5.5/10 Reviewing a limited series like this is a first for me, as you might be able to tell from the three different release date years. While the series is now finished (hopefully) and contains 13 episodes, if I would have reviewed this in 2004, I would have been reviewing the initial eight episodes. Instead of making additional episodes that came out later into separate seasons, the film makers decided to just add episodes onto the initial limited series, which I am thankfully reviewing now instead of in 2004 or 2013, thinking that the series was done when it actually wasn’t. Episodes 1-8 came out in 2004, 9-10 in 2013 and 11-13 in 2018. Now that that confusion is out of the way, I can comment on why this documentary falls short, but more due to limitations as opposed to actual production decisions. If you aren’t familiar with the basic premise of this true story docuseries, the quick version is that novelist Michael Peterson calls 911 saying that his wife has fallen down the stairs. While she ends up dying, what initially seemed like a simple accident becomes so much more as details begin to leak out that muddy the waters. Everything from blood work to extramarital affairs to a separate staircase death begin to pile up, making many people wonder if this was a simple accident or a man murdering his wife. The entire time I watched the series, I was fascinated by the trial process so I could determine if I believed if Peterson was guilty or innocent of murdering his wife. Therein lies a big appeal of the series; internally playing detective, hearing both sides and making up your mind for yourself. Deciding how you would act if you were on the jury. The problem hanging over the entire series however is that French writer/director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade only shows things from the perspective of Michael Peterson, his family/friends and his attorney, David Rudolf. The entire series feels extremely biased since we follow the Petersons and hardly any time is given to the prosecution team or Michael’s deceased wife Kathleen’s sisters/daughter, who believe Michael is guilty of murder. It isn’t until the end of the final episode when we realize that many of those other individuals, who would have been relevant to follow, turned down being a part of the docuseries for reasons not disclosed. Lestrade should have noted in text onscreen that multiple, important individuals decided not to take part/declined activity in the series. While everyone who seemingly believed Peterson to be guilty of murder declined to take on a major role here, it completely skews the series in favor of Peterson by only sharing his side of the story. Just as a man on trial doesn’t want information to create prejudice within the jury deciding his fate, documentary film makers shouldn’t want the same kind of bias or prejudice skewing the audiences’ mindset in terms of Peterson’s guilt or innocence. Due to so many other parties not partaking, I honestly wouldn’t have even made this into a docuseries due to how one sided it is, which again, is not necessarily the film maker’s fault. The best episodes are the earlier ones and the worst are the last few. The initial story, facts of the case, interviews with Peterson and his family, etc. were fascinating and had me enthralled. However, the final episodes from 2018 (episodes 11-13), contained a ton of filler which served no purpose but to pad the running time and could have been cut out. Due to the release of HBO’s dramatic series sharing the exact same name as this docuseries, I figured I would watch this, then the 2022 HBO limited series and compare and contrast the two. While one can’t fault Lestrade for not being able to get multiple parties to agree to be a part of this series, it does greatly hurt the series overall, despite its fascinating subject matter. I have my own thoughts on if Peterson was innocent or guilty and if there was cause for reasonable doubt, but I will save that for in person with any fans of this series or the HBO series who wish to discuss.

#StaircaseToHeaven / #BuildAStrongStairCase / #StairyMovie / #ComingThisFall / #CantAlfordANewTrial / #UnitedStatesKathleenCorpse

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