The Crowded Room – Season 1 Episode 1 “Exodus” Recap & Review


Episode 1 of The Crowded Room begins in New York sometime in the 70s. Danny Sullivan and his friend, Ariana, take the metro near the Rockefeller Centre. Danny presumably has a gun in his hands, which is later confirmed when he and Ariana chase a strange man through the busy road. From their conversation, it seems Ariana is pushing Danny to kill the man. Why? We do not know. Who? We do not know. When things come to pass, Danny freezes and the man scampers. Ariana tries to shoot him but hits him in the shoulder once before dropping the gun and giving chase.

The police are quick to react and they chase Danny, who picks up the gun for some reason and runs. Danny gets back home and meets Yitzhak, a big, scary-looking bald man. He threateningly asks about Ariana’s whereabouts but Danny says he doesn’t know. Yitzhak gives him a passport and some cash, asking Danny to “find his father.” As he is leaving, the police surround the house and Danny is arrested. The cops seem to believe this might be a big arrest for their career. They think Danny is a serial killer.

To get confirmation, they call Professor Rya Goodwin, who is sceptical about their characterization. She doesn’t see the necessary signs but still agrees to talk with Danny. Once seated, she asks Danny to tell her about how and when he met Ariana, which it turns out was in the spring of 1977. Danny was a quiet, sad, and moody teenager, having trouble at home with his stepfather, Marlin. Candy, Danny’s mother, ran out of options and had to settle with the bully. We see that Danny’s friends, Jonny and Mike, cared about him deeply. Thankfully, there are no typical high-school tropes in episode 1.

Danny takes a liking to Annabelle, a transfer student, at a party. She seems piqued by his reserved disposition and asks him if he wants to “get high.” Since neither has any marijuana, the plan is vitiated. During the conversation, it is revealed that Danny had an identical twin brother, Adam, who died when he was young. Right across their house is a boarding room, which Danny calls the “ghost house.” Yitzhak moved into that very house back then and introduced himself as being from Israel. Rya mentions that there are some unresolved assaults from that place and time but Danny isn’t able to confirm if that was done by Ariana.

Jonny comes up with a plan to further Danny’s interest in Annabelle. It requires Danny to steal Marlin’s card and pin code to take out cash from the “cash machines”, use it to buy pot, sell most of it for a profit, and give Danny enough to “get high” with Annabelle. Even though they aren’t happy with the plan, they go ahead with it. It is close to being bust but the plan is successful. They meet Angelo, a drug dealer at the park. Things take an ominous turn when Angelo gets suspicious of them. Mike is able to talk Angelo out of “cutting Danny open” and the boys run with the packet of weed.

Now, the task to sell the drugs is up to Jonny. He and Mike sell the stuff in an afternoon’s time. Danny gathers courage and asks Annabelle out but her boyfriend, Bill – the school jock – comes up to them and threatens him to stay away. News about Danny having drugs in his locker spreads and the principal asks him to open it. He doesn’t find any drugs as Jonny and Mike moved the drugs before. Bill is apprehended by the principal and reprimanded.

Danny chances his luck and finds Annabelle waiting for him under the bridge, as she promised. She seems to like him and they end up making out.

Danny likes to paint – and he can do it quite well. He paints a picture for her but Eden, Annabelle’s friend, is told by Annabelle to tell Danny that it won’t work out between them.

Danny had put a joint in the envelope with the picture and the principal finds it on the floor. He runs off, scared, and goes to his house. On the voicemail, he listens to Marlin asking Candy about taking money from his account. Outside, Danny finds Bill and his jock friends coming toward the house to beat him up. He tries running but they catch up. Bill mercilessly beats him but Yitzhak saves Danny and beats the others who run. At the same time, Danny is afraid to go to school and runs back home. That’s how he ended up at the boarding house. And that is when he met Ariana. They took him in and it felt like home to Danny.

Rya keeps repeating if Danny thinks Ariana is with Yitzhak and he keeps rebuffing. She makes it clear that he would go to jail if he doesn’t answer the questions and takes the blame on himself. In a dizzying final minute, we see Rya repeatedly ask Danny about what happened to Yitzhak and Ariana, even calling him Adam once.

The Episode Review

This is exactly how the pilot of a ten-part series should be. The balance between storytelling and keeping the mystery intact was sublime throughout episode 1 of The Crowded Room. Tom Holland totally disappeared into his character and seems the perfect fit to play Danny.

It helps to dive into the series without knowing anything about the true events that inspired it. Not only does that preserve the viewing experience, but it also lends the story an importance of its own.

A peculiar takeaway from episode 1 was how Danny “felt at home” in the boarding room with Yitzhak and Ariana. The buildup to that moment was paced and characterized to perfection. It has set the stage for Danny’s story to unravel like a slow burn during the course of season 1. Let’s hope the follow-up episodes match the bite of this episode.


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You can read our full season 1 review of The Crowded Room here
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