The swarm

The swarm

Reports of killer whales attacking small boats off the coast of Spain have emerged in recent months.

Behavior change theories abound: a wounded whale teaching others, a response to heavy shipping after the silence caused by the pandemic, or a game spiraling out of control.

Or maybe they had seen The swarma new European eco-thriller in which whales are seen attacking boats due to unexplained activity in deep water.

The 8-part series is based on a novel by Frank Schätzing and is produced by German, Belgian, French, Italian, Japanese, Austrian, Swedish and Swiss broadcasters. It means we’re half a world away from the American narrative, which is quite a change.

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

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

In Shetland Charlie (Leonie Benesch) works at a local lighthouse and slays her loneliness with a one night stand with a local hunk (Jack Greenlees). She if only she could explain the “fire ice” rising from the ocean floor to her superior in Germany, Prof. Katherina Lehmann (Barbara Sukowa).

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

Meanwhile in France, a restaurateur shopping at local fish markets is in for an unexpected surprise.

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

Like a good old Irwin Allen disaster movie, it will surely be a matter of time before these disparate characters can unite in the fight against mother nature.

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

Lots of locations and I suspect some use of tanks on the horizon for close-ups, but it all adds to the believability pretty well. Episode two is something of a slow burn, but there’s enough ghostly phenomena or large-scale stunts to keep you hooked.

I can’t tell if the end result will be worth 8 episodes (as opposed to, say, a 90 minute movie for the same idea). No doubt it will be to blame for man’s treatment of the planet somewhere along the line?

If you like those global tales of unexplained interference, whether it’s viruses, UFOs, bacteria or killer whales, this is one of the most thoughtful offerings in recent times.

The Swarm airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm on FOX8 and Binge.