The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 5, 2022 (Last updated: February 17, 2024)
Previous ArticleView all
HBO Max series The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 1


With HBO Max taking on a real-life crime story, true crime fans will adore this mini-series. Even if you’re like me and know most of the main details surrounding Kathleen Peterson’s death, The Staircase is still a fantastic watch.

This recap of the HBO Max series The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 1, “911”, contains spoilers.

The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 1 recap

On 24th February 2017, Michael Peterson wakes up in bed before a voice recording gets played where he is in a state of panic and says that “she’s not breathing”. And flashing back to the night of Kathleen Peterson’s death, his son, Todd, wakes in a passenger seat to flashing lights outside of the house. Todd rushes into the family home, which now has a heavy police presence. Inside, Kathleen is dead at the bottom of the stairs. Whilst Michael claims that she fell down the stairs, he cradles her and the scene gets declared a crime scene. This is when Michael gets warned by the police to stop washing himself in the sink.

As some flashbacks that date September 2001, three months before Kathleen’s death, play out, Todd calls Bill. He tells Bill that Kathleen is down, with Bill saying that an attorney is on their way. As forensics inspect the scene, they claim that it’s as though her head exploded. While Michael cannot tell Kathleen’s sister, Candace, that she’s dead, he calls her husband, Mark, and asks him to tell her what has happened. 

What initially appears to be a mourner of Kathleen actually reveals itself as being a worker that Kathleen has to “let go”. Meanwhile, Michael speaks on the phone and asks if someone is “ready to get their arse pounded”. Then, whist cutting back to after Kathleen’s death, the autopsy reveals that Kathleen didn’t die straight away and had, in fact, struggled.

When Bill, aka Uncle Bill, arrives, he practically asks Michael if he killed Kathleen. Then, after a broken gets found in the bedroom, a rape test is performed on Kathleen. And as Michael says that they didn’t even use condoms, the rape test comes back negative. Later, in the days that follow, Michael attempts to carry on. But, as one would expect, he cannot escape talk of Kathleen’s death. 

The ending

In a flashback, whilst at a party, Kathleen jumps into a pool, injures her neck, and ends up in hospital. Once Michael learns that he needs to turn himself in to the police a media storm heads his family’s way. His legal aid advises Michael to have a blood relative of Kathleen speak to the media as it will help his case. However, after Kathleen’s sisters, Candace and Lori, get shown images of Kathleen’s body and are informed gay porn was found on his computer, they firmly start to believe that he could be responsible for her death. The first episode of The Staircase concludes with a much older Michael now remarried with presumably a new wife as he appears to be rebuilding his life again.

What did you think of the HBO Max series The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to HBO Max.

HBO Max, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
Previous ArticleView all