blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Staircase (2022) s01e05 – The Beating Heart

So, the present action of “The Staircase”—minus Colin Firth flashing back to being a kid with a shitty dad so he could grow into a shitty dad himself—starts in fall 2001 and goes to 2017. This episode begins in 2004 when Firth’s character has been in prison for six months. Meaning the trial took more than a year. The show did a terrible job with the passage of time on it; it’s possibly the worst thing the show’s done, and it’s had some lows.

Amusingly, the kids get together in this episode and talk about the awkward passage of time; how it hasn’t been so long. Sophie Turner once again has to acknowledge neither Patrick Schwarzenegger nor Dane DeHaan care that Toni Collette is dead; the real question is, are Firth and sons sociopaths or just narcissists. If it were a better show, I’d say the time acknowledgment was intentional.

It is not a better show.

Though this episode’s definitely one of the stronger ones, again with a script credit to Craig Shilowich, whose episodes have been much better than show creator Antonio Campos. Who also doesn’t direct (he did the previous episodes); instead, it’s Leigh Janiak. So maybe less Campos means better “Staircase.”

Besides the kids selling off the house to pay for Firth’s appeals, the documentarians are the significant subplot. Producer Frank Feys wants the documentary to accurately represent the trial from the jury’s perspective; editor Juliette Binoche (who’s having her letter-writing friendship with Firth now) and director Vincent Vermignon want to emphasize Firth’s possible innocence. As a result, there are numerous pointless scenes about it, setting up Feys as an asshole.

Not sure a show entirely based on manipulative storytelling should get meta about manipulative storytelling.

Firth in prison is the main “present-day” plot. He’s in somewhat constant danger and more sympathetic than ever, since he’s got Neo-Nazi meth heads out to kill him. He also confirms he voted for Gore (meaning he’s not racist), which they could’ve established earlier.

Speaking of elections and manipulative storytelling, the episode reveals Firth lost his mayoral election in a landslide, making the first episode’s implication the establishment framed him because he was pushing them out a little much. Never look back, I guess.

In that vein, Toni Collette’s flashbacks are all about Firth being a piece of shit to Turner and nothing about the bats. They have a dinner party scene where he’s a controlling prick, but more interesting, it introduces friends who never appear again.

It’s scary this episode’s so much better than usual. It’s also got the least Michael Stuhlbarg; correlation doesn’t mean causation, but… it’s got the least Stuhlbarg.

Probably Firth’s best acting in the series. He’s outstanding.

And DeHaan finally gets some material, and he’s not very good; not sure why I was expecting him to be any good. But, then again, the material’s wanting.


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