When Serial debuted last year, it quickly became the most downloaded and talked about podcast in history. Over 12 episodes from October through December, millions listened with rapt attention unheard of since the pre-television age. Sarah Koenig’s investigation of the 1999 killing of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her former boyfriend Adnan Syed, played like a true crime potboiler. When the season ended, many roared in frustration that the mystery hadn’t been solved.
That’s the beauty of Koenig’s concept, which Serial appears ready to double down on in Season 2. The opening installment posted this morning, as technically polished as you’d expect the World’s Most Popular Podcast to sound (the music, editing, and engineering are way beyond Season 1.) Even better: Ambiguity, so frustrating to those who wanted a definitive conclusion to the Hae Min Lee case, now reigns supreme. The series’ new long-form piece will be about Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, before the Obama administration negotiated his release in 2014. The facts are already known – there isn’t a whodunnit to figure out. The whydunnit is much more interesting.
In this age of miniscule attention spans and correspondingly short news cycles, Serial is welcome respite from the pandering idiocy that dominates today’s media. Koenig and company, welcome back.