Follow TV Tropes


Series / Escape at Dannemora

Go To

Escape at Dannemora is a 2018 Mini Series that aired for seven episodes on Showtime. It was directed by Ben Stiller and stars Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano.

The series is based off the 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility escape and focuses on the two prisoners as well as the married prison guard who became romantically involved with them and aided in their escape.

The miniseries contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: In prison, Matt is often seen drinking prison wine, sloshing the foul stuff around his mouth before swallowing. After his escape, he's revealed to be a full-blown addict, stealing an armload of booze while on the run and spending much of the time drunk. In real life, Matt had a BAC of 0.18% at the time of his confrontation with police.
  • Bait the Dog: The penultimate flashback episode serves as this. After getting the audience to root for the two prisoners, the flashback episode shows their crimes in horrific unflinching detail.
  • Blatant Lies: Tilly repeatedly makes threadbare excuses to meet both Sweat and Matt in private circumstances during work hours. Everyone on the work floor seems to know what's happening and roll their eyes whenever she does so.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Matt does this to his boss as a way to get the location of a safe which turns out to not even exist.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Tilly is referred to as 'Shawskank' by the media.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Matt is likable and charismatic, but it's largely an act to get what he wants.
  • Fingore: Matt breaks his boss's fingers one by one as a way to get him to open up about a safe.
  • Great Escape: The main focus of the series. Matt and Sweat manipulate Tilly to help them escape from prison.
  • How We Got Here: The series opens with a scene in which Tilly is being interviewed by the state inspector general. Most of the series is a flashback leading up to this point. At the end of the final episode, we see the first part of this scene again from a different camera angle.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: While never an actual hero in the series, Sweat is given a slightly more sympathetic portrayal. In real life, he ditched Matt because he was "slowing him down." In the series, however, Sweat only flees when Matt starts to ambush a police cruiser, and he later states that the idea of simply ditching Matt to make better time never crossed his mind.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Truth is stranger than fiction. The cop who shoots Sweat does so with a pistol at long range. In real life, the cop was a firearms instructor and scored two hits at a range of 73 yards.
  • In the Back: Sweat is shot in the back while fleeing, which actually happened.
  • Jail Bake: Tilly smuggles tools hidden in frozen meat to Matt and Sweat.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Tilly spends the series having sexual dalliances with prisoners. In the end, she's a prisoner, and a guard propositions her for sex.
  • Leave the Camera Running: There are several extremely lengthy shots of a close-up on a character's face. Sweat receives one where he listens to rock music on his headphones while lying in bed. Episode 6 ends with one on Tilly's face as she looks at Lyle with desire.
  • The Load: In spite of being a prison bigshot, Matt is truly hopeless when he and Sweat escape. He panics and nearly gets them caught by a homeowner immediately after their escape, gets drunk on stolen booze, gets himself sick on contaminated water, and constantly argues for reckless strategies. In the end, a cop notes that Sweat got just as far in one day without Matt as he had the previous two weeks with him. Sweat admits that it never even occurred to him to just abandon Matt.
  • Never My Fault: Tilly is fond of doing this. Sweat also underplays his role in the death of the cop he shot and ran over, blaming his partner who finished him off instead. The real David Sweat publicly complained that the depiction of his crime was wrong, and destroyed his supposed chances to get his conviction overturned.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Off-camera, an administrator denies the request for a lockdown following a huge fight in the yard because there was not enough in the overtime budget.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Downplayed, but Lyle says that he knew that Tilly was cheating on him when she started eating healthy.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sweat's reaction when Matt finds a shotgun.
  • The Oner: Sweat's dry run of his escape is filmed in a single shot as he navigates the labyrinthine service corridors and runs down the incredibly long tunnel to get to the manhole cover outside the prison.
  • Prisoner's Work: Matt and Sweat make pants in the prison workshop, which is how they know Tilly, the supervisor whom they both seduce as a prelude to enlisting her help in escaping.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: Before they were married, Lyle helped Tilly get out of her previous marriage with custody of her son. He did so by following her husband, who knew Lyle was cuckolding him, and giving him a dopey smile until the man was so enraged that he punched Lyle in the face. Tilly then used that act of violence to convince a judge to grant full custody.
  • Stupid Crooks:
    • A new prisoner ignores repeated instructions to leave Matt and Warden Palmer alone, seemingly because he's too dim to realize he's pissing them off.
    • Matt is a bigshot in prison, but is shown to be a total incompetent on the outside. The murder he commits that gets him landed in prison is foolish and comes to nothing. After his escape, he repeatedly butts heads with Sweat over his ill-conceived actions.
  • Villainous Rescue: In order to keep Tilly from getting fired for low production, Matt snitches on a fellow prisoner who is slacking off with a cigarette. That man, a huge black prisoner named "Murder", comes looking for revenge once he is out of punishment. Matt and Sweat are "saved" when the even more villainous members of the Aryan Brotherhood jump in and start a prison race riot.
  • Villain Protagonist: Matt, Sweat, and Tilly are all the villains of the story, perpetrating a prison break for their own selfish ends.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: In the final scene, text reveals the eventual fates of the main parties.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The penultimate episode focuses on the events leading up to Matt's and Sweat's arrests as well as Tilly's past.