As much as people want to have answers, sometimes there are none.
It’s hard to accept that, much like Jon Benet Ramsey‘s murder or the Zodiac Killer’s identity, Kathleen Peterson‘s death may remain a mystery. Sure, people can make assumptions about what happened on the night of Dec. 9, 2001, but no one will really know how it is that Kathleen, played by Toni Collette in The Staircase, died that night.
And while it’s only human to speculate about whether Kathleen’s husband Michael Peterson, played by Colin Firth, killed her (he entered an Alford plea in 2017, in which he maintained his innocence while acknowledging there’s enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter), the obsession with the case also impacts those with ties to the victim. As Odessa Young (who plays Martha Ratliff, Kathleen’s adopted stepdaughter) told E! News, “Everybody loves to play armchair detective but we all forget how much grief warps everything.”
It’s this empathy that informed Young’s portrayal of Martha, who is one of the few characters to question Michael’s innocence.