In a casual chat with Eric Lange, he had mentioned how Escape at Dannemora's, and especially his, approach to his on-screen persona, Lyle Mitchell, was always from an angle where they allowed creative license to shed a flawed light on the character. The first few episodes didn't really allow viewers much insight into the aspect, but the fourth episode brought it out beautifully, despite Lyle pretty much looking like the perfect, ideal husband on screen.
let's establish a few things first though. The show - as has been written before - revolves around the infamous true incident at the Clinton Correctional Facility where inmates Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) managed to dig out of the prison with the help of tools provided by prison employee Joyce 'Tilly' Mitchell (Patricia Arquette).
Lyle is Tilly's husband who is seemingly on the sidelines and was truly trusting and caring towards his wife who did what she did by getting roped into a devious love triangle based on sexual gratification with the two inmates.
The show's portrayal of Lyle has also been along the lines of a simple-minded person so far, so much so you just end up pitying him because he somehow comes off as a victim of circumstances. But with the fourth episode that aired Sunday, December 9, we finally get to see Lyle in a flawed light with seeds of indignance being sowed in his mind after getting repeatedly berated by his wife. Suddenly it becomes clear he is not entirely picture perfect.
The reason their marriage seemed as bleak to Tilly as the show portrays is because Lyle was somewhat culpable in things going down as well. The fourth episode showed Lyle planning the perfect date night for Tilly for their anniversary. He is aware of the painting Matt has gifted Tilly and senses he has contributed to Tilly's evaporating interest in their conjugal life.
From the clogged toilets to the dirty house, the bland affection between the two, and the especially dissatisfying routines their married life has culminated to - everything Lyle had no problem overlooking and was surprisingly content with, had led to Tilly's dissatisfaction. But the man doesn't give up.
So, for their date night, he reserves the "mayor's table" in a restaurant that doesn't really take reservations. He remembers Tilly likes to be seated at tables that are at distance from both the window and the bathroom, and in that span of sequences, Lyle is almost hopeful that maybe there is still a way to work out their marriage.
'Escape at Dannemora' has done a brilliant job under Ben Stiller's direction to showcase what happens when wants and desires have the better of an individual - with Matt and Sweat, it was freedom, in Tilly's case it was a sense of danger, risk, and fulfillment, and with Lyle Mitchell it's his desire to keep his marriage of 21 years intact after the man goes too far in pretending everything is fine and things aren't that bad, and what follows is Tilly taking it too far with her reality checks to remind him - no, nothing is fine because she is not happy.
So, even after all the arrangements, Tilly does what she does best, and stands him up at the restaurant. She even takes it a notch higher and gets completely wasted elsewhere, and when Lyle confronts her about it, in classic entitled Tilly style, she berates him.
So, here is Lyle, sitting all alone, dwelling in a sea of humiliation amid other people who haven't been stood up, and once Tilly is finally there, she ends up humiliating him further by her brash mockery of the take-out food Lyle had set up on their table as dinner.
Now, was Lyle Mitchell to be an ideal man, he would have saved his wounded heart, pride, and ego, and left his wife. But he does not. So heavily obsessed is he with the routine and regularity of their habitual life together, he fails to see the omnipresent cloud of gloom above them as a couple. And, in that, he is flawed.
So yes, as Lange would assure fans that at no given point was it their intention to make a caricature out of Tilly's befuddled husband, they aren't completely swaying from the idea that Lyle may or may not have had active part in making his wife wary of their relationship. It takes two to tango, after all!