Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pilot Review: Escape at Dannemora

Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Premiered November 18 at 10pm

I’ve been seeing this limited series advertised on buses for a while now, with “Directed by Ben Stiller” as the most prominent feature, which seemed to suggest that this might be a comedy. I’m not at all familiar with the real-life events from 2015 that inspired this show, and therefore I’m just going off of the show’s title and what we saw in this episode, which featured a heavily inappropriate relationship between an employee at the prison and an inmate. Bonnie Hunt’s Inspector General helps to fill in some of the gaps by interrogating Tilly in the future after she’s evidently been charged with some sort of accessory to the escape of the two prisoners we’ve met so far, David and Richard. The minimal things I’ve read about this show so far praise Patricia Arquette’s performance as Tilly, and though I’m rarely her biggest fan, I can understand and appreciate that she does a great job getting into the mentality of a miserable woman trapped in a lifeless marriage who has given in to fantasies at work to help the time pass. Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano aren’t two actors I’d expect to find in the same movie, much less playing equals, but they both seem well-cast. Eight episodes seems like a long time to follow this saga, but maybe that’s why this first hour, while peppered with intriguing moments, felt like it really didn’t get very far at all. I’m not interested enough to keep going and see how this prison break happens.

How will it work as a series? The framing interviews with Tilly seem to serve mostly as a way for her to reflect on what’s happened rather than to actually fill in events, and therefore this show’s success will be reliant on its pacing and how quickly and effectively it can tell its story. This first installment wasn’t promising, but those who are hooked already should have no problem continuing to be enthralled.
How long will it last? As is often the case, I’m the one who doesn’t quite get why something is great, and this seems to have received a good deal of positive buzz from those who have seen it. The nature of its story trumps its status as a limited series to ensure that it can’t really go beyond its initial airing, regardless of how successful it may be, so it’s just a question of how many awards this one manages to win for its one and only season.

Pilot grade: B-

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