The Staircase: Season 1 (2005)


Season 1
The Staircase

Critics Consensus

The Staircase -- in its newly expanded form -- offers a gripping, detailed depiction of the complex justice system, even if the overall narrative lacks objectivity.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 31

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 306

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Episodes

Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 1 of eight, executive Kathleen Peterson is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, and her devastated writer husband, Michael, is accused of killing her. Jean-Xavier de Lestrade directed.

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Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 2, Michael Peterson's defense team reacts when his secret sex life is made public. Jean-Xavier de Lestrade directed.

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Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 3, the defense team discovers that the death of a woman from their client's past is similar to Kathleen's death.

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Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 4, Elizabeth Ratliff's body is exhumed and an autopsy proves surprising.

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Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 5, Michael Peterson's frantic 911 call is played in court, and the jury considers the excessive amount of blood found at the scene.

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Air date: Apr 4, 2005

In Part 6, a surprise witness comes forward and information about a previous death comes into evidence.

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Air date: Aug 14, 2005

In Part 7, Peterson's defense team brings in experts to testify, but a surprise and key piece of evidence emerges.

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Air date: Aug 15, 2005

Peterson receives his verdict and prepares for the future.

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Air date: Mar 4, 2013

A look at new developments in the murder trial of author Michael Peterson.

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Air date: Mar 11, 2013

A look at new developments in the case of author Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife in North Carolina.

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The Staircase: Season 1 Photos

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News & Interviews for The Staircase: Season 1

Critic Reviews for The Staircase Season 1

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (14)

The sheer amount of archival footage in this show is absolutely nuts.

Jul 5, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

It's illuminating how flawed and naïve the concept of blind justice is.

Jun 26, 2018 | Full Review…

If The Staircase is a puzzle, it's one that still works no matter how you decide to arrange the pieces.

Jun 18, 2018 | Full Review…

Unmissable stuff.

Jun 15, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

It's a must-watch for anyone interested in true crime shows as it's not only a fascinating case on its own but really the template for so much that's on television and streaming services today.

Jun 5, 2018 | Full Review…

Where Making A Murderer dragged, The Staircase darts. Where Making A Murderer has you applauding your guesswork, The Staircase has you damned.

Feb 15, 2019 | Full Review…

The Staircase functions best as a documentary looking intently on the shortcomings of the American legal system, and how things can become so convoluted and messy that both victims and the accused will never find justice, closure, or peace.

Jan 22, 2019 | Rating: 7.7/10 | Full Review…

Most of us would like to think that, if we were in Michael Peterson's position, certain processes would be in place.

Nov 15, 2018 | Full Review…

By the end of its examination of the ways a trial can be skewed by investigators and faux "expert" witnesses, you will never want to break the law and face a so-called jury of your peers.

Jul 6, 2018 | Full Review…

It makes for very powerful TV.

Jul 2, 2018 | Full Review…

This rotating cast of vampires and misfits not only makes for a thrillingly sloppy and mad case, it creates extraordinary telly, all whittled down from 16 years of footage.

Jun 25, 2018 | Full Review…

It is a tragedy of epic proportions, sprawled out over 15 years. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. The case drags on. Yet Kathleen Peterson remains dead, reduced to a series of graphic images, to pieces of bloody evidence.

Jun 15, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Staircase: Season 1

  • Feb 12, 2021
    *spoilers* I'm embarrassed it took me 8 episodes to comprehend that the doc is a defense of a weird man who probably murdered two women. The fact that I had to write 'probably' is the filmmakers' point that he should have been acquitted on reasonable doubt. But The Staircase fails in its quest to expose the failures of the American Justice System when it neglects to show us the totality of what the jury heard and saw. Instead, we, like the documentarians, are embedded with the defense. Here's a snapshot of the confusion I'd like to spare others: when Michael Peterson's adopted daughters provide extrajudicial character witnessing for the man who probably (again) murdered both their bio mother and the woman they called mom, I thought, Wow, this show has a cruel streak: they will feel so foolish when his crimes are revealed. But no. I was the fool for continuing to watch. I'm not sure what de Lestrade was trying to do with that footage, an ambiguity that other reviewers have touted as the primary strength of The Staircase. The defense thinks that family support is indicative of Peterson's innocence. In contrast, I thought it amounted to a determination to reject the very real and nightmarish possibility that they were raised by a murderer who took the life of their mother, twice. Sometimes people who have been conned double down. The whole series is an exercise in deflection. Instead of asking pertinent questions, such as why did Peterson and his first wife divorce? Why did he get custody of all four of their children? Why did he choose to live as a closeted man? What did his military service in Vietnam entail?, de Lestrade gives us a mix of lawyer-client chitchat and paid expert explanation of blood splatter. Peterson made his own documentary, and it's ridiculous to believe it vindicates him. (Even though I agree with the reviewer below as to the absurd bias of this show, the umbrage she takes over a Jewish-American lawyer saying he never wants to return to Germany is weird. Um, the Holocaust happened, Danielle.)
  • Oct 04, 2020
    Horribly biased. I just have bad vibes from everyone in Peterson's orbit. For example, the statement about his attorney never wanting to go back to Germany...these people are gross.
  • Jun 18, 2020
    interesting, good insight, quite captivating to watch. wouldn't want to be in front of a jury that can believe such a shitty evidence based case without reasonable doubt.. then again - what do you expect from country where many believe earth is flat, sun goes around earth and have orange as president..
  • Jun 15, 2020
    It is not a balance documnetary. The dead person is still in the living room. A bitter sweet end.
  • Apr 30, 2020
    if you like true crime, it doesn't get any better than this!
  • Jan 30, 2020
    This is one of the great documentaries of our time. The amount of footage was astounding and allowed the viewer to learn new information and to sit with it and be a part of this family.
  • Jan 28, 2020
    Absolutely gripping cinema, dying to be made into a drama film. And yet the greatest mystery of all still remains - what happened on that night?
  • Jan 26, 2020
    A rather revealing look at a corrupt and broken legal system... whether you believe he murdered his wife or not, (and personally, I'm not sure either way!) I think it's safe to say that the authorities mishandled this case big-time. Worth a watch for sure.
  • Jan 03, 2020
    I just hope that when I kill somebody to have enough money for that defense team.
  • Dec 28, 2019
    The Staircase is an excellent documentary of everything wrong with our legal system. The prosecution determined that he was guilty before a true investigation took place, fabricated evidence, pushed the medical examiner to change her death determination, and luckily found to have cause multiple incomplete reports in different cases leading to the release of Mr. Peterson. It's such a sad reality that someone could be found guilty for a crime they did not commit. Shame on Durhams DA.

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