Swimming With Sharks: Season 1 – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

Lou (Kiernan Shipka) in Joyce's office

Relying on star power than substance, Swimming with Sharks is entertaining but won’t be a killer property for Roku.

Relying on star power than substance, Swimming with Sharks is entertaining but won’t be a killer property for Roku.

Network Roku
Genre(s) Crime, Drama, Young Adult, LGBT
Noted Characters
Lou Kiernan Shipka
Joyce Holt Diane Kruger
Alex Ross Butler
Travis Thomas Dekker
Marty Finn Jones
Redmond Donald Sutherland
Meredith Erika Alexander


Lou, a girl fresh from Colorado Springs, has lucked into an internship at Fountain Pictures. There she will work under CEO Joyce Holt and her assistants Alex and Travis. But Lou isn’t the type who waits for an opportunity to show up, she makes them. Which, at first, leads to her impressing many, but as she shows she doesn’t know where the line is, opinions shift quickly.

Things To Note

  • Unexpected Content Advisory: Violence (self-harm towards the end of the season)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What triggers the end of Olive, Lou’s mom?
  2. Many years after her mother died, why was Lou in a treatment program?
  3. What was Travis’ backstory?
  4. Did Marty have aspirations to be CEO and take Joyce’s job, or was he cool with his position?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Depending on how you interpret the ending, Lou may need to start over again, assuming she can after the events discovered in the last two episodes.



Marty and Lou’s Chemistry

Lou enjoying her time with Marty at a industry party

There are very few things to latch onto in the first few episodes. As individuals, Lou, Joyce, Travis, and everyone else you meet are generic. Joyce is the stern boss who is icy as a means of defense. Travis is your run-of-the-mill sassy gay character, with a quick wit and a personality that makes you wonder is this authentic, a stereotype, or both?

As for the lead character, Lou? There is some intrigue there, but it isn’t until she meets Marty that it gets tapped. You see, Marty and Lou are the first pairing who have a genuine connection. Mind you, they are completely platonic, but even without there being any romance between them, they are what presents the idea that Swimming With Sharks isn’t Frankenstein’s monster composed of characters who are clunkily put together.

Through Shipka and Jones, Swimming With Sharks is shown to have potential. For in their banter, the guise they sell of them being brother and sister, we get something sweet, sometimes hilarious, and you get the vibe Lou isn’t playing a character but putting her guard down around Marty. That she isn’t the femme fatale that is based on Joyce’s image 24/7. No, despite her trauma, Lou can just as much be a young twenty-something having fun with this lonely 30 or 40-something-year-old.

And honestly, it is a shame as Lou makes progress in her relationship with Joyce that what she had with Marty becomes sidelined.

It’s A Half-Hour Drama

One of the things that saves Swimming With Sharks is it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s around 24 minutes per episode, and with only 6, it is a quick watch. It has Lou say some things, minor character development, throws in some drama, and usually ends on something shocking or a cliffhanger that ushers you right to the next episode. All of which, once you lower your expectations for this show, makes for an enjoyable watch.

On The Fence

Wasted Potential

Lou and Joyce watching a boy masturbate

While cast fairly well, the struggle of Swimming with Sharks is it dodges going deeper when it comes to relationships between characters and individual development and rather pursue something sensational. Prime example, Joyce and Lou. Both share not knowing their fathers well, coming from nothing, and share a moment in episode 4, when they finally talk, and you get to understand that Lou’s obsession may not be superficial. However, that’s followed up with Lou fulfilling Joyce’s sexual fantasy, making out with her, and you feeling almost like you’re not trusted as a viewer to stay interested unless something tantalizing happens.

The same can be said for Joyce and her boss Redmond. It’s established he is an old Hollywood type who r*ped Joyce when she was younger, and they had some strange relationship, but we don’t get the details. We don’t know how Joyce went from a failed actress who, seemingly under Redmond, became a CEO. We just know he is a creep, did terrible things, is racist, and has a vulgar mouth.

Lou, though, that is the character whose potential is teased but utterly wasted. Now, Shipka does try to make her character and the script more than it is. She gives you femme fatale, brings charisma and likability, and has no issue carrying some scenes when working with someone who she isn’t the most compatible with. However, there is only so much she can do when they don’t want to dig into what Lou escaped from and the troubling story of her past.

And mind you, I would love to say Swimming With Sharks does this to avoid sensationalizing trauma out of respect for many who have survived what they’ve gone through. But then they have Lou’s mother in the tub, post-cutting her wrists. It has Lou and Joyce having a very strange, drug-induced sexual moment and more which pushes the idea this show couldn’t give a damn about respectability. It’s selling entertainment, even if it means going low. Which, once you lower your expectations and standards, you might enjoy.


Our Rating: Mixed (Stick Around)

Lou talking to Travis, after she got him fired

Swimming With Sharks isn’t bad enough to seem camp. However, it does seem like the kind of show that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a dark comedy? Roku has this listed as a drama and suspense, but I feel like the definition of those two genres doesn’t fit. Yes, Lou has a certain creep factor, but it’s not anything major. She’s more weirdo capable of murder than someone who elicits some sense of paranoia or fear. As for the drama element? Almost everything is told to us, shown to us, but never felt. Sympathy or empathy for the characters is rarely asked for, and when it is, it’s in short supply due to shoddy character development.

Hence the mixed label. Swimming With Sharks is heavily reliant on Kiernan Shipka, and while her chemistry with Finn Jones, early on, will keep you watching, sadly, unless you lower your expectations and disregard the tone the trailer sells you on, you won’t have a good time.

Listed Under Categories: , ,

User Review
0 (0 votes)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.