THE CROWDED ROOM on Apple TV+ is a new thriller series based on a true crime, which takes away the mystery element. Still, Tom Holland is amazing in the lead role. Read our The Crowded Room series review here!
THE CROWDED ROOM is a new Apple TV+ series based on a true story. Obviously, having something based on a true crime and making a thriller series constructed around a mystery is quite the challenge. In fact, it’s near impossible and not a very good premise.
Having said that, I cannot bring myself to just trash-talk this Apple TV+ series. Mostly because it is a fascinating story and Tom Holland is amazing in the all-important lead role. The problem is with how the story is told. I’ll get to the true story later on in a segment that I’ll mark with “spoiler”.
Continue reading our The Crowded Room series review below. The first three episodes are on Apple TV+ from June 9, 2023.
The Story of Danny Sullivan
Officially, The Crowded Room is the story of Danny Sullivan. He’s a young man arrested following his involvement in a shooting in New York City in 1979. Tom Holland portrays Danny Sullivan and does an excellent job. He is truly mesmerizing in this role!
His story is told through a series of interviews with the curious interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried). This is essentially how we get his life story, which is told in flashbacks as Danny tells it.
As his life story unfolds, “the twists and turns that will lead him to a life-altering revelation” which is of course the big mystery.
However, saying this is the story of Danny Sullivan is part of the problem. The Apple TV+ series is based on a book, which is about a very real person. That person’s name was not Danny Sullivan and people who enjoy documentaries will probably already know the story. Hence taking away all mystery.
In fact, having watched said documentary (which I’ll get to in the next segment and so it will contain spoilers), I guessed the entire “mystery” from just watching the trailer a while back. When I watched the trailer for The Crowded Room, I guessed the twists because it felt familiar. And it should!
The story The Crowded Room is based on *contains spoilers*
As I stated above, I felt the story of The Crowded Room was strangely familiar. My first thought was that this was a remake of the 2003 movie Identity which led me to think of the documentary Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan.
One quick look at IMDb confirms that The Crowded Room is indeed based on the book “The Minds of Billy Milligan” by Daniel Keyes. In fact, this is also clearly stated during the opening credits.
Now, this obviously begs the question: How do you make a thriller mystery series in 10 parts, when it’s based on a true story and hence no mystery at all?
The answer: You don’t!
The mystery of The Crowded Room is already a given. When the twists and turns start rolling in, it won’t be surprising at all because we already know what they are.
Rather than be upfront and tell the story of Billy Milligan – named Danny Sullivan in The Crowded Room here to keep some mystery, I guess – we’re supposed to pretend we don’t know what it’s all about. I cannot get my head around how anyone thought this would be a good idea. It simply isn’t!
The Crowded Room spoilers end here!
Start watching The Crowded Room on Apple TV+
The creator of The Crowded Room is Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) and it was developed by Todd Graff (The Vanishing). It’s based on a book by Daniel Keys, as covered in the above segment with spoilers, so I won’t go further into that.
Writers such as Suzanne Heathcote who worked on Killing Eve (showrunner on season 3) and Fear the Walking Dead wrote several episodes. Everything about this series is good except for trying to build a mystery on a story that is well-known.
There are ten episodes to this series which are far too many. As a movie, the whole mystery element could have worked. However, as a series that is released with weekly episodes (and reveals which book it’s based on), there is no mystery.
The actors delivering strong performances in this series deserved much better.
In fact, I still think you should watch it for them – they deserve our 3-star rating. Those who created the premise and decided to tell the story in this manner, will hopefully realize the error of their ways and never do the same again!
The Crowded Room premieres on Apple TV+ with the first 3 episodes (out of 10) on June 9, 2023.
Creator: Akiva Goldsman
Directors: Kornél Mundruczó, Brady Corbet, Mona Fastvold, Alan Taylor
Cast: Tom Holland, Amanda Seyfried, Emmy Rossum, Sasha Lane
In Manhattan in the summer of 1979, a young man is arrested for a shocking crime, and an unlikely investigator must solve the mystery behind it.