The Staircase (2022) s01e02 – Chiroptera

So the person who looks the most like Rosemarie DeWitt but can’t be Rosemarie DeWitt is Sophie Turner. I then thought Maria Dizzia was Rosemarie DeWitt, but no, also not Rosemarie DeWitt. This episode of “The Staircase” has opening titles, which the first episode did not, and they’re a who’s who of actors I hadn’t recognized. At least, you know, Rosemarie DeWitt (she’s got blonde hair, sorry).

Also, apparently, Trini Alvarado’s going to be in the show. I think I know who she’s playing in this episode, but I also could be wrong. I’ll find out next time, which seems to be the theme.

DeWitt and Dizzia play Toni Collette’s sisters, who district attorneys Cullen Moss and Parker Posey pretty quickly convince was murdered. By husband Colin Firth, who says things like, “we’ve got to keep everyone’s story straight,” and totally innocent stuff along those lines. They’re not in the episode much because they’re avoiding him, obviously, as Moss tries to shave off family member support. It’s not hard; he and Posey are going to release Collette’s autopsy photos (they’re public domain, nothing to be done about it) and give wary family members the heads up. In this episode, they’re going after daughter Olivia DeJonge, who’s Collette’s biological daughter. The show still hasn’t laid out whatever Brady Bunch plus adopting orphans situation is going on, but DeJonge’s getting suspicious and sick of step-brother Patrick Schwarzenegger’s weak excuses for Firth’s exceptionally suspicious story.

DeWitt gets the really big “eureka” moment at the end, though.

This episode drops another giant truth bomb—Firth’s bisexual and having an affair (which he lies to everyone about after the murder) with some guy we haven’t met yet. He leaves it up to brother Tim Guinee to tell his kids he’s gay, raising the “is he guilty or just socially awkward” question. Complicating matters… did Collette know he was bi? He says, yes, and she was fine with it, while everyone else is kind of like, we’re North Carolina white Republicans, no way she was fine with it. When Posey’s pressing people, no one argues with her assessment: Collette would’ve been mortified. So Firth might be the bad guy, but he’s being vilified for bigot reasons.

And the evidence he smashed Collette’s head into a wall over and over, which defense attorney Michael Stuhlbarg’s team can only explain if Collette took a tumble down the stairs and slipped and slid in her blood for a long time. It’s an exceptionally rough sequence, punctuated by the team acknowledging they left out a bunch of other wounds she couldn’t have gotten except from someone attacking her.

Firth’s also being really suspicious with defense attorney Stuhlbarg, who shares a lot of knowing looks with his team. Even more alarming is when the French documentarians who come to town to tell his story can’t get him not to act incredibly guilty in interviews.

Collette—in the flashbacks, obviously—gets a lot more to do this episode and is excellent. Firth’s entirely suspicious now (and sometimes for the wrong reasons), which seems like it will limit his potential. DeJonge’s pretty good as the current canary in the coal mine, but the episode heavily implies her siblings are starting to question Firth too. Again, not for great reasons.

“Staircase” is compelling (manipulatively—I wonder how the show would play if they laid it out start to finish instead of the time jumps for effect) and well-acted.

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