Episode 6 of The Crowded Room dives deeper into mental health and its diagnoses, as well as finally revealing the truth about Adam while introducing a key piece of evidence in Danny’s case.
This recap contains spoilers for Episode 6 of The Crowded Room.
Whoah. Each episode of Apple TV’s The Crowded Room just keeps getting better and better. And, as it turns out, what I (and probably others) expected is indeed the case: Danny (Tom Holland) does have a split personality but he does not know. His lack of awareness is just heartbreaking. Episode 6 takes a shift and instead of focusing more on Danny, it follows Dr. Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) and offers some background into who she really is, what her life is like, and why she is so committed to trying to help Danny.
Episode 6 opens at Rya’s house, where we find out she’s a divorced, single mother of a young boy. She’s also a psychologist at a “technically all-men’s university” teaching psych classes on mental health and trauma, working to educate others on what trauma is and the severity of how it can trigger its victims and thereby affect them to varying degrees. She even notes that there are things trauma victims may need to do in a given moment of being triggered but they can’t because their personality dissociates. This absolutely seems to be the case with Danny.
“Trauma can be a cast,” she says. A victim’s “memories remain like bark on a tree.”
Trauma invades a victim’s experiences until their world becomes unlivable. As a trauma survivor, I can wholeheartedly attest to this fact. Unresolved trauma can make life a living hell, especially when it’s shoved deep down and kept a lifelong secret, as is the case with Danny. Rya notes that trauma victims experience very real events that others can’t see or understand and, in those cases, the kinds of symptoms that develop as a result can be plentiful and damning and draw criticism and judgment from those around them. After all that, Rya says, “They’d be crazy not to be crazy.”
While studying mental disorders and scouting obscure conditions so she can bring awareness and classification to the medical field, Rya is also trying to get a big research grant to explore Bulimia Nervosa and its clinical outliers to prove its obscure symptoms are actually the result of a disease worthy of recognition as a mental disorder—remember, this is 1977. Whereas nowadays, we have the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR)” that covers so many disorders and is constantly updated with new versions released frequently, back then, there was one spiral-bound medical book called “Mental Disorders.”
It’s clear through Rya that there’s no mention of multiple personalities or even bulimia in this book, and when she learns she likely will not get the grant because she’s up against a man, she knows she must step up her game in order to secure the funds over her co-worker. This is when the focus of her research proposal shifts from bulimia to multiple personalities and is why Danny’s case sparks so much curiosity in her. As she delves deeper into Danny’s psyche and past, she truly believes he may be working with multiple personalities, but at the time, multiple personality disorder—now known as Dissociate Identity Disorder—was not common nor was it recognized medically.
The Crowded Room ’s Episode 6 takes us through Rya’s conversations with Danny starting one week after the Rockefeller Center shooting and continuing up to 11 weeks after the incident. And here’s where it gets interesting because so much unfolds about why we got the non-sequitur narrative we did in the first handful of episodes. When Danny first meets Dr. Rya Goodwin, as we see in this episode, he is not the character we were introduced to in Episodes 1 and 2. He is not shy and reserved or cautious and quiet. He’s clearly not himself and is erratic and spooky, almost, full of witty comebacks and a sly, cunning ego. He even breaks himself out of the handcuffs with which he’s chained to the table in the interrogation room just to prove to Rya that he can escape anytime he wants. So, who is this Danny?
We also learn that Detective Matty Dunne (Thomas Sadoski, of Life in Pieces, which is a really great sitcom if you haven’t seen it yet), who initially brought Rya in to talk to Danny after his arrest, had an intimate relationship with her at one point and is still hoping to rekindle what they had, but Rya refuses. Is her former relationship with Matty the reason why her marriage ended? Perhaps, but we don’t know for sure. We do know the two are working together when it comes to figuring out Danny’s case. We also know Rya’s son Ezra is mad at her, presumably for divorcing his dad and for not paying him enough attention, and Rya even has a strained relationship with her own mother, who does nothing but criticize Rya about how she operates in her life.
“We all keep loving you no matter how hard you make it,” Rya’s mother tells her, implying that everything that has fallen apart in Rya’s life is her own fault, and we really feel for her here at this point. At least I do, because I know how it feels to be told you make it hard for people to love you. It’s a messed-up thing to say and to hear, and it really stings to see the look on Rya’s face after her mother speaks these words to her. Clearly, those words are scarring.
While Rya has considered up to this point that Danny might be working with a dissociative personality, it’s in this episode the reality of that truth is confirmed for her. As she’s watching an old TV show later that night, a female character says to a male character, “There are a lot of things you’ve never seen me do before but that’s not a sign I don’t do them.”
That’s her moment of clarity that strengthens her assumption regarding Danny. Now, we are two weeks out from the shooting incident and Rya is arguing her case for her grant to the head of her department, who questions her as to why she keeps looking for the most obscure conditions.
“No one helps [people with obscure conditions/symptoms] because they’re told what they’re living through isn’t real, that what they’re feeling doesn’t matter because there’s no diagnostic code,” she says as she lays her hand on the “Mental Disorders” handbook.
Rya then decides to do her own investigation and drives over to the Ghost House, where she finds Danny’s notebook of drawings in the fireplace, as well as the pair of glasses we saw Jack wearing in Episode 5. Then, she meets Danny’s mother, Candy (Emmy Rossum), who confirms he was, in fact, a twin but that “Adam died long ago.” She also tells Rya Danny has been sensitive his whole life but got kicked out of school for drugs and fighting (i.e., a little marijuana and self-defense).
“He has quite the imagination,” Candy tells Rya before Rya asks more about Adam and mentions Marlin (Will Chase) and Candy clams up, ending their conversation. No one will say why or how Adam died, but I have my suspicions, and after the end of Episode 5 and what we learn in Episode 6, they all revolve around the stepfather, Marlin.
As Episode 6 takes us through a series of interactions between Danny and Rya, it’s blatantly obvious Danny is not himself and we are, in fact, dealing with other energies—namely Jack (Jason Isaacs). Tom Holland’s performance is just brilliant here—the way he carries himself as Jack, the way he alters his diction and speech pattern, his accent; he really is amazing to watch. Whereas James McAvoy’s character in Split shifted personalities quickly and almost (seemingly) painfully, at times, Holland’s character here is very smooth and suave about it. Holland’s portrayal is so subtle and effortless, in fact, you neither see it coming nor are aware it’s even happening … until it does.
Eleven weeks out from the shooting and Danny is now sitting in jail at Riker’s Island awaiting trial. If you remember from Episode 5, Rya walked in to speak with him one day and Jack was sitting there, not Danny, but nothing was really addressed or explained, and Rya was not thrown off at all. Now we know why.
Episode 6 confirms that Jack is a personality of Danny’s, that he’s his “guardian angel” of sorts. Rya asks Jack if she can talk to Danny and after Jack agrees, he says to her, “Be gentle with him. Danny doesn’t really know about us.” When Rya asks how many of them there are, everything goes quiet as Jack stares at Rya, then out of nowhere, Danny appears wanting to know where he is, what’s going on, and who Rya is. The amount of control Holland displays in Danny’s personality shifts cuts right through you as a viewer. It’s so eloquent but unnerving. We truly get the sense this kid has suffered a deep trauma that scarred him so badly, he splintered without even knowing it.
By the end of the episode, two very important things happen: Matty delivers a videotape to Rya and tells her Danny was right, they won’t ever find Ariana and what’s on the tape proves it, and Danny finally tells Rya what happened to Adam. The bummer about this is that we neither see what’s on the videotape nor hear in detail what Danny tells Rya. All we hear and see is Danny recounting a happier time from his childhood with Adam, just like he did in Episode 5, only this time, it all comes out, and whatever else it entailed beyond Marlin’s sexual abuse of Adam and Danny must be pretty horrible, because as the camera fades out from all the conversational deets, we next see Rya in her car breaking down over what Danny has just told her. That night when she gets home, it’s clear her perspective about everything—including herself—has changed: She goes and hugs on her mother, then crawls in bed and cradles her little boy.
I think Holland’s portrayal of these other personalities was so eloquently and subtly done that we just didn’t notice his alterations in diction and speech patterns and such, because we were too busy trying to figure out what was happening in the narrative. Now, the story unfolds and there’s no question as to what the final episodes will hold, but it’s clear we may be looking at a representation of the first criminal case in history to argue not guilty by reason of insanity. Stay tuned, my friends. Something tells me Holland’s portrayal of Danny Sullivan and his personalities is about to explode and we’re gonna want to be there for all of it.
The Crowded Room airs Fridays on Apple TV+.
The Crowded Room Episode 6 is now streaming on Apple TV+.