‘The Staircase’ Review: Your New Netflix Addiction Has Arrived

Article by Margaret Bonass Madden

There is something sinful, yet extremely satisfying, about binge-watching a series on Netflix.

Let’s be real here: How many of us have time to indulge in hours upon hours of screen time (obviously social media doesn’t count – we ARE human, after all)?

Unless you are stuck in bed with a nasty bout of the latest pox, life tends to get in the way.

The odd episode of something special – here and there – tends to feed our habit and keeps us up-to-date with the trending hashtags.

The Staircase Image via Netflix
Image via Netflix

But, every now and again a series arrives which demands that you abandon all routines and click that ‘Next Episode’ button.

I have recently climbed out of a 13-episode binge-session of Netflix’s latest docu-drama (over a two-day period – sleep was required) and am still raging that I’ve finished it.

I feel a little bereft and have succumbed to searching #TheStaircase to see what others are saying about the show.

So, what is all the fuss about?

Photo by AP/REX

Originally aired in 2004, The Staircase is now streaming (with three additional up-date episodes) on Netflix UK and Ireland.

It is a true-crime documentary which follows the case of Michael Peterson, accused of the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson, in 2001.

The series starts with Michael’s emotional re-retelling of the night in question, when he describes how he discovered Kathleen’s body at the bottom of their basement stairs.

So far, so tragic. However, the police have different ideas and within hours Michael has been arrested for murdering his wife.

He denies this and insists that her death was an accident: she had been drinking, had taken a Valium and was wearing flip-flops – in fairness, flip-flops are notoriously slippery footwear, even without the wine and Valium.

Following a search of the property, gay porn is discovered on Michael’s computer and the authorities have a field day.

They now use the accused’s sexuality as a motive and the case becomes a completely different kettle of fish.

Using original footage and one-to-one interviews, this series has a voyeuristic element that is virtually impossible NOT to watch.

It is shot in an artistic and non-judgmental style (despite the grainy 2001 camera quality) and from episode one will have you jumping from: “He definitely did it” to: “Maybe it really was an accident” and then on to: “Aaaaagh! I don’t know!” Film-maker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, admits that he is still unsure as to Michael’s innocence or guilt.

One thing is clear though. This is another spectacular case of a deeply flawed justice system and one which inspired docu-dramas like Making a Murderer and The Keepers. The ‘bit’ players of the court-room drama are memorable (and not all in a good way).

There are times when you want to shout at the screen: “What the HELL has this got to do with Kathleen’s death? Are you SERIOUS?” There are some totally unexpected twists in the tale and a weird fascination with a blow-poke (I had to google to check what this was).

Michael Peterson is a wealthy author, married to a wealthy woman. Their mansion is nestled in stunning surroundings and their family seemed to be one of complete contentment.

No doubt that Michael is one strange cookie: narcissistic; prone to the odd embellishment about his personal life; a master at producing rheumy-eyed facial contortions and fond of drinking fine wine while puffing away on his pipe.

All that said, he seems to be a very loving father and (most of) the family stand firmly beside him. This is addictive viewing and may cause many hours of ignoring your own life to peek into the life of Michael, Kathleen and their extended family.

Get ready for 13 hours of addictive viewing. I have to stop typing now, for fear of unintended spoilers. Get thee to Netflix! STAT!

Margaret Bonass Madden
 Margaret Bonass Madden is a book blogger/reviewer, features writer and mother of five.

She can be found with her nose in a book, surrounded by beauty products and subscription boxes, on Twitter and at bleachhouselibrary.ie.


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