The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 8 recap – the finale and ending explained

June 9, 2022
Jordan Russell Lyon 2
Ending Explained, HBO Max, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
4

Summary

While the series itself has been up and down, the final episode brings a fitting conclusion to one of the most intriguing real-life murders. And because of that, the finale makes the season a worthy watch.

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4

Summary

While the series itself has been up and down, the final episode brings a fitting conclusion to one of the most intriguing real-life murders. And because of that, the finale makes the season a worthy watch.

This recap of the HBO Max series The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 8 — the finale and ending explained — contains spoilers.

Read the recap of the previous episode.

The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 8 recap – the finale and ending explained

In 2011, the night before the retrial hearing, the family are back together as Todd records himself and Clayton for his latest post. Margaret learns that Martha is gay. But when Martha claims no one in the family talks about stuff, it nearly leads to an argument. The Staircase moves to 2001 and the day before Kathleen’s death. Michael returns home early from work to find Kathleen dressed up and drinking, and they end up having sex. 

Meanwhile, the retrial begins with his family and Katherine’s family nervously awaiting what happens next. And the scene cuts to a similar courtroom setting where Michael decides to accept or deny the Alford plea. During both hearings, Candace speaks out against Michael, firmly blaming him for Kathleen’s death. However, there is one main difference, as, during the Alford plea hearing, Michael has few supporters in attendance. 

In 2011, the Peterson family learn that despite Candace’s speech against Michael, a retrial will go ahead. Meanwhile, Michael reluctantly pleads guilty for the purpose of the Alford plea and seemingly ends the 16-year saga. When Clayton tries to book a table for the family, he is unable to do so due to the stigma. 

As Michael’s children question whether they should have gone to Michael’s Alford plea hearing, they’re all in agreement that they have better things to do. Margaret even adds that it’s too hard to be around Michael. Kathleen’s sisters discuss the latest developments. But Candace is unable to move on and regrets never telling Kathleen what she truly thought about Michael. Back in 2011, whilst out for dinner, the family use one of Kathleen’s traditions to celebrate Michael’s release. But Michael’s mood causes an atmosphere, and Todd gets extremely drunk. And it brings the question, is Michael purely worn down by the last ten years, or is he starting to feel guilty over murdering Kathleen? Who knows.

The ending

Martha tells Michael that she has been reading his books, and she recognises him in some of the characters he has written. When it comes to picking dessert, Michael criticises Maragret’s selection of a cheesecake. After Martha gives Margaret a birthday present, Margaret tells her that Michael had tried to separate them as children. After the Alford plea, Michael’s sour mood continues, and after he snaps at Sophie, he tells her that he just needs a moment away from everything. Once Sophie makes a remark about his children not attending the hearing, Sophie questions why Michael fails to mention her when he gets quizzed on life after prison. As a result, Michael and Sophie have a vicious argument and break up, with Michael admitting that he doesn’t know if he ever loved Sophie.

Sophie watches footage of Michael from the documentary, where he finally admits that Kathleen never knew the truth about his sexuality. She tells Jean that Michael is a liar, with Jean then adding that he doesn’t know what to think. Although, he does state that he thinks Sophie will be happier without him. 

Meanwhile, back on the night of Kathleen’s death, Kathleen wants to use Michael’s computer. But he advises Kathleen to give work rest for the night. As they sit outside together, Kathleen tells Michael that he’ll be ok too before she asks why he never told her. Michael reveals that there was a moment when he knew what he wanted, but he got further and further away from that moment. Although it goes inaudible, it’s clear that Kathleen is distraught by Michael’s confession. The Staircase ends with present-day Michael sitting alone on his bed. The closing credits reveal that despite his freedom, Michael has so far never left Durham but still maintains his innocence over Kathleen’s death.

What did you think of the HBO Max series The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 8 (finale), and the ending? Comment below.

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2 thoughts on “The Staircase (2022) season 1, episode 8 recap – the finale and ending explained

  • June 9, 2022 at 8:19 pm
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    I was very disappointed because I thought we would finally know how Kathleen really died.

  • June 10, 2022 at 5:44 pm
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    I thought the ending was vague and stupid.

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