Podcast Review: Serial

Monday 22 December 2014 by

Serial, Podcast

There aren’t a lot of people who haven’t heard of the cult podcast Serial. The twelve-episode long podcast follows Sarah Koenig as she looks in to the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999. Adnan Syed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend, has spent 15 years in prison, but proclaims his innocence. Over the course of the podcast, Koenig goes over all the evidence and examines if – and how – Adnan killed Hae Lee. She looks at the case, at the evidence, and even put some of the theories to the test, talks to jurors and witnesses and spends hours on the phone to Adnan himself.

Serial went viral within days of its first airing- there is something hugely compelling about the story. Koenig is a fantastic narrator, and throughout I was going through the emotions and what-ifs with her. There is something about a true story (especially a murder story, perhaps?) that captures imaginations. I’ve never come across a podcast this popular or intensely discussed. It became the hot topic in the office; people were listening to it on their commutes, over dinner and even in the shower.

There have been mixed feelings about the conclusion, but when asked to support the podcast for a second season, the offers flooded in, proving the success of the show. But what was it that was so brilliant?

Serial began with the simple idea of did he or didn’t he, and evolves in to an exploration of morals, memory and what counts when it comes to trial. The most interesting question that arises from the whole thing is: how much do you really remember when it counts?

Koenig makes a good case both for and against; she is nothing if not balanced when it comes to making both sides of the story, but ultimately you find yourself choosing a side and defending (or lambasting) Adnan as you go.

She is a brilliant narrator as well – humorous, entertaining and offers enough detail and facts without overwhelming or patronising. She lays it out fairly and intelligently, with a pacy enough narrative to keep you involved, but without revealing too much too soon.

This is a totally addictive series, with a thrilling story and perfect narration.

As for the ending… real life is nothing if not complicated and what better way to end the twisting-turning story with a twisting-turning ending? Koenig has come under a small amount of criticism due to the fact that she doesn’t give a definitive conclusion, but I enjoyed the fact that she kept it ambiguous enough to continue (and for you to draw your own conclusions). After all, there are still the DNA tests (perhaps a follow-up podcast episode!?)

I was totally swept away by this podcast, and am excited for next season. It was fascinating to see the ins and outs of a murder case, and also discuss the idea of memory and what counts as evidence. I had never spent any time thinking about murder cases (I’m not a great crime buff) but now I’m a bit of an addict.

This is a powerful podcast that’s worth getting involved in if you haven’t already.

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