Job by Alexis Lebrun October 20, 2022
Nominated for this year’s Emmy Awards, the two main actors of The Staircase are only one of the arguments of this new series based on the tragic and mysterious story of the Peterson couple.
A significant incident
The story of The Staircase is that of a tragedy that occurred a little over twenty years ago in Durham, North Carolina. This is where the Petersons live, a blended family that counts in the city. At its head is a seemingly loving couple, but who mysteriously break up on December 9, 2001. That evening, Michael Peterson alerts the emergency services when he discovers the bleeding body of his wife Kathleen at the bottom of their staircase. He immediately hypothesizes that she must have fallen to her death on the steps, but the police present on the spot immediately consider the scene to be a crime scene, because the wounds on Kathleen’s skull and the amount of blood visible are more than suspicious. And in the absence of any sign of break-in, Michael Peterson quickly becomes the main suspect.
This writer who dreams of a career in politics also hides a few secrets, such as his bisexuality, and he has already lied in the past about his time in the army. Add that he was dependent on Kathleen’s fortune, and that the mother of his two adopted daughters also died in similar circumstances, and you have an unfathomable profile that continues to intriguing today, and of which the couple is explored. by the series using flashbacks.
A judicial marathon with twists and turns
The Staircase therefore follows all of Michael Peterson’s legal adventures, marked by family divisions – Kathleen had a daughter from a previous marriage – and sometimes barely believable theories, such as the appearance of an owl to explain the death of the victim.
Defended by a very reputable lawyer (David Rudolf), Michael Peterson was indeed entitled to several trials over a period of fifteen years, with spectacular twists and turns as only American justice can reserve, but that we do not don’t spoil here. This is, moreover, one of the great merits of the series: immersing us in the dysfunctions of a judicial system where the quality of a defense is often conditioned by the fortune of the accused.
A meta dimension
But the real originality of The Staircaseis to devote part of the plot to a team of French documentarians who are also working on the case, and have drawn from it a pioneering documentary series of true crime – suspicions, broadcast from 2004 on CANAL+ and extended until 2018 on Netflix – on which the series is precisely based.
It’s a very meta idea, which allows the series to move its cursor on the point of view of other characters who also play a significant role in this story, such as the editor Sophie Brunet, played by a French actress known from both sides of the Atlantic: Juliette Binoche.
A cast of stars
The great strength of this series is obviously its prestigious cast. It begins of course with the two main roles, embodied by two great performers, accustomed to prizes and honours. If Colin Firth is extremely rare in the playoffs, Toni Collette has already left his mark there with United States of Tara and unbelievable (Netflix).
We also find great supporting roles alongside them, such as the unmissable Michael Stuhlbarg (Your Honor on CANAL+ and dopesick on Disney+), star Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones on OCS), the queen of indie cinema Parker Posey (Lost in Space on Netflix), Rosemarie DeWitt (colleague of Collette on United States of Tara), Dane DeHaan (ZeroZeroZero on CANAL+), Patrick Schwarzenegger (Scream Queens on Disney+), Odessa Young (The Stand on STARZPLAY), Olivia DeJonge (The Society on Netflix) and Joel McKinnon Miller (Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix).
A talented director
Finally, we cannot fail to mention Antonio Campos, the man who worked for years on this adaptation project, of which he is both the creator, the showrunner and the main director. This name remains little known in France, but it is a personality that counts in American independent cinema.
Between his revelation at Cannes in 2008 with his first feature film (after school) and his hugely cast Netflix movie, The Devil, all the time (2020), he also shot the first episodes of the excellent first season of The Sinner (Netflix), with Jessica Biel in the lead role. On The Staircasehe imposes his mark as a director, especially in the impressive scenes which reconstruct the various possible causes of Kathleen Peterson’s death.
Find 2 new episodes of The Staircase every Thursday, currently only on CANAL +.
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5 reasons to see The Staircase, the true crime with Colin Firth and Toni Collette | myCANAL Switzerland