'Escape at Dannemora': Why Tilly indulges in illicit prison sex despite having a trusting, caring husband
Patricia Arquette's Tilly has a loving husband in Lyle Mitchell, who despite getting wind of her possible affair with an inmate, still believes it's all work place politics
Ben Stiller's dark prison drama, 'Escape at Dannemora', has aired two episodes so far, and within that short amount of time, the Showtime series has managed to build up its characters and break them down. The plot is based on the real-life incident of the infamous Clinton Correctional Facility escape back in 2015, where inmates Richard Matt (played by Benicio del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) managed to dig out a tunnel and break out of prison, leading to a $23 million manhunt and investigation.
Acting as a catalyst in their elaborate insidious plan was a certain prison employee, Joyce 'Tilly' Mitchell, a married woman of 50, who used the prison inmates for sexual gratification in exchange for the tools that would help them burrow out of the facility.
And, by the manner in which the creators progressed with the story so far, viewers are really struggling for an explanation as to why Tilly (Patricia Arquette) with a seemingly nice, caring, and rather trusting husband, felt the need to get roped into Matt and Sweat's plan, all for sex.
The show has currently progressed to a point where someone seems to have dropped an 'anonymous' letter questioning why Tilly keeps taking Sweat to the back room of the prison tailor shop so often. This resulted in Sweat getting fired from the tailor shop, and Tilly earning a sharp rebuke. It is clear her illicit carnal encounters with Sweat, and recently Matt too, aren't entirely lost on the other people around them - both staff and inmates alike.
Yet, when her husband Lyle Mitchell (Eric Lange) - who works at the same prison - gets wind of it, he blows it off. According to Lyle, it's all workplace politics, and the management apparently has something to do with it.
Even the Corrections Officer he's talking to, rolls his eyes at Lyle's oblivious stance, and while Tilly accuses her husband of 'making eyes' at the front-desk woman, the absolutely blinded Lyle just denies it and instead says “I love you, cupcake!” This is almost striking because if there is so much love and trust from her husband, why would a 50-year-old mother go seeking carnal pleasures elsewhere? Especially from prison inmates?
The obvious reason here is, of course, the sexual gratification she seems to be seeking. It's almost as if no matter how hard her seemingly decent husband, Lyle, tried, there's no pleasing the equally simple looking Tilly. And, if you're not convinced all of this was purely for an escape she was looking for - in the form of sex - Tilly herself confesses to Matt in the second episode, right after some illicit back room sex, that for her, it's a lot more fun when there's danger involved.
And this brings us to the speculative theory that Tilly was just so fed up of her married life that she goes seeking thrills and fulfillment pretty much anywhere and everywhere. To the naked eye she looks almost pitiable (bless the technician who has made Arquette pretty much unrecognizable for the part) - she clearly isn't the Hollywood looker prototype. But she knows what she wants, and in some scenes, her latent entitlement really comes out.
While to some it might look like she was intimidated into doing whatever Matt and Sweat wanted from her, it is important to remember this is the same Tilly, who, when reprimanded by her employers, instead of accepting the rebuke and being glad she didn't get fired on spot, decided to blow steam at them by ranting on and on, and even took it out on her husband. So, there is no sympathy for Tilly. She knew exactly what she was doing - if one goes by the show's portrayal.
It's quite possible Tilly finds her simple-minded husband and their life together, boring. Well, it's no secret she does. She is so disinterested in her marriage and the blandness of it, she decides to indulge in not one, but two sinister inmates - both in for murder - and help them escape, just because of their promise to help her escape from her lackluster marriage by killing her husband. But, of course, that's what reports of the true incident share, and we are yet to see how the show pans it out.
As for now, all we know is even though in real life Tilly chickened out at the last moment and never turned up to give Matt and Sweat a ride as she promised to after they managed to burrow out of the prison, the show's Tilly is not all that intimidated by surroundings. Her husband's love isn't enough to keep her away from the, quite frankly, cheap thrills she seemingly needs in her life and there's no point in dubbing her an innocent woman that just got conned.