"Most true-crime dramatizations are just that — an exercise in imposing a saucier narrative on top of the transcripts, TV’s version of rubbernecking," says Hank Stuever. "You forget about them almost as soon as you’ve watched them. Once in a great while, however, viewers get a chance to watch something as magnificently disturbing as Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora, a thoroughly gripping, seven-part miniseries that succeeds on little more than its commitment to realism, rather than launching a manhunt for deeper meanings. Created by Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin and directed with unflinching perspective by Ben Stiller (yes, the very one), Escape at Dannemora is a master work of true-crime dramatization, remarkable in that it feels true in a way that transcends the record of what happened. Much of the miniseries relies on imagination — elaborating from testimony and then getting inside its characters’ conversations and thoughts — yet it never once seems like a standard Hollywood adaptation. It is direct, relentless and almost exquisitely plain. In a cultural moment where we talk a lot about empathy, Escape at Dannemora metes it out in only very small doses. Its main characters are bad people, behaving badly, and when the series stops to give them shape, it is without a twist of pity or urge to comprehend their motivations or personal shortcomings. Everything you need to know is right in front of your face."