Apple TV’s newest series, The Crowded Room, is a psychological drama that delves into the complexities of mental health. Starring Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried, the series is inspired by the biographical book The Minds of Billy Milligan.
This thought-provoking series explores the depths of the human mind through a unique and engaging narrative. In the first three episodes, viewers are introduced to an engaging story that tries to balance intense emotions, nuanced performances, and a deeper exploration of mental disorders.
[Warning: Light spoilers from episodes 1-3 of The Crowded Room are below!]
Tom Holland as Danny Sullivan explores mental health and trauma
The premiere episode of The Crowded Room sets the stage for the mystery and drama ahead. The action takes place at the end of the ’70s. Danny Sullivan (Tom Holland) is a problematic kid living with his mother and stepfather. He has a crush on a popular girl, buys pot, goes to parties, and draws. We see how difficult it is sometimes for him to find his way in the environment around him.
The series cleverly switches between Danny’s humble past and the present, in which he is arrested for shooting multiple people. Detective Rya Goodwin played by Amanda Seyfried is trying to prove that Danny is innocent. But he struggles to answer her questions.
While walking around the neighborhood, Danny and his friends learn that Danny has a new neighbor. The mysterious neighbor, named Yitzhak (Lior Raz), later helps Danny get rid of some bullies attacking him. After this event, Danny decides to move in with Yitzhak and meets another roommate Ariana (Sasha Lane). Watching the pilot episode, it is better not to know the story of Billy Milligan. The entire mystery is built on the pillars of the viewer’s unawareness of past events.
The second episode continues exploring the depths of Danny’s mind and his ongoing battle with his inner self. Rya delves into Danny’s past, uncovering buried memories and traumatic experiences, and the layers of his condition begin to unravel. The episode provides a deeper dive into the origins of Danny’s problems, shedding light on the traumatic events that led to what happened. The narrative seamlessly interweaves contemporary therapy sessions and haunting memories, painting a vivid picture of Danny’s past.
The series continues to emphasize the importance of empathy and understanding when it comes to mental health. Seyfried’s portrayal of Rya shows that her dedication to her patient is truly commendable. Furthermore, The Crowded Room delves into the impact of Danny’s condition on his relationships with others. The strain on his family, the confusion of his friends, and the challenges faced by those trying to understand and accept him are all explored with sensitivity.
This aspect of the series not only adds a layer of emotional depth but also highlights the need for social empathy and support for people with mental disorders. Unfortunately, the execution is poor, because sometimes instead of giving us real and emotional scenes, we don’t know what to do and what we just saw. Especially when it comes to understanding what the hell is going on.
Episode 3 of The Crowded Room turns the whole story around 180 degrees.
The third episode makes the whole story from the previous episodes more confusing. Scenes involving Danny show the frustration, fear, and desperation of a man trying to maintain control over his own identity and actions. The visual and auditory elements of the show work in tandem to convey the disorienting nature of Danny’s experience. The Crowded Room takes unexpected narrative risks in this episode, pushing the boundaries of psychological exploration.
During these three episodes, there are huge suggestions that Danny has DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). This reveal challenges viewers to question their own perceptions of reality, blurring the line between the imaginary and the real. And especially when we ask ourselves whether we watched the story through Danny’s eyes or someone else’s.
The psychological thriller elements in this episode are done better than in the previous two. Viewers get involved and want to discover the truth about Danny’s condition. The chemistry between Holland and Seyfried deepens in this episode. As the episode progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that their relationship will be pivotal in Danny’s journey toward healing and self-discovery.
Apple TV presents a confusing story but with great potential
The Crowded Room is a story about the exploration of the human mind. Switching between the past and the present felt chaotic at first. Tom Holland exhibits Danny’s versatility and emotional depth very well.
Amanda Seyfried is perfectly cast. She offers a captivating performance as the compassionate therapist who serves as both a guiding light and a source of solace for Danny. Seyfried’s role is there to remind people that they’re not alone and that there’ll always be someone to help them. We see this especially when she tries to help Danny at every step of his journey, rather than criminalizing or scaring him.
The series’ attention to detail in depicting mental health conditions is commendable, highlighting the struggles faced by those living with DID. It sheds light on the challenges, stigma, and misconceptions surrounding mental health, encouraging viewers to empathize and understand. The Crowded Room educates and emphasizes the importance of seeking help, destigmatizing mental health and supporting the environment.
One of the series’ strengths is its ability to engage viewers in the mind of its protagonist, forcing us to question the nature of identity and the limits of reality. Each episode is an immersive exploration of the human psyche.
As the plot deepens and the complexities of Danny’s condition unravel, we find ourselves more invested in his well-being, rooting for his recovery and growth. And especially to discover what really happened and whose version of events is true. But there is also a very slow presentation of past events and how they affected other characters. I don’t know if it was a deliberate decision or not, but during episodes 1 and 2 I felt that there was a lot to do in a very short time. Even when those episodes ended.
I will watch future episodes to see if The Crowded Room lives up to its potential. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see series just yet, but it’s definitely something different to check out.
The three episode premiere of The Crowded Room is currently available to stream on Apple TV. Have you watched it? Did you like it? Let us know on Twitter and our own Discord channel.