Suspicion quickly turned to Peterson, a novelist, though the questions of motive unleashed an entirely separate dimension to the proceedings, which attracted the attention of a French documentary crew eager to provide a window in the US justice system.
This take on “The Staircase” thus becomes as much about the media filter through which the case was seen as the actual events, at times painstakingly replicating the grainy look of the original with actors standing in for the characters. The result is a production that constantly seems to be reassessing what we know, versus what we might think or assume, about what transpired.
Give much of the credit to Firth for conveying Peterson’s complexity, hinging on whether he shared his attraction to men with his wife, or if that part of him remained secret and could have been connected to her death. There’s also the issue of how prosecutors leveraged that information, recognizing how it might play to a jury in 2003.
Normally, a project that felt this inherently messy would be a bit frustrating. With “The Staircase,” though, there’s method to the madness, as it seeks to capture the story with all its intricacies, and the sometimes elusive pursuit of putting the truth in true crime.
“The Staircase” premieres May 5 on HBO Max, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.