Words by: Emily Schofield-Cox
You know that little ol’ podcast that had millions of viewers and made Adnan Syed a household name?
Go take your photo of Sarah Koenig out from under your pillow where it’s been hiding since the end of last year, give it a kiss for good luck (we all do that, right? Right?) and let’s roll.
Before Serial, I had never listened to podcasts — I thought they were for elderly people who couldn’t see well. But Serial really got me hooked. I think it was partly the case (the murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed) and partly the new and innovative take on story telling by host Sarah Koenig.
I became addicted to it. I had never liked true crime before, but there was just so many loose ends — was Jay lying? Did Adnan do it? Why the fuck can’t Sarah Koenig pronounce Mail Chimp? It was truly riveting. I would wait for it each week and devour it and then re-listen to catch all the details.
I listened as disregarded testimonies came out of the woodwork, alibis were challenged and Sarah jumped back and forth between support and fear of Adnan. It made me question what it is to convict someone, how you can truly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone is guilty, and what a sociopath is.
When it was finished, I hunted for anything to replace it: bad conspiracy podcasts, true crime stories told by people with frustratingly slow and drawling Southern accents and eventually the offshoots of Serial: Undisclosed and the Truth and Justice Podcast.
They further examined the case and made some really interesting discoveries, one of which was that Don’s (Hae’s boyfriend at the time) alibi may very well have been faked due to paperwork evidence and the fact that the only two managers to confirm them were his mother and his mother’s girlfriend, which the prosecutors were unaware of the time.
But however good, these offshoots just weren’t Serial.
Now, after so long waiting, and so much time spent chasing the smallest details down the labyrinth, Serial has made its long-awaited return.
And I know what you’re all wondering: yes, Mail Kimp (Chimp? Kimp? Quimp?) still exists and is still as ambiguously pronounced.
Ahh, Sarah Koenig I have missed your voice. Sing sweet lullabies to me.
It’s obvious from the start that this is nothing like the previously heralded season. This is different. The Taliban? Afghanistan? ADNAN WHERE ARE YOU?
I’m already hooked though, let’s be honest.
The case for the second season is far more recent – only from last year. It’s a huge jump from the historic wrong conviction route of the first series. But the intense scrutiny on everyone involved from Adnan’s story had put Sarah off from continuing down the same route again. She specifically cited Reddit as the cause for her discomfort, knowing that people rooted out the names and addresses of everyone involved and harassed them.
So now we have the case of the deserting American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for five years by the Taliban.
“The very last thing is, just, I’m a prisoner. I want to go home. Bring me home, please. Bring me home.”
The main question of this series is: Hero or Deserter?
Bergdahl left the relative safety of his US camp in Afghanistan unarmed and walked right into the Taliban’s territory. He is now charged with desertion and misbehaving in front of the enemy; he could be imprisoned for life. But why would he do this? Why would he knowingly leave his post for almost certain death or imprisonment?
He states his argument early in the episode: that he did it for a profound and justifiable reason; that he wasn’t panicked or in danger when he ran, but rather it was a “slow, simmering and methodical” effort to raise attention to bad leadership within the army. His solution is DUSTWUN — essentially the ‘man overboard’ of the army.
As Sarah points out, he did have five years to concoct a story if he wanted to. But is that the case, or is he really a whistleblower falsely accused?
Either way, it’s really interesting and confronting to hear about the horrible conditions that the soldiers were enduring during their service, and the difficulty some had with justifying their actions or inaction.
I dunno, man, I’m nervous. I have loved Serial so much — it’s become somewhat untouchable to me: a perfect example of investigative journalism, and a point of inspiration. Listening to Sarah Koenig speak without the mention of Adnan is really strange.
But I’m excited. Serial is a defining journalistic endeavour for our generation, and highlights a real change in the telling of news. And it’s back. It’s finally back.