The Evolution of Serial

“If you don’t mind me asking, you don’t really have no ending?”  Adnan asks Koenig this, just days before the final podcast.  She goes on to assure the listeners that she does…but is it the ending we want?  What do we end up getting out of this story?  Throughout the series, Koenig places herself in the position of the audience, asking all of the questions and displaying all of the frustration we share.  To what end?  Twelve episodes and three months in, I’m left with even more questions and no one to ask them for me.

So, what did the end actually conclude?  All the end has to really say is that the justice system locked a 17 year old kid away for the rest of his life, because someone pointed a finger at him.  This is what Koenig leaves us with, the strongest evidence being that Jay knew where the car was. “It’s not enough, to me to send anyone to prison for life, never mind a 17 year old kid.”  This is Koenig’s clearest point, her only unshakable feeling.  Clearly one that is shared by thousands of listeners, raising over $82,000 for Adnan’s legal fund.

Over those twelve episodes, listeners experience the evolution of the podcast.  It appears to me that starting out, she wanted her ending, “certainty, one way or the other, seemed so attainable.”  In the end, however, this piece has become a critique.  The podcast has people across the country wondering how convictions like this can be made, and beyond a reasonable doubt.  Questions are raised about how cases are built and the motive behind building a case, to find the truth…or to win?  Through Koenig’s voice, and her depiction of the case in all of its faults, people have found a cause to get behind.

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of Serial

  1. Katie Soares

    Its interesting to think that Adnan, who was 17 upon incarceration will soon be in prison longer than he was not in prison. I’m unsure if this legal fund spurs from either the lack of physical evidence against him, or if the audience of Serial heavily believes in his innocence. It could also be that, completely independent of evidence and personal judgement, listeners could just believe that this was a gross mishandling of a case within our fallible justice system. I think i’m in disagreement that Koenig inserts herself in the same fashion as listeners. Her approach seems very everyday person, she asks the followup questions that we immediately want, but that the day she is a trained professional (albeit it with a low budget and some quirks). It must be noted that the podcast must be slightly less organic than it lets on, the information that we learn every week is parceled in a specific fashion which could carry an enormous weight in convincing an audience of guilt or not guilt, but at the end of the day its not really about the ending. Serial is a critique of our justice system, as well as being a fun game of Clue or how clearly our judgement works on a stranger.

    Just some follow up on the case:
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bs-md-adnan-syed-serial-20150114-story.html#page=2

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  2. Stephen J. West

    Katie, you bring up an interesting perspective; I’m not sure Koenig’s position in the narrative is static one way or the other. She’s sometimes an “everywoman” as you say, and that would make her a stand-in of sorts for the listener. But other times she explicitly draws upon her experience and skill as a former news reporter and the resources at her disposal as a member of a high-profile radio program in This American Life. What I find interesting is that she is able to slip back and forth between a naive and interested “listener” and a shrewd researcher. Without both positions, I’m not sure the narrative would have worked for 12 (12!) episodes. That’s a long time to command attention, and I think the fluidity of her authorial position has something to do with it.

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