The Staircase – HBO Max’s new eight-episode miniseries that explores the life of writer Michael Peterson and the suspicious death of his wife Kathleen – is streaming now and is an instant classic. The drama stars big names like Colin Firth, Sophie Turner and Patrick Schwarzenegger, and currently has a whopping 95 score on CNET sister site Metacritic.
The first three episodes aired Thursday, and if you’ve already watched them you might have questions about the death of Elizabeth “Liz” Ratliff or when we can don our true crime detective hats again for episode 4. We are here with answers.
Covered in books, podcasts and an acclaimed 2004 Netflix documentary of the same name as the HBO show, the high-profile 2001 case continues to spark debate and theories. If you haven’t seen episodes 1-3 of HBO’s The Staircase, beware: there are some spoilers below.
When will episode 4 of The Staircase air?
The first three episodes are available now, and a new episode will be released every Thursday until June 9th. That means Episode 4 should be out on May 12th.
How can I watch the documentary?
The 2004 documentary, also called The Staircase, is streaming on Netflix. Directed by French documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, it originally aired as an eight-episode miniseries, but Netflix added two sequels from the director, as well as three more sequels. Some consider it one of the bestout there.
The new HBO Max drama is directed by Antonio Campos, who began working on the project back in 2008. The show is a co-production between HBO Max and Annapurna Television and is written and executive produced by Campos and Maggie Cohn.
How are the show and the documentary related?
Interestingly, filming for the 2004 Staircase documentary is part of the narrative in the new HBO Max show, in which actor Vincent Vermignon plays documentary director de Lestrade. We see the crew start filming Peterson in Episode 2.
The HBO Max series isn’t based solely on material from the documentary. It also draws on books and accounts of the case. However, viewers of the dramatized show and the doc will recognize similarities between the two. For example, both have a scene where a haunting shot of a woman screaming for help (to imitate Kathleen) runs while Michael is standing near his backyard pool.
What happened in the real case?
On December 9, 2001, rescue workers found 48-year-old business executive Kathleen Peterson dead at the bottom of a staircase at her home in Durham, North Carolina. Her husband, writer Michael Peterson, told 911 dispatchers Kathleen accidentally fell down the stairs. Despite this, he was charged with murder before the month was out.
In an autopsy report released in 2002, senior pathologist Deborah Radisch concluded that Kathleen’s cause of death was due to “severe concussions caused by multiple blunt force impacts to the head … The number, severity, locations, and orientations of these injuries are not associated with any one.” fall from the stairs compatible; instead, they indicate multiple blows received from a blow.
The actual trial lasted three months in 2003, making it one of the longest trials of all time in North Carolina. Prosecutors claimed Michael beat Kathleen to death, and the defense claimed she accidentally fell down several flights of stairs to her death. Michael’s sex life became public during the trial. For more facts on the case, see below (but be aware: there are spoilers for the show).
Who are the main characters in HBO Max’s The Staircase?
There are many characters in this new version of The Staircase. If you’re trying to figure out who’s who in Michael and Kathleen’s extended family, you’re not alone.
Let’s start with the kids.
Sophie Turner and Odessa Young star as Margaret and Martha Ratliff, Michael Peterson’s real adopted daughters who sided with him after Kathleen’s death. Olivia DeJonge plays Caitlin Atwater, the real-life daughter of Kathleen Peterson and her ex-husband Fred Atwater. Caitlin eventually testified on the side of the prosecutor.
Patrick Schwarzenegger and Dane DeHaan play Todd and Clayton Peterson, Michael’s real sons from his first marriage, for Patricia Peterson.
Rosemarie DeWitt and Maria Dizzia play Kathleen’s real-life sisters, Candace Zamperini and Lori Campbell, and Tim Guinee plays Michael’s brother, Bill.
And of course Colin Firth is Michael and Toni Collette is Kathleen on the show.
Who was Elizabeth “Liz” Ratliff and how did she die?
At the end of Episode 3 of HBO Max’s The Staircase, we learn a bit more about Elizabeth “Liz” Ratliff’s death. Here’s what we know about the real events.
Elizabeth Ratliff, a family friend of Michael Peterson and his first wife Patricia, died in 1985, just two years after her husband George.
An autopsy revealed that Elizabeth died of a brain hemorrhage. After Elizabeth’s death, Michael and Patricia took in Ratliff’s two daughters, Martha and Margaret. When Michael moved in with Kathleen in 1989, Martha and Margaret went with him.
Before Michael’s murder trial began, it was revealed that Elizabeth Ratliff, like Kathleen, had been found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Prosecutors had Ratliff’s body exhumed, and pathologist Deborah Radisch performed an autopsy in North Carolina (Radisch also performed Kathleen’s autopsy). She concluded that Ratliff’s cause of death was homicide.
Big spoilers: Where is Michael Peterson now?
In 2003, after a three-month trial, a jury found Michael Peterson guilty of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson (who oversaw the original trial) granted Peterson a new trial in 2011 after finding that blood spatter analyst Duane Deaver had misled him and the jury. Peterson was released from prison on bail.
Peterson’s official release came in 2017 after he filed an Alford plea, which allowed him to plead guilty while maintaining his innocence. Today, he continues to live in Durham, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.
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https://www.cnet.com/culture/entertainment/the-staircase-on-hbo-max-episode-4-release-date-and-your-burning-questions-answered/ The Staircase on HBO Max: Episode 4 release date and your questions answered