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Toni Collette and Colin Firth make 'The Staircase' worth investing in again

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Star Rating:

It’s the Hollywood retelling of the weirdest, most tragic true-crime case with twists and turns a-plenty.

‘The Staircase’ is a retelling of the fascinating real-life occurrence that happened between the years 2001 and 2017, following the suspicious death of Kathleen Peterson in her home on December 9, 2001. This adaptation, based on the Netflix docu-series of the same name, sees Toni Collette star as the tragic victim of the story, with Colin Firth as the man at the centre of the conviction – her husband Michael Peterson.

For those who have already seen all 13 episodes of the original documentary, you’ll probably wonder if this is worth investing time into. You’ve already seen the real-life events play out – do you need to see them again? Were it not for the leading duo, we’d say save your precious viewing time, but with Collette and Firth at the helm, this feels like a fresh take on an already familiar storyline. For those who haven’t seen the original (we’d recommend a basic knowledge before delving, perhaps), prepare for your mind to be blown in disbelief at the skeletons that come out of the closet – and the wildlife that gets dragged into it too.

The bones of the series remain the same – even down to the first five minutes opening in which Peterson is on the phone to 911 following the “discovery” of his dead wife at the bottom of the back stairs in their family home in Durham, North Carolina. Where the HBO Max series differs, thankfully, is giving us a better insight into the life of Kathleen in the lead up to her untimely, and incredibly bloody, death. Everything else, including the relocation of French documentary director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, and the arduous court case, remains intact.

Firth’s take on Michael Peterson is on point, the actor leaning into his erratic, insincere, sometimes creepy and demure nature, but still remaining an awe-inspiring father figure to his children throughout an incredibly intense moment in their lives. The novelist and wannabe political candidate is sent through the ringer, being the number one suspect in the case of his dead wife, with a seedy and eerie past that gets uncovered as the series continues.

His endlessly supportive wife Kathleen, is the unfortunate subject of the series, and by episode two you can really see just why Toni Collette made the cut as the Nortel executive. We begin to learn that Kathleen was a rather unfortunate individual in the build-up to her death, with her likely (or unlikely, depending on how you look at it) “final moments” being served up with a side of Emmy Award potential.

The pair’s blended, seemingly happy family is made up of Todd (Patrick Schwarzenegger), Clayton (Dane DeHaan), Margaret (Sophie Turner), Martha (Odessa Young) and Caitlin (Olivia DeJonge).

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This take on ‘The Staircase’ is yet another one of the long list of live-action rehashes of familiar stories boosted with star quality. There’s been a huge influx of podcasts and real-life fraudulent people on our screens of late – is it a sign that Hollywood is getting stuck for ideas (or is it laziness)? Either way, of all of the similar adaptations this reviewer has seen, ‘The Staircase’ firmly grounds itself as to how a limited series adaptation can be done right. There’s a string of mysteries that surround this case that even if you’ve watched the original docu-series, you’ll have long forgotten about.

In the end, it all boils down to one question: Did Michael do it? Even though the evidence is stacked up against him, the husband still remains adamant that he is innocent, even to this very day. Sadly, we’ll likely never get to know the full, real story of the events of that night, but ‘The Staircase’ does isn’t darnedest to make you invested in a nearly two-decades-old crime.

The first three episodes of ‘The Staircase’ are available on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW from today, with eight in total.