The Swarm

A new eco-thriller series from Europe about strange phenomena from the ocean deep is smart and stylish.

In recent months reports have emerged of killer whales attacking small boats off the coast of Spain.

Theories abound on the change in behaviour: an injured whale teaching others, a response to busy marine traffic after silence caused by the pandemic, or play getting out of control.

Or maybe they had seen The Swarm, a new Euro eco-thriller in which whales are seen attacking boats due to unexplained deep sea activity.

The 8 part series is based on a novel by Frank Schätzing, and produced by broadcasters from Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. It means we are half a world away from American storytelling, which makes for a nice change.

The canvas is wide with the action taking place from Peru to Canada, Scotland, France, Germany with unrelated characters all slowly coming to terms with unexplained phenomenon in the ocean.

In Vancouver Cetologist Leon’s (Joshua Odjick) concerns are raised when he discovers a dead orca and evidence of boats having been attacked. But he will witness far more inexplicable incidents…

In the Shetland Islands Charlie (Leonie Benesch) works a local lighthouse and kills her loneliness with a one night stand with hunky local (Jack Greenlees). If only she could explain the “fire ice” rising from the ocean bed to her superior in Germany, Prof. Katherina Lehmann ( Barbara Sukowa).

Charlie’s colleagues Tomas (David Vormweg) and Jess (Andrea Guo) are also aboard research vessel the Juno in the Arctic Ocean when disaster strikes.

Meanwhile in France a restaurateur purchasing supplies from the local fish markets will get an unexpected surprise.

French virologist Dr. Cécile Roche (Cécile de France) follows the evidence after fatal consequences, while pathologists Dr. Sigur (Johanson Alexander Karim) and Tina (Krista Kosonen) also take a scientific approach to abnormal behaviour, effectively becoming our narrative detectives.

Like a good ol’ Irwin Allen disaster flick, it will surely be a matter of time before these disparate characters can link up in the fight against mother nature.

The action swings like a pendulum between territories, oceanside and scientific backdrops, and an expansive cast. But director Luke Watson maintains a tone that works, with everybody underplaying their part and leaving lots of questions for the viewer to pursue.

There’s plenty of locations and I suspect some use of horizon tanks for close-ups, but it all adds to the credibility rather well. Episode two is something of a slow-burn but there are just enough spooky phenomena or big scale stunts to keep you hooked.

I can’t say whether the end result will have been worth 8 episodes (as opposed to say, a 90 minute movie for the same idea). Doubtless it will be man’s treatment of the planet to blame somewhere along the line?

If you warm to those global tales of unexplained interference, be they virus, UFOs, bacteria, or killer killer whales- this is one of the more thoughtful offerings in recent times.

The Swarm screens 8:30pm Wednesday on FOX8 and Binge.

4 Responses

  1. Binged this…wasn’t the greatest show ever but made you think hard about how we are treating the planet…not nearly as bad as some reviews (IMDB 5.6/10) would have you think.

  2. Irwin Allen would bring out his collection of rubber monsters and large Squids if he made this show, the main characters would wear gaudy jumpsuits and work in a vast underground headquarters with lots of flashing lights, I do miss Mr. Allen’s creativity.
    Having checked out the trailer of The Swarm I give this sci-fi offering the Imperial thumbs up, GoT’s Frank Doelger is one of the shows main producers and the production has a $64 million dollar budget, a budget figure which maybe could be noted by US production companies, who would probably have budgeted this show as costing three times as much.

    1. Update: I have watched a few episodes now and I am enjoying it, the story arc does have a few loose ends but generally speaking works quite well if you don’t take the scientific propositions too seriously, This series could have easily become a melodrama with all the personal relationship subplots but manages to keep the principal mystery story arc on track, which is all that matters. Those thinking this show is mostly in foreign language need not worry, so those who like watching some visually well made sci-fi, just sit back and enjoy. Regular SBS on Demand viewers will recognise most of the featured actors.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts