Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Brett Johnson & Michael Tolkin
* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) has escape on his mind, like a wild horse running through his mind. He keeps on painting, too. He’s actually painting a portrait of Hillary Clinton currently, strangely enough. He goes to escort guard Gene Palmer (David Morse) for one of his yellows, which leads him into the passageway behind the cells. He uses this time to begin scoping out a method of escape. He heads over to the space above David Sweat’s (Paul Dano) cell, interrupting his enjoyment of Happy Gilmore and fucking with his buddy a little. The wheels are turning now. Richard’s excited about the idea, whereas David tells him: “Don‘t start that again.”
We see Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette) acting jealous about her husband Lyle (Eric Lange) supposedly “making eyes” at the front desk girl. She makes a hard line about infidelity— too hard for a woman cheating on her husband with an inmate. At work, Tilly pushes the workers to get more done. Simultaneously, Richard wants to get his buddy to get a flashlight from his jailhouse lover, but David refuses.
There’s new rumours about Tilly. She gets defensive when questioned. This gets David pulled off detail in the workshop, upsetting Tilly, and it’ll certainly have an affect on a lot of things going forward. On top of everything, Sweat is being moved from his cell. When he protests he gets a shit kicking from Palmer. Although the guard and the inmate start a new, if not slightly tenuous relationship, based on their mutual enjoyment of art.
Corrections officer Dennis Lambert (Jeremy Bobb) asks Lyle if he’s curious about what happened with Tilly. The husband’s not overly concerned, wanting desperately to believe his wife would never cheat on him. For her part, Tilly’s arguing harder with each passing day about her situation, and it doesn’t do her any good. In the workshop, she’s hard to deal with, refusing to let go. She writes a note and goes to Richard, hoping he’ll pass it along to her former lover.
In his cell, Sweat is reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild when Matt arrives to deliver his note. He doesn’t want to continue the correspondence, worried things will get worse yet again for him after already losing his old cell and his job. The older inmate wants to use this relationship to their advantage, but he’s finding his younger buddy reluctant.
Tilly’s desperate to hear back from her man. She and Richard begin talking more, and he offers to help with things around the shop. He goes to the new inmate looking after the place, trying to work things out— this is when we discover Mr. Matt’s nickname is “Hacksaw,” and you can find out why here. Richard uses all this to continue working his way into Tilly’s world, getting to know her, asking about her life, and beginning a process of seduction.
And it’s working. She calls a number looking for his daughter after he reaches out saying he wishes he could talk to his family. This shows, again, how desperate Tilly is to find a connection to a man she finds exciting. Hook. Line. Sinker. This act binds them together, giving Richard a way to manipulate Tilly on his own without the help of David.
“Who said life was fair, right?”
Sweat’s not finding it easy in a different cell, stuck amongst loud, obnoxious inmates where he can’t find the concentration to read or draw. This gets him into a fight with another guy. They’re split up fast, but there’ll be lasting trouble likely— nothing happens in a vacuum in prison. David wants out, which gives Richard more leverage to push him towards an escape plan again. Desperate people are the easiest to manipulate. Everything’s getting tougher for Sweat, too. He’s no closer to getting moved from facilities after his mother writes a letter to the corrections board, accusing her son of being violent from an early age, citing an incident when he was nine and brought a “hunting knife to elementary school.” This desperate man eventually comes around to his buddy’s hopeful plan of getting out, finally ready to discuss things. Except Richard’s playing it as if David is ungrateful, probably to make him want it more.
Doesn’t take long for Sweat to go to Matt, acting humble, and playing right into the latter’s hands. Next step, Richard is going to woo Tilly. He gives her a secret portrait he painted of her dogs. Then the two of them are in the backroom. He puts her hand on his heart. They talk quietly and he lightly strokes her face. He’s giving her everything she doesn’t get at home. He not only gets sexual favours, he starts convincing her to bring him tools to supposedly paint her “pretty pictures.” Uh oh. The worst of the manipulation’s only just started.
“I want to be a part of your dream“
This series was great from the first episode— this follow-up only solidifies everything. Ben Stiller’s proving himself a talented director with each of these chapters. The acting’s a given with Arquette, Dano, and del Toro together, but Stiller’s enormous contribution isn’t to be ignored. Part 3’s next time.