Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Jerry Stahl
* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
We see Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette) getting her nails done at the salon. She listens to a couple of women talking while they get their hair done— they’re “summer people” who only come to the village of Dannemora during the warm months, whereas people like Tilly have to stay there all the time, getting few of the benefits the cottage crowd enjoy while visiting.
In prison, Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) watches a reality TV renovation show with escort guard Gene Palmer (David Morse). Interesting to see a prisoner watching a reality program, so deeply entrenched in genuine reality he can’t tell it’s constructed. Meanwhile he’s got Scary Gary (Antoni Corone) next door in a cell, who wakes up “every night screaming at three in the morning.” He’s also trying to get David Sweat (Paul Dano) back in his old cell, both for a quieter night’s sleep and to, hopefully, continue hatching their escape plans.
Out in the world, Tilly’s collecting various items at the hardware store. She’s looking for hacksaw blades and other items, making sure to try and be as inconspicuous as possible. What’s interesting is seeing the intent behind Ms. Mitchell. She isn’t someone being talked into every last action. Here, she’s purposefully trying to avoid detection. Except she doesn’t have enough money to pay and puts the purchase on one of her credit cards. Whoops. Then it’s home to put the blades in a pack of ground beef before her and clueless husband Lyle (Eric Lange) head to work.
Eager inmate Angel (Joshua Rivera) sets fire to Gary’s cell. Convenient when David’s moved back in, solving things for Richard— he also gets ground beef after Tilly leaves the package in the freezer for Gene to deliver. Everything’s falling into place. Although later on Palmer tells Tilly he isn’t comfortable bringing anymore little gifts on her behalf.
Next step? Devise a couple makeshift, usable hacksaws to start cutting, as well as a few fine tuned elements to make sure the evidence of their plan stays unknown and unseen. So while ordinary prison life’s going on around the two inmates, they’re gradually enacting their plan, and Richard continues manipulating Tilly in the workshop. She’s clueless, clinging to the sexual relationship she has with him while wishing her husband would croak. And at home, Lyle winds up stumbling onto the dog painting. Uh oh.
Once Richard and David get through the wall of their cells, they head up into the passageway inside, climbing around through all the grating and pipes. They quietly make their way down towards the basement of the prison. They use the LED safety glasses Tilly got at the hardware store to guide their way. Eventually they come to a crossroads, splitting up to look around in opposite directions.
Tilly feels guilty after running into David. She still fucks Richard, yet obviously has feelings for her former lover. This gives Mr. Matt ammunition to further the manipulation. He wants to turn the “two–way into a three–way” so they’ll be able to wield tighter control over the woman and use her for more of their plan. He has worse issues, after Lyle comes to find him in a rage. The inmate weasels out of things by claiming the painting was a surprise anniversary gift, which, of course, works on the angry husband.
“This is the first time in 12 years nobody knows where you are”
David’s getting anxious, looking in the passageway behind the walls to find their way out. He spends the whole night back there, barely getting any sleep before the next day. He and Richard meet in the morning to discuss what he found, including a brick wall they’ll have to break through if they want to move any further ahead. But how will they get past it? Oh, they’ll figure something out!
Next time David goes in there, he picks the lock on a toolbox left there from maintenance, giving him access to a a set of tools that’ll help with that pesky wall. He’s busy busting down the wall while Tilly’s taking Polaroid pictures of herself naked + writing letters to send to Mr. Sweat and simultaneously banging Richard in the workshop. Great sequence here set to “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John.
Another problem comes up when David and Richard see they’ve got a bigger wall to try and break through. “If we make it through in five years we’re lucky,” Sweat says. Nevertheless, they’re determined, even if it takes that long. And the stakes are higher than ever before, too. No time for getting sloppy. So that’s the perfect time for Richard to be drinking in the workshop, sharing with Tilly, and sharing too much info about their eventual escape. He tells her the three of them will go to Mexico together. This seems a bit comical to Tilly. At the same time, she seems to start noticing there’s danger around her, lurking, disguised. Richard almost laughably explains she shouldn’t “tell anybody” in a weird voice. It doesn’t make Tilly laugh, though. It makes her worry, as she’s seeing the mask beginning to wear away.
The plot’s heating up as we continue towards the inevitable escape. And it’s going to get messy— really, really messy.
Part 4 is next time.