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Escape at Dannemora

Showtime’s miniseries offers a beautifully acted prison break.

Escape at Dannemora Showtime
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

On TV, too often, more is less. So it goes with Escape at Dannemora, a very good eight-episode miniseries that might have been a truly great four-episode miniseries. And yet no one will come away feeling like they wasted their time watching it — especially fans of great acting.

Telling the story of a very real 2015 prison break at Dannemora prison in upstate New York, Escape at Dannemora casts Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano as the inmates trying to escape and Patricia Arquette as the prison employee who supervises their work detail and eventually assists them. (She is also sexually involved with both of them.) Arquette, especially, is magnetic as a woman who increasingly has only bad options to choose from, and the miniseries truly shines the more it focuses on her and the less it tries to retell every single aspect of its story.

“[Director Ben Stiller’s] gorgeous and haunting work, combined with a career-best performance from Arquette, helps Dannemora transcend into one of the best TV experiences of the year.” Kelly Lawler, USA Today

Metacritic score: 78 out of 100

Where to watch: New episodes of Escape at Dannemora air Sundays at 10 pm Eastern on Showtime. Previous episodes are available on the network’s streaming platforms.