The mystery surrounding the death of Kathleen Peterson has been a hot topic for over 20 years.
Netflix attempted to lift the lid on what led to the tragic death in its docuseries, The Staircase, but many pivotal components didn’t make it to the final edit.
HBO Max’s drama series The Staircase offers a more informed approach to the details of the case.
Five of the eight episodes were screened for critics before the premiere, and the show’s best aspect is how it examines all possibilities.
The series confidently highlights the weeks leading up to Kathleen’s death, the case against her husband, Michael Peterson, and plenty of shocking details about those in their orbit.
Unless you paid close attention to the case as it played back in the early 2000s, there is probably a lot you don’t know about it.
Then again, the people who took the Netflix series as gospel will be surprised by some of the bombshells that were left out of that docuseries.
Toni Collette takes on the role of Kathleen, the woman found dead at the bottom of her stairs in 2001, while Colin Firth takes on the part of Michael Peterson, Kathleen’s husband and the person who found her.
Collette, as always, turns in a memorable performance, and while Firth is excellent in the role, he seems worlds away from the Michael Peterson we met on the Netflix docuseries.
This is Colin Firth like you’ve never seen him before, and it’s a refreshing role for him to play.
The docuseries was primarily told from Michael’s perspective, so maybe Firth opted to play the person portrayed on the news and in the courtroom, which didn’t give Michael the chance to preen for the cameras.
The supporting cast of the drama includes Rosemarie DeWitt as Candace Hunt Zamperini, Juliette Binoche as Sophie Brunet, Parker Posey as Freda Black, Sophie Turner as Margaret Ratliff, and Odessa Young as Martha Ratliff.
The cast is rounded out by Patrick Schwarzenegger as Todd Peterson, Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson. Olivia DeJonge as Caitlin Atwater, Michael Stuhlbarg as David Rudolf, and Tim Guinee as Bill Peterson.
The narrative structure is the strong point of HBO Max’s offering, which jumps between different timelines, telling viewers things on a need-to-know basis.
Many of the case events were well-publicized back in the early 2000s, but so much didn’t make it into the documentary’s final cut.
For that reason alone, you should take a look at the drama and also check out the finer details of the case to be as informed as possible.
It’s not often that a dramatization of something that people already know about is told in such a nuanced way, but there truly is something for everyone here.
Whether you believe Michael killed Kathleen or that there was another reason she was found deceased at the bottom of a staircase, the show delves deep into what could have happened, and it all comes together in a well-executed package.
The Staircase premieres with three episodes on May 5, with HBO Max unspooling one new episode a week for the rest of the series.
Will you check out the series?
Have a look at the trailer below.