Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Brett Johnson & Michael Tolkin
* For a recap & review of Part 6, click here.
Somewhere in the hills, Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) continue their prison escape, climbing into the mountains where they hope they’ll be able to find cover for a while. Matt gets stuck at one point, barely escaping being seen by a helicopter overhead. Both of the men are angry because Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette) opted not to drug her husband and go meet the inmates.
Not to say things are any better for Tilly. A storm’s come down on the Clinton Correctional Facility. Governor Andrew Cuomo (Michael Imperioli) is onsite to find out exactly how this escape was allowed to occur. He sees Matt and Sweat’s cells, then wants to go further to see the steam pipe the inmates. Elsewhere, Inspector General of New York Catherine Scott (Bonnie Hunt) gets a call from Cuomo about the escape.
Tilly’s trying to stay in a hospital bed even though the doctor says she’s okay to go. She wants to avoid the prison. Everybody’s aware of the escape. The TV news are talking about it constantly, peoples cellphones are going off, and the whole village of Dannemora and the surrounding area(s) are on high alert.
When Tilly and Lyle (Eric Lange) get home a detective’s waiting to ask questions. Naturally she doesn’t give the guy any truthful answers. He advises “be careful” and “keep your doors locked.” Although if the two inmates meet their jailhouse lover again, it might not be so easy to stay safe. She’s worried about what’ll happen if the escapees are captured and start talking. Not to mention Lyle wants her to talk to the detective about the painting Matt gave her.
I.G. Scott and Gov. Cuomo meet at the prison. The governor gets on the news to update the community. Troops and dogs are in the trees searching for the murderers. But Matt and Sweat are deep in the forest, not far from the Canadian border. Sweat’s looking towards the future, whatever it holds, and Matt can’t stop thinking of Tilly and how he’ll “cut that bitch up” for leaving them stranded.
Tilly runs into the detective again and wants to talk. He reads her the Miranda warning to keep things official. She tells him about the dog painting, leaving out fucking Matt in the backroom at the shop. Has she let the cat out of the bag? She believes so, which is why she goes right home to start packing a suitcase, along with a few sexy bikinis, Mexican maps, and a tour guide book of Mexico. At his place, Gene Palmer (David Morse) is likewise stressed re: Matt, burning those paintings gifted to him.
The inmates keep trekking through all types of terrain. They come to a cabin which Matt wants to break into and Sweat would rather go around. The older inmate’s tired, hoping for a rest. He knocks on the door and finds nobody home. They get in and stop for a while. They find themselves a change of clothes, a few bottles of booze, and other items.
“Don’t cheat yourself, man— treat yourself.”
Catherine digs into questioning at the Clinton Correctional Facility, starting with Gene. She asks about the “delivery of meat.” Gene tells the Inspector General about Tilly’s involvement and tries making a distinction between behaviour for male and female prison employees. Catherine takes offence initially before realising the comment’s more than sexism. Not long and the detective returns to put cuffs on Tilly.
Mrs. Mitchell’s in custody at the very prison where she once worked, greeted outside by onlookers and media. Out in the woods, the two escapees haven’t stopped. Matt ignores Sweat about drinking from a bad river, which leaves him sick to his stomach. They stumble onto another cabin where he’s able to sit on the toilet, and the two of them can watch satellite television. They catch media coverage of their escape and hear about Tilly’s arrest. Via the news, Matt discovers it’s his buddy’s birthday, so he offers Sweat a drink, and the two share a quiet moment together over spaghetti with ketchup. Afterwards, they argue over the shitty state Matt left the bathroom in— these little moments show how ill suited these men are to be anywhere but in prison together. One big uh oh? Sweat finds a gun in the bathroom, keeping it a secret, and Matt finds a rifle. Suddenly, they hear an ATV. A man approaches, gun drawn, as the inmates slip out the rear, back into the woods.
All the Mitchell family’s secrets are coming out. Ex-husband Kenny tells all in the papers about Tilly, letting everyone in on all the infidelity. People are constantly talking about her, which affects Kenny Jr. and Lyle at home, though her son stands by his mother dutifully. On top of everything, Lyle and his son can’t make bail, leaving Tilly in jail, and leaving the faithful husband alone to combat his own feelings of betrayal alongside constant media attention hounding him right outside his own door.
Things between the inmates are deteriorating. Sweat flips out after Matt seems to be giving up, getting drunk and slowing down. Matt keeps on ranting and raving about Tilly’s betrayal, whereas Sweat only wants to keep moving, to get them further towards Canada and away from the manhunt on their heels. At a roadside, they see a police vehicle. The older of the two wants to take it, but the cop is gone before he can make a move. He sees he’s been abandoned by Sweat, who’s unwilling to be involved in another cop killing this time around. David makes a run for it the other way, tossing his gun into the weeds as he goes, leaving the men separated.
Matt wanders by himself and eventually finds a camper with no one inside. He spends the night, sketching the horse he talked about earlier on the wall. In the morning, he stakes out by the road looking for the right vehicle. He shoots at a truck with a camper and the driver pulls over. Matt’s unable to get the guy before the vehicle’s gone. It’s almost like he’s given up.
Only a matter of time before there are cops swarming the area, watching the treeline, helicopters flying above. Matt casually walks in deeper through the forest. A cough gives away his location to the armed men stalking him. He lies down against the forest floor while the men walk nearby, but they spot him. Matt pulls his gun on one of them and gets shot down. In another part of the woods, Sweat turns on his radio to hear what he can about the manhunt, listening to the report about Matt being killed. He also discovers it was Matt’s birthday the day prior, and in conjunction with Matt finding out about Sweat’s birthday over the news, we again see how little these men knew of each other, forced into a situation by circumstance and never because of any true friendship.
Sweat sleeps through the night and wakes to find the lights he worried about the night prior were actually windmills in the near distance. He heads off again towards his hopeful destination of Canada. He’s stopped on his way walking through a field by a state trooper, so he takes off running. “I don‘t have a weapon,” he screams. And in a twist of fate, Sweat is shot down by an officer of the law just as he’d done to an officer during the crime that originally brought him to prison. Nevertheless, he survives.
“If you believe you’re gonna get out, those are just obstacles.”
In hospital, I.G. Scott goes to speak with David. She wants to know more about the escape, such as how they escaped through the tunnel and so on. He lets her in on their plan, which wasn’t so much a plan as it was a fumble in the dark-type situation. He chalks it up to determination mostly. David takes credit for most of the work. He doesn’t consider him and Matt friends, though. Despite the fact they helped each other, they were never actually friends— their birthdays were only about a week or so apart and they had absolutely no idea.
In the aftermath, Tilly went to jail for her role in aiding the inmates. She still gets visits from Lyle, who jokes she looks “like the Hamburglar.” He’s facing close to a possible decade without his wife. Worse, he sees how much of their lives were a lie. He says he already knew about the affair because she’d been ordering “off the diet menu” at their favourite Chinese restaurant. He still can’t wholly tear himself away from his wife, but things will never be the same between them again. She went about living as an inmate, which led to a potentially similar relationship between her and one of the guards as she was conducting with Matt and Sweat. Life has a way of coming full circle, often in the worst ways.
The end of the episode tells us the fate of all involved. Sweat is under “24 hour video surveillance” at a new facility. Lyle’s waiting for Tilly to be released from prison, whenever she gets out. Matt’s corpse was claimed by his kids, who received paintings he did before the escape. A great sequence set to “Better Days” by Graham Nash, again showing off the series’s stellar soundtrack choices. “So American” by Portugal. The Man closes out the credits, too.
Fantastic series. Ben Stiller’s career as a director ought to lift off. The acting from the leads, including Eric Lange, was utterly phenomenal work. It’ll be great to re-watch the series soon. Much better than some critics have suggested, and way more nuance than many crime shows out there.