Let’s Dissect ‘The Crowded Room’ Series Finale, Shall We?

Let’s Dissect ‘The Crowded Room’ Series Finale, Shall We?

Tom Holland’s twisty series on Apple TV+, The Crowded Room, plays with reality and perception so much that it might take more than one watch to figure out what was going on. If you’re short on time, break down the ending of The Crowded Room with me instead.

The Crowded Room is loosely based on the IRL case of Billy Milligan, who, in the ’70s, became the first person to be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder as part of a criminal defense and therefore the first person to be acquitted of a crime because of DID. Milligan was accused of committing armed robbery, two murders, as well as kidnapped and raped multiple women on a college campus.

Setting up the finale

By the finale, Danny is on trial for attempted murder and a handful of other charges. Like any good story, the episodes and moments leading up to the finale of The Crowded Room find our characters at a low point. The case is not looking good. Danny’s lawyers can’t convince the jury that he has Dissociative Identity Disorder, which the prosecution claims doesn’t even exist, unless they can get Danny to talk about being sexually abused by his stepfather. Up until this point, Danny insists that his late brother Adam was abused, not him. His mother Candy (Emmy Rossum) is intimidated by the stepfather and doesn’t defend Danny on the stand. And then Danny self-harms and is hospitalized at the beginning of the finale. The stakes keep getting higher and higher.

Jack takes the stand “as” Danny

In the “crowded room” that is Danny’s mind, Jack (the English author played in Danny’s head by Jason Isaacs) has him locked up in the barn-like structure where all of his alters live. It feels cruel, but after the suicide attempt at the end of the penultimate episode, Jack is worried about what he or the other alters might do next. Jack doesn’t think a trial is a safe place for Danny, especially after his mother defended his abusive step-dad Marlin. There’s also the concern that some of the alters would rather Danny die than get rid of them.

Watch ‘The Crowded Room’ on Apple TV+

Watch 'The Crowded Room' on Apple TV+

Watch ‘The Crowded Room’ on Apple TV+

But Stan found a way to draw Danny out

Danny’s lawyer Stan, played by Christopher Abbott, takes a risk by putting Danny on the stand even though he knows Jack is in control. By questioning Jack about Adam and showing him family photos with just Danny and his mom, not Adam, Jack’s “Danny” act starts to break down and Danny is able to regain control. Despite the serious subject matter, I was thoroughly amused and entertained watching Holland do an American pretending to be British pretending to be American accent. The layers!

Anyway, by doing so, Stan is able to get Danny to admit on the stand that what happened to Adam actually happened to him. Here’s what happened when Danny was a child: Danny created Adam as an alter to “take” his stepfather’s sexual abuse. He told himself that Adam wanted what his stepfather did to him. That way, he could remove himself from what was happening to him and not worry about upsetting his mother. In Danny’s head, while Stan is questioning him/Jack, he wanders the barn and sees young Adam drowning. That represents his realization that Adam is an alter, and not a brother who died when they were younger as he believed.

Previously, the psychologist Rya (Amanda Seyfried) had only been able to get Danny’s alters to talk about the abuse or around it by referring to Adam. So this breakthrough is huge for his recovery and for the trial, since it means the jury might accept Dissociative Identity Disorder as a diagnosis.

The jury reaches a verdict

Danny was declared innocent “by reason of insanity” and goes to a hospital instead of jail.

Candy apologizes to Danny, and Rya pays him a visit

At the end of the finale, Danny’s mother Candy makes up with him. She apologizes for not protecting him. They’re not completely okay. Danny cannot fully forgive her and still needs space. But they have at least a little closure.

We then catch up with what Rya has been up to since the trial. We learn that, thanks to her work with Danny, DID is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But she stopped teaching and took up private psychiatry instead.

She goes to visit Danny at the therapeutic home where he is recovering. He shows her his art. They catch up. Before Rya leaves, Danny says that he has an “unpaid debt” and that it’s his turn to be a guardian angel now. As Rya leaves the home, for a second, she can see Adam in the window with Danny. To me, that clarifies what Danny said. Instead of his alters taking care of and protecting him, he’s taking care of Adam’s memory. Through therapy, he has “fused” his alters together, but leaves Adam out.

Watch ‘The Crowded Room’ on Apple TV+

Headshot of Leah Marilla Thomas

Leah Marilla Thomas is an entertainment writer, UNC alum, and former Hasbro Toy Tester (yes, that’s a real thing) who loves The Good Place and Love Island equally. In her alleged spare time, she’s probably either at the theater, in a park, or watching basketball. 

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