Murder, He Wrote
Episode 2 of The Staircase begins with the French documentarians, courtesy of whom we have gotten this story in public, discussing whether to take the story or not.
The fundamental philosophy of their intentions is disclosed: they want to show everything, and let the viewers decide what’s the truth.
An awkward family Christmas dinner two weeks after Kathleen’s death in December 2001 reveals two things. First, a phone call about an “incident” in Germany by Auntie Blair. Secondly, Michael’s tension over Candace and Lori’s loyalties.
We then jump to two months before her death to an event planned for Michael’s campaign. Kathleen and he want the fundraiser to be a success, but it falls on the same day as Kathleen is supposed to visit her biological daughter, Caitlin. She reluctantly agrees to be at the fundraiser.
We also see Michael’s bisexuality for the first time in effect in the gym, where he hits on a man visiting from outside.
He and Billy decide to reveal to the children the photos that the DA will use in the trial. Michael and the team discuss the French filmmakers and agree in principle to let them shoot the documentary to get Michael’s perspective out there.
The bail is posted and he returns back home. Caitlin looks shaky amidst all this. She has doubts about Michael’s love for her mother and chooses to stay with her visiting biological father, Fred, in a hotel.
The fears are confirmed when we see Caitlin meeting with Margaret and her sister to discuss switching sides, so to speak. We jump to February 2017, where we see an aged Mike with his new partner. He runs into the head of SBI, a forensic agency used by the DA against Mike to re-enact the staircase sequence. Mike is shaken and runs out without getting anything.
The defense team converges to discuss preparations for the trial. A number of different experts for the blood splatter, biomechanics, etc are brought to examine the spot where Kathleen’s body was found.
Caitlin’s witch is confirmed when one of her personal school projects is used without her knowledge by the defense lawyers in a filmed interview with a media person to defame Fred. We also see the successful fundraiser happening in the house in a flashback.
Kathleen and Mike look happy but there is some unrest between the two. The team recreates the details of the fall for trial and we see a re-enactment of what might have happened to Kathleen that night.
The documentarians arrive and the kids disperse to their normal routines. In the bizarre ending, we see Candace take a blow poke from the fireplace and out of nowhere, begin hitting a cushion with it. She concludes that is the murder weapon.
The Episode Review
What a fine improvement episode 2 was over episode 1. The series was almost unrecognizable midway when the fundraiser/appraisal sequence in the Peterson house takes place.
This is the kind of subtlety one expects when two different times with different moods and energies unravel in the same place. It reminded me of that scene in ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ where the house comes alive with the memories of the past and the mystery of the present. But the best was saved for last.
Best, in terms of the consumptive value, not what the shot itself was – Kathleen’s fall. This is the first – and probably the only – recap of what might have happened that the audiences will see this season. And it is shocking every second it lasts.
Collette as Kathleen regains consciousness, wheezing, and the blood pouring from all sides of her head is a sight few will forget. The terrifying scene was not re-enacted in the documentary – only in words – and that gives it an even more visceral and frightening touch.
Colin Firth and Collette continue their magnificent run in this episode as well. There is just enough sincerity and deceit to keep you guessing. The two aren’t the best match in terms of chemistry and maybe that is intentional on part of the creators.
Episode two is a timely reminder as to how well the series may pan out, getting us all these missed details from the documentary and lives of the Petersons.