Skip To Content

    "The Staircase" Is A Compelling Documentary On Netflix That You Need To Watch

    FYI: This is a non-spoiler review.

    You really should be watching The Staircase, a 13-part true crime documentary, out today on Netflix. It examines the complex trial of Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of killing his wife Kathleen in their family home in 2001.


    Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Michael told police that she died after falling down the stairs (and claimed that he was out of the house, out of earshot when the event occurred), but police did not believe him. As Kathleen experienced injuries that appeared to be inconsistent with someone falling down the stairs, Michael was charged with her murder and went to trial in 2003.

    The Staircase focuses on the trial primarily from the perspective of the defence, featuring interviews with Michael, his family, and his lawyer David Rudolf (pictured right). It's spliced with scenes from within the courtroom.


    If you think you've seen this documentary before, there's a chance you have. Created by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, The Staircase was originally broadcast in 2005, following the conclusion of the trial.

    Netflix is debuting three new episodes (episode 11 onwards) alongside the original series and the show's original two-part follow-up.

    So why does this documentary deserve your time? Part of it is the engrossing character study of Michael Peterson.


    With each episode there are new revelations about Michael's past and the circumstances surrounding Kathleen's death, so each time you make a judgment on what you think actually happened that question it.

    This is supposed to be a "non-spoiler" review, so all I am going to say to those who might already know about what happened is: the owl theory.

    The series is also so compelling simply because I have never seen a documentary that stays committed to a subject for such a long period of time.


    For much of it, The Staircase just sits back and tries to show you as much as it can. And a series such as this is entirely suited to Netflix, especially considering it was the platform behind Making a Murderer.

    I managed to watch all 13 episodes in three sittings easily. You could probably blast through the whole series, if that's your thing.

    And in such a short period of time The Staircase manages to weave together so many issues that you will debate with whoever you are watching with – from the fairness of the US justice system, to intrusions by the media, to the impact the loss of Kathleen had on members of the family who believed Michael was guilty, as well as those who thought he was innocent.


    You will come out of it with your own view on what happened that night and whether the case surrounding Michael Peterson was dealt with fairly – heck, even on the ethics of having the filmmakers follow the defence team in the first place.

    The Staircase is available on Netflix.

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form