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.



Critic Ratings: 31


Audience Score

User Ratings: 274
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Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Apr 4, 2005
Air date: Aug 14, 2005
Air date: Aug 15, 2005
Air date: Mar 4, 2013
Air date: Mar 11, 2013
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Critic Reviews for The Staircase Season 1

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (12)

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

Jul 5, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/5 | 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…
Top Critic

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…

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

Jun 26, 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…

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…

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…

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…

Audience Reviews for The Staircase: Season 1

  • 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.
  • Jun 28, 2019
    I could not stop watching...
  • Oct 04, 2018
    The Staircase is a perfectly fine documentary series about a murder case that suffered from the prosecution's determination to get Michael convicted, regardless of what the evidence actually showed. There's nothing here many of us haven't seen before, but it's well done and shines a light on a key weakness in our justice system, as many other modern documentary series have done.
  • Sep 04, 2018
    I had just moved to North Carolina before Kathleen Peterson died, and began working within the Durham government a few months later. I was involved with at risk youth and gangs, so was familiar with Durham police and its justice system. What a "hot mess" (as they say in the South) of incompetent, shady, slackers! Peterson got railroaded and should have sued the justice system for his conviction and time served. This series was very well done, had incredible access to the people involved in the case, and showed the many fascinating characters involved. From the enigmatic Peterson, to his bitter sister-in-law, to the Cruella DeVille prosecutor Freda Black, and many others, you really saw the difficulty of each of their situations. Highly recommended.
  • Aug 18, 2018
    About three episodes too long but had me hooked enough to watch all the way through....i am still not sure if he did it or not.
  • Aug 16, 2018
    I have just finished watching the series. It’s absolutely gripping, Mike Petterson is a fascinating multi dimensional character who is absolutely compelling. If you have watched ‘Making a Murderer’ you will love this. Without revealing the plot it demonstrates once again the abysmal injustice of the American System.
  • Aug 10, 2018
    I watched this and was enthralled by it - fantastic exciting TV and journalism. Edge of the seat stuff. HOWEVER - I then did some more research and found that the team producing this series was very selective in what they included. For example there was virtually no mention of the very significant financial issues the couple were in, or the fact that one of the french crew (Sophie Brunet, the film's editor) was having a relationship with Michael for many years during the making of the program. What about the fact that Kathleen had a large life insurance policy.... These and other issues either were totally ignored or at best mentioned in passing. This is unforgivable!
  • Aug 07, 2018
    Really...Did we run out of original titles for shows
  • Aug 01, 2018
    I finished this series last night. I will be getting into spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it be careful. I felt the first half of episodes was far more interesting than the second half. It just kind of dragged on through the back half. I suppose like the actual case(s). I was totally enraptured watching the early episodes and going along for the true crime ride. The court case was interesting to watch. *spoilers start NOW* We don’t really know until a later ep that the doc was being filmed by a company hired by Peterson. It explains the presentation a bit, any why the whole show leans bias towards Peterson. Still, even with that bias, I found myself very much disliking the prosecution, how they presented, and their experts. Everyone is an asshole. Deever was obviously a lying asshole before we found out later on that he actually WAS a lying Asshole. That the jury believed the BS he concocted confuses me. The medical examiner lady just came off so arrogant and bitchy. Like she was offended that anyone would dare question her findings. Then you have the crazy obnoxious southern lady lawyer who did the closing argument. Holy shit I could not stand her voice and the way she presented. After everything was presented from both sides and the jury went to do their thing, the only reason I knew what was coming was because of the episode count. Even with that I was shocked they found him guilty. Terrible verdict. There was all sorts of reasonable doubt, and for them to ignore it shows that they were emotionally effected by the presentation, or prejudiced based on Petersons life choices, or the Germany case. The jury fucked up. The latter half of eps goes through the following years of him in jail and trying to get appeals going. It’s kind of boring. They should have squeezed this down to 10 eps. Oh, and Kathleen’s sister is a psycho. So much rage. It’s sad. In the end I got to learn what an Alford Plea is and why it’s a thing. I had no idea. Too long but still worth the watch.

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