Standing at 10 episodes long, each of one hour length, The Crowded Room is a meaty series to get into. But a drama like this, that runs for so long in the world of four or six-part miniseries, has the major task of keeping an audience interested long enough to withstand 10 hours unpicking the same plotline.


In the case of The Crowded Room, it undeniably has the scope to keep people intrigued and scratching their heads trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of Danny Sullivan (played by Tom Holland). For the first three episodes – all of which land on Apple TV+ at the same time – you'll end each episode with a slew of new questions, ready to take in the next. And truly, it's captivating stuff.

But as the storyline kicks into another gear, as the themes of the story get a little more difficult to watch and more breathers need to be taken when watching, the series can often feel weighed down by the big mystery it's trying to lay out before the viewer.

The term 'slow burn' gets bandied about to describe generally well-paced shows and thrillers particularly, but The Crowded Room takes the term to a whole new level. In parts, it's welcome because of the context and character development needed for Danny, but in other sections of the series, you kind of just want things to hurry up a bit.

This is largely in part to the fact that a major spoiler for the series is revealed in the opening credits of the series, which inevitably leads to the audience wanting to figure out what the hell's going on with young Danny.

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Amanda Seyfried and Tom Holland in The Crowded Room - Apple TV+
Amanda Seyfried and Tom Holland in The Crowded Room - Apple TV+ Apple TV+

Due to the nature of the weekly release of episodes, plot details cannot be revealed for The Crowded Room just yet, but the series' opening credits give away perhaps the biggest spoiler of all. While beautiful in their own right with impressive stop motion paintings, the opening credits also reveal that the new series is inspired by the book, The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes.

The non-fiction book explores the case of real-life Milligan, the subject of a highly publicised court case who was acquitted of a major crime after pleading insanity due to a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. Now, of course, it can't be revealed exactly how far The Crowded Room leans on the real life events it's inspired by but the true story gives an indication of what's to come with Danny.

Because of this knowing cloud hanging over the series, you tune in curious as to how this will play out with our protagonist, but those notes of suspicion over Danny don't creep in until later on in the series. The Crowded Room almost teases you by dangling that nugget of information before you, willing you to continue watching to find out if your initial doubts are grounded in truth. But even so, it does so in a mighty leisurely fashion.

Pacing aside, The Crowded Room is another example of Tom Holland's ability to embody a role to the nth degree. While many of us know him as the fan-favourite Spider-Man in six hit Marvel movies, here Holland demonstrates that he's able to take on the darker, grittier roles just as much as the beloved fictional comic character, as well as serve as executive producer over this thought-provoking project.

We follow Danny as he gets embroiled in a shooting in the middle of New York City in 1979, an explosive scene that opens up the series and you feel for him as his supposed friend Ariana (Sasha Lane) has left him to pick up the pieces. She's nowhere to be found and the series flits between a series of interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) to the past, for us to really see how Danny got himself involved in the crime in the first place.

The series explores how past events went on to shape Danny's teenage years, who stuck around with him and how he came to meet Ariana and Yitzak (Lior Raz) who moved in to the 'ghost house' down the road from where he lived with mum Candy (Emmy Rossum) and mean stepfather Marlin (Will Chase). But none of that I can reveal, for it will spill secrets about the multi-layered narrative of the show.

What I can say, though, is that the budding friendship from strangers to confidantes between Ariana and Danny is a warm glow in the series, compared to some of the harsher moments that will continually break your heart when it comes to Danny. It's because of the way your heart goes out to him that makes his reality of being in prison so much harder to deal with – all a testament to Holland's superb skill at crafting sympathy and uncertainty in equal measure.

You'll be forgiven for brushing aside this drama as little more than a study on teenage boyhood from the first episode – the school lockers, late night parties and talks of virginity will trick you into thinking it as such. But soon, The Crowded Room pulls you into the mind-bending world of Danny and the weekly episodic releases are a good thing in this case, if not for the trigger warning heavy content it brushes upon and themes it deals with.

Sure, it's a lengthy drama and one that may very well lose you in moments but it is a series worth sticking with for the plot twists alone, even if you may already have a hint of them from the outset.

The Crowded Room is coming to Apple TV+ with the first 3 episodes on Friday 9th June. New episodes weekly. Start your seven-day Apple TV+ free trial.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.

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