Escape at Dannemora season 1 premiere recap: Girl from the North Country


Ben Stiller’s Escape at Dannemora kicks off with a foreboding vibe as viewers are introduced to the world of Clinton Correctional Facility.

Escape at Dannemora is off to a slow yet intriguing start. The story revolves primarily around three characters, Tilly (Patricia Arquette), Matt (Benicio Del Toro), and David (Paul Dano). The series premiere spends most of its time getting viewers acquainted with these three characters, and settling us into where the season is headed.

The world of Clinton Correctional Facility is typical of most prisons where secret alliances are made between prisoners and guards, and a secret affair is in the works between a prison employee and inmate. You know, the usual stuff.

The first scene shows Tilly in handcuffs sitting across from a lawyer named Catherine (Bonnie Hunt) who is asking questions regarding two inmates that Tilly may or may not have helped escape and may or may not have had sexual relations with.

Arquette brings an odd vibe to the show as Tilly, who doesn’t seem fazed by anything she has participated in, not while it was happening or during her interrogation following it all. For those who aren’t aware, the story of Escape at Dannemora is based on true events from the 2015 manhunt of inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, and during the premiere, we get to know exactly who they are.

Credit: Showtime

So let’s talk about David first. He works in the tailor shop which is supervised by Tilly, and they have an interesting relationship. By interesting, I mean, they find any excuse they can to go into the backroom to have sex. The rest of the inmates are aware this is going on and don’t hold back in making fun of David for it.

David has a complicated background and during the episode, he pleads his mother to write a letter on his behalf requesting that he be transferred. He feels unsafe and says he is being called a cop killer and fears for his life. But mama bear doesn’t seem to care much, and he’s left to figure out what to do on his own.

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Then we have Tilly, who lives a monotonous life working as the tailor shop supervisor at the prison and who begins every morning the same with her husband who also works at the prison.

Their relationship seems stuck in a routine and there isn’t much love between them. It comes as no surprise that she dabbles in sextracurricular activities with David.

And just as you begin to wonder why her husband hasn’t come to know of her odd behavior towards David, he tells her during a trip to Plattsburgh that he was told by one of his friends that she has been getting close to an inmate.

Naturally, Tilly is extremely defensive and storms off denying anything is going on, but of course, David is just the icing on her adultery cake. It has to be pointed out that relations between David and Tilly are very Oepidal in nature because they call each other mommy and son while having sex–and it’s weird.

The two of them get into a fight after David starts to get uncomfortable with how much attention Tilly is attracting but later on realizes he needs her on his side. His apology? Sewing a pair of mini pants for her which gets him back on her good side.

The last piece of the Escape at Dannemora puzzle is Matt, another inmate who begins to befriend David and takes note of what is going on between him and Tilly. But Matt has another side deal going on which is a friendship with one of the officers, Gene (David Morse). Gene warns Matt every time there is a random check, and Matt paints drawings for Gene so he can gift it to his wife.

During one of the checks, Gene helps Matt hide all his painting materials and has him hang back in a secret hallway that shows how the all the cells are connected and perhaps is foreshadowing at how the eventual escape will occur.

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By the end of the episode, Matt starts to realize that Tilly may be someone to befriend, and begins making moves on her. She hasn’t reciprocated just yet, but for anyone that knows this story, you know that things will change, and it will be what leads to the dramatic climax of the series.

What did you think of the series premiere of Escape at Dannemora? Tell us your thoughts below in the comments!

Escape at Dannemora airs every Sunday on Showtime at 10 PM EST!