Are you listening to the Serial podcast? No? Well, you really should be.
If you’re unfamiliar with the specifics, Serial comes from NPR and the folks at This American Life. If it sounds boring already, believe me, I get it. But this story is incredibly gripping and powerful, and there is a good reason why everyone is talking about it. (And why it has become the most listened to podcast ever.)
On January 13, 1999, a teenage girl in Baltimore named Hae Min Lee disappeared. She was later found dead, and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was arrested and found guilty of Hae’s death. But he says he didn’t do it, and the evidence that was used to convict him is definitely shaky. Sarah Koenig, a former journalist with The Baltimore Sun, investigates the case from all angles, and walks the listener through her findings. But more than that, she also shares her honest feelings about what she discovers. She admits her gut feelings, her suspicions, and her doubts. Between her candor and the raw emotion you hear in the voices of Adnan and her other interviewees, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked in. (Case in point: Courtney and I listened to all nine current episodes over our Thanksgiving roadtrip.)
I won’t get into the specifics of the case, as Koenig really does a fantastic job peeling back the story bit by bit. The biggest question now (other than who really killed Hae, of course), is how is Serial going to end? There are three more episodes of this season, and we know that Adnan is still in prison. So… it’s safe to assume that everything isn’t going to be resolved in a nice little bow in the season finale. At this point, things are still ambiguous, and they may very well end that way. My hope is that there will be some new development that at least makes a strong case for what really happened to Hae. Then, when Adnan’s appeal happens in January, we will get even more illumination.
The lack of a clear resolution may be frustrating to viewers, but that may also kind of be the point. This isn’t a fictionalized story like True Detective (though it does feel like it sometimes); this is real life. These things are complicated and the truth may always be elusive, no matter what happens in the next three episodes of Serial or at Adnan’s appeal. An innocent man MAY have been behind bars for 15 years. Or a well-meaning journalist may have been knocking on doors and bringing up painful memories all for nothing.
We may never know.
But if you believe that good storytelling takes you on a journey, I highly recommend you start listening to Serial. Episode 10 comes out tomorrow, but don’t worry. Once you start listening, you’ll get caught up very quickly.