for the music artist Ni’Jah, who is inspired by real-world pop star, Beyoncé.
For Marissa’s birthday, Dre buys the pair extortionately expensive tickets to see the singer, despite the fact that neither of them really have the money to afford it.
Their relationship is complicated by the presence of Marissa’s boyfriend, Khalid, who often lays into Dre for being weird or for not having lost her virginity.
As the episode progresses, Dre and Marissa get into an argument when ‘Ris’ reveals that she will have to pass on the Ni’Jah gig because Khalid has already invited her on a trip to Atlanta.
That night, Ni’Jah unexpectedly releases her latest album, called Festival, and after seemingly losing herself in the music, Dre uncharacteristically goes out to a club where she meets a young man and has sex with him.
She wakes up the next day to find texts from Marissa stating that Khalid and she had an argument about him cheating on their daughter.
When Dre gets back to their apartment, however, she discovers Marissa’s dead body on the bed.
The discovery seemingly flicks a switch in Dre’s head, resulting in her beginning the bloody killing spree that takes place over the next few episodes, beginning with Khalid.
Marissa died in Swarm.
As the audience, we’re told that Marissa died after committed suicide in Swarm.
The show tells us this on multiple occasions, notably in episode 1 when Dre scrolls through social media and fans speculate that Marissa took her own life following the release of Ni’Jah’s latest album, believing it to mirror her own situation with Khalid.
The belief that Marissa committed suicide crops up again in episode 6 when the show transforms into a true-crime documentary as it follows a detective called Loretta Greene who is attempting to solve Dre’s murders.
However, here’s where the story of Marissa Jackson in Swarm takes an interesting turn as the fictional character is based on a young woman of the same name who apparently committed suicide in the real world following the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade album.
The story circulated all over social media but was eventually proved to be a hoax courtesy of the satirical news site Empire Herald and the ‘real’ Marissa Jackson never actually existed at all.
Instead, it turned out that the fake news story and all the gossip surrounding it were the source of inspiration for Janine Nabers (and Donald Glover) when they started Swarm.
Theorie suggests Dre may have killed Marissa
All of this leads to the theory that Dre might well have been responsible for Marissa’s death all along.
Reddit user, lezzymcguire1, proposed the theory. It is possible to suggest that Dre killed Marissa after the pair argued about not going to see Ni’Jah and that a number of scenes in episode 1 point to Dre attempting to cover up her guilt.
Dre (usually quiet and reserved) ventures out on her own to go to a club. She confidently passes the line, walks in front of the crowd, and starts flirting. Later, she has sex.
This is totally out of character and suggests that the whole sequence could have been a hallucination to create an alibi in Dre’s head for what she was really doing.
On top of that, Dre later finds Marissa’s phone plugged into charge in the hallway outside their apartment. Dre found the phone hidden under a bag covered in blood from the convenience store, which suggests that Marissa put it there.
If this is the case, then she could well have taken Marissa’s phone and sent the texts that were apparently from Marissa herself, again hoping to cover up what she had actually done.
One thing that we can gather from Swarm’s seven episodes is that Dre is an incredibly unreliable narrator as the events we’re shown aren’t always what match up with reality.
A perfect example of this comes in episode 7 when Dre storms the stage of a Ni’Jah concert and the singer tells the security guards to let her go. When she then walks up to Dre, Ni’Jah’s face is actually Marissa’s and the pair leave together.
There is no way that this is what actually happened and it’s worth noting that the episode is called ‘Only God Makes Happy Endings’ after all.
The reality of the scene is actually revealed in episode 6 when Loretta learns that Dre had been arrested for storming the stage and she tells the documentary crew that she’s planning to head over there to question Dre about the murders.
Don’t be fooled by Marissa’s scar
Dre’s wrist scar is one more piece of evidence suggesting Dre might have murdered Marissa.
We’re initially led to believe that Marissa’s scar Is the result of self-harm but in episode 6, we’re told of a sleepover that took place when Marissa and Dre were children that took a violent turn.
Marissa was playing with her friends, playfighting in part of a game Dre devised. Marissa’s friend Gwen misread the situation. Dre attacked Marissa even stabbing Gwen.
If Marissa had attempted to drag Dre off Gwen, it’s highly likely that she also got hurt during the incident.
This is almost certainly why we see Dre kissing the scar on Marissa’s wrist in episode 1 as she feels guilty about hurting her sister, not because she self-harmed.
If Dre has already hurt Marissa once before, who’s to say she couldn’t do it again?
The Swarm Available for streaming Now available on Prime Video, after it was released on Friday March 17, 2023.
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