Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn took the work done by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade in the documentary Ladder and expanded on what was in it to shape an eight-episode miniseries starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette have a lot to tell, show and recreate. In particular, what she experienced before and after that night in December 2001, when, according to her husband, Kathleen Peterson died after falling down the stairs in her North Carolina mansion. The court didn’t see that and sentenced him. Two decades later, the story of Michael and Kathleen Peterson returns to the screen with a deeper and broader vision.
HBO Max’s premiere today is the first three episodes. Seen before the premiere, they function as a presentation of a very complex event with two clear protagonists, two opposite versions of what happened and many secondary ones. With a duration of more than an hour per chapter “Ladder” offers a case full of nuances where the narrative matters, and much. Instead of ignoring what has already been said and doing everything from scratch, its creators include it all in their offering. Groups of photographers and journalists waiting for the family, and interviews featuring members of the family, are part of the script. Also the aforementioned documentary released in 2004 and expanded upon a few episodes later. Its director, producer and entire team are integrated into the series. Because everything that surrounded the case was something of a media circus, and filming a documentary in the middle of the trial was part of it.
The central fact upon which the entire mini-series is built is what happened on December 9th over two decades ago. A 911 call from Michael alerted him that his wife had fallen down the stairs. Emergency services found her dead, lying at the foot of the secondary stairs of the mansion where the family lived, and bleeding profusely at the scene. Her husband’s version was this: an accident. They spent the evening in the garden by the pool and she left early to get ready for a business meeting the next day. The version defended by the prosecutor who handled the case was quite different: Kathleen discovered that her husband had images of men and pornographic content, they had an argument, and he killed her, later passing it off as an accident.
Mikhail, a writer by profession with political aspirations, was convicted. It’s something known (or easily recognizable). Consequently, the series decides not to play the mystery with this case and to direct its efforts to other aspects. Like focusing on Kathleen and what their life was like before that night. Or how what happened affected not only the accused and the convict, but also his entire entourage. The Petersons were a very large family. By separating the two, she facilitated the marriage of her daughter Caitlin. Four. Two boys, Clayton and Todd, from their first marriage. Two girls, Margaret and Marta, are adopted from Germany after the death of their parents.
A scene from the play “Ladder”. — hbo max
Accommodate and reach everyone years of investigation, the story is told in several times. On the one hand, a re-creation of that night – the series begins with the eldest son returning home after a party to find that toilets and agents have invaded it. On the other hand, a three-month jump back in time to get to know the victim, her circumstances, her worries, and her role in the family. Finally, 2007 is when Michael faces release from prison after so many years, with a new partner and a sentence weighing on him. The third episode ends with the beginning of the trial in 2003, which will take place in successive chapters. The costly defense hired by Peterson includes attorney David Rudolph, played by Michael Stuhlbarg (Dogdog). With him is a retinue of experts and specialists, only conceivable in a judicial system like the United States. System is also the protagonist of The Staircase..
The one that is considered terrible and sometimes unpleasant case. The series not only does not hide this, but also decides to show it openly. It also shows pornographic images, as in the autopsy of the victim. No detail is left out, however inconvenient they may be for those who can watch this in the tranquility of their living room. This is part of the game that The Staircase offers, as if it doesn’t want to leave anything to the imagination in that sense. Of course, without taking a position on whether Michael Peterson was lying in his version or, on the contrary, he was telling the truth and it was all an accident. These first three episodes outline different versions of what happened, contradictions, how the investigation was conducted and who was involved in it. None of the versions are accepted with this download. They expose themselves, without further ado.
Diverse and functional cast
It’s all told with the help of two actors like Colin Firth and Toni Collette, who make it easy to get into the series. In addition, they backed by a truly unique cast, as far as children from marriage are concerned. Caitlin is played by Olivia DeJong, and her two half-sisters, Margaret and Martha, are named Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) and Odessa Young (Confrontation). As for them, Clayton is played by Dane DeHaan and Todd is played by Patrick Schwarzenegger. One of the most interesting parts of the series is how some kids are caught up in their blind faith in their father’s innocence, while others appreciate certain loopholes in their story that make them doubt.
Toni Collette and Colin Firth will star in the new HBO Max miniseries. — hbo max
The series in its first chapter insists on the idea of a happy family that they want to sell to public opinion. This unravels not only as the camera and script enter their lives, but as the investigation begins to affect each of the young people. Despite this, the most difficult role – the role of Colin Firth giving life to a supposedly loving husband who pleads not guilty to all charges and faces a double trial: one in court for the death of his wife and a moral one for his exposed bisexuality. The British actor constantly oscillates between the waters of discord and explosion. In any case, it comes out gracefully.
He even ends up succeeding in those some strange scenes in which he walks around his house, remembering what he experienced that night, accompanied by a documentary film crew. Or watching his defense recreate his wife’s death in search of physical explanations for how there could have been so much blood at the scene and wounds on his body as they celebrate each incident. There are those who never doubt Paterson’s innocence or guilt, but there are those who don’t care. For many years he continued to defend that he did not kill her, despite the sentence pronounced on him. At one point, it is explained on screen that one of his defense theories was that the prosecution was in response to revenge on him for critical articles published in the local newspaper.
The Ladder is still a series based on real crime for real crime fans, with a well-known ending that’s already somehow told, that doesn’t skimp on the details (or at least that’s what it gives the impression of) and that’s solid thanks to the performance of a really dedicated cast with Collette and First as a backbone trying to go a little further. Something not easy sometimes. At various times, were it not for the fact that this is known to be a true story, some scenes wouldn’t pass the plausibility filter.
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