The Crowded Room Season 1 Review – Tom Holland’s towering performance is a powerful showcase

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5

The Crowded Room is a typical example of “a film of two halves.” Except, it is not a film but a ten-part television series. The Apple TV Plus offering stars Tom Holland in the central role as Danny Sullivan. Despite its length, The Crowded Room has a surprisingly long, traditional runtime for each episode. Most tv shows revert to six/eight episodes even with a truncated runtime but this show takes the bold decision of going for the double whammy of ten episodes. At first, it seems like a creative experiment gone wrong but gradually, as we see more of it, the series speaks out to the viewer, evoking compassion and unresolved emotions. 

There is a lot to unpack here and the show definitely takes its sweet time getting to the central conceit. All the marketing efforts and press releases prior were carefully woven so as to not reveal it. The underlying story of Danny was religiously kept under wraps and it is not by any coincidence that episode 4 finally gives it away. Even before that, we have the arduous task of reading between the lines to arrive at the substance of the show. But when Holland finally embraces Danny’s “secret,” the series becomes a vehicle for his spectacular acting talents.

Danny Sullivan (Holland) is arrested for opening fire at his stepfather Marlin Reid in Rockefeller Centre. Although he misses, Danny injures quite a few onlookers and is charged with an attempt to murder. Seasoned detective Matt Doyle eyes an opportunity to grab an alleged “serial killer.” He invites his ex and psychology professor Dr Rya Goodwin to investigate further. In her interactions with Danny spanning many weeks, Rya comes to a more haunting conclusion, reaching the depths of Danny’s complicated “crowded room” to pull out the truth about him that defines his life.

It is nearly impossible to talk good or bad things about the show without giving the central mystery away. Undeniably, it is an integral part of the storytelling. Many reviewers who have criticized the show have pointed out that the creators delay revealing the mystery for too long. However, all readers must understand that most of these comments come on a special preview of a few episodes, not the entire season. Danny’s real story truly begins a few episodes in when the realization of the challenge of his identity dawns upon the viewers. The beginning episodes are a necessary buildup. 

Akiva Goldsman, who adapts the series for the screen, taps into his rich experience of working with such projects. He translates the true story of Billy Milligan (using a sizeable artistic licence) to its full extent without compromises. While the show does not have many moving parts, Goldman relishes accentuating the highlights with solid buildup. Every aspect of Danny’s life is built from the ground up to immerse the viewer in his world. They play a pivotal role in elucidating how Danny feels about certain things. The things he sees from his own eyes are an important perspective that comes in handy for the later episodes when Goldsman lays out how things actually are.

All the relationships and connections Danny forges with the other characters have a bearing on his outlook. The microscopic focus leaves no stone unturned when it comes to characterization. By the end of it, Danny’s life story is laid bare – both the ugly and beautiful parts. Tom Holland is the centrifugal force driving literally everything. The British actor makes the most of the opportunity he has here and sinks his teeth deep into Danny’s conflicts to inhabit everything the character feels.

Holland goes from one emotion to the other almost effortlessly, especially in the transition scenes. It is a vulnerability that we have rarely seen on the screen translated into something so meaningful for the viewers. He recently commented how playing Danny has forced him into taking a short-term sabbatical and his commitment definitely shows in the portrayal.

Amanda Seyfried plays the role of his companion through his journey of self-discovery dutifully.  She does get her own moments of exploring her character’s life but it is the time she spends together with Danny that strikes the most.

The Crowded Room invites you into Danny’s world with open arms. The only prerequisite is investing in his journey. If the belief is missing or if Danny “bores” you, the show isn’t for you. Holland makes a compelling case to prevent that from happening but such is the structure and tone of the storytelling that viewers must bring something of their own to the table as well. 

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  • Episode Rating - 8/10

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