[Review] HBO Max’s The Staircase Is a Worthy Entry in the True Crime Space

Photo: HBO Max

HBO Max takes a stab at the current true crime miniseries trend with The Staircase, based on the 13-episode Netflix docuseries and the true story of Michael Peterson, who was convicted of the murder of his wife Kathleen Peterson.


As someone who wasn’t familiar with the case or the docuseries before this series, the story is unfolding to me through the adaption. Since I don’t know the outcome, I’m immediately suspicious of everyone. The show opens on December 9, 2001, the night that according to Micheal Peterson (Colin Firth), his wife fell down the stairs and died accidentally. His son Todd (Patrick Schwarzenegger), conveniently arrives drunk when the police are at the house with his friend who was his designated driver. There is blood everywhere, which seems a lot for a fall down the stairs. Michael is distressed and Todd keeps screaming for a grief counselor, very weird, specific wording to say during a traumatic time.

Although Micheal claims this to be an accident, he is eventually charged with the murder of Kathleen. During the trial, we find out that this isn’t the only woman that died while falling down the stairs he knows; the biological mother of the adopted daughters, Margaret and Martha (Sophie Turner and Odessa Young) suffered the same fate.

Colin Firth plays Michael well, as a mix of a bumbling idiot and pretentious novelist who smokes from a pipe. Toni Collete’s portrayal of Kathleen is almost ghost-like; in flashbacks, you see her as more of an observer rather than an active participant in her own life. Another stand-out in the cast is Sophie Turner, who is trying to preserve the memory of Kathleen and still be optimistic about her father’s innocence.

Although the true-crime space is crowded with miniseries, The Staircase is still a worthy entry due to its bonkers story and excellent cast. The Staircase premieres on HBO Max on May 5th.