Before The Jinx, before Making a Murderer, before Serial, there was The Staircase. The titanic documentary series, which focuses on the sensational murder trial of Michael Peterson, was first broadcast fourteen years ago on French and American television. Updated five years ago with two new episodes—and now with three brand new Netflix original episodes that bring the story full circle—this trailblazing event is available to be seen in its complete, spellbinding breadth.
Directed by Academy Award winner Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (Murder on a Sunday Morning), the series opens on December 9, 2001, as a 48-year-old Kathleen Peterson is found dead and bloodied at the bottom of a staircase in the affluent North Carolina home she shared with her husband, successful novelist and local public figure Michael Peterson. Despite his frantic 911 call reporting the discovery of her body, Peterson becomes a suspect in the police’s investigation. Soon he is charged and forced to stand trial for his wife’s death.
Granted extraordinary access to the subjects and the courtroom, The Staircase embarks on one of the deepest and most revealing explorations of the criminal justice system ever seen. In addition to Peterson, who proclaims his innocence, we are introduced to a fascinating cast of real-life characters, from dogged defense attorney David Rudolf to austere prosecutor Freda Black to famed forensic expert Henry Lee, plus Peterson’s children and stepchildren.
And all throughout, the series challenges our notions of truth and bias (as Peterson’s bisexuality is revealed as a factor in his case) while delivering more twists than a scripted drama (including the eerily similar staircase death of a woman in Peterson’s past).
Three brand new Netflix original episodes expand the scope of de Lestrade’s comprehensive analysis of the Peterson case—and bring The Staircase to its mesmerizing conclusion. Seen in its totality, the series is an engrossing examination of contemporary American justice and nothing less than an historic event in nonfiction filmmaking.