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TV review – The Staircase: Death by owl? I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!

© WarnerMediaColin Firth and Toni Collette as Michael and Kathleen Petersen in The Staircase
Colin Firth and Toni Collette as Michael and Kathleen Petersen in The Staircase

Recently Amanda Seyfried starred in Apple TV+’s series The Dropout, a dramatisation of tech entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes’ rise and fall from tech graduate to billion-dollar girl boss to woman who tried to claim, like Father Ted, that the money was just resting in her account.

You can’t help but think of The Dropout when watching The Staircase.

Not that the stories have too many similarities; Holmes was an unsavoury swindler but looks like Dame Judi Dench when compared to shifty Michael Peterson.

The mild-mannered former soldier claimed he found his wife’s body at the foot of the titular Staircase; he first said she slipped, then that she’d been attacked by an owl. Don’t you hate when you nip up to the loo and get savaged by a nocturnal raptor? I’m forever fending off barn owls if I leave the hall window open.

Colin Firth is in fine form, treading the line between fragility and menace the real Peterson displayed.

You can get a taste for yourself if you watch Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 documentary about the case; and that’s the problem.

Like The Dropout and the podcast which spawned the series, the original material is the most satisfying way to experience The Staircase.

Seyfried and Firth do fine jobs, but hearing these characters speak in their own words? With The Staircase, the original remains the first step.


The Staircase, Sky Atlantic