HBO Max Takes on the Michael Peterson Case


The Pitch: It’s one of the notorious homicide circumstances within the twenty first century: On December ninth, 2001, Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette) was discovered useless on the foot of the staircase in her Durham, North Carolina house, having bled out from a suspiciously massive variety of head wounds. The one one house was her husband, novelist and mayoral candidate Michael Peterson (Colin Firth), who known as 911 and defined by means of tears that she’d fallen down the steps.

However the occasion’s pressure on the Peterson household compounds as Kathleen’s loss of life opens up fissures between the blended household, to say nothing of the suspicion Michael faces as his spouse’s potential assassin. Because the trial heats up, and extra secrets and techniques come out about Michael’s hidden life, the household — and the French documentary crew filming him and the protection workforce — paradoxically get additional and additional away from the reality.

The Spirit of the Staircase: It’s straightforward to neglect that this present glut of true-crime docuseries introduced on by the rise of streaming actually started with 2008’s The Staircase, a French docuseries from Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, which took a decidedly cinema verite view of Peterson’s homicide trial (Netflix appended three new episodes and launched it as a whole collection in 2018).

It was compelling, and laid out lots of the grammar these sorts of documentaries would undertake in later years: speaking head interviews, archival footage, thrilling narrative modifying that will ease viewers from one twist to the subsequent. It could additionally showcase the failings of this sort of true-crime documentary filmmaking: valorizing and flattering the determine at its middle, muting the sufferer’s voice, and specializing in crafting an thrilling story over flatly telling the info.

The Staircase (HBO Max)

The Staircase (HBO Max)

Now, HBO Max has seen match to mine the opposite finish of this sort of show-biz retelling of real-life murders: the status miniseries drama. And to its credit score, The Staircase is totally conscious of its personal precarious place as an account of the Peterson case, spinning the particular circumstances of the case right into a Shakespearean morality play in regards to the intangibility of reality, the facility of self-delusion and narrative, and the corrosive nature of secrets and techniques.

These Who Dwell In Glass Homes: Not like the docuseries, which centered primarily on Peterson and his protection, present creator Antonio Campos (The Satan All of the TimeChristine) well expands the Peterson story right into a multifaceted saga that touches on lots of totally different characters and parts. There’s Michael, in fact, performed with scintillating opaqueness by Colin Firth; he’s a person all the time teetering on the sting of 1 manipulation or one other, even to himself.

It’s revealed early on that Peterson is an adulterous bisexual man (and Kathleen’s discovery of this serves as a possible motive for her homicide), which shortly dovetails into questions of his personal sense of ethics, and the heteronormative social codes that maintain queer males from having the ability to specific who they honestly are.

It’s… not nice that Michael Peterson serves as a nifty instance of the “bi males are deceitful nymphomaniacs as a result of we have to sleep with each women and men” trope, as correct as that could be in his case. However the present does its stage greatest to reckon with that by highlighting the evident ache queer males typically really feel once they have to cover their emotions, a courtesy prolonged to extra sympathetic figures like elder son Todd (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and, in a single closely loaded second, Peterson trial lawyer David Rudoff (Michael Stuhlbarg).





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The Pitch: It’s one of the notorious homicide circumstances within the twenty first century: On December ninth, 2001, Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette) was discovered useless on the foot of the staircase in her Durham, North Carolina house, having bled out from a suspiciously massive variety of head wounds. The one one house was her husband, novelist…

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