Apple TV+’s psychological thriller, ‘The Crowded Room,’ follows Danny Sullivan and his turbulent life. After a shooting incident in New York, Danny is arrested and interviewed by a psychiatrist who tries to understand the workings of his brain by digging into his life. The show takes many twists and turns, leaving breadcrumbs for the audience to pick up and figure out what is going on with Danny.
In the fourth episode, Danny goes to London to find his father. He meets a mysterious man named Jack, who claims to be his father’s friend. At first, Danny thinks Jack will help him find his father, but the more time they spend together, the more Danny is convinced that Jack has an ulterior motive. In all of this, the question remains: what happened to Danny’s father? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD!
What Happened to Danny’s Father, Pete Sullivan?
Danny tells Rya Goodwin that his father, Pete, left when he was six years old. Since then, Pete hasn’t been around much and has been replaced by his abusive stepfather. After the shooting, Yitzhak tells Danny to go find his father, who was last known to have been in London. Once there, Danny discovers from Jack that his father hasn’t been to London in a while because he did a job for a gangster and is wanted by the law. Jack points Danny in the gangster’s direction, encouraging him to ask for the money his father is owed. However, Danny is beaten up and dejected, following which he returns home.
From what Jack tells Danny, it looks like his father is caught up in criminal activities. Jack tells Danny to get enough money and start his search in Paris, which suggests that Pete might be there. In the end, however, Danny is discouraged, and Jack tells him to abandon the search, go home, and face the consequences of his actions. When Danny flies back, he still has no clue where his father is or why Yitzhak sent Danny to find him in the first place.
Considering that Danny is an unreliable narrator, we cannot trust what he believes about his father. We know that Pete has been absent from his son’s life, though the reason behind it has not been clarified yet. For Billy Milligan, on whom Danny Sullivan is based, his father died when Billy was still a child, which means he never got the opportunity to know him. Danny mentions that his father left when he was six. Could it be that his father is dead, but Danny hasn’t accepted that reality yet?
The previous episodes suggest that Danny, or his twin Adam, was abused by his stepfather, Marlin Reid. Being in this unsafe environment since childhood, Danny would have needed a safe place that he could go to or something hopeful that he could hold on to. Because he doesn’t know what happened to his real father, it is possible that Danny entertained the fantasy that one day, his father would return and get him out of the hell he is trapped in.
For years, Danny waited for his father, but he never showed up. It could be that Pete died or just that he moved on and never looked back because he didn’t want anything to do with Danny or his mother. Perhaps Danny knew about this but refused to accept the fact that his biological father could abandon him in the care of an abusive stepdad. Or, he never knew what happened to his father because he was still young when Pete went out of the picture, and his mother never addressed the topic of his absence.
It makes sense, then, that Danny would want to seek him out when he lands in trouble. Pete seems like the only person he can turn to, but because he cannot find him, Jack shows up. Jack is exactly the father figure Danny needs at the moment. Someone who can help him, guide him, and encourage him to be on the right path. Jack is everything Danny wants Pete to be. So, in the absence of his father, he creates a father figure to serve the purpose, with none the wiser about Pete’s fate.
How Did Billy Milligan’s Father Die?
Danny Sullivan in ‘The Crowded Room’ is loosely based on Billy Milligan, the first person in the US’s history to get acquitted on the basis of a dissociative identity disorder. There are a lot of similarities between the real-life and the TV show character, starting from the fact that both of them lost their biological father at a young age.
Milligan was born to Dorothy Sands and John Morrison. The couple met when Sands moved to Miami to pursue a career as a singer. Reportedly, Morrison was a comedian and a musician and was married to someone else. He and Sands had three children— Billy being the middle child. Morrison battled depression and alcoholism and died by suicide on January 17, 1959. Reportedly, the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. He is laid to rest in Southern Memorial Park, North Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida.