'Escape at Dannemora': Finale ties up the loose ends and unravels the three main characters to their cores

In the finale, the big reveal Ben Stiller drops is not for us viewers, but mostly for the characters in the show itself.


                            'Escape at Dannemora': Finale ties up the loose ends and unravels the three main characters to their cores

The best part about Ben Stiller's riveting dark prison drama, 'Escape at Dannemora', was probably how keeping the air of suspense alive was never a concern. Based on the true story of the infamous Clinton Correctional Facility escape in 2015, Stiller's Showtime drama focused primarily on the meticulous planning convicted murderers Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) put in to break out of the New York prison they were housed in.

Further detailing went into showing prison employee Joyce 'Tillie' Mitchel's (Patricia Arquette) involvement in the plan, as she was the one who provided them the tools to break out of prison, in exchange for sexual gratification.

A catalyst in keeping the tension intact was the timing and spontaneity with which these individuals' stories were laid out, and with the finale finally having aired, it's no secret that Stiller did a remarkable job of tying the loose ends together, when it came to these character's perception about each other, and their own selves. 

It is almost as if in the finale, the big reveal Stiller drops is not for us viewers, but mostly for the characters in the show itself. They are the ones who see each other, and in case of Tillie - their own self - in a new light. And in that, Stiller's plot comes full circle especially after the preceding Chapter 6 did a brilliant job of building up these characters as an emblem of violence (both Matt and Sweat) and entitlement (Tillie.)

For starters, in the finale, we see Sweat finally feeling weighed down by his reckless drunkard of an accomplice, Matt. We finally see the infamous story about why and how Sweat and Matt went their separate ways after the grand escape.

And this is significant, because it's hardly as enlightening for viewers as it is for Sweat's character to see just how he should have called the shots, and escaped on his own when he had successfully completed the trial run of the escape plan just the night before.

Paul Dano and Benicio del Toro in still from Escape at Dannemora
Paul Dano and Benicio del Toro in still from Escape at Dannemora

As for Matt, his journey on the show had a character arc with the most radical coordinates. He went from the ever so high and mighty, well-regarded art connoisseur in prison to a violent, body dismembering maniac all in the matter of six episodes, and in that, Stiller succeeded in painting the notorious monster in vivid details. Or so we thought, because the finale deconstructed Matt's superhuman monstrosity in such a manner, that he suddenly became a sickly, temperamental, immature manchild. The finale portrays Matt as a creature of complaints and cribbing, still trying to register the 'betrayal' from Tillie's end after she fails to show up, while he marches his questionably drunk way towards an inevitable downfall. And in that portrayal, it becomes clear to Matt just how dependent he was on the decisions of a person he himself was manipulating.

Speaking of Tillie, it is her story reaching a full circle that is the most entertaining to watch. Adding as a bonus to that unraveling is, of course, the aspect of an entitled brat running away from accountability as depicted earlier. The finale offers for the first time a glimpse of Tillie feeling the faintest essence of remorse and concern about how things might impact her future life.

In that, the finale is almost the fifth episode's continuation, where we saw Tillie suffering a panic attack from the sudden bitter realization of being an accomplice in the prison break plan.

In the finale, Tilly finally confronts what she has actually done and how there's no going back, and through that bit of self-actualization, Stiller leaves us basking in the not so virtuous glory of a character that could have been more than just the stereotypical pawn.

As the episode comes to an end, viewers get yet another look at the overly sensationalized real-life prison break that had managed to spark a $23 million manhunt and investigations. There's no straying from the fate these main characters, including those passively involved in the escape, were met with, which seen from a viewer's perspective can tend to get a little repetitive. But Stiller compensates for the lack of mystery with graphic details of what actually went on while Matt and Sweat were on the run, both skillfully and tastefully.

In this handout from New York State Police, convicted murderers David Sweat (L) and Richard Matt are shown i n this composite image. Matt, 48, and Sweat, 34, escaped from the maximum security prison June 6, 2015 using power tools and going through a manhole.
In this handout from New York State Police, convicted murderers David Sweat (L) and Richard Matt are shown i n this composite image. Matt, 48, and Sweat, 34, escaped from the maximum security prison June 6, 2015 using power tools and going through a manhole.

Gory shots of Matt succumbing to stomach infections owing to his run in the wild, and Sweat eventually being taken into custody despite having separated ways from the one factor he believed was tying him down come as bits and pieces of poetic justice sprinkled along the 99-minute finale.

But at the root of it all, none of the characters could achieve the golden dream of escape like they had envisioned, and with that karmic deliverance, Stiller ties the biggest loose end of all that had left viewers burning with the question of why these far from glorious characters were "glorified" in the first place at all!

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