colin firth v the owl in the staircase adaptation

HBO’s ‘The Staircase’ Invites You To Ask the Question: Who Is Playing the Owl?

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Colin Firth is playing an American—the horror has only begun.

HBO’s The Staircase is based on the 2004 French television miniseries by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, which documented the trial of Michael Peterson, who was eventually convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. We have Firth playing Michael Peterson and Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson.

Peterson was granted a new trial, eight years after his 2003 conviction, after the judge ruled a critical prosecution witness gave misleading testimony. Finally, in 2017, Peterson submitted an Alford plea (a guilty plea where the defendant does not admit to committing the crime) to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time already served and freed from prison.

In 2009, with the cause of Kathleen Peterson’s death still a mystery, a theory was introduced that Peterson’s wife had been attacked by a barred owl, fell down, and ended up losing consciousness after hitting her head on the stairs. It has been seen by many as ridiculous.

I remember watching the original The Staircase on Netflix when it was released, and the entire case breakdown is very interesting. I am one of the people who certainly believes Peterson did it, but also find the biphobia and general prosecutorial evidence to be quite weak. An owl might not be responsible, but it is also just frustrating that every bisexual man is apparently a murderer-in-waiting for their wives.

The cast for this dramatized series is fantastic, but still, The Staircase is so readily available and still cited as a true crime case/doc that people discuss that it feels weird to see a miniseries adaptation about it—especially since Michael Peterson is alive and Kathleen’s children have constantly been made into public figures over something very traumatic.

We will never know what happened to Kathleen, but it will continue to make other people money, and with so much time between the original documentary and this, it’ll be interesting to see how the narrative has evolved—especially since the series can comment on how the actual documentary impacted the relationship between everyone in the family.

The eight-episode miniseries premieres on HBO Max on May 5.

(image: HBO Max)


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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.